So long, Shadow

While I was home last week on vacation, my dad and I took my dog Shadow to the vet to be put to sleep. She was an awesome dog, and it was sad to watch her get so old. She had a hard time walking around toward the end, and she hadn’t been outside in days before my dad made the tough call. For me, I found there’s nothing like knowingly taking your childhood pet to die. It’s not a great feeling.

I spent the first eleven years of my life campaigning for a dog, but my parents always said no. Birthdays and Christmases brought up this one wish, and I never thought it would happen. Our pets were limited to strictly outdoor cats until finally when I was in the sixth grade, they agreed to getting a pooch on the condition that I would walk and feed said dog. Isn’t this always the agreement parents make? And don’t they always end up picking up the slack? We went to the pound to pick out my first dog. We came home with a golden retriever puppy that, unbeknown to us, was infected with parvovirus. She only lived with us for a week and died while I was at 4-H camp. We consulted our town’s veterinarian who advised us against getting another puppy. He said another pup would only catch the virus from the first one’s living area. He told us we could still get a dog, but it had to be full grown one who wouldn’t be touched by the virus.

We went to the humane society in my dad’s home town and I picked out Shadow, who was a year and a half old, they estimated. We never saw her as a puppy, but I’m sure she was pretty cute.

We have lots of family photos with Shadow in them. And I’ll never forget the time Owen came downstairs wearing his Jurrasic Park velociraptor Halloween costume and she flipped out on him. In a funny way, not in a Cujo way. There’s one really great picture of me and my three childhood best friends dressed like hippies or something, circa 1998, all crowding around my dog. I’ll have to dig that up and immediately never post it on here. She was all black then, except for the streak of white on her belly. As she aged, her face and paws started to gray and she was lighter than she’d ever been when I saw her for the last time.

My dog would lay on the floor by my side when I was at home sick and just stay there all day, vigilant. This was something for a dog no one would describe as calm. She had her bad times, like that time she killed a possum before our eyes, and the rare occasions where she would try to bite guests as they got up to leave our house. Those were never good, and they really came out of nowhere, but we think she was just being protective. She was that way until a couple years ago, when she got into a dog fight, dragging my dad down with her via leash. The neighbor’s dog won, and from then on Shadow wasn’t interested in leaving our property. My dad said he later heard the neighbors put their dog down after it attacked the family’s priest during a visit. You can bite your neighbors, but you can’t bite your priest – a lesson we ought not forget.

She was a great dog and I am sad to see her go. She was almost 14, and she’d been with our family for half my life. At least we still have Steve the cat, whose temperament hasn’t changed since the day Owen found him by that dumpster.

Goodbye, Shadow. Hopefully you’re running sprints up in dog heaven with two perfectly repaired hind legs. We miss you bunches.

Shadow, earlier this year

Shadow, in Feb. 2009