In February 2003 my wife and I were looking for our first dog together. After some searching she found an ad for German shepherd dog(GSD)/yellow lab mixed puppies. The babies were the result of an unplanned mating between the owner’s yellow lab and a neighbor’s GSD. We weren’t particular about breeds, and I always leaned towards a mixed dog since they often lack the genetic problems of pure breeds.
The litter was the first one we saw, but we immediately fell in love with them. After playing with all of the puppies for a bit, we picked out the chubbiest little one in the litter. His size and his huge paws suggested he would be a gigantic dog one day, and we appropriately named him Moose.
At the time we lived in an apartment and knew a large dog would be a problem in that setting. He was still relatively small, however, and we knew we would soon be buying a house. Nevertheless, the first night he cried like a baby. I can only imagine how he missed his mother and his siblings, but my wife did her best to console him. Eventually he became accustomed to us and his new environment.
Over the next few months he grew like a weed, and by the time he was about six months old he was already almost 90 pounds. We were almost ready to close on a house, but in the meantime he galloped up and down the apartment, much to the annoyance of the downstairs neighbors.
We moved into our house in May of 2003, and Moose loved the space. He had a huge backyard to run around and we had the peace of letting him do his thing without neighbors complaining. For the first few years he would love to chase us around the yard, and he would love it when we chased him around the yard. He would always be excited to chase and retrieve balls and other toys, just to get us to throw them so he could chase them again.
In more recent years he had mellowed with age, satisfied mostly with merely being petted and hugged and free to wander the yard to his heart’s content. He didn’t care to chase toys anymore, but he still liked to roll around together and wrestle. Although he was for the most part no longer interested in playing, he still dutifully kept the the yard free from wildlife while alerting us to the presence of strangers.
As with many herding breeds he became nervous around loud noises with age, especially thunder and fireworks. He would whine and pace and try to run away, and would have to be coddled like a giant baby. While it was stressful for both him and us as well, we got through the storms and fireworks to play and hug another day.
Recently Moose started exhibiting some serious lethargy. Initially it came and went, but after a couple of days it persisted. We made a vet appointment that we wouldn’t end up keeping. Last evening he suddenly became much worse and we instead took him to a 24-hour vet clinic. An examination revealed he had aggressive cancer, was bleeding internally, and his blood pressure was dangerously low. His prognosis was grim, and surgery wasn’t promising. At eight years of age we knew a dog of 120 pounds was near the end of his life. We knew that at any time we could get the news that his days were over. That knowledge didn’t make the actual news any easier to take.
My wife and I hugged him and cried and said our goodbyes. She couldn’t bear to be with him in his final moments, but I wanted to be there with him to the end. While receiving his final shots I laid with him, petted him, and told him how much I loved him. Initially he required a couple of sedatives to fall asleep. That was his way…always vigilant, never falling asleep on the job. Eventually the meds took over, however, and he was given his final shot. After several minutes of petting I became aware that he was no longer breathing. His death was so peaceful I didn’t even notice it.
His death was peaceful, his life was long for his size, and we had many good times together. He was a pain in the butt sometimes, but he was my favorite dog and I’ll miss him. I wouldn’t trade my time with him for anything. My only regrets are that I ever cursed his name, and that I didn’t love on him more in his final months. If only I had known his time was up. I’m sure many people in mourning think the same thing.
This morning I must bury my best friend, one who I think I never showed the love that he showed me. I wish I could go back in time to show him how much I loved him before he became ill. At this point I can only hope he knew how much I loved him as he closed his eyes for the last time.