Old Dogs In My Heart
Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog
There’s unbelievable beauty in an old dog. I’ve been blessed with many. Some people may never recognize such a gift. If not, just step back for a moment and take in all of those years that had created such a special specimen before you. Just like a glass of fine wine, ‘that’s your old dog!’
Of course, dogs growing old can develop many unwanted characteristics. There can be lumps, blemishes, gray muzzles, cloudy eyes, arthritis, maybe a downed ear or two, little or no teeth, as many other after-effects of living a lengthy life. But I actually do not see those imperfections. I only perceive that as an indicator of my enduring love living-life with them. As I’m approaching another dog turning thirteen soon, I’m feeling blessed once again. I have to be honest though, “when eventually having to say goodbye to one of them, it is more painful each time.”
There’s a special thankfulness my old dogs have reached in those advanced years. What is the likelihood of those happenings? Yes, an old dog has been fortunate as I am for the extra time I’ve had with them. Of course, never long enough.
Through the countless extended moments with an old dog, I’ve also realized how they’ve enhanced my life. Each and every one has added much joy with emotional and amazing memories. All of their astonishing stories to be told over and over…
Sure, there have been periods of stress, extra work and worry in caring for an aged pet. Just because our dogs hit a certain age doesn’t mean their health will start to decline. They’re much like us. Each one will age a bit differently than the other. The process can begin with advanced physical and possible behavioral changes. When looking at the whole picture, our dogs’ health determines on quite a bit. Their health can be as complicated as us ours to keep running smoothly. By taking the best care of them we’ll certainly help manage their outcome, ensuring they’re given the best days ahead regardless of age.
Most of my very old dogs would lose their appetites. I made them bone broth with little extra veggies to help stimulate the urge to eat. There were other moments I just had to stop with the healthy sensible diet and feed them whatever they would consume. When they were not eating well for me, I tried hand-feeding them, which they seemed to love. My husband Joe even hand-fed his old boy Lobo little pieces of steak just to get something in him. Having someone suggesting to “wait until he’s hungry enough” method doesn’t work for old dogs because their “hunger mechanism” is most likely not the same anymore. Besides, it’s a little late to be worried about spoiling them—and even if you do, don’t they deserve it?
I do realize some of the most difficult moments in owning a pet, is expecting them to keep dealing with our ridiculous ways of thinking. I wish I could just live in the moment like dogs do. They constantly remind us of this important lesson every day, to be content and appreciative; ‘to live in that moment’. I see my dogs always enjoying those simple happenings. They never regret the past or worry about the future. They always look out for the next occasion like, ”I think she’s getting my favorite treat out. I hear the car keys. Oh, I’m so happy she’s finally back from the mail box!” Could I possibly live a life that simple making mine more enjoyable free from every day stress?
It’s easy for us to think dogs can actually dwell on the past or fret about the future because most of us launch our emotions onto them. How do I know all of this? Well of course, I’ve asked them?
I’m a thing of such beauty…
None will tire of looking at me, as long as
I’m displayed forever in my German shepherd attire
Published in the GSDCA.org Review, Volume 100, No. 4/April 2022 (Editor: Carole Schultz)
Come Home Nero
Kathy Sater Partch
Long time friend and animal lover, Emma Jean Javner, shared an interesting story with me. As we sat in my living room, the petite white haired eighty year old woman asked many questions about my German shepherds as they lay at our feet taking in our every word. Jean started to relate something to me that happened to her as a child that greatly touched her heart. She dropped her head for a moment, took a deep breath as she gazed down at my two sleeping shepherds, then looked up at me and with a grave voice said, “I’ll never forget the shepherd Nero.” Here is her story.
One day after school in Ysleta, Texas, just outside of El Paso, seven year old Emma Jean got off the school bus to start her walk home. Along with all the kids that got off the bus that day, a stray dog waited for the bus door to open. The dog seemed to be only focused on Jean as she stepped down from the bus. The dog never laid eyes on the other boisterous children as they raced down the school bus steps. The stunning German Shepherd Dog with a black and tan coat followed behind the little girl as she made her way home. He started to use his nose trying to touch her hands at her side to get her attention. She had no food, and she gave no encouragement to have the dog follow her as she ambled on her way. The beautiful shepherd seemed very friendly with a bounce in his step and wag of his tail, and he seemed quite content to be at Emma Jean’s side as though he knew her. When they reached Emma Jean’s house, the dog waited for the young girl, and she brought him water, something to eat along with a pat on his head and some kind words.
Emma Jean was living with her grandmother Eva who she referred to as Ma Ma, and father John Edward Collins. “What’s that you’ve brought home with you, Emma Jean? We cannot keep that dog!” her father protested. “I don’t know where he came from father; he just followed me home from the bus stop,” she replied softly. The next day the dog followed her back to the bus stop and watched her get on the bus. Once again the dog met her as she got off the bus and followed her home. No one in the neighborhood knew to whom the dog belonged. The gallant shepherd slowly made his way into the house sleeping by Emma Jean’s bed each night. The dog stayed with the family for about two years.
One day after getting off the school bus some boys were yelling and being unruly right next to Emma Jean. The shepherd rushed to Emma Jean and put himself between her and the boys to protect her from the group of unmannerly children. Immediately, the boys sensed the dog’s demeanor and concern for Jean and moved away from her quietly. Emma Jean, even though she was very young, realized that she had an incredible bond with this beautiful dog.
The family soon realized the dog was amazing in many other ways. Close by their home were pigs, chickens, cats and dogs. The shepherd never chased any of these animals and seemed to get along with everything he met. When Emma Jean’s father became ill, the dog sensed that something wasn’t right. Never leaving, the loyal shepherd remained by the house.
