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Saying Goodbye to Simba

June 10, 2012 20 comments

Simba and his sister soon after he was adopted

I am sure many of you can relate to the loss of a dog that is not your own – a friend’s dog or perhaps a relative’s beloved companion.  This past weekend I received some sad news. A longtime doggie friend, Simba, passed away. Simba was not mine, but he was still very, very special to me. He was the first shelter dog I ever helped to find a new home.

Simba ended up at our shelter (the now defunct Minnesota Valley Humane Society) after being surrendered by his family. He had grown up with kids and was lucky enough to have someone there with him all day since his former mom was a stay-at-home-mom. I can’t recall anymore exactly why he was surrendered, but I believe he was the victim of a divorce (or maybe they just didn’t have time for him anymore).

I adored him from the very first moment I saw him in our impound area. He was handsome and stoic and a typical Golden Retriever in almost every way. He was a dog that most families dream of having when they think about getting a dog. Gentle and sweet, he was happy to have any and all of your attention. I was determined to find him a good home.

Luckily, I happened to know a family that was looking for a dog at that time AND they were looking for a Golden Retriever. I also happened to know that this family would give him the loving home he so deserved.  So after a brief introduction, Simba was adopted by this loving family and brought home to live out his life in a place of love. As it so happens, this family also employed my sister, so as a result, I was able to see Simba quite often.

Not long after he was adopted, Simba’s family discovered he had tested positive for heartworm. Instead of returning him to the shelter, as many have done before when a dog is diagnosed with an illness, Simba was treated and given special care in his new home until he was healthy. What a lucky dog to have found a family willing and able to make the commitment to help him.

Simba was lucky in other ways too. He got to live on a lake surrounded by woods filled with chipmunks and squirrels and deer, and other wild animals. He could wade in the lake in the morning and nap under the trees in the afternoon. He could chase chipmunks and squirrels to his heart’s desire – doesn’t every dog dream of such a life?

Simba had several sisters, and a brother, to play with. He was gentle playmate but also strong. He could play tug-of-war with a rope bone like no other – I think he won more rounds than he lost. When his little brother Cosmo was a puppy, he would often chase Simba and grab at his ears with his sharp little teeth. The most Simba did in response was whine. He never took action to stop Cosmo from biting him. He never bit back.

He was also great with kids. Simba loved to play with the two boys in the family, and as one of the boys grew older, he would often run with him. He went on walks with his new family often over the years he lived with them.

He was a lover by nature. He greeted everyone he met with a wagging tail. He loved all the boys’ friends and was more than happy to play with them or just sit and take in the loving attention they gave him. I heard that at the end, the younger boy even moved his bed to the floor so Simba could lie on it with him.  Could a dog ask for more?

As I said, I had the opportunity to visit Simba often. I enjoyed spending time with him just scratching his belly or letting him sleep with his head in my lap. Did he remember me from the shelter? Maybe at first he did, but over time I think he just came to see me as the woman who doted on him. I readily admit he was my favorite. He was special.

That’s why saying goodbye is so hard.

Last night, his adopted mom thanked me for introducing him to their family. I couldn’t help but think I should be thanking them. They gave him a loving home and a life most dogs would love to live. It’s not often that one gets to see an animal be adopted from a shelter and have the pleasure of seeing them live out their lives in a loving home. They gave him everything a dog could ever want. Yes, today I am sad that Simba is gone, but I am also comforted knowing that in the end, he lived a good life in a loving home with a loving family. What more could any dog want?

Godspeed Simba. You were a wonderful friend and you will be missed.

Simba in his golden years (taken last summer)

Goodbye Gabe.

August 28, 2011 28 comments

This past Friday my friend Beth had to say a heartbreaking goodbye to her beloved Great Dane, Gabe.

Gabe was a big, beautiful Harlequin. He had a big heart, a gentle spirit and the most adorable and endearing face I have ever seen. She adopted him from the Minnesota Valley Humane Society, where we both volunteered as dog walkers, when he was about 4 years old.

You know how they say that dogs pick us? Well, I believe he had her at “Hello.” I’ve never seen a dog bond to someone as quickly as he did with Beth. He loved her deeply and with utter devotion. I believe he would have followed her to the ends of the earth.

When I visited them last weekend, I knew his time was near. It broke my heart to see him struggle to hold his back legs up so he could get a few pets and ear rubs from me. What a beautiful wonderful soul. Yup. He had me at “Hello” too. I know Beth, her husband, and her daughters are missing him terribly. Maybe that’s why this posting on a friend’s page resonated so much with me today when I saw it.

‎”Dog’s lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you’re going to lose a dog, and there’s going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can’t support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There’s such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware it comes with an unbearable price. Maybe loving dogs is a way we do penance for all the other illusions we allow ourselves and for the mistakes we make because of those illusions.” ~ Dean Koontz, from “The Darkest Evening of the Year”

Godspeed Gabe. May your legs once again be strong when you stand to greet your momma at that Rainbow Bridge.

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