Let me tell you about Shelby.
Shelby came to join our family in July and left us too soon.
Last July our 12 year old daughter convinced us that she needed her own dog. We went to the shelter shortly after July 4th, kowing that many dogs get lost and scared by the fireworks. After touring the shelter, Gabriela fell in love with a little female German Shephard mix. The feeling was immediately mutual. I tried to not let Gabriela get her hopes up because the dog was not yet available and we hoped the owner was looking for her and she would find her family.
We came back to visit and check on her. Gabriela had already named her, so we were hoping she was still there. When she saw Gabriela the tail started going and she started jumping on the gate and barking. She was so excited to see her. I didn’t understand the connection, but I knew I had to do whatever I could to get this dog for my daughter. It was not going to be clear shot, however.
On our third visit (the day Shelby was to be available) she was not there. Checking at the adoption desk, we were told that she had been sent to UC Davis to be spayed. She should be back in two days. We arrived before the shelter opened and waited. We rushed in and found her still not there. It seems that UC Davis has a commune of dogs they keep for blood donations and other such purposes. Apparently someone at UC Davis had decided they wanted our Shelby and they have the ability to jump the line and avoid the adoption process by selecting a dog for the commune and keeping her there for a year. After the year, the dog is then available for adoption by someone working at UC Davis. I filed a complaint with the head of the shelter and, it seems, I was not the only one.
A couple of days later my friend, Joel, who volunteers at the shelter, called me and told me that my dog was back at the shelter. I hightailed it over to the shelter and arrived third in line before they opened. Joel let me in to visit with her and Sean held our place in line. I met Shelby up close and personal and fell in love with her as well. As it turned out, the person two behind me was also there for Shelby. She had called UC Davis and filed her own complaint. It also turned out that she had not been spayed, so we had to wait two more days to bring her home.
Once home, and after a short adjustment, Shelby fit right in. She and Stout and, especially Sasha, became the closest of friends. They became partners in crime and destroyed their share of furniture, dug up the garden, and tore holes in the fence to play with the neighbors’ puppy. She loved to lay with Sasha and look out the window or play a three-way tug with Sasha and Stout. Mostly, she loved to run. Put the harness on her and attach her to the waist leash and she pulled like a sled dog. She hated when we took one of the other dogs and, once, escaped to chase after Alessandra and Sasha when they went for a run. She tried to catch up to them but didn’t know which way they had gone. She loved everyone and instantly became everyone’s favorite. Start to pet her and she would not let you stop. Unless Gabriela called her. She never left any doubt as to whose dog she was. She and Gabriela had an intimate connection and Shelby would be at Gabriela’s side if it was at all possible. Bedtime was always welcomed and she would run to Gabriela’s room and sleep with her, cuddled together, every night.
Spring break was a busy week with a lot of projects to do. Gabriela was applying her organizational sills to my garage while I was working in the yard. When Alessandra came out to check on me, all three dogs ran out the door and into the garage. Stout came back to me and I thought the other two had gone in with Gabriela. No one knew for 10 minutes that Shelby and Sasha had run straight past Gabriela to go for a run. When Gabriela came and asked me where they were we knew they had too much of a head start to go after them on foot. We grabbed the keys and only got to the end of the street when we saw Sasha coming back towards us. We got her into the truck and continued around the corner. Stopping at the light and hoping to see her running towards home, we waited for a couple of minutes. We made a left turn and headed in the direction we last took her running, but I flipped a U-turn and headed back. Less than two minutes after we had been at the same intersection, we were back there, but this time Gabriela said: “is that her?”
Shelby lay in the intersection and I parked the truck. Telling Gabriela to stay in the truck with Sasha, I went out to check on her, knowing what I would find, but not prepared. Shelby saw me coming towards her and tried to get up, but couldn’t move. She pawed my direction, helpless to do anything but look at me and wish I could take away her hurt. I said “Oh Shelby, you crazy stupid dog” and picked up her broken body in my arms. I could smell the blood and hear her gurgling attempts at her last breaths. She was still looking at me with what seemed like sorrow for running off and hope that I could somehow make it better. I could not. I had failed in my duty to take care of her and now I had to face my heartbroken daughter.
“Will she be OK daddy?” She was now out of the truck and opened the back for me.
“No, sweetie, I don’t think she will make it.” I placed her in the truck and petted her and kissed her. Gabriela did the same. She would say later that she didn’t get to say goodbye, but she did. We took Sasha home and told Alessandra what had happened. We went to the emergency vet, but Shelby was gone before we started the drive.
Truth be told, this has been devastating for me. Some of you may think I am taking the loss of a dog too hard. Our dogs are family to us. The last few days have been filled with sorrow, with trying to comfort Gabriela and trying to deal with the unexpected loss of my own. I went for a long run and had tears streaming down my face for most of the time. I broke down and sobbed on Friday evening. I watched my other dogs (especially Sasha) deal with the loss of their friend in their own way. The first two days they were visibly sad. If you’ve ever seen a sad dog, you know what I mean. The third day they changed and started being more affectionate towards us. Dogs have a unique ability to sense what their pack needs and provide it. I know the pain of this sudden loss and the guilt of my failure to protect will not last forever, but it’s not going away anytime soon either.
Shelby, we love you.