Friday, March 21, 2008

Farewell, to Lady (the best dog in the world)

3/5/08 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Dogs are the perfect companions. They are cheerful, protective, fun- loving and good listeners who keep our secrets!

Their loyalty to us is pure, devoted and unshakeable. Our dogs joyfully run to meet us when we come home; repeatedly wag their tails when we even glance their way; look deeply into our eyes when we’re sad and generally make us think that we’re the center of their universe. It’s a relationship made in heaven.

Inevitably, that loving relationship ends too soon as the dog ages seven times faster than we do. We faced that heartbreaking truth last year with Lady, our sweet 11-year old German Shepherd mix. The memories of her life are joyful but those of her declining days are still painful.

Her final winter morning began like most other days at our house. The coffee was on and our pets were snuggled up to a crackling fire in the fireplace. Outside, it was cold and wet. To all appearances, it was just another ordinary day.

But it wasn’t. My husband and I had decided that this was the day to “put-down” my precious canine companion. My heart was heavy and by 8 a.m. my cheeks were wet with tears. It was going to be a long day.

I pulled on my heavy jacket and called Lady to come with me to get the newspaper. Somehow, she struggled to her feet and we started down the rain-swept path to get the newspaper. So many memories flooded my mind as we traveled that last painful walk to the mailbox.

Lady and I had bonded from the moment we met on the cold cement floor in Greenhill. She was a tiny, black and beige ball of fur, barely 6-weeks old. Found wandering the streets of Springfield, she sat perfectly still in the midst of barking dogs, confusion and chaos. With crossed paws, she quietly observed us as we knelt to get acquainted. She was a perfect little Lady.

Her sweet almost angelic temperament never faltered as the years rolled by. She fit seamlessly into our family of an elderly Doberman, miniature Dachshund and two cats. She tenderly welcomed several kittens to the family, shared her bed and carefully herded them off the driveway when a car was coming.

She was not your typical puppy. In fact, she was always so calm, obedient and good-natured that we sometimes wondered what planet she came from! With her, everyday was springtime. Except for a total fear of thunderstorms, she was a happy girl.

Whatever else was going on in our lives, she brought us joy. On cold snowy days, she caught snowflakes or rolled in piles of snow until we shivered. In the heat of summer, she cooled off by spinning circles in the lake and then shook until we were all wet. On a leash, she walked like a feather, tail aloft, head high, anxious to see the world.

As she aged, pain became her constant companion due to severed and repaired ligaments in her rear legs. There were other problems, tumors and cancer. Each challenge she met with grace, dignity and perseverance, just as she had when abandoned and caged at Greenhill.

Unlike her, we tended to whine and complain during our times of discomfort. We did not always meet life’s challenges with the same grace and serenity as our canine friend.

But when we were weak, Lady demonstrated strength. She would quietly lie bedside during times of illness and recuperation. During times of stress, she would slowly walk alongside, wagging her tail in encouragement. A patient, intuitive listener, she snuggled close when tears fell during hard times.

The day she turned her head and stopped eating, I knew she was dying. I frantically searched the Internet for homemade dog food recipes. “Satin Balls” made of ground meat, wheat germ, molasses and Knox gelatin became her food of choice. For awhile she ate them out of my hand. Finally, she stopped eating entirely.

Sadly, along with her loss of appetite, she lost her zest for living. She spent her days sleeping or staring at the ground, avoiding our touch or company. She would even run and hide when I brought out the camera to take her picture.

On her last morning, as we walked down the road, she somehow summoned enough strength to do a little dance, trying to catch the wind. She looked so pretty in her bright red collar but looks were deceiving. Her beautifully colored coat hid the fact that she had become skin and bones. Her once thick fur had become thin, dull and flaky. Her backbone and hips were fused with painful calcium deposits. Sadly, the light of her joy of living had dimmed and gone out of her eyes.

We prayed that God in his mercy would allow her to fall asleep and go to doggie heaven. But that was not to be. Instead, we were forced to make the decision to end her life. Then, we were shocked, as the medication was administered, she did not immediately die. It was as if she was reluctantly leaving this earth because she knew how much we still needed her.

We believed then, as we do now, that she came into our lives for a reason and a season. She needed us and we needed her. Lady was our miracle dog. Other dogs may bring us love and joy; but she will always be the queen of our hearts and the keeper of our secrets.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her at 942-1317 or via e-mail —

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