The death of any family member is a stressful and saddening occurrence, regardless whether is an actual family member or a beloved pet.
In this case it is our wonderful Border Collie cross, Shadow, who must face the end of his life with us.
We obtained him in early 2004 from an acquaintance of ours whose Border Collie bitch had an altercation with a neighbour’s Australian Shepherd. The resulting puppies, to a one, were created in the image of their mom. The only exception in Shadow’s case was a slightly bulkier frame and the absence of a tail.
As far as Shadow was concerned he had a tail. It was just invisible. He was forever wagging his rear end as if the appendage was still there. I remember the note the vet placed on the invoice for his first set of needles. “Very Cute”. And he was that’s for sure.
As a teething puppy he was also very destructive, destroying the interior of our old Aerostar van. He chewed the corner of the box in which was our new illuminated deer Christmas ornament, the result of which was a deer with non-illuminated antlers. But we forgave him just the same.
Shadow was always a very active little fellow, even later in life when most dogs tend to slow down. Ingrained in him was the herding instinct. He was always searching out new creatures to herd. Sometimes we roared with laughter watching him. When he was young we also has another pet, an older Australian Blue Heeler cross, who we had acquired under somewhat unusual circumstances.
These two were inseparable. They shared their food, their water, their bed, everything. They chased each other around the yard. They went for long walks with me in the bush across from our house. In the winter they both ventured out onto the ice in search of playthings.
When Buddy passed away Shadow was saddened and in mourning. He eventually got over the loss and became even more attached to us. When we acquired our first German Shepherd, Jewel in the summer of 2008 he was in heaven. He had a playmate again. Unfortunately her tenure was short-lived. One day in January of 2009, she escaped the yard and was struck and killed by a passing truck.
My wife wanted another dog right away. So we went back to the same people we had gotten Jewel from to see if they had another litter. Sure enough they did.
My wife selected a roly-poly little ball of black fur and we put down a deposit. When we went back to claim the pup, there was also a female pup that had been returned. We were offered both for the same price as one. Good deal, eh?
Nope. The gal was the alpha and she let everyone know it too. Despite being the runt of the litter, she was the boss. Anyhow that is another story.
Back to Shadow. We had noticed lately that Shadow wasn’t eating as he normally did. He was losing weight at an alarming rate. His hind legs were giving him all sorts of problems. He no longer could negotiate the steps to get into the house and needed to be lifted into our van for going out. Never once did we hear a whimper out of him, but we both knew he was suffering.
This morning we finally decided that it would be best for him to be euthanized. He had an accident in the basement last night as he could not get up the stairs to let us know he wanted to go out. We were asleep at the time, but Shadow could usually get one of us up by simply applying a big pink tongue to any exposed skin.
This morning I went down to the basement to carry him upstairs so he could go out and that is when I discovered the mess. I could not lay any blame on him. I lay down on the carpet beside him, and he looked at me with his beautiful brown eyes, and proceeded to lick away my tears. I think he was saying, “Daddy it’s OK. I don’t blame you. Besides I will get to see Buddy again”
We will certainly miss him. He was always finding some exposed skin to lick. Whether it was my psoriasis or a cut on my leg. He was there with a wet tongue. When he dried out, over to the water bowl he would go and then return with a freshly wetted tongue. He always slept in the same corner of our bedroom, except for the past week or so. I guess that is another way we knew it was his time.
Shadow turned eleven a few weeks ago. He is by no means senile. He is essentially blind in one eye, the result of a cataract. His bark, always so robust, is reduced to a squeak. He doesn’t lie down so much as to simply collapse, despite only weighing about 35 pounds. His legs have given up.
It is time. I will bring his ashes home with me to be spread around the property he so loved to explore. The other two won’t get to say goodbye, but I am sure they will know and understand. They will likely be looking for their brother for a while, as Shadow did when Jewel was killed. Dogs just know. They are so much smarter than we are in so many ways.