02 June 2011

Good-bye Shiloh

Over the years I've shared here about the losses of our pets. It's that season in our lives. We acquired two dogs and two cats when our children were very small. As the kids grew, the pets aged. And one by one, we lost them.

First, we lost our dog Roxanne, who died just days before Christmas, 2007. It was sudden, unexpected, and heartbreaking. Then Ricky, our ornery but very loving cat died six months after Roxanne. Lucy, my youngest daughter's beloved cat, died 18 months after Ricky. It was a tough couple of years. But we still had Shiloh.

We all often commented that Shiloh would probably be the one to outlive the rest of them. He had been through so much - crazy illnesses, surgery several years ago, pneumonia, and he had a nasty habit of eating... any and everything. Countless times we took him to the vet because of a rock or stick or some other unidentified object that was stuck in his belly. I'll spare you the details.

He was 16-years-old, or so we think...

Shiloh came to us unexpectedly. It was 1996 and we were living in San Diego. My brother and his band from Portland, Oregon were touring through the Southwest, and they stopped one night at a rest area in Utah during a snowstorm.

Sometime during the night, they saw a strange looking little dog running around among the cars, begging and being friendly to everyone. Concerned that he would be lost in the snow, they took him into their van for the night.

The next day before they left, they stopped at every car and asked every individual if this odd-looking dog belonged to them. No one would claim him. Being the soft-hearted animal lover that he is, my brother couldn't just leave this dog on the roadside.

So he brought him to me.

From the get-go, this was one of the friendliest dogs I'd ever seen. During my brother's short visit, as we were trying to decide whether or not to keep the dog, we had a cook-out with a bunch of our neighbors. We lived in Navy housing, where every house had a handful of children, mostly toddlers. There were probably a dozen toddlers in our yard during that cook-out, and this strange little dog was gentle with and loved all those children.

That sold me.

I had just recently read the book Shiloh to my children, so that is the name they chose for this dog.

The vet told us Shiloh was at least a year old, maybe two. He wasn't the smartest or most obedient dog on the planet, but he was sweet. He loved to go for walks, ride in the car, and it only took us about 10 years to teach him to do tricks. (Tricks that our German Shepherd learned to do in less than a week. I kid you not.)

There is one person to whom Shiloh was more loyal than us, and that was my husband's mom, Barbara. He lived in her house for a few months when we were moving to Maine, and he fell in love. For all the years after that, whenever she came to visit, he went nuts. All the grueling training we had tried with him simply went out the window. Once, when she drove into our driveway, he recognized her and dug a hole under the fence to get to her. Another time, he was being so annoying with her there that we put him in the garage for a moment of peace, but he howled pitifully and tried to scratch his way through the door to get back in. At Christmas, when she sent us a bag or box of gifts, he could smell her and tried to rip into them, hoping she was hiding in one of the packages.

Another friend Shiloh loved in more recent days was our cat, Henry. Henry is one of the three cats we acquired last year from the shelter. After being snubbed for more than a decade by Lucy and Ricky, Shiloh was thrilled to have a new friend. Henry loved him and it was mutual.

Several weeks ago, Shiloh succumbed to his nasty habit of eating the wrong thing, and this time, it was too much for his tired, old belly. The only way to save him was with another surgery, but the vet told us he was too old, too weak, and it was too late. On May 7, we said good-bye to the last of the pets of our little kid years.

Now that chapter in our lives has ended.

Shiloh will be missed.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes


Our Side of the Mountain said...

Awww, so sorry to hear about Shiloh! Pets are SUCH a part of our lives! We said good-bye to our Baily, 15, in February to cancer. He was the first dog we got after getting married.


Rocky Mountain Yankee said...

So sorry to hear about Shiloh, it is always hard to lose them no matter how old they are. My lab mix is around 13ish and is really starting to show sign of aging this year so I know that dreadful time is coming sooner rather than later for us too.

Paulla said...

I'm sorry to hear about your Baily, Jessy. It is so hard. And RMY, sounds like your lab has had a good life - 13 is pretty elderly for a big dog.

I love that we pet-lovers stick together and understand each other. :)