Milo + Nicki: How One Girls' Dog Inspired a Journey
Our journey started in 2008. I saw this adorable pup in a field of green grass, fenced off with scattered blue kiddie pools full of tumbling puppies barely 6 weeks old. It was a hot, Texas summer day, and the sun was as bright as it could be. While all the pups ran and tumbled having fun in the water, one stud was all alone relaxing and snoozing under a tree in the shade. When I saw him, I knew he was different, and I knew he was the one.
My sister and I rescued him on August 3, 2008. His name is Milo. I will never forget that day because it forever changed my life. It was a new life in our family, specifically mine. It was his energy, his uncontrollable love, and his adorable personality. He left a print, a paw print that is forever imprinted on my heart.
Living in Austin was a whirlwind of long hikes on beautiful trails with winding springs and paths, but the beauty was limited to nature’s escape. As Milo grew so did the world around him. He was attacked by a few, and abused by many. It turned his love into defense, and his energy into anxiety. It was devastating and there was no path for return as the world he lived in seemed to grow scarier and smaller. We tried training, medications, and even reached out to behavioral specialist all over the country. This was the new Milo, and there was no return.
As we grew, we grew together. He learned his fears, and I learned mine. I grew ill, and he followed close behind. It was as if our paths were meant to cross and intertwine. I feel responsible for pieces of his life. The attacks and abuse he has faced are my own. I wish I could take it away from him, and take him back to 2008, but they are as much a part of his identity as they are mine.
no room for defeat
We moved and hustled as life continued to pass us by. Then there was a break. Milo moved home, back to my parent’s home. He had a house, a backyard, a place to call his own. It was a sanctuary where no fear or anxiety existed.
As I worked away, he grew stronger, healthier, and happier. But then we hit a stump, it is called 2014. The year we both hit a wall. My sister moved away and Milo severed the side of his stomach with a loose nail while running in the backyard. It cost him close to 6 months, 50+ stitches, and a deep dose of painful western medicine to ward off all infections. He trotted along, and kept on with his silly and innocently happy personality while it consumed my sister and I completely with grief and helplessness.
With his injury came my own. I tried to trot alongside him, but mine wasn’t something that could be fixed with stitches. It was something deep and internal that only time had allowed to surface. It came down to 6 months of medications, tests, treatments, the full 9-yards. But no answer. I tried diets, restrictions, and changes in lifestyle and finally found a way back to a ‘normal.’ I guess it came too soon.
really hit home
Our home was burglarized. The home we called a sanctuary, our new safe haven, was robbed on my 1st day of my new job. I was scared, panicked, and pushed beyond any measure I had ever experienced in my life. Milo was home, is he okay? Did they hurt him? Did he bite anyone? Did they traumatize him? What did they do to him?
The fear that consumed me for 2 hours as I rushed home after work was the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. It will forever be the worst pain I have ever felt. I wouldn’t ever even wish that pain on my worst enemy.
I felt a deep burning and knotting in my gut as I drove closer each mile. The twisting and knotting turned to anger and rage, then to tears and fear. I didn’t know what was going on, and had no confirmation on where Milo was. Even in that moment, I knew I was never going to be the person I was before I started driving, the person I was at lunch time or in the morning when I left and kissed him goodbye. I also knew the pain I was feeling was a piece of me leaving. It was a piece of trust, certainty, and joy that I had taken for granted. It was something that was leaving because of the pain the world was giving me. I prayed, and I hoped.
As I ran through the front door, I could feel my heart in my throat, and my eyes full of tears. I didn’t feel anything, not the pain, not the fear, not the sadness, I was completely numb. I just ran up the stairs, past the officers, until I came to the door and saw that frightened face, and shaking body. I held on and never wanted to let go.
I knew in that moment, that nothing mattered, but him. Nothing mattered in world, but his safety, his health, and his happiness. My family’s safety, health, and happiness. It was my world and I didn’t need anything more.
where to now
As the investigation moved along, no answer in sight and no justice to serve, we felt no relief. I realized it was going to be our, Milo and my job, to move on.
