I had a dog. And he was awesome, magnificent.
And he was my best friend.
My dog was a German Shepherd, and he represented the best of me, of training him, being taught by him, having a relationship with him, of taking care of him, of him looking after me, together.
He amazed my friends.
He was an Ambassador for dogs, and for German Shepherds.
His gift seemed to be to convert people who had had bad experiences with his “kind of dog” into people who liked a German Shepherd…. Him.
He loved to lick children’s faces, to roll over and let them slowly approach, so that they could learn that big dogs could be kind.
He loved to go to the beach but he would bark if a child was in the water. This always made the parents nervous, but what they didn’t realize is that, he wanted to save them. He wanted to alert us all to the child being in the waves, and he wanted to go and be with them so that he could pull them out if needed.
He was my daughter’s best babysitter.
I miss him.
My dog was my best friend, and he is the best Being I have known in form, because his love is unconditional. He loved us all, equally, with his big, huge, heart.
I brought him everywhere.
The thing about having this kind of dog as your companion, is that there is a responsibility.
A unique responsibility.
Because, if at any time, I was in danger, or at risk, he would have put his life on the line for me.
And I wouldn’t let him do that.
So, I took good care of myself.
So that, he didn’t have to.
Because I wanted him to be with me, always.
And I was careful about how he was handled. About where I walked him, and where I took him, not to restrict him, because I took him everywhere, but to do so in a way that felt aligned with what was best for him, and for our relationship, together.
I guess that is unconditional love, also.
Sometimes I wonder if I will ever have a relationship with a human being, like I had with my dog…. That is, based in pure, unconditional, love.
He was loyal, unconditionally loving, he was a big lunk, he was a goofy guy, he laughed at my jokes, and he hung out with me when I cried.
There was never any subtext. Or misunderstandings…. Well, maybe that time when he had to wear the cone collar for two months…. But I think I explained it to him pretty well and he got it, after awhile.
There was no scheming, except, maybe, to get more biscuits.
There was no complaining, except, maybe, that time when he nipped me in the butt when he was a puppy because he wanted to go run back and forth across the football field-sized dog park a few times.
Am I glossing over the bumps in our relationship?
Am I seeing, in him, something that wasn’t totally true?
Because it sounds like a regular, human relationship, the kind with give-and-take, the kind with bumps, and apologies, and trying over.
Now, looking back, it all seems like it was easy. So much easier than our complicated, human relationships.
But, maybe….. I don’t think so.
Human relationships can seem so complex. And, maybe, just being together, as human beings, coming together in relationship is unconditional love in action.
Because life can be, pretty bumpy.
Really a challenge.
Events can seem…. Overwhelming.
Because, with my dog, there were all those times that I drove 2 ½ hours to take him to the kennel when we went away…. Because we thought it was best for him.
And there were all those times that I drove all the way back home to check on him because it was too hot in the car for him to come with me, when it was totally inconvenient, if I had thought about it.
And then there was all the lifting, and carrying, and waiting I had to do, when he got older and needed extra care.
It wasn’t easy then.
But, I still loved him.
He was my daughter’s constant guardian.
On his last day, he almost fell down the hillside.
Well, we were sitting between the pine trees, him on the ground, and he had been just lying on the ground, on the earth, in different places in the garden, all day.
And I knew that it was going to be his last day.
Because a little voice inside me said so, a couple of times.
Because my friend Bren, who is very intuitive, suggested we do exactly what we suddenly had time to do unexpectedly that day, and she said to really spend the time together, to really appreciate him.
And because he could barely walk, and he was in organ failure.
Because he could only focus and see just me, and was having trouble getting a hold on the world past our eyes, staring at each other.
So we sat, under the pine tree. Just like always. And I meditated. And he hugged the earth.
The hawk came by and sat in the tree, about 80 feet above us, and gave a four call salute to him.
At one point, he moved to be in front of me, at the edge of the steep front garden. And a worry came over me, but then I thought, he would be fine, he was close to me and had been that way a hundred times.
Long story short, I heard a noise, and opened my eyes.
He was hanging on the steeply sloping hillside, his paws up on my level, his body hanging off.
I knew that he could slide off at any moment.
I was already up on my feet and and he looked straight in my eyes.
I could see the worry, and the fear. The knowing that he might fall. That this could be his goodbye and he wouldn’t blame me, because it was straight down about 10 feet and he couldn’t hang on until I went around and got to the bottom of the hill to catch him.