Many months passed and one day there came a knock on Emma Jean’s door. As her father opened the door, there stood a man holding some government paperwork. He introduced himself. “Your neighbors saw my ad in the paper and told me you may possibly have my service dog, Nero,” he explained. “We do not have your dog!” Emma Jean blurted out from behind her father. The stately looking man in the doorway was also an attorney and, as it turned out, the owner of the service dog. After seeing Nero, he confirmed that it was his dog, the very dog that had saved his life in action. Somehow Nero had escaped and found his way to Ysleta.
Since the United States had entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Nero had been drafted back into the K-9 Corps. Emma Jean’s heart sank when she heard this dreadful news. She was heartbroken as she watched the soldier walk away with her beautiful and faithful friend. Not long after Nero was taken from the family he came back to meet Emma Jean at the bus stop one final time. This time his handler knew where Nero might have gone, and the shepherd was taken away to be a war dog once again.
I saw your beauty and loyal way during the little time we spent together, but I’ll hold your memory for a lifetime.
Over a million dogs served on both sides during World War I, carrying messages along the intricate network of trenches while providing their warming reassurance and comfort to the soldiers. There were many war dogs, but one of the most famous war dogs was Rin Tin Tin, an abandoned puppy found in France in 1918 and then taken to the United States. He made his film debut in the 1922 silent film “The Man from Hell’s River.” Being the first animal movie star, Rin Tin Tin made the little-known German shepherd breed become the most popular across the country. To this day the German Shepherd Dog is still one of the most popular and recognizable breeds in the world.
The practice of training dogs in the United States for the military came to a halt after World War I. When the country entered World War II in December of 1941 (after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), the American Kennel Association and Dogs for Defense started an association to encourage dog owners to start donating healthy and skilled animals to the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army. Training then began for dogs and handlers in March of 1942, and the following fall the Quartermaster Corps was given the task of training dogs for the U.S. Navy, Marines and Coat Guard.
The K-9 Corps at the outset accepted over thirty breeds, but the list was soon narrowed to seven: Germans Shepherds, Belgian Sheep, Doberman Pinchers, Collies, Siberian Huskies, Malamutes and Eskimo dogs. Members of the K-9 Corps were trained for eight to twelve weeks. After basic obedience training, they were sent through one of four specialized programs to prepare them for work as a sentry, scout patrol, messenger or mine-detection dogs. In active combat duty, scout dogs proved especially essential by alerting patrols to the approach of the enemy and preventing surprise attacks. Those dogs became an important asset in making soldiers as safe as possible while at war. Still today the canine is an important factor in our military as it is in everyday life.
The deep and powerful bond between military K-9s, and their handlers is based upon trust and confidence in the other’s instincts and abilities to find explosives or the enemy. It’s a blend of discipline, intimacy, affection and praise. This bond can take weeks, months and years of training to develop and is sharpened to perfection during battlefield experience. There are numerous stories that still have not been told when it comes to the brave soldiers and their K-9 partners of war. The loyal dog is one of the most incredible animals on this earth.
Published Spring 2015 The Shepherds Din, and in the GSDCA Review August 2015, Volume 93, No. 8
Mr. and Mrs. George Sater
The old photos here bring back so many wonderful memories of my Grandfather, George Sater and Grandmother Anna Sater. Grandfather came from Norway on a very long and precarious boat ride at age fourteen. They became American citizens the old fashioned way. When Grandfather arrived in the USA he changed his surname from Sather to Sater. Grandfather felt there were too many Sather surnames at that time. Grandma Anna made the long trip from Norway to the USA much later. Then eventually meeting Grandfather in Minneapolis and marrying.
Being a bit backward in their way of thinking and culture from the old country they were crude farmers who resided in Frederic, WI. They couldn’t have children of their own. My mother, Muriel Mae Olson Sater, told me something about Grandfather having mumps as a young man. George and Anna eventually adopted my father when he was about six months of age at an adoption agency in Minneapolis. Anna brought father home in the middle of the morning hours pretending to her neighbors that he was her biological child. I really don’t know if, or when, Anna actually told anyone that father had been adopted. They named their new baby boy George Melvin Sater. Father went by Melvin as he grew up.
Through the years grandfather Sater drank himself into frenzies. He was an alcoholic and was often extremely cruel to my father in his inebriated state. He was not a nice man at that time in his life. Whenever father did something wrong as a child or in later years, grandfather and grandmother would say it was because he had bad blood — all because he was adopted. Can you imagine what this did to father’s ego as a young man? We saw this sadness in father the rest of his life. It really sets a dreadful stamp on one’s soul by being told such negative things.
Father’s biological mother, Daisy Cramer, died shortly after giving birth to him. It was said that father had a twin brother who didn’t live and was buried with Daisy. Father’s biological father, Matt Cramer, was an alcoholic who ended up on the streets unable to care for his three children. We don’t know when he died or where he was buried. Father’s two other siblings were Donald and Jeannie. They were separated from their father shortly after Matt couldn’t care for them.
Donald and Jeannie were kept together in foster homes until grown. When they were on their own, Donald was living in Minneapolis about sixty miles from where I and my three brothers, Gary, Steve and Terry were growing up in Cottage Grove, MN. Jeannie was residing in New York. We connected with Donald and Jeannie in the nineteen sixties. This was an emotional, exciting and joyful time for my father to finally be reunited with his brother and sister.
Father never knew he was adopted until one day at age twenty-one he was told in a drunken rage by grandfather that he wasn’t his real child. Devastated by this news, he told mother shortly after their engagement, “I don’t think you’ll want to marry me now because I’ve been adopted.” This was very sad to hear. “I love you. That makes no difference in how I feel about my love for you,” mother replied. They married in 1946. When mother was pregnant with me, grandfather was still drinking heavily. Mother and father were living with grandfather and grandmother at that time. It was not a pleasant place for newlyweds.
