On December 31, 2010 I met my beloved German Shepherd for the very first time. She was being fostered by the good folks at German Shepherd Rescue of Southwest Florida and needed a home. She had just finished treatment for heartworm and was quite weak. She’d had a litter of pups sometime before she was rescued from the mean streets of Naples, Florida. The veternarian speculated she had been used as a breeder and estimated her age between 3 and 5 years of age. In the 18 months since she joined our home, Shelby has taught me many lessons.
1. It is Only Hair. Shelby had a patch of hair shaved from her back so that a poisonous concoction could be administered that would kill the heartworms that threatened her life. She taught me that there are far more important things than having a bad hair day or finding the perfect cut…like living and enjoying second chances.
2. Sometimes you just need your own space. This was Shelby on her first day in our home. She enjoyed the comfort of her crate – she had been crated for 30 days while she underwent treatment, and the world seemed to overwhelm her. We don’t put Shelby in the crate any more, but it is still available to her and she often goes to it for comfort.
3. Naps are wasted on children. Seriously. Adults and dogs know that naps are really fun.
4. If you mess up, someone will notice, no matter how small you try to make yourself. Shelby likes to dig up things her Mama plants in the yard. Here she is after rescuing me from some evil flowers.
5. Know when to rest. Shelby completed the Lee County Heart Walk 5K last fall. It was hot and she was used to walking early in the morning – not in the middle of the day. When we were done, she was overheated, cranky, and tired. She plopped down in a shady spot and would not get up, lying on her side and panting rapidly. Walk officials were very concerned for her and encouraged me to call for a vet. She rested for about 15 minutes, drank another of Mama’s bottled waters, then right after I snapped this shot she got up and trotted off toward the car. I’m learning to rest when I’m tired, drink when I need to, and listen to my body.
6. It is always cooler by the water. At a large party thrown for dogs and their humans, Shelby sought peace and quiet near the water. Sometimes you just need to walk away from the crowd and find your peace – and a cool breeze.
7. Take time to play. Even if you can’t push the merry-go-round, you can still enjoy the ride. Don’t let others define what you can and can’t do for fun.
8. Waiting can be hard. Shelby is happiest when both parents are home and she alternates between laying beside one or the other of us, seeking out pats and scratches…and treats. I have to wait long periods of time between visits with my loved ones – and the waiting is hard. The joy when we are finally together knows no bounds, though I usually refrain from licking their faces or sniffing their crotches.
9. Sometimes service is slow. Be patient.
10. If you can’t stand the heat – head to the kitchen. The coolest spot in our house is the kitchen. My late father-in-law was a genius when he put in an industrial-strength exhaust fan (it seriously sounds like an airplane and can suck dust off the floor) and a strategically placed air conditioning vent directed at the cooking space. Not that anyone is going to cook with 90 pounds of canine laying in front of the stove. On really hot days you can find Shelby stretched out in her second favorite spot…so make reservations or get take-out ’cause she’s not moving.