In Memory of Shea

Shea came to live with me when she was a puppy, not a baby but certainly not grown. She still had her baby teeth. I know that because I still have the ladder back chairs she used as a teething ring. Back then, she was all tail and feet and not entirely sure what to do with either.

I was living in California then, working as a real estate broker. One of my clients had a home on acreage they wanted to put on the market. They had it rented to some very nice people who had a lot of dogs, cats, goats and I believe a pony. We had to ask them to move before we put the property on the market, which meant they were going to have to find homes for most of their animals. I sat on their front porch, watching their dogs play while we talked about it. Almost before I knew it, I said, ”If you don’t have a home for the Shepherd pup, I’ll take her.”

I didn’t need another dog. I had two already, but there was something about this one—.    Shea enjoyed the ride home, but wasn’t so sure about getting out when she spied the greeting committee. The other dogs circled the car, barking and in general making a fuss. My mother lived in a small house on my property and she, too, came over to see what was going on.  She looked in the car and sighed. “Another dog?”

My son-in-law said, “Are you going to let this one in the house also?”

“Of course not,” I replied, “She’s going to be huge. Besides, she’s never been in the house, and I need a guard dog.”

He laughed, but I insisted she would sleep outside. Just shows how we can delude ourselves.

Shea did get to be a big dog, and a beautiful and happy one. She also took her heritage as a herding dog seriously. The cat was the first victim. She rapidly found out that herding cats is, indeed, difficult. She tried it on the grandkids next. They were little then, and didn’t like being pushed into a corner and held there. They protested with loud yowls until rescued. She wanted to try herding the horses but I made sure she knew they were off limits as well.

She was a gentle dog who loved just about everybody, especially kids. I have a picture of her lying on my kitchen floor, my granddaughter, who was less than two, sitting on her as if she was a chair, while looking at a picture book.

Shea loved to travel. We crossed the country three times, Shea, Laney, my Italian Greyhound and Shea’s best friend, and me. I never felt safer than when I had her with me. She wasn’t a snarly dog, but she did love her family and I don’t think anyone who tried to threaten me, or one of the kids, or Laney. would have gotten off easy. She thought motels were fun and especially liked elevators. Laney didn’t share that particular enthusiasm.

She loved our house in South Carolina. It has a wrap around front porch. However, she was given to unauthorized walks, so I had a gate build over the steps. She spent a lot of time there, telling each passerby good morning and each dog that stepping on her grass was against her law. She loved the postman. Go figure.

She died during the night, not coming into my bedroom for help, so I know it had to have been quick. I found her in the morning, lying between the coffee table and the sofa, looking as if she had returned to a favorite spot to sleep, a sleep from which she would not wake.

I was with a friend, many years ago, when her dog died. She was devastated and cried out that she would never get another one, the pain of loosing them was too great. I understood then what she meant, and certainly understand it now. The pain is intense. But, I wouldn’t have missed a minute of the time I had with Shea. She brought great joy into my life and even greater love. She was fun to be around, and an unfailing friend. You can’t feel grief without great love, and great love was what she gave me, and what I gave her back. Will there be another dog? Almost certainly, but not now, and it won’t matter. Whoever it is won’t take the place Shea had in my life and in my heart. In my memory, she’ll always be beside me.