Grandfather thought the world of mother. When father went into the service, mother worked in the fields with grandfather and helped with all the animals on the farm. He simply adored her for who she was. He gave her more love than he ever did to his son, my father. One day, mother could not take grandfather’s drinking anymore. “If you don’t do something about your drinking you’ll never hold your first born grandchild ever!” she told him.
Shortly after father returned from the service, grandfather asked mother and father to take him to the Minneapolis AA. Grandfather was there for some months. Returning home, he never drank another drop the rest of his life. He was the best grandfather I could have ever asked for. I’ll never forget all the time spent with him. He loved us four grandkids greatly. He was meant to be in our lives. I just feel sorry father had to endure so many struggles through his younger years.
I was three in this photo. I do remember mom taking this. I can still hear her say, “Stop wiggling and hold still!”
Grandfather Sater taught me how to shoot and care for a .22 rifle when I was only fourteen. One day while walking the woods near his farm, he taught me how to the hold the rifle while moving about. He was walking ahead of me. While holding my rifle like I was taught, it went off making a “poof” sound as the bullet hit the ground. I don’t know what happened because I was quite sure I had the safety on. Grandfather turned around, “What was that?” he asked. “I don’t know,” I replied. He knew what happened and said, “You be careful now!” From then on I’ve never made a mistake like that with my firearms. I almost shot my grandfather’s foot; it was that close as we trailed through the woods that day. We were hunting squirrels. We brought them back to the house, he showed me how to dress them and we ate them for supper. Mother helped grandmother, Anna cook squirrel gravy over mashed potatoes. When I think of this now I say, “Oh yuck!” We never seem to forget some things.
Grandfather would take my younger brother Gary and me when it was just us two to town. He would buy each of us one pound of freshly warmed mixed nuts at the drug store soda fountain. Other times he would take us to the Dairy Queen or the dime store to buy something we treasured. He was the kindest human being after he found himself. At the end of his life, my grandfather’s story was worth all the strife.
“Life generally is happy, sad and beautiful!” Kathy Sater Partch
Their wedding day
Grandfather the milkman
For some years Grandfather George sang with the group Sons of Norway which is still going strong to this day http://www.sonjax.com/. I remember in the evening time as a young girl Grandfather sitting in his rocking chair chanting some kind of Norwegian song to me. I couldn’t understand the words but the song was soothingly beautiful. I can still hear him singing this.
Our German Shepherd Dog, Lobo was just an amazing guy back in his day. When born he had a beautiful masculine large head like a wolf cub. So, I named him Lobo. He grew tall at 27.5” at the withers, weighing 95 pounds. He also had this lovely gentle soul about him. Joe, his trainer and owner, saw that Lobo always seemed to manage to entertain every obedience trial judge and ring steward because of his exuberant personality in the ring. One time Lobo took off so fast on a trial recall the rubber mats below him rooster-tailed up behind him. He was the most ‘happy-go-lucky’ shepherd we ever had. It seemed as though he had an amazing sense of humor!
When we moved to Arizona from Minnesota, I advertised a wood stove that was in our living room that we couldn’t use. Soon after, two gentlemen came to look at the stove. I put Lobo and his sister Lily out the patio door to our backyard. That patio door was the entry to the dining and living room area. Not knowing, I evidently did not shut the sliding door all the way closed. It was open just enough for Lobo to get his nose in between the door pushing it open. He loved having any kind of company.
Lobo made his way through that door and he thundered across the floor into the living room in a matter of seconds. He approached the two men on their hands and knees with their heads inside the stove. I yelled, “Lobo No!” In shock, the one man yelled to his friend, “Oh no! Don’t move. Here comes a wolf!” The frightened men turned themselves into cement. They didn’t move a muscle while Lobo was all over them wagging his tail wanting to play. All I could do at that extremely awkward moment was to apologize for what had happened. I suppose it didn’t help the situation by yelling, “Lobo No!” The men finally realized Lobo was just an overly friendly shepherd. Not a wolf, and lastly felt safe with him.
The men did buy the stove.
Heart and Soul
Living with dogs provides children with an added opportunity to learn compassion and unselfishness.
There is hardly anything more precious than watching a child playing with a litter of puppies or witnessing a powerful bond between a child and dog. Remember “The Little Rascals, Our Gang” and their faithful Pit Bull “Petey” who followed them everywhere? Then, there was “Lassie and Timmy,” “Private Rin Tin Tin” and his young Calvary companion “Corporal Rusty” — plus many more. How could we ever live without the companionship of a dog? I know I couldn’t – not happily anyway.
It is very common to hear ‘dog people’ say they think it is good for children to grow up with dogs, particularly as it provides the opportunity to learn responsibility. Children who live with dogs may learn to share earlier through offering their toys or food to their dogs. They may also learn the natural consequences of their own actions. Some parents have mixed feelings about allowing a child to feed the dog, although this can be an important part of learning to share with and care for another living creature. I know I’ve seen these things work a number of times with children.
Living with dogs provides children with an added opportunity to learn compassion and unselfishness. Many dogs are sensitive to human emotions and interact accordingly. A crying child may draw out attention from their dog in the form of a lick or nudge, for example. Feeling better for it, the child may learn to reach out to others who are distressed.
Do our dogs have emotions? I certainly believe they do. When I look into my dog’s eyes – or into any dog’s eyes – I’ll see emotion there. I can be gone five minutes or eight hours and be greeted by my exuberant white tornados whose sole purpose in life is to make me feel welcomed and loved. All I have to do is listen to the mournful howls of the 2 dogs next door as they wait the long hours for their owner to come home and be with them. All I have to do is walk by the house up the street and receive ample warning from the German shepherd behind the fence that I better not come any closer. All I have to do is watch my husband’s shepherd Lobo — still leery of any dog that resembles the black Belgian Tervuren that once bit him severely in the face at a training class at seven months of age. …Yes, our dogs have emotions.
