I have always loved dogs, from the time I was very small. I was bitten more than once by stray dogs that I would try to befriend. Mom kept a bottle of peroxide on hand to disinfect my injuries, not all of which were dog related, as I was very tomboyish and managed to find multiple ways of hurting myself.
We didn't get a dog of our own until we moved to the only barn in the county with a bathroom in the hayloft, when I was about five. She was a mixed-breed from the local animal shelter, loved by (almost) all who knew her. She met an untimely demise when a couple of older neighbor boys took her hunting in our woods and accidentally shot her. The wound itself wasn't serious, but the boys took her to the veterinarian who lived next door; and we believe the vet, who was possibly the one person who didn't like our dog, deliberately administered a lethal dose of anesthetic.
My dad enjoyed hunting, so subsequent dogs were always beagles, until years later when, as an adult, I bought Heather.
I worked with a guy who one day mentioned that he had a young adult female doberman pinscher that needed a good home. I had Heather and didn't need another dog, but we had friends who had recently moved out in the country and were interested in getting a large dog for protection. I got the friends together with the guy at work, and our friends became the happy owners of a red doberman named Samantha.
They adored their new family member, and Samantha adored them. One day, the wife had slipped and fallen and broken her leg when she went out to the mailbox. When help arrived, Samantha was guarding her mistress and had to be restrained before the rescuers could do their job.
Well, a few years later, due to a change in employment, Samantha's family had to move from their house in the country to another city and a home that wouldn't be suitable for Samantha. They asked me if I would take her and give her a home on my parents' 20-acre farm, where I lived in my house trailer on a rented lot.
Heather had long since become my father's dog; and I had long been interested in having a doberman, so I agreed, although I did it with some trepidation. This was during a time when dobermans were not enjoying a particularly good reputation. They were reputed to be one-person dogs and dogs who might unpredictably go into attack mode, and I was about to become the third owner of a mature animal.
The first night that Samantha spent with me, I placed a beanbag chair in my bedroom for her to use as a bed. Then, still a little nervous about having a doberman sharing my house, I settled down to go to sleep.
In the middle of the night, I awoke with a start, hearing my new roommate snarling viciously. Certain that I was about to be attacked, I slowly reached my hand up to the light switch next to my bed and turned on the light. There was my vicious doberman, sound asleep in her beanbag bed, lips curled back in a snarl, and legs twitching, as she chased some evil phantom in her dreams.
Samantha turned out to be a wonderful companion. She had apparently never played with toys as a pup and never showed any real interest in them. Her main "toy" was the occasional rawhide bone that I would give her. She would carry that around like a toddler carries a security blanket. If someone knocked on the door, Samantha would run to grab her bone before going to the door with me. Obviously, she wasn't a barker because it was hard to bark with that bone in her mouth.
One time, I was scolding her for something; and she sat down in front of me, looking sheepish, and curled her lips back from her teeth. Her body language showed that the lip curl was not a snarl. I believe she was giving me a sheepish smile.
Another time, we were roughhousing in the close confines of the house trailer living room, and we bumped heads. It didn't seem to hurt Sam, but I had to go to the emergency room for stitches. Every time a different medical professional would enter the treatment room, I would have to explain again that I had bumped heads with my dog; and, no, she had not bitten me.
Of course, the inevitable day came when my faithful friend died. I had been away on vacation, and Dad had been taking care of Sam. As soon as I saw her, after returning from my vacation, I saw that her condition had deteriorated. Over the next two or three weeks, she continued her decline. She became destructive in the house, including shredding her beanbag bed. Then she began to have difficulty managing the steps to go outside. One Sunday, I came home from church to find Sam unable to stand. I called the vet, who agreed to meet me at the clinic. Then I had to call my dad to come and help me lift Sam into the car.
The vet had to euthanize Sam that day. He later performed a necropsy, for which he didn't charge me. He did it because he had a personal interest in what had caused Sam's death. The results showed that Sam's liver was non-functioning and was scarred as if with cirrhosis. The vet wasn't able to tell me why, but he did reassure me that there was nothing I could have done.
Pets enrich our lives in so many ways. They give so much love and work their way into our hearts deeper than we ever would have thought possible. But they rarely outlive us. And so the price we pay for the joy of knowing them is the heartbreak of losing them. It's a high price. But it's worth it.