A Breaking Heart Still Beats

Bruno_1We lost our German Sheppard, Bruno, to cancer just after the new year .  He was only 6 years old, but had developed a malignant tumor in his nose, which we tried unsuccessfully to treat since early fall. His decline was steady but slow and it wasn’t until mid-November that I began to resolve myself to the fact that he was not going to recover. He wasn’t “suffering” at that point, but was intermittently congested as the growth began to affect his breathing. I made it my mission to get him through the holidays (soft food diet, vet-approved decongestants and meds) so that all those who loved him and visited us had a chance to say goodbye (without knowing he was not going to last).

Bruno was loved by everyone and was truly a character. At 110 pounds of solid muscle, he impressed everyone who walked by our fenced-in yard and watched him bark his defensive warnings. He was bright and stubborn, which all Sheppard owners can understand. His tongue hung out of his beastly mouth like a runway carpet most of the time because his lean and powerful body was never still.

In the summer, he would follow me around the yard as I accomplished maintenance tasks and as evening approached, I would fill his water and food bowls, park them next to our picnic table, crack a beer and a bag of peanuts and listen to the Cleveland Indians scramble through another season on the radio. At my side would be my best friend eating quietly, drinking sloppily and looking up, left and right about every 10 seconds to survey this backyard that was his to guard. He was always on duty. As darkness approached, he would settle in for the evening–usually about the seventh inning–and sit directly in front of me. I’d open my arms and he would gently rise on his hind paws and embrace me with his front paws over my shoulders. He’d lower his ears, look directly in my eyes, and smile; all the while his tail wagging steadily. If my wife or son happened around the corner during this ritual, there was always some comment like, “Oh for crying out loud.” Or “Do you two want to be alone?” I didn’t care what they said. This animal was simply awesome and my heart is broken at his departure. Where in all of creation do you get that kind of loving affirmation and constancy? His loyalty had no bounds.

Bruno_2He had several yard toys, but his favorite was this red rubber chicken and when he ate his dinner he always had to have that chicken with him. I’d put his food bowl down and he’d go find the chicken, drop it in the bowl, eat around the chicken and then take it with him when he was done. It was hilarious. Often he sat before the driveway gate looking out into the neighborhood with the chicken hanging out of his mouth like some prehistoric giant baby pacifier. 

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