Saying goodbye to man’s best friend

By Anna-Claire Terry

“A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water logged stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart, and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?”
This quote from the movie ‘Marley and Me’ ran through my head repeatedly last Thursday, the day my parents made the tough decision to euthanize our beloved 14-year-old German Shepherd, Fred.
The Terry family became a family of five when I was in the fourth grade. I came home from school one afternoon to find a surprise little fur ball waddling around my dad’s feet. Dad had always admired German Shepherds and finally had the son he always wanted. Fred was his dog, his partner in crime. He gained a teammate to help him combat all the estrogen in a house full of women. I was nine then, and at age 23, I cried the whole way to work on the morning I heard the news.
Fred was more than the Terry family dog. He was a Terry. He was a constant companion to my dad, playmate for my sister and me, and he never failed to act like a needy little puppy in the presence of my mom. At Christmas time, Fred had a stocking that hung next to the rest of the family’s. As we opened presents on Christmas morning, Fred would sit quietly, chewing on his new treats. He had no problem being the largest dog in the puppy parlor with Yorkies and Shih Tzus running between his legs because he seemed to know that is what it took to be allowed to roam freely in Mom’s house. Fred was fiercely loyal to our family. He once fought off a coyote or two in the middle of the night that were trying to harm one of our smaller dogs. He used to come upstairs to my bedroom every time it stormed. He could always tell when someone was sick or sad. He was smarter than several humans I know. He even taught himself how to ring the doorbell when he wanted to come inside.
Fred was a gentle giant. I remember when my sister and I used to try to ride him like a horse as kids. Of course he hated it, but never once did he snap at us. He would eat almost anything. He once chowed down on our sidewalk chalk … the end results of that were pretty colorful, as you could imagine.
Fred slept on the floor on Dad’s side of my parents’ bed every night. When bedtime rolled around at the early hour of 8:30, all Dad would have to do was look at Fred and say “let’s go to bed,” and off they went. They were both up with the sun each morning to enjoy some quiet time. The duo had hangout spots on our property. On warm afternoons, they would sit in the fig orchard while Dad read his Bible, and sometimes they had a cold drink together on the front porch.
Although I think Fred enjoyed life as an only child after my sister and I moved to college, he was always the first one to greet us when we pulled in the driveway, and always watched with my parents until he couldn’t see our car anymore when we left to go back to school. If everyone in our lives loved us the way our dogs do, what a lovely place the world would be.
Losing such a steady part of our lives has a way of making us very aware of the passing of time and how, as we get older, we sometimes forget to fully appreciate who has always been there. Fred was very much a part of my childhood.
Going home won’t be the same for a while.