I got the news today I've been dreading for a while. My parents had to put our dog Shadow to sleep. It didn't come as a surprise, she was something like 16-17 years old, and has had a lot of health problems the last few years.*
I'm kind of heartbroken right now. Anyone who knows me well knows I love animals as much as I love people. But she had a great life for a dog. She spent most of her years on a farm, roaming around, getting dirty, finding smells, and doing all the things dogs love to do.
Shadow wasn't exactly the most playful of dogs though, she never played fetch, never wanted to play tug-o-war, or any other games dogs normally love. Instead she just wanted to be with people. She was always this way, whenever she had a chance she's cuddle up right next to you, leaning all her weight against your leg to let you know she was there. She loved riding in our old pickup, not so much for the ride, but because she knew that when you where in the truck you couldn't get away from her, she'd slowly creep over to the driver's side and press herself against you.
Of course she had passions, nothing made her happier than chasing cattle. She wasn't trained for this but usually did a pretty solid job of doing what you wanted and not getting in the way. When she really got into it she'd actually run behind a cow and grab it's tail and swing along behind it. It probably wasn't the best thing for keeping the herd calm but she had a lot of fun doing it.
She was kicked by cows, run over by all four wheels of a 4-wheeler once, was hit by a van and broke her shoulder, and got in a few fights with barn cats. She always survived though, and was up running around following us on whatever chores we had.
During the fall when harvest was going on she loved riding in the grain trucks and then trying to catch the mice that were scared up by all the machinery in the fields. She'd try to catch rabbits as well, but I'm pretty sure she never caught one. She never went too far away though, I don't think she ever made us wonder if she ran away.
We got her because someone rescued her from a ditch where she had been left. She was always a calm dog when she was around people, even those she didn't know well. I don't think she ever really disliked anyone.
Until my parents moved to a town and she was forced to socialize, she was never really a fan of other dogs. I still remember the winter we had a black lab wander onto the farm. He was obviously pretty young, probably 2 years old at the most, so of course he had a ton of energy. She didn't hate him, but she just barely tolerated him. She was quite happy when we finally found his owners and sent him on his way.
She wasn't allowed on the furniture, but she figured out at some point that the couch was really comfortable. She'd wait until everyone was in bed before she got up on it, who knows how long she did this before she no longer woke up the second my dad got out of bed and he found her laying on the couch.
As she got older she learned more and more ways to get attention. She could have the saddest face in the world and of she would paw at you if you weren't paying attention to her. Thankfully she was pretty good about not doing this to strangers. To her family though, she always wanted to make sure she wasn't forgotten.
Going home will never be the same without her smiling face and wagging tail. She was always the sixth part of our family and a constant that I will always remember.
* I wrote this a few weeks ago when my parents first thought they were going to have to say goodbye. I'm glad it's remained in my drafts since then as it gave them more time with her. She is a dog I'll never replace in my heart no matter how many pets I have in my life.
** This week has been incredibly draining, the world also lost an amazing woman and one of my best friend's mother's to cancer this week. I'm probably going to be kind of quiet around the webs for a few days.