We still haven’t received a response, update, or any sort of assurance from our local PD. It will forever remain an unsolved case, similar to the one Milo and I live by on a day-to-day. But, this trauma left both of our health in shambles.
His fear grew, as did mine. I feared leaving him, someone returning, something happening to the people I loved. My health got worse. The specialist and doctors had no answer to my symptoms. They were blinded by the definitions and books of common medicine that clearly aligned symptoms with diseases and illnesses. I knew and told them it wasn’t medicine that I needed, it was safety, it was security, it was the fear that had consumed and wrecked-havoc on my body. No one heard my voice. I was in fact told that I was making up my symptoms.
With 20 pounds, 2 years, and no diagnosis, I became my own cure. My medicine was the courage of my pup, the strength of my family, and the love of those around me that gave me the safety I lacked in my haven. I changed my diet, began running and meditating every day, and used prayer to guide me the rest of the way.
I finally found a cure, and it wasn’t something anyone could buy. It was from within and from what I felt from around me. The place I was in, the people I surrounded myself with, and the positive vibes that came from both. I knew I needed to share this love and find a way to make a difference in someone else’s life.
I had moments of extreme highs and extreme lows, which wasn’t something that my employer could understand (ironically, even though she was a woman). At this point, I was given a diagnosis, but it was something that didn’t have a set timeline for cure or for returning back to ‘normal’ expectations. I was told specifically, “it just depends.”
With passion at heart and loyalty for the company I worked for, I pushed myself to extremes to be at work, to sit at my desk even at my worst, and travel hours across the state to stay in good measure. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a two-way street. I was given an ultimatum that was a blessing in disguise. I was told to be available more, or they would have to let me go.
I knew this was a sign, and I took it. I left to build up my health, find purpose, and share my love for making a difference in the world. We became milo+nicki.
finding purpose + happiness
In my pursuit to grow stronger and healthier, I found small jobs to help with our medical expenses. I began working for a company whose mission was to help women feel and look their best self. It felt like I had found a small piece of purpose, and I wanted to explore that more. I researched and strategized what I was going to do. I combined my passions and I came up with the happiness cure.
First was my family, and their health and happiness. If I had that, I needed nothing more. I knew that wasn’t a way of living so I dug down deeper. Second, I realized fashion had always come to the surface in my life story – first job in fashion being a tom-boy (very ironic), best bosses and most inspirational women I have ever had/known in fashion, and this new role of empowering women in fashion. Third, I knew what set my soul on fire and that was making a difference in someone else’s life. I find joy in other’s joy and so does Milo. With our love for nature and lifelong passion for sustainability (previously in corporate America), it became a mission.
Boom! It hit me and I began to plan. I was going to create something that would allow me to inspire and empower other ever-evolving women to feel confident, happy, and authentic in the rapidly changing world they lived in where societal pressures and their changing lives merge. As women we feel a pressure like no other – to play multiple roles (mother, employee, daughter, sister, spouse), we are taught to be competitive rather than supportive (work, marriage, friendships), and held to higher standards (office, community, family). With this we lose ourselves, and we don’t need to. We are strong, beautiful, independent, confident, courageous, loving, caring, and phenomenal. We can do it all. Let’s share it, let’s flaunt it! Why not?!
don’t stop, won’t stop
Our story, the milo+nicki story, will continue. No one will stop us in the pursuit of finding our happiness on a day-to-day. The love we share to those closest to us, and the passion for the longevity of our health and our world will remain at the forefront of our lives. milo+nicki will always be about the journey, and never about the destination. We will conquer our fears, take a leap of faith, never give up on ourselves and live a life full of color while in pursuit of what sets our souls on fire. We hope to inspire and empower you to do the same.
Nicki Patel is personal stylist, an avid runner and the founder of milo+nicki, a sustainable womenswear line designed to empower the ever-evolving woman through the vibrant colors of her culture, traditions, and life experiences. milo+nicki advocates for gender equality, sustainable living and animal rights through conscious, cruelty-free design and manufacturing in the USA.
Find the debut of her first collection via pre-sales on Kickstarter now.