One lesson I’ve learned over these many years is, “Life is constantly changing and I don’t have as much control over it as I think.” I don’t know about you, but I like being in control.
Spring 2002 brought lots of change to my family. We moved from our somewhat rural Las Vegas home to the suburbs of Henderson, Nevada, which at the time was literally the fastest growing city in America. Our new community was pristine with a manicured golf course, tall pine trees, lakes, waterfalls and a beautiful walking path. It sat high on a hill with picture perfect views of the Las Vegas valley and the famous Las Vegas strip. It was and still is a pretty spectacular place to live.
In addition to a change of address, life changed in other ways too. We stopped going to the dog park. Both my mother and father became housebound because of major health problems and they needed more of my time. We also wanted to protect Bear, whose eyesight was getting worse, from any rough young dogs at the park, so we stayed away.
These changes didn’t keep us down for long because our family soon found a new hobby to entertain everyone. We called it “house hunting.” Our new town of Henderson was truly building houses faster than any other community in the entire country and there were blocks and blocks of new homes to explore. Each evening after dinner and on the weekends our routine was to gather our canine kids and sometimes our human son too and walk to a new neighborhood for an adventure.
When Matthew came along he would follow behind the pack, shaking his 16 year-old head in disapproval and warning us that, “other families didn’t do this sort of thing,” but we didn’t let it detract us from the fun. By the end of most of our journey’s Matthew was usually glad he had joined us.
Our tour would begin by picking a street of homes that we hadn’t yet visited or checking-in on the progress of a block of houses we particularly enjoyed touring on another trip. All seven of us would peek in and around the rooms of the new houses. It was interesting to see how each home was being built to suit the needs of a specific family. The dogs instinctively seemed to know that they shouldn’t lean against a wall or pee inside a newly framed house. And nothing was ever moved or removed from the homes. Missy, Bear, Sophie and Shadow absolutely loved their new hobby.
At that time we also started to walk the 3 mile path that is encased inside our community. Our canine crew liked these walks, but before too long we noticed that Bear and Missy were finding them too tiring. Bear and Missy were now senior citizens. The walks became shorter and shorter and ultimately turned into car rides around the loop.
In September 2004 both Missy and Bear passed away. Missy, at age13 was our oldest living dog at the time and Bear was 11. Earlier that year Bear was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma, a type of cancer of the blood that is common in German shepherd dogs. He spent many months on chemotherapy and we knew the end was approaching. Missy surprised everyone when she passed away on September 4, from complications due to a paralyzed larynx. Twelve days later Bear met Missy on the Rainbow Bridge. He died peacefully at home in our arms.
Sophie and Shadow reacted very differently to Bear’s passing. Shadow wanted to be alone and sat in our backyard by herself, but Sophie stayed by Bear’s side kissing him and then trying to comfort Ken and me.
Both girls were lost after their elder housemates were gone. I don’t know if they grieved, but they wandered around the house not knowing what to do with themselves or where to lay down. Their routine was shattered. Ken and I decided to give them a new routine soSophie and Shadow became working girls.
Each morning they piled into the car with me and we drove to Ken’s accounting office where they “worked” (sort of). Their day consisted of lying around the office until a client walked in and would hopefully give them lots of attention. In the late morning they would walk to the mailbox to retrieve the mail and then it would be time for lunch. By early afternoon they went home for a nap. The dogs only worked a half day.
Both dogs and Ken adored the new routine. They would have probably been fine keeping that schedule for the rest of their lives, but I had a hole in my heart that needed to be filled. I missed Bear and I missed having a male dog in the family. One year later on September 25, 2005 a German shepherd mix named Cody joined our family. This might sound like a fairytale ending, except for one glitch. Cody was terrified of men!