My life has always been intertwined with dogs. From the earliest age, my first memories of dogs were two beautiful "Alsatians"; Wanda, followed by Banda. A smattering of spaniels; Sally, Rastus, Pippy, and Burgundy. And one outstanding Shepherd cross, Rusty. And just as I was leaving home for further education, my first purebred German Shepherd since the Wanda and Banda dogs of my preschool days, there was Sheena! They were always my best friends, my soul mates, my bed warmers. They made me tall and proud and happy to be me! They comforted and nurtured me through growing pains and teenage tribulations. Everyone a treasure in their own way, but the ones that had made the deepest and most lasting impression on me were the Shepherds.
I couldn't wait to bring Shepherds back into my world, and as soon as we had settled in a life style that would allow us to remain in one spot longer than a blink, the Shepherds arrived. First was Echo!! A GV. Prime Time of Billo grandaughter. My wonderful, excellent Echo, who gave us our first litter in 1985, who survived torsion at age 6yrs, yet went on to live till 14 1/2 years of age. Our young grandaughter was introduced to Shepherds by Echo. When we lost her, Hunter was still very young, not yet 2yrs of age. A year later my own father passed. Shortly afterwards, Hunter and I were travelling together in my car, she was playing on a toy telephone, dialing numbers and talking. She was calling Heaven, to ask if Great Grampa would find Echo and say Hi!! I wouldn't have thought she would have remembered her that much, but I should have known better!!
Echo was such a classic German Shepherd, fiercely protective of her property and people, strongwilled, yet gentle as a lamb. At 12 years of age when Dakota and Sierra arrived, she was still going for long walks in the woods surrounding our property. Still keeping us safe.
Bandit & Pam, Karen & Echo
Her earlier bout with torsion was complicated by her stubborn wish to be with us everywhere we went. It had been only 6 days since her surgery, and I was under strict instructions to keep her "quiet", so she was confined to house except for potty. We live in the country, and I left her in the house, while I walked to the end of a long drive to collect the paper. I was probably 200 feet down the drive, when I heard the most sickening "thud", shortly after that she appeared, running flat out, to join me!!! She had opened the baby gate that barricades the stairs to the second story, she had unlocked and pushed open the window that is above our porch area, she had jumped to the porch roof and then 8' to the ground....... NEVER under-estimate the ability of a Shepherd, to achieve their goals!! Luckily her constitution was as strong as her will power and her intelligence, and she survived her acrobatics with no set backs.
Echo's companion in her younger years was Bandit, a Sel Ch Omar of Cedar son. We hoped that we would be able to begin our journey with dogs with these two, and he was the sire of Echo's litter, and what we hoped would be our new life. Tragically, when the babies were still at home with us, he suffered a freak accident. Waking quickly from a nap to chase a taunting squirrel, he stumbled, fell, and shattered his right elbow. Two major surgeries, and one long long month later, we lost him to complications associated with that injury!! A devastating day!! We'll never forget you Bandit.
We kept back a son of his from that litter, Apollo. But more tragedy struck! The youngster was bitten by a poisonous spider. Because the bite was on his face, and because of his extreme youth, it completely shut down his central nervous system. The only thing that didn't stop was his heart, and his lungs!! He spent a week at the vets, not able to lift his head, or move a limb, he just lay lifeless!! We were given no hope of his survival, and if he did, he may never walk or function normally!! I visited him every day, and miraculously, one day he "woke up"!! It only took a few days, and he was able to leave the hospital and rejoin us at home. He appeared to make a complete physical recovery, but I believe there was some residual effect on his brain. He was indeed our gentle giant, always a smile, and always happy, beautiful soft eyes, but not the intelligence that one would have expected. He had been robbed of that!!
These two events coming so closely on the heels of each other had left their mark on us too. The extreme mental anguish, not to mention the enormous expense, took its toll. With a young daughter still living at home, two other children in university, we felt we just didn't have the resources to fulfill all our obligations to the kids and the dogs at the same time. We postponed our plans, and Echo and Apollo lived on as cherished companions, and family guardians.
Echo, Apollo and 1st grandaughter Atallia. April 1990
When Echo was 12, Dakota and then Sierra arrived!! It was deja vu! At just 4 months of age Dakota fell seriously ill.
Dakota meets Echo 1994
He was having intermittent intussusceptions of a portion of his large bowel, but every time he went to the vet they could find no evidence. He had x-rays, barium x-rays, and finally exploratory surgery. He'd gone from a bouncing 45lb puppy to a skeletal 25lbs..... but he never lost his attitude, never said no to a car ride, always said Hi to the doctor and attendants at the clinic. He had so much heart, it was enormous!! The first surgery removed a portion of his large bowel. They kept him a few days, and complained that he must be a picky eater, I didn't agree, but nonetheless, we picked him up and brought him home for convalescence. It was quickly apparent that something was not right, he truly had no appetite, and occasionally would vomit, he was so thin, and so down, and for the first time he lost some of his sparkle! Before 3 days had gone by, we were back at the vet, and he was back on the operating table!! An hour or so after the surgery started my vet came out to talk to me. She had called her colleague in to assist, but they were having problems. It seems that his small bowel had intussuscepted, and twisted on itself. Nothing was passing through...... the bowel was so distended with fluid and gas that the mucousa was starting to split. In order to fully realize what was going on, you must realize that the bowel is only sensitive to pressure, you can burn it and
cut it without any pain, but it is extremely sensitive to pressure. His bowel was in the process of rupturing it was so distended, the pain must have been unimaginable!! The dilemma now was even though they had reduced the obstruction and removed a large portion of his small bowel, what was left was in such delicate condition that it would likely fold in on itself again.
