Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Love of a Dog

I have had dogs my entire adult life. When I was a kid, I was always bringing home stray animals, much to my mother's chagrin. And I used to think, when I have my own home, I'll have as many animals as I want. When my marriage ended, I had eight dogs, all of them rescues except for one. I was forced to leave them with my ex because circumstances required me to move and take a job where I'm gone about 12 hours a day and do a lot of travel for work. I don't think it would be fair to have a dog and leave them alone so much of time. They're such social creatures and live to see you and be with you.

Some of the dogs I've had stand out in my memory for one reason or another. And today marks the birthday of one of the most exceptional dogs I ever had. I don't think I really and truly appreciated her at that time in my life, but I'll never forget her. One day I hope to have another German Shepherd share my home. I sometimes worry that I won't be up to the challenge, but when I retire, hopefully in less than two years now, I'll make that dream a reality.

I wish I had a picture to post of Misty but all those photos are in storage somewhere in North Carolina. She was beautiful, everything a GSD is supposed to be, stable temperament, intelligent, protective without aggression. She was the epitome of her breed in every way. She was a black bi-color and had a wonderfully feminine and expressive face. She was born on January 31, 1988. When she died on February 7, 2003, at the age of 15, I tried to contact her breeder because I wanted them to know what a wonderful dog she had bred and how healthy she had been and how much she was loved. This is the tribute I wrote the day she died. She was one of those dogs that you never forget.

My oldest dog left for the bridge today. I wanted to post this tribute in her memory. She drifted off at almost 6 p.m. this evening.

"And at the very moment when someone at my side says, "There, she's gone!" other voices shout with gladness, "Here she comes!" And that is death. Death is only a horizon, and a horizon is the limit of our sight." - Luther Beecher

How do you say good-bye to a piece of your heart? A piece of my heart left earth today in the form of my German Shepherd named Misty - - A Mother’s Day gift, the last puppy left out of a litter born to beautiful parents. At the tender age of three months, she arrived wet after getting car sick on the ride home, unsure of her surroundings and wearing the biggest set of ears I’ve ever seen. I soon learned that beneath her beguiling exterior, there was a multi-talented dog with a special flair for fashion and interior design.

Shortly after her arrival, Misty demonstrated her fashion sense in haute couture and was able to convince me to replace my shoe wardrobe. Always tactful, she expressed her disdain for my choice of footwear by quietly and carefully chewing up one of every pair of shoes I owned. She thoughtfully redesigned our screened-in porch while I was at work, hoping to save me from the pain of having to make those awful color-matching decisions. She felt it needed more of a greenhouse look, and her first course of action was to rip open a 40 lb bag of potting soil and scatter its contents from one end to the other. Ever meticulous, she made sure that the remnants of the bag were no larger than an inch in diameter. I can picture her grinning face as she tossed the bag of soil, scattering it through the air like a brown mist, taking pains to make sure it was evenly distributed.

When we decided to crate train her, she stepped into the plastic crate we had purchased and allowed us to pat ourselves on the back for being so wise. She didn’t mind the crate at all, as long as she could make a few slight changes. In the span of four hours, having had some leisure time to think about ways to make it more comfortable and homey, she decided to install a sun roof by chewing through the top. Imagine my surprise when I arrived home for lunch to see a grinning shepherd, head poking out of the crate to greet me.

Misty excelled at games and humored us by consenting to zoom around a room, from person to person, as she chased an imaginary ball we threw back and forth. I’m sure she was laughing inside. She could leap into the air and catch a ball on the fly or sniff out a ball that had been carefully hidden in a game of hide-and-seek. Flashlights were play things, especially when the human turned them on so she could chase the beam of light from one place to another. Summer time was the best because she got to play with the water streaming from the end of the hose. When she tired of waiting for us to depress the nozzle, she would do it herself and then run to catch the droplets as they flew through the air.

Although she was a wonderful playmate and companion, she was formidable as a guardian. Sleek, well-muscled, and ever vigilant, she watched over her family, protecting us from harm even as we slept. I remember the night she barked an alarm to tell us that she had captured an intruder. Running from bed, stumbling over my feet to follow her, she led me to the ominous figure bobbing in the dark. Startled, I turned on the light to discover that my darling girl had cornered a helium-filled balloon in the evil shape of Garfield, complete with hanging arms, legs, and tail that had somehow wandered from a bedroom into the stairwell.

Powerful in her prime, with teeth that could crush bone, she never lifted a lip or growled in anger. She mothered eight-pound dogs and allowed them to win in games of tug. The intelligence glowed in her face, and I swear she understood everything we said to her. She never met a human or a dog she didn’t like. She was . . . amazing.

So many memories, so many years. . . and yet, still not enough for the greedy human who wishes for one more day, one more minute, one more second. Where did the years go? When did the minutes fly by? A muzzle once black is now gray. The ears, always listening, now deaf. She feels the vibrations of our footfalls and watches our hands for signals. Her steps begin to falter, and we know it’s time for our darling girl to leave us.

Kelly and I sat in the car with her as the sedative took effect and she drifted into sleep. We were grateful for the chance to spend this quiet time with her, reassuring ourselves and her that everything was all right. When she fell asleep, we picked her up and took her into the clinic. She was easy to carry, having lost weight as she aged. We laid her gently on her quilt and I put my head on her chest. Jeff administered the fluid and placed the stethoscope over her heart, the giant heart so full of love that continued to beat out her good-bye for almost three minutes before it stopped. I’m glad I was able to be with her as she drifted away and to tell her how much I love her. She celebrated her 15the birthday on January 31st.


Patriotic Mom said...

A beautifully written tribute about your loved one! I am sorry it was her time to go to the bridge. It is a painful decision to make, I know. Thanks for sharing...Joan @Americana By Candlelight

Dog Trot Farm said...

A lovely heart warming tribute. I am sending blessings your way. Julie

Rural Revival said...

And to think some people never experience the joy a pet brings to our lives. I say you and Misty were both very lucky.