Tuesday, September 11, 2012

We Love You Sierra!

Today we had to make the painful decision to have our 14 year old Golden Retriever, Sierra, put to sleep.  She was no longer able to get up and down without help and she was clearly telling us that she was hurting.  It only seemed right to love her enough to end her pain.

She was an amazing dog.  She became part of our family in August of 1998.  She was an adorable puppy.  Full of energy and as mischievous as they come.  We affectionately nicknamed her 'Devil Dog.' 
She destroyed many a drip system because her love for water demanded that she chew on the hoses.  There are puppy teeth marks on the leg of one of my kitchen table chairs because the leg 'just hopped in her mouth.'  She refused to learn her name because, if she did, she would be required to listen.  She had a habit of stealing things and swallowing them whole.  Lucky for her, they usually came out the next day looking exactly like they went in.  (Sorry if that's TMI).  I distinctly remember a pair of knee high nylons and a scrunchy that she stole right out of my friends hair.  When scolded, in those early days, she would silently talk back by moving her mouth up and down while staring at you. Just about the time we thought she was going to be the death of us, she outgrew the puppy stage and became the best dog we have ever owned.

She knew how to love unconditionally.  She adored our daughter, and spent an entire day laying in a recliner chair after Lori had her wisdom teeth pulled.  She wasn't allowed on furniture, but her need to be close to Lori, to make sure she was ok, threw that rule temporarily out the window.  When Lori went away to school, Sierra missed her so much that she got sick.  The vet diagnosed her as being depressed.  She loved Lori that much.  The first time Lori came home from school Sierra laid in her lap and wouldn't get up.

Our son was always difficult to get up in the mornings.  If I really wanted to annoy him, I'd send Sierra into his room to wake him up.  She would get up on his bed with him.  Slowly, she would take over the entire bed until she had pushed him out.  She loved him enough to tolerate how irritated he got over that entire process.  Once he was up, she had no problem laying her head on his pillow and taking over the bed.  When he went away to school she had already figured out that she would survive his being gone.  That both of the kids would come and go and she would see them often.  When he would come home she would lean up against his legs and cry and carry on to welcome him home.

She loved Jon and I and wanted to spend every waking moment near us.  If Jon was working in the yard, she was laying somewhere near by. Every night when Jon got home from work she would meet him at the door with a stuffed toy hanging out of her mouth.  She would walk along behind him and push it into his legs as if to say, "Look what I brought you."  Often, she would catch an unfortunate bunny in the back yard and bring that to us too.  She loved me enough to go on my weight loss journey with me.  Getting up at O dark hundred to walk 3 plus miles every.single.day.  I sometimes think that all that walking kept her young longer.  She never once complained, or said she wanted to sleep in that morning.  In fact, if I decided that I didn't want to go for a walk that day she would stare at me and shame me into going.

She loved to go camping with us.  We bought a trailer about 8 years ago and she went on every trip we ever went on.  She would stake her claim to laying under the dining room table and happily settle in for the weekend.  She didn't care what the weather was like.  She didn't mind the down pours we had in Pismo or the thunderstorms in Big Bear.  Any day camping was a good day.  She was born for adventure.

She loved going to Lake Tahoe.  She was probably never happier then when we were there.  If we pulled up and stopped along the side of the lake she would jump out and run as fast as possible to take herself swimming.  She would swim after a ball or a stick for hours.  She never grew tired of it.  She loved to raft down the Truckee river.  She would contentedly lay in the yard of the cabin for hours, knowing that her beloved lake was nearby.  She loved going on long evening walks in the cool mountain air.  Bringing her home from there was always hard because it seemed she was meant to be there.

She loved kids.  She was so good and tolerant of both of our grandsons.  When Garrett was learning to stand, he would grab fists full of her hair to pull up.  She let them climb all over her and she never got snappy with them.  Sometimes she had that look.  The one that said, "Seriously, people, do you not see that these beasts are crawling all over me?"  She would give them a kiss and patiently wait for them to lose interest in her.  She would let them play with all of her toys and gently take treats from them.

She had her own friends too.  First there was her cousin, Sandy.  Sandy was a black lab/ golden retriever mix.  She was a dark mirror image of Sierra.  They would play for hours when they were younger.  Sandy was waiting for Sierra in Doggie Heaven today.  I'm sure, by now, Sierra is swimming and Sandy is standing on the shore glaring at her, because Sandy didn't like water.  Maybe something changed in heaven :)  The only pictures I have of them are of a light and a dark blur rolling in the grass.

 Then there was Bogey.  Bogey was a golden retriever that we met while we were out walking.  The two of them lived to play in the dirty, stinky creek on the trail near our house.  I became friends with Bogey's owner and we walked together nearly every day. When he moved away Sierra missed him like crazy.

 Next came Beckham.  Beck (as he is affectionately called) is Sierra's nephew.  He is Lori and Troy's dog.  He is a Golden Retriever and he and Sierra shared many adventures together.  They loved to swim in Lake Tahoe.   She would even share a large stick with him. She happily shared her spot under the trailer table with him while we were all stuck in the trailer during a thunder storm in Big Bear.  Older and wiser, she often looked amused at some of his shenanigans, knowing that they were just going to get him into trouble.

There was Nicholas.  Nicholas was a Newfoundland.  Huge, handsome and gentle all rolled into a slobbery playmate.  They walked together and played at the park.  Nicholas would not take a treat from his owner until Sierra had been given one first.  A true gentleman.  Nicholas was also waiting for Sierra today.  I'm sure there is some damp, green grass that they are rolling in together. 

This past weekend she got to meet her niece.  Jon and Heather's first puppy, Kona.  Kona is a mix of breeds and a sweet, smart, adorable little puppy.  Sierra wasn't too interested in playing, but I have a feeling that she may have given Kona some tips about how to behave just enough to stay on your owners good side.

When I think about how Sierra approached life and about her disposition I realize that she has silently taught me a great lesson.  To love with all of your heart and to enjoy what each and every day brings.  There wasn't a day that she didn't take time to stop and smell the roses (and the plants and the fire hydrants.)   

Our life is going to seem very empty for awhile.  While 14 years is a long time for a big dog it wasn't nearly long enough.  There are so many places she would have loved to go.  So many trails she would have loved to have explored.  I choose to believe that there is a special place for these special animals.  Hopefully, I will see her again someday.  I choose to believe that she is getting a head start on picking out the lakes we will swim in, the rivers we will raft down and the trails we will explore together. 

We love you Sierra!  Thank you for enriching our lives in ways you could never ever begin to understand.