The Loss of a dog

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Beautiful V

Losing Vera

I need to take a break from puppies for a few weeks to talk about our beautiful German shepherd, Vera. We lost Vera a few weeks ago, and those of you who have read my novel, Finding Vera, will understand the depth of our loss. She was three weeks from her fourteenth birthday and had only one day of real discomfort. That was a blessing.

Vera was an exceptional dog. She was poised, polite, and intelligent.  She had the body of an athlete and a soul as delicate as crystal. She could be sweet, gentle, even affectionate on her own terms, but she had a fuse that could send her into a fierce and protective explosion if she were challenged. She protected herself mostly, but sometimes she protected us.

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Vera, Tess, and Lola (clockwise)

I wrote about Vera for four years, imagined every moment of every day from her point of view, strained my brain to see the world through her eyes and the eyes of her sisters, Tess and Lola. We watched her grow from a rowdy, confused youngster into a strong and confident matriarch, helped her navigate and fashion her world until she was the queen of what she knew.

And then, finally, we were with her when she left, wherever she went–hopefully to join her sisters, Tess and Lola in some sunlit field by a river.

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Vera and her new sister, Annie

Losing a pet is losing a family member. There is no doubt about that. The grief is deep and real. We grieve in a way that is unique to us. We grieve for days, weeks, years. I still grieve for Sascha from twenty years ago and will grieve for Vera for the rest of my life. They are closer than parents, distant siblings, lost lovers. They share each day, our beds, our hearts and minds and souls.  They know us better than just about anyone and so when they go, they take part of us with them.

Why Dogs?

 

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Annie at 5 months and Kerry Claire at Lake Whatcom

Why dogs? 

This question haunted me for years.  Dogs have been part of my life since I can remember. They have molded my days, slept with us, hiked with us, sailed the San Juan Islands with us. They have traveled with us and they have kept us from traveling.  They have filled me with joy and anguish and continue to do so.

For years, sensing that they had bewitched me, I sought out activities that excluded them, reluctant to narrow my world and fall completely under their spell.  But dog training and work with reactive dogs, the study of their behavior, and finally the writing of their stories inserted themselves into my life as surely as breathing. I have now been a dog trainer for thirty years, volunteered at a shelter for fourteen, and written their stories for six.

In this blog, I wish to share some of their stories.  Finding Vera, my first novel, relates the story of Vera, a reactive German shepherd and her two sisters—partially from their point of view. Writing it helped me to better understand the evolution of their behaviors and motivations, their political interactions, and who they were.

But there are other stories to be told, insights gleaned from all the years of working with dogs. I hope my readers enjoy them.

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Vera surveying her meadow