A Good Dog

20106475_10213628315602894_3653417267467797884_nA good dog is more than just a pet. He is a member of the family, a true and loyal friend. A good dog asks for very little, a bowl of water, a bit of food, a hug or a belly scratch, and every once in awhile an “Atta boy!” A good dog loves unconditionally, dotes on having its people around and waits patiently for their return when they are gone. A good dog is a protector and a comforter. There is nothing quite like a good dog, but sadly good dogs have much shorter life spans than we do, so once we have a good dog it is more than likely that we will one day have to say goodbye. It is always a very difficult thing to do.

Shane, my grand dog, was a very good dog, a quite handsome golden retriever. He was found wandering the streets of San Antonio, homeless and confused. The people at the shelter gave him his name because they imagined his owners calling for him and begging him to come back home just as the little boy did when his friend left at the end of a classic western movie. Sadly Shane was hopelessly lost and nobody ever stepped forward to claim him. Happily his world changed when a family of four little boys fell in love with him and decided to adopt him. For the next eleven years he would be hugged and wrestled and and adored by his people. He became a beloved member of the family and he was very happy indeed.

Eventually Shane got a little brother, a pal, who was a pug named Cooper. He was content to share his home with the silly little tyke for there was more than enough love and affection for everyone. He showed Cooper the ropes and the two of them developed a routine that rarely varied. He was a great big brother, smart and kind and sharing. Cooper loved him as much as the family did. They got along quite well and became a kind of Mutt and Jeff twosome with Shane always being a patient teacher.

The years went by and Shane watched the little boys grow into fine young men, but they never became too old to play with him. They bought him toys and made sure that he was part of all of their celebrations. He stood by them when they were sick and made them feel good when all they really wanted to do was to cry. He gave them whatever they needed from him because he understood that that is what a good dog does. He was patient, vigilant and trustworthy. When little babies came to visit the family he showed them that a big dog can be gentle. He let them pull on his fur and grab him with delight. He never harmed them even when their enthusiasm hurt just a bit. He was ever a good dog.

Shane grew old. His muzzle began to turn white. His energy waned but his love never did. He was the first to announce that visitors had arrived. He greeted the them at the door with his tail wagging a friendly “hello.” If a stranger came he sent a notice that they better not harm his people. His bark and his growl told them that he meant business. He knew all too well that a good dog has a duty to protect his family from danger.

Shane sometimes came to spend vacation time with me and my husband Mike. He was always so polite, so clean, so unassuming. He did his best to have a good time with us, but he always missed those boys of his. He’d run to the front window every time he heard a car passing by. He’d watch the street wondering when they would return. At night he liked to sleep in our bedroom and he did his best not to disturb us while we slumbered.

I liked talking with him and reassuring him that he would soon be back home again. He loved lying on the couch next to Mike getting his rump scratched. When I let him outside he always announced to the neighbors’ dogs that he was the king of our domain. He wanted those other critters to know that he was going to take care of us just as well as he did his family back home. I loved having him over because he was always such a good dog. I missed him when he left but he never forgot me. He was always so happy to see me when I came to visit at his house.

The last time I saw Shane he was quite lethargic. He didn’t seem to have enough energy to move from his post outside one of his boy’s room. When I called him over to where I was sitting he slowly complied and shuffled over to get my hug and strokes on his back. He seemed exhausted but still determined to be a good dog. When his buddy Cooper barked for food he followed their routine because he knew that Cooper wouldn’t eat without him, but it seemed to take great effort for him to be a big brother. He was very ill but none of us realized it. We thought that maybe he was just a bit sad and worried because some of his boys were away from home.

A few days after my visit Shane seemed to have given up. He soiled himself, something that would have normally been abhorrent to him. His family noticed that he was almost listless. His oldest boy felt that something was terribly wrong so he took Shane to see the veterinarian. The news was very bad. Shane was in great pain. He was dying.

The boy called his mother and one of his brothers. They all went to sit with Shane until his suffering was no more. They sobbed with grief. Their good dog was gone and they could not imagine how they would be able to live without him. That is the way it is with good dogs. They burrow into the hearts of the people whose home they share. We want them to live forever. It is heartbreaking when their time comes to an end.

I went to see my grandsons and their mother on the evening of Shane’s death. It was my daughter’s birthday but she was not ready to celebrate. We were all so sad. Shane’s little friend Cooper seemed worried and lost. He sensed that something was terribly wrong. We couldn’t explain what had happened, we could only try to comfort him and each other.

A good dog is a very special gift. A good dog steals our hearts. A good dog takes care of us even more than we take care of him. Shane was a very good dog, the best of the best. He earned his angel wings in the finest tradition. We will miss him. We hope that he always knew how much he was loved.

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