Dakota hugs his lion king
The only solution to this problem appeared to be, to lay his bowel out accordion-like, and sew each edge to the edge of the bordering piece. It would provide some stability, but they could give no guarantee of the long term effects. We decided to go for it!! I think that surgery lasted in excess of 8 hours!! For several weeks, I would just take my entire paycheque down to the clinic and hand it over!! BUT IT WORKED!!! He recovered well from the prolonged anaesthetic, and tolerated his first food, he was home in no time. He looked awful, bone rack thin, cut from chest to groin, but his smile was back!!
Part of the post op recovery was to feed him small amounts every 2 hours, which I did diligently day and night. In those days we had a bell hanging on the door, the dogs would ring it when they wanted to go outside. One evening, a few days after coming home, Dakota rang the bell. I got up to let him out, but he didn't want to go out, instead he headed for the kitchen, he was ready to eat!! Initially he woke me at night, on the dot of 2 hours, but he was gaining well, and soon was satisfied to have his last meal at 10pm, sleeping through the rest of the night. He made a complete recovery. He matured at 25 1/2 inches and a solid 90 lbs, fully muscled, sound in every way!! None of his kids ever had any problems. But, of course it did come back to haunt him. As you may know, scar tissue can cause havoc in the body following surgery. When Dakota was 7 years old he obstructed his bowel. Surgery was done, but it was pretty much a mess in there, long strands of scar tissue wrapping around his organs and bowel. Recovery came slowly, and he was well for 2 more years, but we knew it would happen again. I promised him that I would not put him through another operation, and on August 12th 2003, I kept that promise.
Dakota was a dog to remember!! He was so enthusiastic about everything and so inventive! He and Sierra used to travel everywhere with me. As soon as I left the vehicle, they would pop into the front seat, he on the drivers side, she on the passenger. They would sit there for as long as it took, watching the sights, UNLESS, I was on some sort of business that he thought he should be involved in. He would wait an appropriate length of time (for him) and then beep the horn with his nose, no Mom? ...another beep, still no Mom? ...turn around and plant his butt on the horn and let her rip!!! That gets everybody's attention....!!
Dakota loved the grandkids, and they loved him. They called him their protector! He was always so gentle with them, and yet they knew he was keeping watch over them. When they came for 'sleepovers' at Gramma & Grampa's, they frequently slept downstairs, but when Hunter got older she decided she could use one of the upstairs bedrooms. It was a little scary for her, so she took Dakota (in his cremation box) to sit on the bedside table, then she felt safe. Her protector was there. Long before that, as a young dog of 7 months or so, he openly challenged a would-be intruder.... OOPS, that fellow turned and fled!! I always felt safe when Garry was away at work or out of town.
Dakota loved Sierra!! They were to have been mated, but of course that wasn't possible after Sierra was spayed. We wondered at times in the future if he would ever breed another female. Of course he did, but he much preferred the girls he lived with and knew, and kept a life long special relationship with his very best friend, Sierra. Dakota and Sierra
Luckily dogs pass on more than their physical genetic makeup, they seem also to be able to pass there own personalities and special ways. Sierra's mother used to like to lay on her back, and juggle a ball with her front feet, rolling it round and round, then flip it off and catch it in her mouth. Of course Sierra left her home at 9 weeks and did not have the opportunity to be 'taught' this by her mother, but none the less, she too began playing the circus game with her ball.
Of course balls and sticks and stuffies are always favourite of the dogs....... Dakota loved to play catch, and in the evenings he would ask for someone to toss him the ball, so that he could leap to get it. But the best part of the game, was to scoot the caught ball under the couch or chair, and then paw and whine and nudge and pester until the ball thrower would get down on hands and knees to retrieve it. By now of course Dakota is beaming!! So throw the ball again, leap, catch, scoot, beg....... and the cycle repeats. Now I just recently heard that a grandson of his, (and namesake), has developed the exact same game, and gets the same great pleasure from it!! That 'young' Dakota, also exhibits the same protective nature, proving it by chasing a bear from the property of his owners, while he himself was still a puppy!
There's another Dakota grandson, Mateo. He lives locally, and I get to hear lots of his stories. The youngest human member of that family is Albert, he was just turning 2 years when Mateo came to his home. They became the best of friends, Albert would frequently crawl into the crate with Mateo, and the two of them would snuggle and nap. Albert in his baby language would give Mateo commands, and the dog would obey!! The following summer, Albert wandered beyond his boundaries on their acreage. Seven month old Mateo herded him back to the house, not taking any chances with the safety of his friend.
Mateo learned to slide at the kids playground, and now he does it independently, up the ladder, down the slide, and back again for more.....he and Allan. Mateo recently turned 1 year of age, in so many ways he reminds me of his Grandsire, Dakota. Intelligent beyond words, loving beyond belief, strong, athletic, handsome. Super outgoing personality, loyal family protector.
There are so many of them, Maddie, Dana, Penon, Ryder, Porsche, Georgie, Mesa, Magic, Shania, Hogan, and the list could go on and on. Each with their own stories...... far too many to tell them all!!!
Our house, is always full of dogs!!! Big dogs!! Some folks find it a bit overwhelming, but not the grandgirls. Hunter's young sister, Burke, was visiting with us one weekend. She was about 3 years old. We had probably 7 dogs lying around the living room, Burke said, "Is this ALL the dogs Gramma? Can we have MORE dogs in the house?" I hope my house is always full of dogs, because then it will always be full of love.