This week, I said goodbye to my Bernese Mountain Dog, Shadow. He was a beautiful animal, as strangers would offer. And for anyone that knew him, he was a beloved companion. But to say he was just like his owner would be an injustice to Shadow.
I couldn’t imagine a more loyal, gentle, and constant pal than the one I shared for the past 8 years. I have nothing but gratitude for the seasons we had together, and know that this was the time for him to join our ancestors. I had been warned that the breed doesn’t live long. But I’m sticking with my original sentiment that quality was more important than quantity. Shadow was all quality.
It was a hard decision, but even veterinarians didn’t offer any real hope that the two tumors growing inside of him could be arrested for long. Cancer was suspected, and of one thing I was certain: my dog would not suffer. He left as he lived, calmly and with grace. But it wasn’t until I felt the heaviness of his head on my lap that I realized who I was losing.
He was just a dog, but he was my best friend. And he taught me much more than i taught him.
Shadow came with a complimentary disposition: He didn’t need to be playing all the time, and didn’t bother much with toys, he was just happy to be around. A big dog with a light step, Shadow liked people more than other dogs, although the little ones would get his attention. And for the smallest of pups, he would lie down quietly like a sphinx so as not to threaten them. He didn’t threaten anyone. Not even the baby rabbits in our backyard, which he watched with patience, as their eyesight and mobility improved.
Shadow only got excited when family, or his ‘cousin’ Iggy, visited. His tail was a force of nature, and definitely the least controllable part of him. If he inadvertently knocked a child down with it, he’d be licking them before they got up.
There are many things I will miss about Shadow, but some of my more enduring memories include:
- Giving him my pizza crusts, because he never begged for them.
- His big furry head poking thru the curtain every time I took a shower.
- Clapping for touchdowns would always bring him to his feet, excited.
- Sitting at next to me, no matter how small the space.
- Leaning on, or backing into, people or furniture.
- Putting his chin on my knee if I’d been at the computer too long.
He was a good dog. He never ran off, and wore a leash to keep people calm, not to stay close. Because if he was anything, he was close. Always at my side, and near enough to hug (which was my repeated therapy during bad moments or days). I’m going to miss those hugs a lot.
On that day, my sister offered a wonderful quote, which rang true to me.
“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.”
― Milan Kundera
Whether I’d been gone for 15 hours or 15 minutes, I most miss the wagging tail and half-jumping beast that greeted me at the door every day, and sat quietly beside me every night. If I could learn to love and accept like my dog could, I would be a far better human. Rest in peace, Shadow.
Always your pal,