Some people say that dogs behave out of instinct, not emotion. Well, this is fundamentally true. But isn’t emotion instinctual? It certainly is for our species. We cry and laugh, feel sadness, depression, joy, fear, and we consider all these part of the human repertoire of emotions. Why discount the same possibilities for dogs? Much canine behavior can be chalked up to instinct. Consider the wolf pack. When the leader returns from a long absence, the rest of his pack greets him in much the same joyful way as our dogs do upon our return. When a dog licks its owner’s face, I consider that an act of affection, it is mimicking the action wolf pups use to beg food from their elders. When you reach down to pet a friendly dog and it rolls over on its back, it’s behaving in the way the more submissive members of the pack respond to their leaders. In the wild, this intertwining of instinct and emotion is what binds the pack together. Our domestic dogs are social creatures that continue to exhibit traces of their wild ancestors’ behavior.
While puppies and children seem like a natural combination, they are too often an unsuccessful combination that results in removal of the pup. As a result, many breeders refuse to sell puppies to homes with young children. I know personally from such experience. You have to go over this seriously with puppy buyers. The alternative is for breeders to educate these puppy buyers of the many potential problems of bringing a puppy into a home with children under age five. This can help maximize the family’s successful adaptation to the pup. This doesn’t always solve all oncoming problems though. There are still many meaningful yet naïve parents that don’t know enough about having any kind of animal, let alone teaching their children about them. So, where do we go from that point of issue? Well, I guess it’s our responsibility as breeders, animal shelters, etc., to be able to identify as best we can in such dilemmas and then make our final decisions from there. It can be a hard call…especially, if our prospective dog/puppy buyers are not straightforward with their statistics.
Puppies and children (depending greatly on their age) may be too young to respect limits during playtime. Parents must take responsibility for maintaining limits and must understand that a puppy will not have knowledge of words like “easy” or “gentle.” Both puppy and children will need to be gently guided when they begin to get rambunctious.
Puppies have sharp nails, sharp teeth and lots of energy. Nips and scratches can happen accidentally, so parents will need to constantly supervise puppy-child interactions and should not rely on isolating the puppy from the children as a substitute for adult supervision. Just as puppies need to learn not to nip, children need to learn not to elicit such behavior. Children can unintentionally be very rough on puppies. Parents should not expect a pup to tolerate rough handling and should be prepared to intervene with the child when she or he is rough. Both puppies and children are time consuming and have a lot to learn. Parents might best be referred to a breed rescue agency to adopt an adult dog as an “instant companion.” Adopting a dog in need is a great way to teach youngsters the value of life and to give them the empowering experience of saving a life.
Many experienced police K-9 officers don’t think a child should have a dog until they are at least nine years of age. Then, the child should be old enough to comprehend slightly better in most common things. This makes it a lot easier on the child, animal and parents. Of course, this again, depends greatly on the breed, personality in both dog and child and the parents’ knowledge. I’ve met a number of children in my lifetime that were certainly old enough to know right from wrong when it came to their animals. But, for whatever reasons, those children were extremely abusive and rebellious. Most of them were insensitive children with no guidance, and probably should never own any animal. Without help, these children most likely will carry that problem with them in everything they do, and possibly for the rest of their life.
“To a man the greatest blessing is individual liberty; to a dog it is the last word in despair.” These words, written by William Lyon Phelps, briefly explain the dog’s constant need for reassurance that it is part of the family. This is a need that is natural to all dog-like species.
Here’s a little story about the relationship between our great-niece Sydney Hart and our white German Shepherd Lobo. As a tiny baby, Sydney was always fascinated over anything that had fur. She was only six months old the first time she had met our four white German Shepherds Sedona, Lobo, Surfer and Lily. For Lobo, he was the only one that had taken a great interest in the baby. One afternoon, Sydney’s Grandpa Robert and Grandma Barbara came to our house with Sydney so she could meet our shepherds. Robert took Sydney to the back yard and sat in our large log swing set. Lobo followed all the way jumping up and down to see what Robert was carrying. As Robert sat in the swing he placed little Sydney in a sitting position in his lap. Lobo sat right in front of them never taking his eyes off the baby for even a second. Sydney’s eyes filled with exhilaration as she made little exciting noises to the large dog sitting in front of her. Lobo was so zealous over her that he barked right in her face. Any other 6 month old would’ve probably cried in fear, but not Sydney. She laughed out loud, and reached out to touch the one-hundred-pound dog. For that, there was Sydney’s first kiss from her cousin Lobo.
Not having children of my own, I could only share my dogs with nieces, nephews, and friends through the years. There are some dogs that just love children right from the very start – and Lobo was one of them. As Sydney grew, her mother Melissa and father Stephen found two puppies for her at the Humane Society. The puppies, Willow and Sophie, were mixed breeds of medium size. The pups turned out to be fantastic with children. Sydney does everything with her dog friends. One day, Melissa saw Sydney out in her back yard drinking out of the dog’s water dish. She was lapping up the water on all fours. She had even seen Sydney a number of times peeing in the yard. …“Sydney, what in the world our you doing?” Melissa yelled out to her. In this quiet little voice she replied, “I’m going potty, just like Willow and Sophie do.” I love that story. When my husband Joe and I would get together for family functions, Sydney would always come up with something interesting at the dinner table, such as…lapping the top of her water glass or putting her food down on the floor to get mother’s attention. It was so hard not to laugh – she knew just what she was doing. Then there was the time Sydney was sitting on the sofa — holding her foot up to her head so she could scratch her ear. She’s a beautiful little girl with a big imagination and a great sense of humor. Now at four years of age she has two dogs, two and three gerbils. That isn’t counting all of the other things she catches outside.
