I'm a sucker. Those two beautiful dogs above were incredibly perfect in every way and I was lucky enough to have them in my life. I knew going in it wasn't going to end well, but I couldn't resist.
Arko von Westfork, 11/22/1993 - 7/13/2007
Arko, the German Shepherd was about 6 months old when I met him, so much personality and a heart of pure gold. I believe it was May of 1994 and I was in West Virginia, attending a dog training academy. I had planned to bring home a female if I brought home a dog at all. Then I met Arko, giant paws, softest coat, and determined to be the center of attention. I could not resist that goofy boy.
The boy was beautiful and he knew it! He was the only dog I've ever had who loved baths and nail trims. For most dogs, nail trims and baths are at the very least annoying. For Arko, that was pampering.
He was my partner through my crazy, messy young life when everything about life was complicated. Everything but him, he was always perfect. I mean really. He never did anything wrong. Looking back, I was clueless, I wish I knew more back then and was a better human for him. He deserved much more.
When he was around 5 or 6 I started to panic that he was getting old. He wasn't even old yet, but I was so worried that I was running out of time and I didn't want him to go. He had one 'bad' hip, I'm not sure what I understood that to mean back then, but I must have assumed one day, at around 7 he wouldn't be able to get up anymore, and that would be it. So I became the fun police. He was no longer allowed to do fun stuff because I didn't want him to get hurt.
He spent more than half of his life with me being afraid I was going to lose him. He taught me to let my dogs live and enjoy life even if fun is dangerous. He would have taught me more, but I was too young and dumb to learn at the time.
Here are some more photos of him and him with Raven. Excuse the bad quality, a couple of them were scanned by a poor quality scanner years ago.
Raven's Opus 4/14/01 - 7/31/12
Raven came along when my son wanted a dog, and the deal was he could have one, but he had to participate in some type of activity with her. I say her, but she was supposed to be a he. This he/she thing seems to be a theme with every dog I have. I usually plan to bring home a bitchy girl, but go for the goofy boys. This time was the opposite.
Raven came from a pretty awful backyard breeder here in Las Vegas, who called the future owners when the puppies were 5 weeks old and told us we needed to get them out of there immediately. We weren't comfortable with this, but we wanted our puppy, so we went and picked her out. The pups were young and the boy we were planning to take appeared very outgoing which was great, except he was also blind. Raven was not at all outgoing and I was completely against my son picking her. But, it was his puppy and he chose her. It's hilarious to write that, because in the end, Arko was always very attached to my son and Raven - well I took her over as my dog.
Once we got her home and gave her a bath, she came alive. I think she was hot and dehydrated due to the living conditions these pups were in. Almost immediately she was confidently checking everything out. She was a spunky, fearless handful!
She grew up into a serious bitchy little worker dog. I loved everything about her seriousness! She could do anything we tried, could go anywhere, be near any dogs (except puppies). She didn't have any interest in other dogs and they just naturally stayed away from her.
When she was a year old, she suffered from some health issues that were a life and death battle for her over the following couple of years. Eventually, her health stabilized with medication and she lived a normal life after that, competing in flyball and dabbling in herding, dock diving, and spent much of her summers swimming. But she was up for whatever adventure we went on. When it came to herding, she was a natural. It was a beautiful thing to watch. I wish she had the opportunity to do more of that in her life, but herding wasn't really around in Vegas. In our regular day-to-day life, she was my running partner and hiking buddy.
During those first few years, the battle to keep her alive made it clear that every day was a gift and I cherished them all.
Raven taught me so many things. The biggest thing is probably that I will never know enough and I will never be good enough to deserve the dogs in my life. They are better than us humans, but they put up with us anyway.
I could go on and on about her because she was my perfect dog. But instead, I'll share a couple of videos, links to more about her, and also some photos.
I meant to write about the rainbow bridge, But it brought up the memories of my dogs at the bridge and I was completely sidetracked. I think where I was going was, that we all know when we bring home our pet, that it will be great while it lasts, but it won't end well. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth the heartbreaking loss. But then I remember, yes. Every moment it is worth it. So now that I'm sobbing, I'll get back on track to the actual post.
What is the Rainbow Bridge?
The rainbow bridge is a poem written about losing a pet. It talks about a beautiful place where all the pets go when they pass away. They run and play in this heavenly place until they are eventually reunited with their person or people and then they are never separated again. I'll leave it to the poem to further explain:
Rainbow Bridge Poem
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....
I'm sure anyone reading this has gone through the loss of a pet and we all know how painful it is. But all we can do is cherish every minute they are here with us, spoil them rotten and remember we don't deserve them, but they put up with us anyway. I saw a meme once that said we may have several dogs in our lifetime, but our dogs only have us. Okay, it was written better on the meme. But basically, while we're going through the motions of our busy stressful days, we need to remember that we are everything to our pet(s).