Nanci Wakefield is one of those rare, wonderful, red-headed, fiery, take-no-prisoners kinds of people. I just love her. We met when she walked into the Chamber of Commerce in my little slice of heaven we call
and announced she wanted to join so she could promote her new business “Pet to
the Vet.” Gig Harbor
Before her new venture,
was a nurse. To say that she was suffering from a high
degree of burn-out is a complete understatement. Suffice to say, after a couple of back injuries,
and long hours, Nanci
decided to take a different path. Nanci
When I think of
think of the Robert Frost poem, “And I took the road less traveled by and that made
all the difference,” and in ’s
case, those words are supremely true. At
our meeting, I recognized a kindred spirit, or at least someone that I hoped to
be like one day; strong-minded, independent and fearless. She loved her dogs with a fierce
passion. Not just her own, but those she
was responsible for transporting to and from the vet, those she checked in on, and
a few various cats along her daily route.
Nanci helped get my dog, Chelsea, to Brookside Vet or to the groomers at the Purdy Prison Pet Partnership. Chelsea pranced, I mean actually trotted and skipped out the door and down the steps on the days Nanci took her out for the day.
After a while, it became ritual that
lingered for a cup of coffee with me on the mornings she took to the groomer or to the vet. When I stopped working at the Chamber of
Commerce and my big pregnant self sort of lumbered about the house, Chelsea would often stop by
in the morning and we’d sip a cup or two of “joe” together. Nanci
How did you get this way? I asked. How did you come to trust your instincts and have the courage of your convictions? Did your animals help you learn this?
“Well,” she said, “Animals are great teachers. They love you unconditionally and accept you where you are. You don’t have to be anybody with a great big title. You just have to be kind to them and take good care of them,” she explained.
As her story unfolded, I learned that her animals and two of them in particular were the greatest catalysts for love and change in her life.
The first, Chewbacca, or Chewy, is a great furry bear of a dog. He is of unknown parentage, given that he was discovered in a ditch by her house with the rest of his littermates.
“He was found the week that my husband and I were in
cleaning out my
dad’s winter place after he died,” she explained. California
While Nanci was away in California, her daughter was house-sitting and got the call from a neighbor who expected to reach Nanci. They needed to know what to do about a litter of puppies found alongside the road nearby. Nanci’s daughter, who inherited her mom’s keen love of animals, offered to take the pups and soon had a makeshift nursery and puppy adoption center percolating nicely in Nanci and Larry’s beach house living room.
“She found homes for all of the puppies except one by the time Larry and I got back,”
said, smiling at her daughter’s ingenuity.
“I took one look at this round fur ball prancing over to me and that was
it, he was mine.” Nanci
We all have a special language with our pets. However, dogs in particular try to reach out to us in the way they communicate.
"He made these throat noises just like the character Chewbacca did, you know, the one from Star Wars,” she said. “It was so unique the way he tried to express himself, that eventually, he became Chewy, just like Han Solo shortened his friend’s name.”
He quickly got comfortable with life at
’s beach house and loved walking the
beach and swimming in the water. Nanci and Larry noticed other
unique traits about him as well, Nanci
“He sometimes does things that are so unique and un-doglike,” she said. And, despite telling herself that it was just her grief and wanting to be close to him still, the similarities between Chewy and her father continued to amaze her.
“Larry and I laughed often with each other that Dad really had come back as he promised, as one of our dogs.”
After a long while, they accepted Chewy’s idiosyncrasies as part of daily life and didn’t talk as much about the reincarnation-thing, as she puts it. However, in
’s eyes, those
suspicions were confirmed one day as she went through one of her Dad’s old
trunks. She’d brought it back with her
from his house in Nanci . It was first owned by her grandmother, used
when emigrating from California Ireland
nearly 100 years before. So this great
keepsake stored her grandmother’s and later her father’s most precious
“My father always talked about his favorite dog when he was growing up,” she explained. “He never had a picture to show us of them together and always regretted not having one, even though cameras were pretty rare for anything but formal portraits when he was a child.”
“It was my father and his favorite dog and it looked just like Chewy,”
Life with Chewy changed her, and gave her a special wonder of life that exists all around her. When her nursing career took a steep nose dive due to overwork and injuries, she knew immediately it was time to take a break.
“About that time, our other dog, Kai, began having trouble with his leg,” she said. “It was such a blessing that I was a stay-at-home dog mom, because when we found out it was cancer, he became my full-time job.”
The veterinarian and the specialist they were referred to for Kai’s care both felt strongly that his cancer was recoverable, given the proper treatment. However, that treatment involved radiation and chemotherapy at a specialty clinic nearly 70 miles away. Nanci and her husband decided that Kai, as their beloved pet, was going to receive that care and she dutifully made the trek, up to three days a week.
Given all her time there,
“I learned that a lot of people would get their pets to this clinic and had made the commitment to get them well, only to learn that treatment included several rounds of radiation or chemotherapy per week. Unlike me at the time, these people had jobs and other responsibilities that absolutely prevented them from such a tremendous commitment. If I hadn’t been available to transport their animals for care, their only other decision was euthanasia.”
So, along with gaining a great wonder at the mysteries of life and heaven,
A couple of years later, our legislature passed a vicious dog law that soon quadrupled Nanci’s business and personal insurance rates. By that time Kai was healthy and happily playing at the beach house again, not needing regular treatments anymore. Along with that, cars kept hitting her van as it was parked along the roadside. She took the hints from above and closed her beloved business. By this time she felt restored and ready to return to nursing and there she remains today.
Chewbacca and Kai now have a new charge, “Tracker” a black lab puppy with big feet and a shared love of the water at
and Larry’s beach house. Most
assuredly, Nanci Nanci’s father and ’s legacy of love will continue far into
the future, along with a deep sense of revelry and appreciation for the things
we can only touch with our hearts. Nanci
After a long-and-windng road, I finally tracked Nanci down after nearly stalking her on Facebook, which she checks only once a millennia. Then, better yet, I ran into her and Larry at the Gig Harbor Farmer’s Market. They are doing fine, still living in their little slice-of-heaven beach house, with two new dogs who are now a well-established part of the family. I’m looking forward to dropping by to say “hello” and meet their welcomed additions.