Nine years ago, when we adopted our daughter who is deaf, a friend who is blind donated to us his newly retired Seeing Eye Dog. The dog, age 6, was getting to be a little bit too old to guide this gentleman on his hectic daily routine, but was still vibrant enough to be a wonderful family pet. Thus she began her non-working life with us.
Brandy was a gorgeous German Shepherd with the colorful mixed color coat most German Shepherds have. The most fascinating this about her as a pet was that she was so well trained. She had been trained not to bark at cats or other dogs, although she was known to bark to announce the arrival of our son, Steven for some odd reason. He liked to work with snakes and reptiles, so maybe in the guide school in which she had been trained such species had not been included in her training. (After all, how many people who are blind run into snakes or tarantulas in their daily walks?)
In addition to having a mellow, friendly, and incredibly devoted personality, Brandy had been trained to run right outside to “do her business” (so to speak,) so there was none of the usual waiting, walking, coaching or exasperation which could be associated with a normal dog’s method of, well, “doing their business”. Rain, snow, mud, cement….Brandy voided upon command! She would walk with Marie down the street with Marie closet to the side of our road. Because Marie was deaf, Brandy would keep her safe for oncoming cars.
Although she had a great relationship with Marie, Brandy tended to gravitate towards our son, Angel, whose dark moods and multiple personalities tended to keep his mind in constant turmoil. Brandy sensed that in him, and quickly choose Angel’s bed on which to sleep. Because Angel would frequently take to his bed if the dark demons in his brain became overwhelming, Brandy became the perfect therapy pet. She calmed him and centered him, allowing him to tame the “World War 3” going on in his head and basically live a “normal” life. Angel’s ability to continue on and be successful in school amazed me, and he credited Brandy with survival.
Brandy was an exceptional dog! Not only did she sense Angel’s moods and guide Marie down the street, but her personality set her apart from other dogs. Her job was devotion to others, and she was like a quiet Saint…always loving, accepting, forgiving and tender.
My mother passed away several years ago, and Brandy was thirteen years old at the time. Angel took my mother’s passing especially hard, and was unable to attend school for several weeks. Brandy was there to help him through the devastating time for this a child with such attachment issues. His grandmother had been the one to give him gum drops when he’d been especially depressed. And she made him custard pie on a regular basis. In is mind, he lost the only person he felt truly understood him. (She definitely knew that the way to his contentment lay somewhere in his stomach, which is not so different than many of us.)
Angel’s life changed when my mother died, and a lot of his confidence and hard won happiness had waned. He was a freshman in high school, having great difficulties adjusting to his disability in the especially raw world of teens and classes of Algebra and Forensics. Brandy was there every day when he came home from school, and they would spend time at the end of each day unwinding, in his bed. I began to fear that Brandy, being thirteen at the time, would not live to see Angel graduate from high school, another three years away. With the loss of his grandmother, I knew that he would not be able to adjust to the lost of his comfort pet and that any potential of a successful high school graduation would be out of the question. I sincerely prayed for a miracle..for Brandy to remain alive long to help Angel through these transitional years.
I am proud to say that Angel graduated in June. He did so proudly, and, except for the fact that his graduation cap was too small for his very large head, he made it through the rigors of being a senior, completing senior projects and getting good grades so that he could walk across that stage with pride. It was a wonderful day for all of is, and I said a silent prayer of thanks that Brandy was able stay around long for him to finish so successfully.
Right after graduation, Brand’s physical condition worsened dramatically to the point that she could no longer walk without falling over. Angel himself made the decision to have Brandy euthanized. He said he had been so selfish wanting to keep her alive for his own sake, but that he knew she was suffering and that is was her time to “join his beloved grandmother in heaven.”
So, yesterday, I made an appointment with the vet to have Brandy euthanized. For breakfast, I searched in the freezer and gave her a whole frozen pot roast to gnaw on, which she seemed to greatly enjoy. She had been to the groomers only a week before, and she still wore the yellow bandana around her neck. Her coat was shiny and soft, and her cute toenails were short. Eating that pot roast, she was happy, and Angel and I stayed with her for hours, petting her soft coat and murmuring words of love.
Her euthanization went as well as could be expected for such a traumatic event. Angel and I were both sad and teary as the vet prepared her, but we tried not to let her know it, talking in loving and soothing tones throughout the process. To me, she actually seemed happy and content, with no idea what was happening.
The vet was extremely sensitive to her needs, and the process went very smoothly. The vet indicated Brandy was obviously a well-cared for dog…and did we realize that our Germain Shepherd had lived to be sixteen and a half years old? This was a statement she repeated at least five times during the whole process. DID WE REALIZE THAT OUR GERMAN SHEPHERD WAS SIXTEEN AND A HALF YEARS OLD???? She indicated that that was almost a miracle.
MIRACLE? I have been blessed with several miracles in my life but somehow, in the scheme of every day life, I had forgotten that day, more than 3 years earlier, when I prayed for Brandy to live long enough to allow Angel to graduate from high school. She had done that for him, for me, for US! Our home life, and Angel’s future, would have been completely different had she not been there to sensitiviely calm the chaos in his mind..
Angel and I, (and the whole family of course,) have spent our days crying and mourning the loss of our beloved Brandy. The one thing that keeps me grounded is the fact that her long life and her lovingly therapeutic affect on Angel HAD been a miracle. We were so blessed to have had her…