Our sweet, loyal, loving Shepard mix, Bear, died Monday night.
I wanted to take some time to write about him, since I think I've barely mentioned any of our pets on the blog.
We got Bear (and his brother, Rocky), 16 years ago when they were tiny puppies. They were born near P's aunt's house, in a ravine off the side of the road. The mother's owner had moved to a new house and left her behind. I was in college at the time, and was so excited to have a canine companion. P's parents volunteered to let us keep the dogs at their house, until I got a place of my own. Bear and Rocky spent their time racing around the pasture, swimming in the pond, chasing horses and trying to catch birds. Bear was a remarkable bird hunter...he's lie in the pasture quietly, and when birds would swoop down on him periodically to snatch his hair for their nests, he'd catch them in one strike (and then would de-feather and eat them...blech). When P and I got married and got our own home, Bear, Rocky (and Spike, our cat) came with us. When we went on vacations, we would often plan them with specifically to include the dogs (Spike didn't care for travel). We went camping/hiking often, to lots of different places - even several different states. Once, we took them to the beach, where they were able to run and play.
Although Rocky and I occasionally did agility and other forms of doggie fun, Bear was never really into that. He loved going for walks/hikes, but he was almost always very calm. He tried to analyze or figure things out before acting almost all the time, and was very deliberate. He was gentle, very intelligent, and very, very patient. The only problem we ever had in Bear's youth was his tendency to chase cats, though he eventually stopped.
Until a few months ago, he was very healthy. At a very recent visit, his vet proclaimed that his bloodwork was perfect for his age. But, Bear had a health crisis in March, which resulted in him refusing food and losing a dramatic amount of weight. We had several trips to our vet (and a trip to the emergency vet), trying to help him. Recently, he'd begun eating again, had gained back two pounds, and seemed to be feeling better. He wasn't running around as much, but was interested in life and happy.
Monday night, when we went to feed the dogs, he didn't come in. P tried to get him to get up and come in the house, to no avail. I went to try, and realized that it wasn't that he didn't WANT to get up...he couldn't. Examining him further, I realized that he could no longer feel his back legs at all. We took him to the emergency vet, and heard the news that he'd likely had some type of stroke, and wouldn't survive much longer.
I stayed with my Bear, who, with the vet's help, quietly slipped from life in the middle of the night in my arms. While I know that 16 years is a long life for a bigger dog, I don't think he was ready...and I know I sure wasn't.