Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind . . .
I admit, there are a few people I’m grateful to be leaving behind and forgetting about as I step into the new year, but there is also one very special soul who I am leaving behind and who I will never forget.
I enter this new year without my faithful shadow, Zumi.
Zumi was my German shepherd and my loyal companion for 15 years, that’s 105 in human years.
She was more than a companion. We had a relationship that was more like sisters, complete with the rivalry and squabbling. And just like sisters, we had a bond of love that tied us together regardless of the personality battles. Our bond meant we both knew that if it ever came down to it, we would willingly put ourselves in harm’s way to ensure the safety of the other.
Fifteen is a milestone age for any dog to reach, especially a German shepherd.
During her final years Zumi’s arthritis and spinal stenosis slowed her down considerably. Her mind and spirit were as strong as the day I brought her home but, two weeks before Christmas, she awoke in the early morning and refused to lift her head off her bed and I knew.
I looked into her eyes and I just knew she was asking for my help, one last time.
Zumi was a formidable dog and incredibly loyal. Her male littermates all had jobs as police service dogs. Those qualities made her a very challenging dog to have at times but those qualities also kept me safe.
She could calm down the most irate human simply by entering a room. She did not have to hide behind an intimidating bark, nor skulk around in suspicion, because she was fearless and boldly confident. Those qualities made her a predictable and honest dog.
Zumi’s life lessons to me were about integrity, honesty and forgiveness. Because humans are so ridiculously fallible and equally as arrogant, those qualities make us unpredictable and dishonest. We require great forgiveness, not only of each other but ourselves as well.
You see, once we humans recognize our faults and try to change, our biggest hurdle is learning to forgive ourselves for our poor choices so we can confidently move forward to make honest ones. We dwell on the past relentlessly.
Zumi taught me to let go of the past and make choices that reflect the lessons learned but not to relive them. Because it was a challenge just to walk her down a trail at times, she taught me to be prepared. She also taught me that when you set out on a path that sometimes you have to change your direction at the last minute but to never give up on the goal. Bumps along the road will only slow you down if you dwell on the fears that create them. Get over the fear and you will get over the bump and the road will be clear once again.
There is an anonymous and very profound quote about dogs that sums up how we should live our lives: “He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love and his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.”
If you are able to read between the lines you will find your personal message in that quote.
My devotion to giving Zumi the best life I could also gave me the confidence to create the best life that I could for myself, because my dog’s life is a reflection of my life. How I treat my dogs, is a reflection of how I treat myself.
The zoologist Konrad Lorenz, who once shared a Nobel prize for medicine, is quoted as saying: “The fidelity of a dog is a precious gift demanding no less binding moral responsibilities than the friendship of a human being.”
Don’t just read that quote, live that quote.
Finally, I will finish with one final quote from country singer Luke Bryan from his song titled “Drink a Beer.” “I’m gonna sit right here, on the edge of this peer, watch the sunset disappear….and have a beer.”
All my love baby girl, all my love.
Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 15 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.