If Dogs Have A Heaven…

We discovered Leah was a great tracker. Once she got her nose on a trail she stayed on it like glue.

We used to play a game where Alex would hide outside and she would have to find him. He could run, but he could never hide. She always sniffed him out.

She loved to run and she was fast as lightning. About a month or so after we got her, Alex and I had her on a walk one very cold December day. There wasn’t anyone else out, so I let her go off leash.

She saw a deer and took chase. She was right on the deer’s heels until he jumped a 10-foot-wide creek. She tried the jump, and all Alex and I saw was her hitting the far bank, hard, and sliding back into the water. She disappeared.

We ran to the creek. No Leah. I thought she’d knocked herself out and went under. I jumped into the 30-degree water up to my chest reaching under to find her. No Leah. I turned around and there, under an overhang on the opposite bank, was a shivering, scared Leah grasping the mud for dear life.

She looked at me with big, fearful eyes as if to say, “Sorry boss, guess we won’t be eating venison today.”

She was a very independent soul. The first time I tossed her a treat, she just let it bounce off her nose, then slowly picked it up and ate it. No matter how hard I tried, she would not catch a treat.

Then one day, weeks later, I tossed her one and she snapped it out of the air like a shortstop. I was elated. I tossed her another. It bounced off her nose.

She looked down at the treat, then up at me and I swear she said, “I can catch it, but I choose not to, it is degrading.”

I never tossed her a treat again; I handed them to her.

We discovered she was deathly afraid of any loud noise that sounded like a gun.

She was terrified of thunder. We could predict a front moving in hours before it got there because she would stay right with me or whoever was in the house.

Leah was a great dog. She should have been doing something more than just being a house pet.

With her nose, she could have been a rescue dog. She could have been a drug-detection dog.

With her sweet personality, she could have been a therapy dog. When she was happy, her tail never stopped gyrating.

Maybe she was one of these things in another life. Her past remains a mystery. Maybe she’ll be doing one of those things in her next life.

Elvis Presley sang a song in 1956 called, “Old Shep.” I remember listening to that song as a kid, and crying. It was the saddest song. Beware if you listen to it, tears will fall.

The last words of the song went something like, “If dogs have a heaven, there’s one thing I know. Old Shep has a wonderful home.”

Ditto for Leah.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, who also served until recently in municipal parks and recreation, lives in Peachtree City, Ga., and can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email cwo4usmc@comcast.net.

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5 comments on “If Dogs Have A Heaven…

  1. Thank you for sharing that story. It was moving and i can feel for you. I think every person should have a pet at one time or another in thier life so they get to understand that unconditional love.

  2. Billy Moore on said:

    Great article. Dogs may be the best creature God created. I have had 4 dogs since I was 12 and I am 58. I have not been without a dog except for short times between dogs. Tippy, Amber, Dusty and now Crackers have enriched my life and my family’s life tremendously. Each one had their own special things they would do, their own special talents (they were also dumb as a post). But the one thing with them all: They were sweet personality-wise and unconditionally loved us.

  3. Robert on said:

    We, too, had a “Leah”. Your story brought back many sweet memories of her. Nicely done! Thank you for sharing her life. I am sorry for your loss.

  4. Barb Burkholder on said:

    So sorry for your loss of your beloved dog, Leah. We purchased our Norwegian Elkhound on New Year’s Eve in 2010. Our previous dog had also been a Norwegian Elkhound that we adopted from a family that our daughter babysat for. Sir Timber lived to be 14 3/4. He was a wonderful dog, companion and family member. Now we have Son of a Gunnar – Gunnar Sven. Gunnar brings us unconditional love every day. I love dogs and was not allowed to have a dog as a child because we had 5 kids and my Mother didn’t like animals. Thus, four out of the five of us have dogs to this day! Thanks for sharing a beautiful story. Go adopt another dog. It will make a difference in your life and their life…… But you already know this nugget from Leah.

    • Thanks, Barb, and the others who have responded here and via my email. Indeed, we have another dog, Bandit, a 15-year old Peek A Poo…another great little dog. Unfortunately, he is getting old and frail and I fear that I’ll need to be making that dreaded trip to the vet again in 2012. We actually thought he would have been the first to go and never gave a thought to Leah getting sick. It all happened very quickly. We’ve discussed it about Bandit, but he still gets a gitty up in his gait and a glint in his eyes when I grab a bath towel and play his favorite chase game…though he doesn’t chase nearly as aggressively as he used to and tires after about a minute. So I’ll focus on him and after he’s gone, I guess I’ll let nature take its course and see if another dog…maybe Leah reincarnated…finds me.

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