Thursday, January 17, 2013

Goodbye old friend.

I've started this post about ten times and every time I've hit delete and started over.

So, I'm just going to let my mind wander and put this stream of consciousness down on paper, as it were.

When you came into our lives, we had recently lost our first dog, Zoe, and had taken about 6 months to mourn her before thinking about getting another dog.  Olivia was just a baby and I had my hands full with her, a full time job and school.  Brian - who had taken the loss of Zoe very hard - finally decided that it was time to start looking.

Brian had always wanted a German Shepherd and so we went to a Pet Adoption at our local pet store, where a German Shepherd rescue as being featured   We walked in, saw all the German Shepherds looking for homes and had a discussion with the rescue coordinator.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw Brian approach a dog that looked NOTHING like a Shepherd, but instead like a black lab mix.

"Who's that?"  I asked the rescue coordinator.

"Oh, that's Shultzie.  We aren't sure exactly what he is but there's some shepherd in there somewhere.  He's been shuffled from home to home to home for a long time and we don't know what exactly his life has been like.  He seems to be a young dog - not an adult but maybe over a year old.  He's a bit rambunctious and skittish but his foster mother seems to think he's got potential."

From the moment Brian approached you and jumped up on him, it was all over.

We put in an application that night.

Chauncey and the girls robot, Christmas 2007

We went through the adoption process of home visits, vet references and the like and you came home to us a few days later.    We renamed you Chauncey since we thought Schultzie sounded too "Hogan's Heroes".  The first thing you did was go explore the house. You boldly walked right into Olivia's room where she was sleeping in her crib with a fever, sniffed,  whined, and laid down on her floor.  Over the course of the next few hours, between exploring the house some more, you checked back in that room six or seven times.  You were officially on duty and for the next 12 years, you would "patrol" the house when the girls and I were home alone or the kids had friends over and you would stand guard when one of us was sick.  I would imagine you saying "Don't worry mom - I 've got this.  You can relax.  You can rest."

Those first few months after you came home were AWFUL.  You see, you were still puppy like and maybe a bit afraid we'd send you away.  You wanted nothing more than to have our attention 24 hours a day.  You took the baby's toys and ran, you ran around the house like a Tasmanian devil and you barked that vicious bark if anyone approached the house.  I was at my wit's end.  You could do no wrong in Brian's eyes - you were his boy.  To me, you were just a lot of work.
Hanging in the back yard, 2008

But you calmed a bit.  And you grew on me.

It soon became apparent that you would protect us with your very being - no matter what.  No one was allowed entry into your home.  If someone came to the door, you positioned yourself between me and that "stranger".  No one could approach me - and Lord help the person that reached for the baby.  Brian encouraged your protective behavior and was even on the receiving end of a few warnings from you when he jokingly would mess around or wrestle with me.

You were "daddy's boy" but you were momma's fiercest protector.
Being attacked by the robot 

You scared me a few times in those days - not because I was afraid you'd hurt us or the baby because you were so incredibly gentle with us - but because I was afraid you'd hurt someone else in your zeal to protect your family.  We learned that we would have to put you outside when someone came to the door.  It was  the only way people could come into the house.  Once they were in, you were let back inside where you would quickly approach them with your hackles raised and sniff the devil out of them while he or she stood stock still, and all the while Brian and I would be saying -"It's OK Chauncey.  It's OK boy"  while standing next to the person with our hand on their shoulder or arm   Once you felt comfortable  you would lower your hackles and walk away.  But you NEVER let that person out of your sight   It took you several visits to feel comfortable with other people.

I definitely came to appreciate your protective nature over time.  I knew that I could allow the girls into the fenced yard to play so long as you were out there.  I knew that if anyone dared to mess with my kids you'd tear them up. I was OK with that.

The neighborhood kids used to party in the field behind  our house and play ball in the empty lot next us.  I can vividly remember sitting on the porch one afternoon and watching a stray ball fly over the fence into the yard.  Before I could get up to get the ball and give it back to the teenagers playing in the empty lot, I saw one of them hop my fence to retrieve it.  I yelled a warning but you were like a black streak of lightening going after that kid - I've never seen someone move so fast in my life - he LITERALLY dove over the fence as you crashed into it behind him. Those kids had been warned a hundred times NOT to hop our fence, but to ring the bell and let us get whatever had been lost.  After that day, we never had a problem with anyone coming into our yard or partying behind the house again.

You scared the crap outta them.
The boys doing their favorite thing - running in the yard

Your protective streak didn't just apply to us humans.  When we brought Baxter home - hoping that another dog to play with would help to settle you a bit (it did), you quickly became his best friend.  Baxter was diagnosed at a very young age with hip dysplaysia that made it very difficult for him to even walk.  During one particularly bad snow storm, the snow was up to your shoulders.  When we let you out into the back yard, you quickly went to work digging a path for Baxter to walk on - you'd bury your body in the snow and shake it off, then run back an forth over that area a few times packing the snow down and then run back to get Baxter and lead him through the cleared path and then start all over again where you left off.  You did this all way way across the yard to your favorite spot in the back.  Baxter didn't have to struggle in the snow at all - you had his back.

Best buds Baxter and Chauncey, Summer 2012

I've never seen a dog as fast as you - I would watch in amazement as you would race after a bird and jump - catching them mid air.  We lost a lot of birds that way.  When we moved to the new house and you had more room to run, you got bigger and stronger and faster.  But you also calmed down.  You became, really, the perfect dog - loyal, loving and protective.

Wrestling - another favorite past time

When you began limping we knew something was wrong.  But you never cried, you never whimpered, and you still greeted us with a wag of your tail, and goose in our butts as you led us to the cupboard with your treats.  And then, right after Christmas you stopped eating.  You stopped greeting us.  You hadn't been able to run for a long time.  You hobbled on three legs and it was depressing for you.

Your dad had been talking about letting you go for awhile.  Selfishly, I couldn't bring myself to think about it. One more Christmas - just one more.  Then - not near Brian's birthday.  And what about the girls?  They'd be heartbroken.

Chauncey, December 2012

The day came on December 29th.  We took you to a dear friends' vet hospital.  They placed us in a cozy room with  blankets on the floor and soft lighting.   It was one of the hardest things ever, watching you struggle against the meds given to make you sleepy. You were afraid to leave us - who would watch out for us?

Still on alert and making sure all is well in your house

I put your head on my lap and your dad and I stroked you and whispered in your ear - We love you.  We'll be OK.  Thank you.  You've kept us safe.

Go - Run - Chase birds - Bark out loud - We love you.

You are so, so  loved.

And you let out one last great big sigh and were gone.

Loyal Family Guardian
199?- 2012

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