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Outdoors Outpost
Free Dog
Wednesday, December 5, 2012 • Posted December 5, 2012

“A dog is the only creature on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.” ~ Josh Billings

She was 18 months old when she came to live with us, and that’s really all I expected her to do. Live with us. Be our dog. Tie us down so we had to arrange for her care when we were gone, make messes for us to clean up, and cost us money for her food and medical care. I thought she was just a dog. I was wrong.

Diva had her own plans. She didn’t just become our dog. We became her people, her family, her life. She didn’t just love us, she lived for us. She had no thought of herself, only a burning desire to please us, to spend time with us, to make our lives better. She didn’t just move into our home. She moved into our hearts.

Diva was a German Shepherd who inherited above average intelligence from her pedigreed parents. She was infused with exceptional aptitude, strength, and spirit through the bloodlines of her ancestors. Her poise and presence were evident to all who knew her, attributable to superior genetics. But she had a heart that could only have come from God.

Someone once said, “We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare, and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It’s the best deal man has ever made.” I already knew that when Diva came to live with us, but I didn’t realize that some dogs have far more all to give than others. She was the most generous giver I’ve ever known.

Diva took obedience to a level I’d never imagined. Imbued with the typical predator/prey instinct normal in all dogs, she loved to chase squirrels. Walking on the courthouse lawn, a squirrel-rich environment, she watched each one she saw intently, her ears up, muscles tensed, but she wouldn’t attack. She ached to go after the squirrels, but her desire to please us was stronger than her desire to please herself.

Never happy to be left out of anything, Diva often jumped into our vehicles while we tried to pack for a trip. During summers, when the top and doors were removed from my Jeep, she would hop in, climb into the backseat, and lie down, just in case I decided to go somewhere. She loved us so much that she actually became physically ill when we left her at home.

For eight years Diva was part of our family, and a constant companion to my wife. She was always cheerful, always attentive, and always ready, whether for adventure or just a belly rub. She went with us from room to room, and when we went out and left her inside, she sat at the door and waited for it to open again. She always stayed within sight of at least one of us if she could, day and night, for eight years.

More than that, Diva was tuned in to our emotions, our moods, as if she were telepathic. She was keenly sensitive to our state of mind, and always seemed to know when we needed to be encouraged to go outside and play, or if we just needed a hug. She knew us.

Diva was not just a dog. She was joy with a wagging tail, sunshine with sharp teeth, empathy with fur. She was hope with a dripping tongue, dedication with pointed ears, friendship with paws. She was love with a collar.

She was happy and playful that last evening, 27 November, 2012, until about nine o’clock. She started to act droopy and sad, a sure sign she wasn’t feeling well. We tried to make her comfortable, but she was no better the next morning, so we took her to the vet. That afternoon he called and said she must have had a tumor that burst, and she was gone.

Will Rogers once said, “If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” Now I know why he said that.

A friend told me that the greatest inequity in life was the difference between our lifespan and that of our dogs, but now I think I know why Diva was only with us for less than a decade. She loved our lifetime’s worth during hers.

When Diva was at ‘stay,’ or if she was waiting to be allowed to eat, or waiting to be allowed to go through a door, our command to turn her loose was ‘free dog.’ I like to think that somewhere, in a beautiful meadow filled with sunshine and shadetrees, our beloved Diva is truly free . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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