But all of that flashed past me in something like .0069 seconds, as Data said in Star Trek when Picard asked him how long he was tempted by the Borg Queen.
Because I was already walking towards him, knowing that I was going to help him, and I was going to save him, and I was going to walk straight down that hill to get in front of him and hold him up, and turn him around, and get him back up to the flat part at the top, somehow.
I was firmly committed, there was no question in my heart, I would help my friend.
And so I walked straight down the hillside to get in front of him.
What was I thinking?
I was DOING, and I had all my full powers of competence, and capability, and sheer determination, and the belief that anything is possible, with me.
The hillside has bamboo on it, so there are clumps of dirt with large stems poking up going all the way down.
I walked straight down the hill and got both feet onto clumps and had my right leg planted in front of his butt and hind legs, and I was standing. Now I just had to figure out how to turn around.
But, something happened that was unanticipated.
He started trying to get up the hill, now that he knew I was behind him and he could leverage my position to push off from.
But his body just wouldn’t respond, and he kept pushing, and I suddenly realized that I was inches moving forward or back from loosing my balance.
And I started to fall.
I was falling forward and everything was in complete slow motion. I looked and saw a bamboo pole and grabbed it, and it broke. I turned slightly and saw another bamboo pole and grabbed it for leverage and it broke, at the ground. Unbeknownst to me, the drought had turned the bamboo into a tinder that was barely hanging on the hillside. What I thought was my backup, my safety, was giving way. I turned again to grab the bamboo at my right and it snapped also.
And, suddenly, I was at the bottom. My left foot was on the ground, my right foot was high above me.
I was “standing”.
And my dog was at my right side and behind me, laying alert and uninjured on the only ledge on the hillside, three feet off of the ground and still pointed uphill.
He had somehow, slid down perfectly.
And, by God’s grace, he was staying completely still.
This gave me time to get my body straightened out.
As I write this, I can still feel a twinge in my right knee, which was slightly twisted.
How my foot was so high above me I do not know. I tried to dislodge it and it was completely lodged into place. I weakly cried “help” for my neighbors but I was thinking what were they going to do because my foot was halfway up the hill, and my leg was lying flat against the hillside, unharmed. My left arm was fine and my left hand was holding onto the fence that I was now wedged up against.
But another voice inside me said that if I moved only slightly one way or another my leg would be broken.
And I thought “NO WAY”.
That is simply, NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.
And I breathed deep, and stared at the fence, and breathed deeply again. Then I turned, and looked at my foot stuck up on the hillside.
I kid you not, my foot was now loosened, by at least a centimeter.
Maybe a half an inch.
I wiggled my foot, and got it out of the still-stuck shoe.
And my dog didn’t move a millimeter.
Somehow I lifted my leg off the hillside and got it onto the ground.
I’m not usually that flexible and strong, so it must have been the adrenaline.
And I placed my body in front of the ledge and said to my dog, “DO NOT MOVE, let me LIFT YOU”.
And he stayed completely still, and allowed me to lift him off of the hillside, and then we were both SAFELY ON THE GROUND, wedged up against the fence.
And at that moment, my neighbor drove into her driveway, just 10 yards away.
And I called for help, for real this time, and she came running over.
And God bless her, she took off her beautiful black jacket, and climbed over the fence in her business pantsuit, and beautiful boots, and lovely blouse.
And she grabbed my dog’s front and I grabbed his back, and we carried him up the dirt deer path and around the hillside, together.
And she got covered in dog hair, and her boots were dirty.
And she acted like it was no big thing.
She is from Kansas, after all.
Which I have been to. And Nebraska, also, for 20 minutes.
I cried and hugged her and my dog and he and I settled back down together, but this time, on the deck, with the gates closed.
And the next day, he was gone, and the whole family had had the time to say goodbye.
And he and I got to look into each other’s eyes.
And acknowledge how much love is there, between us.
And he went out at the moment of an X-class solar flare.
Which was pretty awesome.
And the birds were singing to him.
And then it was quiet.
And it was the best farewell service, ever.
Because at 14, we had had a good, long time together.
And he was my best friend.
And my protector.
And my Love.
And because I knew how awesome we had been.
© 2015 Susan V. Lacerra. All Rights Reserved. Permission is given to share this article on other blogs and websites, as long as the text is posted in its entirety without alteration and with the accompanying photos (if photos are in the repost), and with the author’s credit, copyright and live website links included in the article. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter handle is @SusanInspired.