Ever had that faithful friend who was so in-tune with your feelings, the quiet companion who just watched you, followed you around, sat by you if you were feeling bad, was ever-ready to join in on your playful mood. That was Shep – a black lab/shepherd mix we found as a puppy.
Someone had dumped him and three puppy siblings out in the country. They were living in a drain pipe next to the railroad tracks. That was almost seventeen years ago.
Fox and I drove by and saw them. I immediately pulled the car over and two of the puppies bounded over to see me. Shep was a little more shy. And then the last puppy was too scared to even come out of the drain pipe. We had to come back later with something to bribe her out with.
We took the four puppies home and immediately fell in love, knowing we couldn’t possibly keep all four! Shep was the one who followed Fox around. Fox, my son, was almost two years old at the time and he and Shep were pretty close in size. Shep was the one who chose us. And we fell in love with his warm brown eyes and his temperament – playful but not too wild, precocious but not too troublesome, attentive, and so darn sweet.
Shep and the boys quickly became inseparable. All three would lay on the carpet in the living room watching cartoons. Shep learned to tell time by Nathan’s comings and goings – the early morning rush to the school bus and the afternoon walk down the street back home after school. Shep would watch by the window and always greeted us at the door when we came home. He was a constant presence, a comfort. For almost seventeen years.
Shep was a member of the family. And yesterday we sat with him as a family and said goodbye. His eyes now old and slightly cloudy, his muzzle gray, we talked to him and petted him while he quietly slipped away.
Now there’s a gapping whole where he once occupied our lives. Rationally, we know that dogs can’t live forever. He was 119 in dog years! But our hearts are broken.