The hardest goodbye

Today has been a devastating day for our family.

We said goodbye to our dog Keeley after we found her in the garage this morning listless, panting and with a distended belly. A dog who normally would jump in the car at the words, "wanna go for a ride?" could barely walk. I lifted our beautiful 70-pound German shepherd into the car and piled the kids in, knowing all too well what might be happening. All of us have seen Marley and Me.

My son was very quiet. He is the most attached to Keeley because he knows this is a dog who has loved and guarded him since the day he was born. She has chased him around the yard, taken walks with him, tried to steal his basketball when he'd shoot hoops and greeted him off the bus the past several years (and I wish I could say fetched a ball with him but Keeley never was very good at playing fetch).

But she sure was good at loving us.
A boy and his dog, from the beginning.

She came into a rough world back in 2004, when we found her at the squalid-looking home of a "breeder" who advertised her for cheap because they "couldn't afford to feed the runt." This dog cringed at anyone touching or picking her up, so she may have been beaten there. We bought her on the spot, exactly 12 years ago this month - just for the sake of saving her from that filthy place.
When we took this sad, underweight puppy to the vet, he told us she had fleas, intestinal parasites and was probably a day or two away from dying.

It was her lucky day. Ours too.

We took her to our 50-acre farm, where she joined our first dog Kya, in living the good life - running in the fields, chasing mice, going on hikes and digging her muzzle in fresh snow each winter. She kept us company all those years before the mess of children came.

She was good at sitting with us. She sat at my feet the night my contractions started with my firstborn, probably knowing before I did what was up. She sat next to us when we watched stupid shows on tv (she'd bark at any animal on the screen), she'd follow us to the kitchen when we'd eat dinner, and if Matthew and I were in two separate rooms, that dog would sit in the threshold of both rooms in order to simultaneously watch us. Sometimes it was so annoying, and we'd get so frustrated that she wouldn't leave our side. She was just doing her job, now I see.

She was good at being funny -- specifically at howling. I think it's a German shepherd thing, but if you wanted Keeley to speak, she'd howl. If she heard a siren or a toy truck that made like noises, she'd howl. It was quite the party act for friends when they'd come over. It made us laugh. We got a kick out of the way she'd put her paw on you if you looked her in the eye. Almost as if she was trying to hold your hand. We joked that she always thought she was human.

She was good at chasing us. Man that dog could run. She thought it was all a big game of chase. Back in her younger days, she could tear around all the rooms in the house in seconds. She'd stop and hide under the dinner table with her butt raised and tail wagging - just asking for someone to come chase her. Her back legs almost looked like a bunny hopping, and she had the temperament of a bunny too - nowhere near as fierce as what she looked to many.

Always loving.
As gentle as she was, she sure was good at guarding us. We considered her the "alarm system" at our house. There was no way anyone was coming near without her letting us know. Whether it was the piano tuner (who learned years ago when he got bit), the UPS driver (who never got out of his car) or the garbage man (who fended her off with my trash can) -- no stranger came up in here without a warning from Keeley. But once she liked you, she liked you and you knew it, with licking and nudges to your hands and feet.

She was so good at making us feel loved. She was the one true pet my children have ever known and cared for. She taught them about responsibility and caretaking. She taught them silliness. She taught them loyalty.
But as my children hung onto her today, petting and hugging her for the last time, I realized that Keeley taught them love.
We held our old dog, cried into her fur and watched as she was sent off to a Heavenly place.
My daughter asked if she knew how much we loved her, and I told her yes, I think she knew it every day.

Saying goodbye to the best dog ever.


Popular Posts