“Sydney was probably raised in her ‘other life’ with the twin brothers from the famous tale of Romulus and Remus,” Grandma Barbara said. As the tale changes a bit here –they were condemned to death as babies and thrown into the River Tiber. They were the illegitimate sons and daughter of the vestal virgin Rhea Silvia and the God Mars. A female wolf found the twins, and baby Sydney Hart with her maternal instincts took over and she suckled them and took them to a cave overlooking Rome. The children were later discovered by a shepherd and became part of that family then. There are other stories of children being raised by wolves including several cases recorded between 1843 and 1933 in India. In 1920, a Doctor Singh brought back two girls to his orphanage that lived with wolves. The oldest girl was eight and they walked on all fours at their time of rescue. They fed entirely on raw meat, and they lapped their water crouched on all fours. When they felt threatened, they hunched their backs, bared their teeth and growled. I don’t know if Sydney will like reading this history in her baby-book when she reaches the age of eighteen.
When Sydney was two and three years of age she would call Lobo “Elbow.” It wasn’t until she turned four that she could pronounce his name correctly. I love taking photos of the two of them together. They are great subject matter because of their gentle and humorous nature. Besides that, from day one, Melissa is always taking photos of Sydney — so, she and Lobo became our family models.
Two years ago I was getting ready to take my annual ‘00 Christmas photo of Sydney and Lobo. The two of them were interacting with one another in the living room while Melissa and I were getting some last minute things ready for the photo shoot. Lobo was watching attentively over Sydney’s shoulder while she was taking all of his toys out of his large basket. Sydney happened to turn around as he was breathing down the back of her neck. She turned her head, looked up at him and said, “Boy, he’s a big one!” It was just the way she had said it that made us roar with laugher. She was always coming up with something comical in her vocabulary.
Sydney and Lobo are truly the “Heart and Soul” of a very unique relationship. It has been an enjoyable happening. I feel things of this nature can even bring friends and families closer to one another. I remember that special summer afternoon of last year at our house when we had gotten together with family. As soon as Sydney walked into the door she wanted to take Lobo for a walk in the backyard. I had gotten his leash and a little bowl of treats for her. I snapped the leash on to Lobo’s collar and off they went. Sydney was giving Lobo all of her silly commands and he was obeying each and every one of them. We could see he really wanted the entire bowl of treats in one gulp, but patiently took one treat at a time for each command. Then, Sydney was starting to walk Lobo in tight circles and we could see he was getting slightly dizzy. Poor guy. He was so patient with her. He would keep looking over at us as if to say, “help!”
Most of us in the dog world believe life is richer with dogs. Dogs grant us extra opportunities for affection, laughter, companionship and forgiveness, and for teaching those much younger than ourselves about the wonder of being alive and of knowing a creature so pure and special as a dog.
Searching for ID NO. 404C626E44
Ninety-one year old Daisy Cramer sits in her medium sized room at the Loving Hands Home for Elders. She has been there for thirteen years. Losing her husband Matt after sixty-eight years of marriage had left her with no more family and few friends. No more could she care for herself, and another love of her life — her German Shepherd dogs. Her days are now long and lonely. In this home she only has room for a few treasured items. On her nightstand, all in order…are nine beautiful framed photographs of white German Shepherds along with a small fragile shepherd statue. Below the nightstand rests a small wooden box with a photo inlay of one of her favorite shepherds. Inside the frail box there’s twenty-two dog tags Daisy has kept throughout the years. On the walls that surround her long lonely days are additional photographs and show ribbons — signs of tattered and faded memories of beloved dogs and people that once filled her life with happiness. But, most of all, she wears a small locket that she has never removed since the day she arrived. Inside the small locket are a few tightly white-woven hairs lying next to a tiny photo of a shepherd named Selena. Selena was Daisy’s first white German Shepherd. She talks about her often. Selena was very special as was her memory. It’s such a blessing at Daisy’s age to have kept her memory in tact…capable of telling the many stories about her exciting and infamous life to all who would listen.
A charming lady named Muriel came to Daisy’s room the first day she arrived at the Loving Hands Home. Muriel would mainly serve the meals and help in many essential ways. She wasn’t like the rest of the staff who worked at the home. She was a strong, but petite lady with a soft-spoken voice who always had time for the elders that resided there. In her own caring way she would always listen to Daisy’s stories and would reminisce with her of days gone by. Muriel told Daisy she had worked at the Loving Hands Home for a great number of years. She deserved her position well. Not only was Muriel extraordinary in her own kindness, there was something else about her strength of mind. There was a spirit about her that Daisy could never quite resolve. Daisy will always remember the first day Muriel walked into her room. Her entrance was like a warm ray of sunlight. The second thing Daisy noticed about Muriel was a small white-gold angel pendant on her blouse. (The pendant, Muriel has wore everyday that Daisy has been there.) “Oh how beautiful!” …Daisy said, to Muriel as she pointed to the small piece of jewelry that seemed to glow with every step. “Could you come closer so I can see it better?” Daisy said. As Muriel came closer she could see the angel was a shepherd dog with wings. Daisy gulped and took a second breath. She then, asked, “Where did you get such a beautiful, rare piece?” Muriel sighed. Tears came across her eyes as she told her eerie story. “At one time, I also had a very special dog in my life. He too was a German Shepherd and I named him Love.” Love had saved my life a long time ago. I’ll never forget that day — I loved him even more for what he had done. He finally grew very old and left my side. I was heartbroken and never felt safe after his loss. So, on Love’s next birthday – my husband Melvin gave me this angel-dog pendant. Melvin told me the pendant would always keep me safe under Love’s beloved wings. From that day on I had always felt Love’s presence.” Muriel then told Daisy she had to go and would see her later in the day.
