My heart breaks into pieces as I watch my best friend, a 110lb German Shepherd, pull his back legs foraward as he tries to move in a straight path. Instead, his giant frame makes tiny circles, and his expression is tired and frustrated. Jack’s brain has stopped connecting with his rear end in what the vet has called a degenerative neuro issue. In the course of two weeks he has declined quickly.
I stayed awake all night, by his side, hoping his brain would quiet down and he could fall asleep to never awake. While I know it is unlikely for dogs to pass away naturally, this is the first pet I am watching die so I pray for a quick end. People have consoled me saying he will tell me when it is time, and as he rested his black snout on my lap I knew he was getting ready to go. I knew he was getting ready to tell me.
Jack’s precense in my life has been short although grand. He was the livestock guard dog of the cabin I purchased 5 1/2 years ago, and our first meeting was when I toured the property. He was loyal and large, and it didn’t take me long to realize this was his land, and he knew it better than I ever could. My first night in the cabin we sat among moving boxes, just him and I eye to eye. He looked at me with confusion but also with a comfort that let me know he was sharing this place with me. His loyalty to me started that night and never once waivered during our partnership. My Jackie Boy’s fierce bark kept away strangers and scared off tourists using our driveway as a turn-around. His scent kept everything from chipmunks and rabbits to coyote and bear out of our garden and yard. As he aged, the affects took its toll on his awareness, and it was this first sign that told me he would be leaving soon.
Over the years he went from being an outside dog who ate on the porch and slept most nights near the front door to a gentle giant who slept at the foot of the couch and took his meals near the dining table. My bond with him was always one of equals which my husband noted upon moving in with us. We never had the master-dog relationship that people have with goldendoodles or pomeranians. He was the brave, protective being that stood by my side when I was too old to be living in my father’s house and too single and strong willed to wait for a man to step in and take care of me.
This afternoon as I rested my cheek on the soft fur between his ears I realized I was never the courageous single girl living in the woods by myself but rather a young woman on a transitional path that was guided by this handsome German Shepherd. I have cried a lot today over my best friend’s decline, and I wonder how I will sleep at night without my protector keeping watch. Jack, you have been more than a dog. You have led me outside through dark, creepy nights. You have single handidly saved my gardens from the hungry mouths of deer. You have been my pal and partner in life and over this land. And you will be unbelievably missed.