Tribute to Shadow

As a kid, I only had fish, my sister had a turtle. We never had a furry friend – nor did I ever desire one.

I’m not an animal lover. Call me afraid, call me weird, but it’s true. Even petting zoos freak me out. Remember when you put a quarter in the machine to buy the food in order to feed the animals? I would put my hand out and as soon as the animal would lean in to eat the food, I would pull my hand back in fear, scattering the food everywhere; thus teasing the poor animal.

When the boyfriend and I started dating, I learned that everyone in his family had at least one dog. I eventually (this took years) warmed up to Shadow and we took a liking to one another. I was still nervous but he only ever wanted to be petted. When people say their dog is good and friendly, this one was.  Shadow was truly, a good dog.

When we would come to visit, no matter the time we got in, Shadow waited at the top of the stairs waiting to greet us. I think he was more excited to see the boyfriend, but then again the boyfriend was more excited than me to see Shadow. Shadow would stand at the top of the stairs waiting for us and wagged his tail so hard it would beat against the ground. He was waiting for the big hug and some good behind-the-ear scratching from the boyfriend. I would run my hand from somewhere behind his neck to the middle of his back before pulling it away. Sure, laugh. But Shadow is the only dog I have ever pet, willingly. And even this small gesture took me a few years to master.

One of the first times, if not the first time, I met Shadow, we were visiting the boyfriend’s parents for a long weekend. I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I walked out of the bedroom and Shadow was there, standing guard. I was terrified – and at a standstill. I couldn’t walk the ten feet to the bathroom without passing Shadow. I didn’t know what to do because I really had to go to the bathroom. Shadow started to bark and the boyfriend’s sister was awakened by the commotion and upon realizing I was scared to leave the room, she held his collar so I could leave the room. Little did I know then, Shadow was probably just making sure I was okay. He wasn’t going to pounce, attack or bite.

When we ate, he always laid under the table near me patiently waiting for hand outs. I think this is because I am a slow eater and he knew that I would be the last to finish. Again, I was afraid to feed him, just like at the petting zoo, so once I finished my meal, I let the boyfriend feed him any leftovers.

Shadow loved walks, hated taking medicine and loved being at the lake.

Shadow was the kind of dog who didn’t care who pulled on his tail or who would snuggle up on the floor with him. With so many kids in the family, it was bound to happen.

When the kids would swim in a pool, or in the lake, he always kept watch. He would pace around the area keeping an eye out.

When I heard the news that Shadow had been put down this past weekend, I shocked even myself. My throat got tight and I started to cry. I cried because I was sad. I cried for Shadow but then I cried for my boyfriend who loved Shadow so much and then I cried for everyone who loved him. I cried thinking about how the kids would learn that Shadow was in heaven and I cried for the boyfriend’s parents who loved him so much.

I never really understood when people said a dog is part of your family. I get it now.

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