For Daisy, at this time in her life Muriel’s friendship was more than she could have ever asked for, especially in such a sad and lonely place as this home. It was so difficult losing Matt after so many years and then her home and independence to old age. As the days went by Daisy continued to meet new and old residents in the hallways. She would always seem to gather conversation, but none that ever lasted long enough to fulfill her loneliness. Most of the residents at the home were not able to hold a great deal of conversation. Some could not even speak. For herself, she felt greatly gifted for still being able to do so many things at her ripe-old age.
Visitors to the home would come and go daily and rarely make eye contact. The days grew longer. There were many times Daisy felt she was not able to remember some things as well as she did when she first came to the home. Daisy started to grow despondent. Muriel seemed too busy at times with the other residents. Daisy started to feel deprived of her special times with Muriel. Later on in the day Muriel arrived with Daisy’s dinner. It was so good to see her. She finally made the time to chat for a while, but then mentioned others needed her time and had to leave. There was an out of the ordinary thing that Daisy noticed about Muriel. Over the years when she would enter Daisy’s room, she would always be by herself. Even during the times Muriel spent with Daisy in her room no other person had ever entered while they were together. Never once did Daisy remember a third person being with the two of them in the thirteen years she had been there. “Oh how odd,” Daisy said to herself, but thought no more about it and fell into a deep sleep.
When Daisy awoke from her sleep she remembered dreaming a magnificent dream. She dreamed she was young again and was running with Selena through a glorious field of golden-wheat. Selena seemed to want to guide her to a special place. So, as they moved along together a warm breeze blew their way. Then out of no where, not far in front of them, at the end of the wheat field Daisy’s German Shepherds from times of yore were standing beside her husband Matt. They stood there quietly looking towards Daisy and Selena. The dogs started to wag their tails as Matt warmly smiled back at them. It was the most splendid sight she had ever seen. The feeling was like no other. It was like a long, difficult puzzle that had lay dormant for years…its last piece finally placed into position. She called to Matt and to her shepherds. As they came closer, almost in reach of her, they mysteriously vanished at the beginning of the wheat field. Daisy looked down at Selena as tears rolled down her flushed cheeks. Selena looked up at Daisy as if to say, “It’s okay, we’ll be back.” Then Selena walked slowly towards the edge of the field to only vanish in a fine white mist.
Daisy could hardly wait to see Muriel again. She had to share her dream. The next morning another lady named Bridget brought Daisy’s breakfast into her. Even though Bridget greeted Daisy with a bright face and a warm good morning, Daisy was terribly disappointed that it was not Muriel. She had to ask, “Bridget, why is Muriel not coming to my room any more?” Bewildered, Bridget said, “What did you say again?” “Muriel is her name,” Daisy said in a stern voice. “If possible, I would like to have her come to my room from now on,” Daisy demanded. “She’s my dear friend and I know her well. Muriel has been taking care of me since I have arrived here thirteen years ago. She always has time for me. We have talked often over those years,” Daisy said. “Uh-huh.” ‘My dear Daisy, there’s no one that works here by the name of Muriel. You must be mistaken,”’ Bridget replied back in a firm voice. Daisy stuttered,” But, but “you must know of her? She has been working here forever…she told me this.” “Here, here,” Bridget said. “You must be overly tired. I’ll get another to come in and talk to you about your friend Muriel.”
A few minutes later a wonderful gentleman by the name of Gary came to Daisy’s room. Gary was the resident doctor at the Loving Hands Home. Daisy said, “Oh, you must be new here?” Gary had been with the home for over sixteen years now and felt bad Daisy could not remember him. But, they started to talk. Daisy asked about Muriel again. Gary knowing that a Muriel had never worked at the home before — only pacified Daisy’s concerning questions. Like many, Gary knew from his past experience with the elderly that sometimes such things as this happen. After a while, Gary left the room and said he would be back later.
Not hungry, Daisy put her food aside. She looked down by her nightstand at the small wooden box that held all of her gathered dog tags. Her hard-working arthritic hands lifted the small box to her bedside. She opened it slowly as if it still held an unknown secret treasure. This time when Daisy opened the box, a small yellow tag appeared to her. Had she not seen this before? Slowly she removed it from the box…holding it close to her eyes. It read: Call 1-800-252-7794, 404C626E44 ID NO., Selena. Daisy looked puzzled at the worn yellow tag. She said to herself, “Oh dear, could this be where I can find Selena?” ‘Would she be with the other dogs that I had in my life? Would Matt be there with them?’” This was crazy. Daisy thought, I’m I thinking out of my head? Did I not see this tag before? It looked so familiar. What is happening to me? For a moment, Daisy felt as if she had escaped her surroundings. It felt so real. This had never happened before. She felt as if she was losing her mind, but in seconds was back to the reality of her lonely room.
As the days passed quickly Daisy started to see little of Muriel. Muriel came to her room a week ago and mentioned she would see her very, very soon! For Daisy, it was now becoming more difficult to keep track of the days. There were not many things in her life anymore that meant much. She often thought back to the dream she had. It was a good dream. Daisy was longing to share that dream with someone who would listen. But no one was there for her. She laid her head down on her pillow. She felt so tired. As she closed her eyes she thought she had heard a slight whimpering of a dog in the distance. She opened her eyes and slightly lifted her head off the pillow. She could hardly believe what she was seeing! The little shepherd statue on her nightstand seemed to be coming to life. Its little body was becoming flexible. Its little dark eyes gleamed with so much expression. The fur was soft and subtle looking with its ears standing erect. It was looking right at her…urging her to play. Daisy sat straight up in her bed and rubbed her eyes in disbelief. She had to be dreaming again. Too many out of the ordinary things were happening to her. As she tried to clear her head she looked down at the small statue one more time. It was now no longer moving. She picked it up slowly as if not to hurt it. She nuzzled it gently in her hands, as she looked at it closely. There was no life. It was simply the same little statue as it was the first day she put it on her nightstand. “Oh dear,” she said,” I must not tell anyone of my dreams now…they will certainly think I’m going crazy!”
