This past week I received a phone call... a phone call that I am not really sure I was ready to get. On Wednesday evening, my brother called me from North Carolina. At first, I had assumed he was calling me to get flight information and the time of when I would arrive the following Wednesday in Raleigh. I was not however, expecting to hear an update about our 7 year old, German Shepard, King who hadn't been feeling well. I heard "tests", "cancer", and the words you never want to hear whether it be human or animal: "it doesn't look good". I was holding it together until I asked my brother how he was doing... He got upset and I lost it. He told me they had an appointment the following day to get the tests results back and that they might have to put him down. I felt like someone punched me in the gut.
If you grew up with animals like Matt & I have, you know that you become incredibly attached. Well, King was no exception, if not even more so. We got King from a farm in 2003, a year and a half after our old dog, Wanda past away. Matt and I were ecstatic that my parents were allowing us to get another dog. I still remember the night that Matt and I scheduled a family meeting to discuss with my parents why we NEEDED a dog. Matt had done the research and I did the talking. We left that night to go pick up our new lil pup. When we arrived at the house, I remember it wreaked. It was a cow farm and boy did it smell like one. We were led out to a side garage attached to the house and were greeted by 4 little, almost all black, German Shepards. 3 were girls and there was 1 boy, the runt of the litter. We sat on a bucket and were licked and slobbered by these adorable little guys with giant ears. But as soon as Matt picked up King, I knew that that was that. We signed the paperwork, took him to the vet, and after a few short weeks he made himself at home. I remember that he liked to sleep a lot the first few weeks. He was really active when he wasn't sleeping. I have a picture at home on my bulletin board in my room of King curled up next to Matt, sleeping on the couch in the basement. King was no bigger than a large cat. He had these giant ears and huge paws that made him look silly with his little head and body. We could tell he was going to be a good size boy. His absolute favorite toy as a puppy was these raw hide bones that looked like donuts, with a hole in the middle. He used to pick it up and trot around the house with his nose in the hole, so proud of himself. He absolutely loved being outside, especially with Matt. We made sure that he was accustomed to loud noises and four-wheelers because we knew that would be a part of his life. The first time Matt and my dad took King out with them to shoot, they thought for sure he might get a lil ancey or nervous... he slept and laid in the bed of the truck almost the whole time.
When buying a German Shepard you have the choice of whether or not you want floppy ears or pointed ears. Matt decided they look stupid with floppy so we had to make sure that everyone that petted him as a puppy would not rub between his ears too roughly. You can imagine this was extremely hard to monitor and literally EVERYONE likes to rub dogs between the ears. We were constantly telling people to rub under his chin instead and eventually people caught on. King's favorite spot was his belly and on his hind end right near his tail. You could make him kick his leg and make groaning noises whenever you rubbed him. Even though, his breed is known for their dominance, Matt made sure that he was docile and loving to not only adults but to little kids as well. Matt trained him and the rest of the family followed the rules. We made sure to rub his head and back while he ate for most of the first year so he would not grow territorial. The only time he ever really got upset was if he was injured or if he felt like there was a threat.
I remember one night after he had been chasing the four-wheelers for hours, I was about to head up the stairs to bed. King limped over and blocked the steps and started growling at me. I got nervous for a flash of a second because he had NEVER growled at me before. I sat down with him at the bottom of the stairs and he laid his head on my lap. I started to rub his sore paw and scratch his fur and he just groaned (He did that a lot). After about 30 minutes, I told him I had to go to bed and he didn't move, he let me up the stairs to bed. I remember thinking that was so silly but I guess he really just needed some lovin'.
In high school, every morning when I woke up and headed down the stairs in my robe to shower, King would be there waiting for me, wagging his tail like crazy. I would always pat his head and give him a kiss and he would bite the sleeve of my robe and walk me to the bathroom, and I am dead serious, he really would.
College was a much harder transition for us. I missed having King around and I loved coming home to the happiest dog. I remember the first time I came home from school it had been about 5 weeks since I had been home. I pulled in the driveway and there was King laying down on the concrete near the steps where he always laid in the sun. He perked up and trotted over to the car, because I was in my parent's car I don't think he knew I was there. I grabbed my stuff and hopped out. King immediately ran over and started whining and moaning and jumping all around. I kneeled down to pet him and nearly got trampled with kisses to the face. I had to laugh at his excitement of my return home, I think he thought I was never coming back.
Matt and I used to horse around a lot, usually it was Matt picking on me and we would get into wrestling matches. King hated it. He knew that Matt was bigger and stronger than me and King was always my protector. I remember one time King actually bit Matt clear in the butt for fighting with me in the living room. Matt laughed, but you could tell he hadn't expected it. Usually he would just bark like crazy at Matt to tell him to stop or jump on him but apparently he didn't think Matt was getting the idea and needed to be clear.
King had always been there. On days when I was upset and would lay across my feet or sit beside me and lick my tears. I'm sure he thought they tasted pretty good but I like to think that he was wiping them away. Here's the thing about dogs. They are the most loyal beings like no human could ever be. They don't question you, argue with you, fight with you. They just love you unconditionally, listen to you without speaking, and stand beside you no matter any circumstance. They have absolute pure joy like it is the last time they'll see you EVERY TIME they see you. They play with you and walk with you and sit with you on the deck on a warm summer's night. They make you laugh and love them even more. They are devoted followers and supporters, fierce protectors, friendly hosts, and cherished friends.
I have a firm belief in heaven and I think that dogs go there. I have been praying lately that King is running around, catching tennis balls, chasing four-wheelers and being a good boy up there. Even though it hurts so much to think about him and writing this I had to stop a few times to dry my face, I can't help but smile with every memory of King. The warmth of his black fur after he'd been laying in the sun for a few hours, I can feel it. His wet snout pushing against my hand as he trots next to me on a walk out in the field. I will forever miss him and I can only hope that my future dog will be as loyal and protective as my baby, King was. Love you forever and ever, buddy. Miss you so much. RIP.
Forever & Always