Posted by: fireweaver | July 10, 2008

saying goodbye

once upon a time, when i was a wee little kiddo, we had a german shepherd named Sheba. to my 2 feet taller than the ground eyes, this dog was the most enormous gentle giant to ever walk the face of the earth. when my brother or i fell over, as toddlers often do, she was right there leaning over us, making sure nothing was really hurt. she tolerantly and patiently allowed us to use whatever part of her was a convenient handhold – fur, mouth, whatever – to pull ourselves back vertical. she was an amazing guardian and an a+ babysitter. my 4 year old self was far too young to actually understand death when my mom had to explain to us how sometimes, when people are sick, they’re sick in their minds and not just their bodies. some crazy man, peeved over deed restriction changes or something, had poisoned several dogs in the neighborhood.

flash forward a dozen or so years, to the end of my sophomore year in college. my then-roommate and i had just moved out of the dorm and into the little house 3 blocks from campus that i’d occupy for the next 7 years. i was all kinds of giddy to be free of the dorm’s pet restrictions (ineffectual though they were, just try keeping animals away from a pre-vet student), and had a burning desire to get a puppy, so i was perusing what the local animal shelter had available. halfway down the center aisle on the left, there was a little sable & white sheltie with 3 white-on-cream pups with her. the pups were cute as buttons, of course, but at about 10 weeks old, their constant inescapable antics were getting annoying to the old girl. having volunteered at this shelter before, i knew where all the equipment was kept, so i grabbed a leash to take her outside to the exercise yard for a few minutes of kid-free relaxation. when we got outside, i took her off the leash to let her run around. she nosed in a corner for about 90 seconds, just long enough for me to settle down onto the curb, then turned around and made a beeline for me. she hopped right in my lap and gave me that look, and it was all over.

i took her ID card up to the front desk to start the adoption process. “oh, this dog is heartworm positive,” the receptionist said, “hopefully, a vet will be willing to do her treatment for whatever the shelter will pay, but we can’t put any kind of guarantee on this dog’s health. do you still want her?” of course i did, she had, after all, already informed me we belonged together. they did manage to find a vet to get her treated (a rather dangerous and rough intervention – the treatment at the time involved intravenous dosing of an arsenic compound), and we were good to go. “it says here that she’s 6 years old,” i was further informed, “and her name is Sheba.” now, i never believed the dog had been reincarnated, their personalities being so different after all, but i’ve always thought i got my childhood dog back when she came to live with me.

and so we had many wonderful adventures. this picture has been under a little window on my mousepad for years:

that little look – the one where her face says “aaaah, yes, well, i see you’ve caught me on the furniture,” while the tail is wagging anyway – is her in a nutshell. after a few short days of figuring out crate training, she had the run of the house and the safety of her little cave. the neighbor’s dog taught her to bark at squirrels, and i will never forget the amazed look of comprehension on her face once she figured out what all the noise was about. once, on an overnight camping trip to a local lake, she got so be-stunk with dead fish that she had to get a forced bath in lake water with dish detergent – though her grin with oily, spiky fur sticking out everywhere said she didn’t regret a thing. strikingly clever, words dropped in a casual, conversational tone of voice were all that were necessary to get her do do most things – people never failed to be mightily impressed that a “hey sheba, go to bed,” sent her unerringly for her crate. she was always an awful racist/sexist, barking at black men but never women. she would leap through the open windows like an agility champion when called to race out in the front yard. thunderstorms scared the crap out of her, and i would be awakened in the middle of the night by 30 pounds of vibro-dog slamming into the back of my legs as she leapt to the apparent safety of the bed. she was every bit as tolerant and patient as her like-named predecessor when rushed by little kids…or when palpated for bony prominences by budding veterinary anatomists. cat-lover friends told me, “well, if every dog was like this one, i’d actually like dogs.”

she saw me through 3 addresses, 2 states, 3 love affairs, a pair of degrees and a residency, the hell of ACLAM board prep, triumphs and illnesses, and some rather amazing parties. twelve years, one month, and five days. two-fifths of my life has been shared with this amazing daughter of mine.

goodnight, baby, i miss you so much already.

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Responses

  1. Oh, I’m so sorry. I know how hard this is. I’ve been there.

    She sounds like an amazingly wonderful dog. This was a beautiful tribute.

  2. Beautiful, touching…I’m trying to hide my tears at work. Again, many hugs to you.

  3. Wow ‘Chelle, I am crushed for you. I always knew Sheba would go some day, I just didn’t expect 12 years to go so fast. Our sophomore year in college she was everyone’s dog. I still have fond memories of taking her to the park to chase frisbee or finding her on your couch with a guilty face after she had wiped out the sour cream and onion chips. And of course the “Oh my god it’s FIVE minutes before the alarm getupgetupgetup! ” lightning bolt from the crate. Sheba was the homiest part of college for so many of us. I am so sorry for your devastating loss, and yet smiling remembering the antics of a departed friend,

  4. *BIG HUG*
    And more than a few sniffles.

    …And, yet another, *REALLY BIG FRIGGIN’ HUG*
    The squeeze your eyeballs out of your head kind.

    Lots of love to you and your girl.

  5. For Michelle & Sheba…

    Come up to meet ya, tell you I’m sorry
    You don’t know how lovely you are
    I had to find you, tell you I need ya
    And tell you I set you apart
    Tell me your secrets, and nurse me your questions
    Oh lets go back to the start
    Running in circles, coming up tails
    Heads on a science apart
    Nobody said it was easy
    It’s such a shame for us to part
    Nobody said it was easy
    No one ever said it would be this hard
    Oh take me back to the start

    I was just guessing at numbers and figures
    Pulling the puzzles apart
    Questions of science, science and progress
    Do not speak as loud as my heart
    Tell me you love me, come back and haunt me
    Oh and I rush to the start
    Running in circles, chasing our tails
    Coming back as we are

    Nobody said it was easy
    Oh it’s such a shame for us to part
    Nobody said it was easy
    No one ever said it would be so hard
    I’m going back to the start

    I love you both — Woof…

  6. my heart breaks for you, because i do know that pain. she was mine too, here with us all for too short a time. i never could figure out how you got her to mind you the way she did. she was truely, better behaved than your siblings ever was. and more loyal, and more honest than most people i’ve known. i’m not sure why animals come into our lives and don’t stay as long as we want them to. seems so unfair. maybe to grow us along, maybe so we can enjoy another, so we can have memories and sweet notes from many. she needed you as much as you needed her. maybe even more. and what a ride you gave her!. if you believe in heaven, and i do, then you must also believe that she is running around up there fixing up a place for you and yours for later. you did a good job. i love you and i hurt for you. and i miss her too. s

  7. Oh Chelle. *hugs* Sheba was a wonderful, beautiful dog and I’m glad she had you as her forever home. I’m sure she appreciated it more than she could even express. For the time you had, I’m glad you found so much happiness in each other.


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