A number of days had passed by slowly for Daisy. There were no more signs of Muriel, only her promise of coming back very soon. Daisy was never angry anymore and Gary often came in to check in on her. He was such a pleasant doctor. But, she did not feel like she could talk to him like she could with Muriel. Daisy grew weak from not eating. She started to sleep more often and continued to dream the dreams that now seemed more real than ever!
As a few more days went by Daisy became extremely weak from not eating. She called for Gary to come to her room. As he came to her bedside, she held up the little tattered yellow ID tag from her box. She slowly placed it in his hands. With soft and unsteady words she said, “Gary, please, when you see Muriel again, give this tag to her. I need to have her call this number for me. She will know.” Gary looked at Daisy puzzled, but in return, said he would keep the promise.
That evening, Daisy fell into the deepest of all sleeps. Another dream came to her. But this time it was more real than ever. She then opened her eyes to witness the most beautiful site of all. There at the end of her bed was standing Matt with all of their German Shepherds from the past with Selena at the side of her bed. All around them was the golden-wheat field. Daisy could feel the warm breeze once again and the fresh air that gave life to her weary breath. And, there, with them stood Muriel, her angel pendant, glowing like a distant star. Muriel smiled and held her hand out to Daisy. In her hand she cradled Selena’s little yellow ID tag. Muriel then said, “Daisy, I told you I would be back soon. I have kept my promise you see.”
The next morning Gary found Daisy in her last sleep. He was so saddened she was gone. What a unique soul she was. He could not quite remember another like her. Looking down at her he thought she looked so peaceful. She held an expression he could not quite identify, but had seen before. She had a soft smile on her face and her right hand embraced the small locket that dangled from her neck. She looked as if she had gone peacefully. What a blessing for some. Then, at the end of the bed Gary saw something lying on the floor. As he reached down to pick it up, he discovered it was the little yellow ID tag Daisy had given him. “Oh my, he replied,” I must have dropped it by mistake when leaving Daisy’s room last night.” He felt bad. Then, he saw something else lying scattered close by where the tag had rested. “Oh, how strange,” he said with a whisper, “…strands and fragments of broken-wheat?”
Lobo’s Tennis Balls
Joe’s mother Dorothy eighty years old came for dinner one Sunday evening for the first time in four months. She had spent three months in a nursing home, then another month in her own home trying to regain strength in her left leg pertaining to an annoying blood clot. The doctor finally gave approval for her to leave her house for a very needed home-cooked meal and conversation.
Dorothy always used a cane before her incident. But, for now, she had to use a walker to keep herself additionally steady. Lobo and his sister, Lily, were so excited to see Grandma Partch again. But, yes, there was something very different about Grandma this visit. …She was pushing some kind of gadget around I believe they called a walker? Lobo looked, as if to say, “Oh Grandma, I’m so excited! You’ve brought two of my favorite things with you this time. But, why do you have them on the back legs of this so-called walker?” As Dorothy made her way into the living room – Lobo was trying his best to grab the tennis balls off the walkers back feet. Now, that just broke us up. We didn’t notice at first until Dorothy said, “What in the world is Lobo doing? He’s grabbing at my walker.” He was obsessed with the two tennis balls and couldn’t figure out why they were stuck on this strange contraption.
All of the time we were having dinner that evening Lobo laid close to the walker trying to figure how to get the tennis balls free. …I don’t think we’ll ever have another dog that’s so good-natured and humorous has he.
“I have a German Shepherd that has immeasurable humor. At the most serious times he can make me laugh. Where could I ever fine such consolation for one’s heart and soul?”
Cora Olson and Kelly
By Kathy Sater Partch
We always have many stories about our dogs and family we like to share with others. This is about a wonderful German Shepherd Dog, named Kelly who spent her last years with my grandma and grandpa, John and Cora Olson.
In the late seventies my father and mother, George and Muriel Sater, brought home to their small hobby farm in Ellsworth, Wisconsin a beautiful five-week-old silver and black female German Shepherd puppy they named Kelly. This little girl was one of a kind right from the start. She was actually a bit young to take away from her mom and littermates, but she certainly adjusted quite well from the very beginning. My three brothers, Gary, Steven and Terry made a little den of straw bales for her in their barn, and left her there that evening all by herself. Early the next morning, mom anxiously went to the barn to feed her new baby breakfast. The pup had an exceptional personality. She never cried that they were aware that evening by herself. The most amazing thing of all, mom had forgotten her purse by the puppy’s bed when they left her, and Kelly never touched it. I’m quite sure it probably gave Kelly a warm positive smell that comforted her through her first night alone.
Kelly was a wonderful German Shepherd. As the months went by, her temperament began to compliment her breed even more. She was always very healthy, and to top it off, she was so magnificent in her black and silver coat. What more could a person ask for? Still to this day, many memories of Kelly are brought up in conversation.
When Kelly was about five years of age, my parents were moving to a different place where they couldn’t keep a dog. They decided to give Kelly to my mother’s parents, John and Cora Olson who lived on their family farm in Cushing, Wisconsin. Mother and father were sure that Kelly would be of great companionship for Cora at this time in her life. As time went on, Kelly became Cora’s best friend. And in this situation, Kelly was meant to be with Cora to the end. There were many times on the farm Cora would get extremely lonesome. Grandpa, Johnny was always busy going someplace, and Kelly became Cora’s perfect companion and protector.
Kelly was excellent with all of the animals on John and Cora’s farm. Kelly would help Cora bring the cow’s home for milking and would always stay at her side throughout the day. Cora taught Kelly to stay out of her large well-groomed garden while she worked in it, or not. Kelly would lie at the garden’s edge and wait for Cora to finish her work. Cora would always say, “I’ve had many great dogs in my lifetime. But, Kelly is one I will never forget.”
