Friday, August 28, 2009

Speaking of Heidi

Our first family dog was Heidi. She was a big black German Shepherd. An absolutely brilliant dog and as you can imagine a great watch dog. We got her when she was 6 weeks old and our daughter was just a baby. Patrice was home with our newborn and hence was charged with house-breaking Heidi. It took a week. A week! Granted Patrice is vigilant but what dog is house broken in a week? She was stunning. Big, almost all black and menacing. She gained and lost weight over her 12 years but she probably went 110 lbs. Big for a female. As she grew up I said I was going to feed her plenty so she'd grow big. Veal bones were a staple of her diet. The calves bones were flavorful and relatively soft after simmering for 24 hours. Absolute dog heaven. She did get a little pudgy so I had to cut back. At her heaviest she weighed 130.

We got her when we moved to the hood. We rehabbed a grand old Victorian in the "inner city" of Milwaukee and I was soon to join the fire department. I needed someone to look over my family while I was gone for 24 to 48 hours. She sensed what her role was and took it seriously. I will always be in her dept. The mere presence of a huge black German Shepherd will deter most ghetto thugs. She also backed it up. The meter reader walked into our gated yard to read the meter while Patrice was gardening. She called out to him several times and he obviously ignored her. Heidi was in the yard too. The gas guy never read that meter and to this day I'm surprised we didn't get sued. Another time a thuggish looking dude jumped the fence while Patrice and Cory were in the yard. He got out with a big piece of his coat missing. There was also the countless times when there would be noises in the middle of the night. Heidi would always be on the front line giving the appropriate growl or bark. No one dared enter that house.

Yet she was gentle as could be. Cory would ride around on her, pull her hair. Never a hint of tension. Her big expressive eyes were a mile deep and she had the temperament of a mother. Yet she didn't like cats. She was a confirmed cat killer and actually killed our first family cat Nellie but that's another story.

She died at the Vet's office. I was bringing her in to examine the lump on the side of her face. Much like Buster's. As she was jumping out of the mini van she banged the growth on the door and split it open. She began to bleed profusely. I got her into the Vet's office leaving a trail of blood behind. He examined the growth and the blood loss and explained we had to put her down now or she would bleed to death. I called Patrice and she sped over so we could spend our last moments together. We said good bye and she drifted away. She didn't suffer, she didn't endure long lasting pain, she went down as she should have. Proudly, dignified and with her loved ones with her.

I read that in Native American lore dogs sometimes come back as men but only the deserving ones. I know Heidi deserved it and is probably out there somewhere.