One of the axioms of life is that all good things come to an end. Nothing lasts forever. Such was the case this morning. My wife and I came to the decision to put our Great Dane named Chella to sleep. Chella was 11 years old, which is pretty old for a Great Dane. While she was still an alert and attentive dog, but she was having a lot of physical problems that were only going to get worse in the coming months and the issue of the quality of her life necessitated that we make the very painful decision. Being a good owner sometimes means doing things that you don’t like.
For those of you that have never owned a big dog (Chella was 130lbs) they are a breed apart from smaller dogs (and compared to Chella, all dogs were smaller). The best thing that I can say about Chella is that after having adopted her at the age of 6 and having lived with her for the past 5 years, given the right circumstances, we would definitely bring another Great Dane into our family.
For a creature that could have easily killed anything she wanted to (her breed was bred to hunt wild boar) she was the gentlest, most loving and most regal animal that we have ever known. From gently playing with our other rambunctious dogs, to laying on the sofa with her head in our laps, she demonstrated time and time again that she was more than just a dog. She identified with her family (pack) and would let you know in no uncertain terms that she was happy, sad, hungry, wanted to go outside, etc. Not by barking or pawing, but by coming up and looking you in the eye (easy for her to do) and simply giving you ‘the look’ with her large brown eyes.
Some people have special little routines that we develop with our pets. Chella was no exception. Chella knew the color of her leash and when it was time for her to go on her walk through the neighborhood. During her walks her primary concern was to smell as many of the flowers along the way as she could. Go figure? She adored children and would cuddle and gently lick them for hours.
When we lived in Phoenix, Arizona our house faced a park and had a large front porch that looked out onto a sea of greenery. During the more stressful times when my job was not going very well, I would come home and fix a martini and sit on the front porch contemplating things. Chella knew this routine and whenever she heard the martini shaker knew that I would be sitting out front and wanted to join me. Hence forth, she became my ‘drinkin buddy’ each evening. As I sipped my ice cold gin on that front porch, Chella would lay like a royal statue on the lawn watching the people walking by and playing in the park. Looking every bit the regal canine that she was and amazing people that walked or rode by that she was real and not some sort of lawn ornament. On her last evening with us, she was out in front of our Bisbee house, laying on the sidewalk while I sipped my gin. This evening I will be out there again, but without my drinkin buddy. It won’t quite be the same.
So it was very hard for my wife and I to let her go. She was closer to a family member than any other pet we have every had to let go. When asked by the veterinarian whether or not we wanted to be present for the procedure we were somewhat surprised. How could we not be there? How could we let her go without rubbing her neck or stroking her main. We owed her that and much much more.
I could go on and on, but suffice to say she is missed and will continue to be missed for as long as we can remember her.
As she took her last breath, I hugged her and whispered in her ear, “Good Girl, I’ll catch up with you on the other side.”. I hope I get the chance when my time finally comes.