Cora always had countless stories to tell about Kelly. They were enjoyable and at times extremely funny. They would make my Grandma laugh with shear joy as she shared them with us! The one story that’s so amusing to this day was of Kelly and the neighbors’ chickens. Kelly would go to the neighbors not far down the road – most likely sometime in the evening, and bring one chicken back home with her. She would never hurt them. She would keep them in her doghouse that was right next to Cora’s back door. This was so comical! When Cora would greet Kelly in the morning, once again, there would be another chicken in her doghouse with her. The quaint thing about this…once the chickens were placed in the dog house, they would never come out. It was as if Kelly ordered them to stay inside and they would.
Feeling quite guilty, Cora would take the chickens back to her neighbor with an apology. But after awhile, the neighbors did not find this amusing and became furious with Kelly’s sport. They continued to tell Cora that they didn’t want Kelly over at their place anymore. So, there was no other alternative for Cora. In the evenings, Cora would tie Kelly up to her doghouse. Back then, in the ‘old farm days,’ people rarely tethered their dogs. They were allowed to roam free so they could protect their family, the other animals, or just have the opportunity to chase the critters away from the property. This was just another aspect of Kelly’s greatness.
Cora couldn’t take it anymore. About a week later, she set Kelly free and never tied her again. As the following mornings of freedom arrived – yes, there was Kelly with another unharmed chicken in her doghouse. It was almost as if Kelly was lonesome or showing her maternal instincts. Maybe the chickens were like company for her. Cora just didn’t know what to do anymore. She wanted to stay friends with her neighbors and didn’t want them angry at her dog either. Clever as Kelly was, she never had been seen taking the chickens. So, Cora finally came up with a grand solution. As Kelly brought more chickens home with her…Cora and Johnny ate them!
Cora would laugh and then continue to tell more stories about the wonderful German shepherd named Kelly.
I miss my Grandma and Grandpa Olson very much to this day and always will. They gave me many cherished memories on the farm in Cushing, Wisconsin.
Lily and Lois
When I would take my late Lily to the nursing homes, this became extremely rewarding for us. I was surprised that a great amount of residents in those places are extremely passionate about animals and drawn to them like ‘bees to honey.’ While visiting with a lot of them, they always had stories they wanted to share and never wanted you to leave. Even doctors and nurses would take the time to give Lily a pet and compliment. Most of the residents would want to visit for a great length of time. It was always difficult to leave those places. They would often ask, “When are you coming back?” Also, it would make you feel guilty you didn’t get to everyone you saw that day.
One time when Joe, Lily and I were visiting our own mother, Dorothy Partch in a nursing home, there was a very, very old lady Lois, who shared the same room. I’ll never forget this. The curtain was open between their two beds where Lois was laying as we entered the room. We didn’t want to close the curtain because I felt it would’ve been rude since she was awake. Lois just lay there quietly staring at the ceiling. I said hello to her. She only smiled and never said anything back. Lily noticed Lois right away after greeting mother. She then wanted to go to Lois’ bedside. I didn’t let her because I didn’t know if Lois liked dogs, or was afraid of them, or whatever.
About fifth-teen minutes went by, and Lois finally dropped her right hand down by her bedside and motioned for Lily to come to her. I dropped Lily’s leash and told her it was okay. Lily approached Lois with calmness and sat by her bedside quietly just looking at her. Lois then reached to her night stand without saying a word and got her hair brush. She started to slowly brush the top of Lily’s head and down the sides of her neck. The look on Lois’ face was immeasurable beyond words. It was like, at this moment, Lois was in a different place and time – Probably, bringing back treasured memories into her thoughts. You could see the calming effect on both Lois and Lily. It was a tremendously touching moment…
All of this time, Lois said nothing and kept stroking Lily’s beautiful white coat. I then said to her, “Oh, Lily loves what you’re doing. But, you’ll have her hair in your brush now!” Lois looked back at me with an unconcerned expression and spoke for the first time. …”That’s okay! I don’t mind, besides that our hair is exactly the same color. I’ll not be able to tell the difference.”
Funny Moments from the Past
I have a couple of funny stories about my two white German Shepherds, Lily, Lobo and children. One day I was walking down the street with Lily and here comes two young boys (possibly brother’s) walking a little Terrier. The boy’s were about six and ten. When I got closer their Terrier started barking which brought attention to us getting closer to them. The youngest of the two boy’s said, “Oh LOOK! LOOK! Here comes a white Great Dane!” And the older boy says, “Don’t be stupid! That’s not a Great Dane. That’s a wolf and we better get out of here right now!”
Another time I’m walking our late, very large wGSD Lobo. I’m coming up my home street where I saw two boys playing. The oldest of the boys, about nine years old was in the middle of the street with his bike. And the younger boy maybe six at the side of the street says, “Look! Here comes that white wolf again!” The boy in the middle of the street drops his bike right where he stands and runs to his friend not far away to watch us with a careful eye as we get closer. I stopped and said, “My dog is NOT a wolf. He’s a German Shepherd!” They just stood starring with big eyes. What a shame they were scared of Lobo. He loved all children and wanted to say hello. But I didn’t want to push the situation so we walked on.
Funny GSD Koda some time ago now really made me laugh. I was in my computer room and I hear Koda growling at something in the hallway leading to the bathroom. Then he comes to me, “Mom something isn’t right in your bathroom!” So, like I always do I asked him, “Koda, show me — what is it?!” He quickly leads me into my bathroom and does this big growl again as his hackles go up. “I said WHAT?” He steps up on my sink to show me all the SCARY foam that still is in the sink making some bubbling noises from the peroxide I had used some minutes before. He notices everything! So I ran water on it and he watched it disappear down the drain. Everything was okay after that. He doesn’t miss a thing around here.
Time is like a river.
You cannot touch the same water twice,
Because the flow that has passed will never pass that way again.
Enjoy every moment of life…