A few weeks ago I got a call from a woman who wanted a horse hair bracelet made for her daughter. She spelled out the specifics and wanted it done in time for her daughter’s birthday. Her daughter’s horse had just died, a horse she’d had nearly 15 years. I could hear the woman’s voice crackle and her breath suck in hard as she tried to hold back her tears all the way across the country.
This is nothing new to me. As a person who makes horse hair jewelry, I hear all kinds of stories of horses, of their heroic efforts, their special friendships, their sad departures. I listen, knowing it’s hard, yet necessary, for these people to talk about friends who sometimes have been with them for half of their lives. I make jewelry to honor these horses. Sometimes I joke that I should charge for the therapy rather than the jewelry.
Now it’s time for therapy for me. It’s unfortunately time for me to share my story.
My beloved German Shepherd, Saint, died yesterday. He would have been 12 or 13 this year. We’re not sure exactly how old he was because we got him “used” when he was approximately 3 years old. At that time we already had a pure bred Labrador Retriever. I wanted a dog who needed a home, not a pure bred anything. I imagined a mutt of small stature, black body and brown markings like a doberman and maybe tipped or floppy ears.
What I got was 92 pounds of tall, lean dog. Someone somewhere knew my dream as a kid to have a German Shepherd.
The only papers we had on him were scribblings on a fax from his previous vet, but he was certainly purebred. Not just in his looks, but in his heart. He had all the characteristics of German Shepherd: loyal, graceful, not easily confined and, oh, that exceedingly annoying Shepherd whine.
He loved his pack of people. If they were our peeps, they were his peeps, and he didn’t like us to split up or stray too far. When we came home late, he checked the kids’ rooms to see if they were in their beds. And nights the kidlets stayed at Grandma’s he was a bit worried about them, camping out in their rooms.
A younger Saint, celebrating 4th of July
His grace came through when he hopped over our back fence to take himself for a walk because we hadn’t given him enough exercise. He visited a few neighbors and then returned, or was escorted, back home.
His deep bark kept unwanted salespeople off our porch and let us know the mail had arrived.
What truly made us know he was a German Shepherd, though, was his quirkiness.
He was absolutely sure cats were hatching a plot to take over the world. He did his part in subduing these plots, chasing off all outside offenders and pinning the cats in our house with his massive jaws.
He also believed strongly in birth control. He wanted no more kids to look after and developed a tendency to bark whenever my husband and I kissed.
Saint thought fetch was a dumb game. Only a retriever was stupid enough to bring a ball back to someone who would just throw it again!
He wasn’t too sure of those little dogs that barked incessantly. They may have been cats in disguise (see cat plot, above).
Saint loved celery ends as much as he loved lambs ears and sheepskin toys.
He learned to tolerate water since our yellow lab loves the river.
Saint came with his name, but I couldn’t imagine a better name for such a wonderful dog. He patiently waited as strangers, from babies on up, pet him. People stopped their cars in the street to tell us how beautiful he was, and boy was he ever gorgeous.
Although the family dog, he was truly my dog. I think in his mind, he was the alpha male and I was the alpha female. On his last day of life, he conceded his alpha-dogness to my husband. He wouldn’t listen to me and followed my husband around. I think he was giving over trust of the family to my husband (although I’m hoping my husband will refrain from putting cats with his mouth).
Saint had been hiking, backpacking and canoeing with us. He went on an East Coast road trip in the back of a Jeep Wrangler with us. He went to Grandma’s for Christmas and Grandpa’s for 4th of July. He’d been to Easton Heritage Days and the Easton Farmer’s Market.
Saint was an important part of our family and we’re going to miss him dearly.