What My Dogs Have Taught Me

November 13, 2006… the phone rang.  “Kathy, this is Brenda at Sadie Mae animal rescue.  Listen, we have an emergency. ..  Hartford animal control just picked up a 6 month rottweiler puppy who was being beaten with a stick as her owner wanted to toughen her up in his attempt to train her into a viscous guard dog… the kennel is full, the puppy is traumatized and scared, can you keep her overnight?”.


Nala spent that night and 8.5 more years in our home.  Last weekend Nala stayed with friends while we were hiking.  They love her as much as we do, and were alarmed when they saw a strange hard lump on her back leg.  Thinking it was probably a spider or tick bite, I took Nala to the veterinary clinic in Bolton yesterday.   I wasn’t expecting to hear, “Kathy, it looks really bad, come see her X-ray”.

Nala has a major sarcoma tumor on the hock of her left hind leg.  As I stared at the xray, the vet kindly asked, “do you have questions, have you been through this before?”  Sadly enough the answers were “no and yes”.  No, I knew the prognosis and yes, I’d been through it before.  Six weeks, maybe 2 months if we are lucky.  During that time, we will keep her pain free, feed her all her favorite treats, and enjoy our short time together.

Today, as I snuggled with Nala, I thought about the many dogs  that  have been such an important part of my life.  Each one has created it’s own special niche in my heart.  I truly believe that all of my dogs have chosen me, and they have all had a message or a lesson to share.

First there was “Pioneer George of Chaplin”-  IMG_2687

 Georgie loved to run, he loved to play, and he taught me to enjoy the moment.  To never pass up an opportunity to go for a run or jump in a lake for a quick swim.  George absolutely refused to let anyone pass him.  It was a game that we played often,  stay out in front at all costs, and never, ever lose the pack. He also tried to teach me to chase sticks, but I never quite caught on.

“Tri-Z’s Mighty Jaterbug” came next.  Our first rottweiler, Jater taught us that looks can, and often are, deceiving. Like all of our rotties, Jater was very sweet and loving.    She lived and aged with dignity.  She loved her babies, but when it was time, she let them go so they could grow into the dogs they were born to be.  Jater and I became mom’s at about the same time.  She was much better at letting go than me, but I am still learning. I am also struggling to age as gracefully, but her memory reminds me.

LuLu- the tough little pug, who even with diabetes never complained.  It wasn’t until Lulu visited our new home and kept walking into walls that we realized she had gone completely blind.  LuLu taught us to be brave no matter what life throws at us.  She didn’t let her small size get in her way, and bossed us all around, including her buddy Jack who out weighed her by over 100 lbs.   

 Jack- the gentle giant.  Another rescued rottweiler.  At 125 lbs, Jack was a baby.  He loved with his entire heart and soul.  He protected us without being intimidating, and he comforted us during a painful time in all of our lives.


Despite a divorce, Jack continued to love me, Ron, and Greg.  He kept us together as a family, and when his time to leave us came way too early, we each held a paw and helped him leave this world, and move onto the next.

Zelda- the spunky, silly, clown.  A greyhound taken away from her mother at birth, Zelda was bottle fed by the veterinarian who had been told to “get rid of her”.  Fortunately,  Zelda never knew how quickly her life could have ended.  On a visit to the vets, she quietly crawled into my 10 year old son, Greg’s lap and claimed him as her own.  We had not intended to adopt a puppy, but neither Zelda or Greg would allow me to leave one without the other.  imageimage

Zelda speent the next 8 years taking care of Greg, and making us both laugh every day.  I often think that “Zelda rescued us”.   Zelda had two missions in life, to be with “her boy” and to keep us laughing.  Shortly before Greg went away to college, Zelda also developed Sarcoma and could no longer run or jump onto the couch.  As Greg packed for college, and we loaded the car with all of his things, Zelda somehow managed to jump into the open hatchback. No amount of coaxing or the offer of treats would convince her that she was not able to go.  Only a few weeks after Greg left, Zelda crossed the rainbow bridge as well.  Her job was done, but we will always miss her.

Tippy- Zelda needed a friend for our long work and school days.  Tippy had retired from her race career, and graciously took on that role.  Tippy did everything graciously.  She loved us, but she always maintained her

graceful identity.image  She did her jobs without complaint, and she lived a quiet, peaceful life of retirement.  She enjoyed every day in a real home and out of a cage, but whenever given the chance, she would show us why she had been so successful in the racing business.  That dog could RUN, and even Zelda,  4 years her junior was never able to catch her.  Tippy didn’t need to brag, she simply let her powerful legs do the talking, as she gleefully raced around the baseball field.
Nala came next.  We still had both Zelda and Tippy, but we had moved into a new home, and after that first night, we knew that she was here to stay.   Nala taught us to move beyond the past, to forgive but never forget.  One day, walking in the park when Nala was 7 or 8 months old, some children wanted to pet her.  I asked Nala to sit, but the father said, “I don’t want my children near a rottweiler.. I had a bad experience with one once.”.  I said, “I’m sorry.  Nala had a bad experiece with people, but she’s learning to get over it.”  We should all be as willing to  move on as Nala has been.

Nala taught us to love unconditionally, and to protect the people that matter most.  Nala has a sweet soul, but you must earn her trust.  Once she knows you, Nala will defend your friendship to the end.  She is true to her people, and true to who she is.   Nala’s days with us are limited, but we intend to enjoy each and every one of them, and to let Nala know how much we love and will miss her.

Last (for now) is Maui, the pitbull.  Maui has a bit of every dog I’ve owned in his own unique, loveable personality. Maui is goofy like George.  He is brave like LuLu, having survived a tough puppyhood and traveling all the way from Utah to be with us.  Maui gives 100% in everything he does, whether it is chasing a ball, leaping for a frisbee, swimming after a stick, or jogging 15 miles at my side.  Maui is loyal like all of the rottweilers, but he is a bit of an airhead, making us laugh and remember to not take ourselves too seriously.  Despite his competitiveness, Maui reminds me that the most important thing is to enjoy the journey.  Catching the frisbee is just a bonus!



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