Saying Goodbye to My Best Canine Friend

Dog Heroes Enter Our Lives As Often As We Allow Them To...

I've owned dogs my entire adult life. When I first ventured out of my parents' home at a mere 18 years old, I felt I needed a dog to keep me company. Add to that, the need for having a companion to walk with to and from work during my night shift as I didn't own a car at the time.

I ventured into the local Humane Society and a very large, reddish, Golden Retriever named Dusty. He chose me the minute I walked into the door and sat down. Dusty had heart worm and people knew very little about it then. I took him home, cured the heart worm after months of medication that I couldn't afford and tenacity to make sure he lived and he repaid me by becoming a wonderful therapy dog for the disabled adults I worked with daily in a group home.

Dusty was a wonderful dog, but he could be destructive. If left alone, he would rip up sofas and over turn wastebaskets. When I left for college a couple years later, I sadly gave him to a farm in hopes that his energy could be used up on the rambling acres. I was not able to find appropriate housing for a dog with separation anxiety and it was heart wrenching for me to have to re-home this wonderful dog.

In college, I let a year pass, found my footing in the college town and a new home that allowed dogs. It wasn't but a month after moving before I saw an ad in the newspaper for an abused Old English Sheepdog. He was 7 years old and was shaved to the skin, emaciated in appearance and afraid to put his face in a bowl to eat. I couldn't allow him to stay where he was and I accepted him as mine. His name was Sunny. Within a year, he was up to 100 pounds, had a gorgeous, full coat and became my constant companion. He too walked with me everywhere, which included night class at the University, where he would obediently lay by my feet during the three hour class. I still had no vehicle and footed it everywhere.

In my fourth year of college, I bought a vehicle, moved back in with the folks so I could finish my student teaching and took Sunny with me every day after school back to the towns surrounding the University so I could clean houses (my night job). He and I would bunk up at a friend's house each night and in the morning, I would drop him off at my parents' and go teach. This continued for a year. When Sunny was 12, we went running in the woods together (one of our favorite past times) and a week later I found a huge, green tick on his back. My mom, using pliers, pulled and fell to the ground; uncovering a huge hole in my poor dog's back. The vet hadn't seen a tick so huge before, but Lyme disease hadn't reached Michigan at that time (or so they thought) so nothing was done at the time for Sunny.

Within a month, the poor animal was falling over himself and eventually had become almost crippled. I sadly took him to the veterinarian to say goodbye. It was only a year later that Lyme Disease hit the news and I realized what had led to Sunny's demise.

Years later, I was married and living in the country. I saw an ad for collie pups and drove to see them. My intention was to get one; a sable, rough coated girl. When I arrived, my ex and I saw a little, white girl with one big, brown spot on her side, and cute little brown ears, being hit by the teeter totter by one of the resident children. We looked at each other and rescued her from any more harm. Ashley and Shelby became immediate members of our family. Shelby lived until she was 12 years old and Ashley until she was 14. These two collies added beauty to my sprawling, country home. They were excellent learners and very loving to my son and daughter when they were both born and growing. They went everywhere with me in the car and they too would run through the woods with me or go on walks with me and my children down the sprawling, country roads. Later, when I divorced, Shelby's health began to fail and she couldn't stand up. She passed before my children and I moved into our new home. Ashley lived two years beyond her sister. They were both incredibly, loving friends to us.

When two years had passed, I was longing for another canine companion. I found myself looking at German Shepherds. I had never seen long coated shepherds and was captivated by their stunning looks, soft eyes and enormity of size.

I found a breeder in a city two hours away and once again, my Lacey chose my family. She was a beautiful dog and so smart. She quickly gained my heart and my life was never the same again. She became a constant companion for my daughter who was three at the time. She guarded every child that was in her proximity. She loved to participate in 5k races with me and she became so well known that she was often announced crossing the finish line before I was! She had the calmest nature and could sit without blinking through parades with flashing sirens and shooting guns or fireworks and screaming children as they flung sparklers in her face. She visited group homes of the elderly with me and intrinsically knew that each and every person that put their hand out towards her needed a dog hug and kiss. She was the best dog I had ever owned and the love she gave to our family was more human-like than canine.

A goodbye that was too sudden....

Lacey was only five years old when we found her tumor. During these five years, remember that she had been my best friend, my walking companion, a therapy dog for the elderly, a protector of children, a visitor to my classroom of special needs children, a role model for dogs we have hosted in our home and a mother to Spike our Yorkie, a litter of baby rabbits and a playmate to my two cats. My daughter sported a shirt that stated, "My sister is a Long Coated Shepherd" and my house is filled with photos of my beautiful girl and my children who have grown up with her.

Suddenly, Lacey began to fall. As she walked, down stairs and in trying to get into the car. She went from being a very active, powerful dog to a shaky, weak one. The vet thought vestibular infection and gave weeks of meds and steroids that did nothing. I took her to a dog neurologist and he concluded that she had a left brain lesion or tumor that was inoperable and would eventually take her life.

I had difficulty driving home with her in the car after that appointment. I took her to a fast food restaurant and got her a burger and some chicken nuggets. I couldn't even eat my food. It had been months that I watched my gorgeous friend deteriorate into a creature that is unsure of herself, smiles through her discomfort and wouldn't leave my side.

Through my love for her, I decided could not be selfish. If I could, I would have kept her until she couldn't walk another step. However, I could see in her eyes that the time had come to say goodbye. Every day I shed more tears than the day before as I waited for the week to pass before we drove to her doctor's office.

My thoughts before taking my dear Lacey in were:

I know that it will seem as if it is raining within the car as I carry her across town on her last journey in the car. The memories will pass before me in slow motion...from the time I first brought her home and all of the times she was there for me. I hope she knows how much I adore her and love her. I will lay on the floor with her and hold her tight. I will give her a kiss and tell her how much I love her. I will hold her until I am able to let go. I pray that where ever her soul is carried, will be as happy for her as she has made me.

I did hold her in my lap as I sat on the cold, hard floor of the vet's office. I told her I loved her and saw that she looked up at me one last time before the injection was administered. She felt the tears roll down from my eyes as they landed with a soft thud on her ear. She quietly drifted off and I truly don't know when the time lapsed between having her with me and her spirit floating out of her Earthly body. All I know is that she was at peace. I was not. I had to sit on the floor for 20 minutes recalling the moments of our life together. Bringing her home as a puppy, training her, walking in 5k's together, carrying her when she couldn't walk and now holding her as she entrusted me with ending her pain.

Not a day goes by where our family doesn't think of this wonderful dog and how she made such a difference in our lives. God speed Lacey Jaye.


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