Kindness can show up in the most unexpected way: a coffee drink paid anonymously in the drive-thru lane, a greeting card for no other reason than to lift one’s heart, a task shouldered by a friend when life seems weary. But imagine kindness arriving with a wagging pink tail.
“Every person Maddie touches has an emotional reaction to her,” said Karen Nicksich of Richland about her therapy dog. “At Guardian Angel Homes there’s a lady Maddie heads to right away. When the resident hugs her, the woman starts to cry. I see that as healing. Then Maddie starts to cry, one tear in her right eye.”
The white standard poodle’s perceptive bond has been there from the moment Karen and her family first met the rescue pet she found online. Her owners had to give her up because of medical expenses they were facing.
“Maddie came out of their house and before we had a chance to even say ‘Hi’ she made a beeline to our car,” Karen said, recalling how her daughter was seated in the shade of the open hatchback, her legs dangling over the rear bumper. “Maddie leaped in and laid her head on Rachel’s lap. It was the first smile I’d seen in a long time.”
Compassion, gentleness, intuitiveness, all radiated from the fluffy dog in that first gentle touch.
Deep sadness had been echoing in the hearts of the Nicksich family after their golden retriever, a rescue dog named Max, “crossed the rainbow bridge” in the summer of 2015 after bone cancer, a beloved pet they had loved for 10 years. Nicksich wrote a book to help others who have lost a pet and will be signing copies next month.
“I put my name on every rescue organization online,” the former schoolteacher said, remembering how she continued to search for the “right” pet. “I never go to Craigslist, but one day I decided to scroll through, and Maddie’s face popped up.”
Providing a new home for the sweet-faced poodle felt like a mixed blessing. On the one hand, Karen was able to make things better for Maddie’s owners who could no longer afford to care for the dog. But at the same time, Karen could see she was leaving a big hole in their heart, too.
“I know how hard it is to lose a pet,” Karen said, her eyes tearing. “I can’t imagine how hard it was to give up a pet you love.”
Maddie became family, filling their lives with lightheartedness once again. Karen, on a whim, asked Maddie’s groomer to dye her pet’s tail pink, an event that brought smiles when she arrived back home.
Nowadays, this coiffed poodle has purpose that brings smiles beyond the devoted arms of this one home. Recently she completed Love on a Leash training.
“Both Maddie and I have been working on becoming a therapy dog team,” Karen said about the instruction that has taken the two into the Tri-Cities Cancer Center chemotherapy wing. “I’ve sent off all her paperwork so she can receive her vest. As soon as Maddie gets it, we can go all the time.”
A gentle dog ready to bring unexpected kindness and joy with a wave of her pink tail — clearly unconditional love on a leash.
If you have a story idea for Light Notes, contact Lucy Luginbill: 509-551-2191, @LucyLuginbill
What: Author Karen Nicksich signing copies of her pet loss book, The Time of My Life
When: Noon to 2 p.m. March 5
Where: Chico’s at Columbia Center mall, Kennewick