We had to have our wonderful 12 year old Australian Shepherd, Akela, (aka Akela Jane, Keeler, Killer) put to sleep last week. I immediately sat down and wrote a gut-wrenching post for the next day that, let me just say, you should thank me for not posting because it would have torn your heart out!
But, now that I’ve had time to get past the initial surge of grief, I believe I can write a tribute to her that will help you and me remember the reasons to have a pet, when you KNOW that you will have to say good-bye someday.
When we lived on the farm Akela was a “guard dog.” She was NEVER aggressive with people, but she vigilently patroled our acreage and did her best to keep other animals off “her turf.” She had a nasty fight with a big, mean looking ground hog once, and she won. Probably, because she did that with all her heart, just like she did everything else.
When we moved “to town” four years ago, I had some concerns about how happy Akela would be when confined to just a small yard. But, we got an invisible fence (I highly recommend them), so that she could be outside whenever she liked and, in most cases, as long as she liked, and we didn’t have to worry about her leaving the yard. She would just lay out in the yard, looking out over the lake, watching the geese and ducks, and just generally watching the world go by. What a life! And, if neighbors were out doing something, like sitting on their decks with friends, Akela would go to the corner of our yard nearest the “action” and just watch them. I have wondered if that sometimes made people a little uncomfortable, but no one ever acted like they even noticed. But, apparently SHE found THEM verrrrry interesting.
For her exercise, we have always thrown “the disc.” We bought the nylon cloth frisbees so that they wouldn’t hurt her mouth, and she LOVED LOVED LOVED to chase one. She would jump high into the air, coming down with the disc in her mouth, and sometimes roll like a gymnast does — and I suppose for the same reason — it didn’t hurt as much when you hit the ground. And then come running back to you, as fast as she could (and she WAS fast), for you to throw it again. This would go on, until YOU got tired, because she NEVER did. In fact, many times, when we would be sitting on the deck, she would go get the disc and bring it to one of us and lay it in our lap to throw for her. And, if we laid it aside because we were doing something else, or carrying on a conversation, she would retrieve it from where you had laid it and lay it in our lap AGAIN, and if THAT didn’t work, she would get it AGAIN and lay it in SOMEONE ELSE’s lap. She didn’t have any favorite “thrower” — anyone would do. She loved it when our grandchildren would come because there were more “throwers.”
Our next door neighbor, Mike, was one of Akela’s favorite people, and here’s why. Any time he was outside at the same time she was, she would take the disc and go over and lay as close to his yard as the electric fence would allow, and then lay there and watch his every move, until he would (and he ALWAYS did) take the time to stop whatever he was doing, and throw the disc for her, and then give her a tummy rub.
Akela DID have a couple of habits that not everyone was thrilled with. We were never able to break her of jumping up on people. And, at the same time, licking them! (Of course, this meant that most of the time, she went into her kennel when there were guests in the house.)
The first time Akela “met” Linda (who is a dog person without a dog, so Akela “adopted” her and her husband), Linda leaned over to “greet” her, and stood back up “slimed.” She said, “How did I get wet?” Akela was a fast and efficient “licker!” And a friendship had instantly been formed that would last a lifetime.
Linda was listed at the kennel as Akela’s “next of kin.” Many times Linda and her wonderful hubby would take or pick up Akela at the kennel, or, if we were going to be gone for a long day, they would come over mid-afternoon to “potty” Akela and feed her, and, of course, throw the disc for her! Linda has said that she has a dog — it just lives at a friend’s house!
About 6 years ago, the Vet told us that Akela Jane needed to lose a little weight. (It runs in the family!) So, a friend told me the trick of replacing a cup of a dog’s food with canned green beans, to cut down on their calories. We did it and it worked! The Vet was amazed. And, after she had lost the weight, we continued to replace a half cup of her food with beans, because she liked them so much. She thought they were a treat! Go figure.
One more thing about Akela. We could see she was starting to show her age about a year ago, when we were still working, and it made us begin to wonder how much longer she would last. At that time, I said a prayer, asking God to let Akela at least last until after Hubby retired in December, because she was always such a stress reliever for him. When he would walk in after a stressful day, you could just see his spirits buoyed when Akela lavished love and slobber and discs on him!
God granted that wish. Hubby retired in December, and we had her for 10 months of our retirement that we got to spend even more time with her.
Thank you God for Akela, and the wonderful love she gave us.