Gentle Giant

Gentle Giant

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Gentle Giant

Several years ago, after losing our Doberman mix, Turnpike, to colic, I stood on my front porch and publicly announced that I was now officially not looking for a St. Bernard—in hopes that one would magically materialize. This had been my standard MO: If I wasn’t looking for something, it would always appear.

For once, this approach didn’t work, so I called a rescue buddy who worked with an all-breed rescue group called ARF (Animal Rescue Foundation) and said, “How ’bout putting us on the waiting list to adopt a St. Bernard?”

Mary Jane just laughed. She told me that they hardly ever got St. Bernards here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She laughed and then laughed some more. I said, “Okay, now. I charge extra if I’mfunny, so just please put us on the list!”

I then called another rescue friend and said, “Put us on thewaiting list for a St. Bernard.” She laughed and laughed. Same song, second verse.

One week later, none of us were laughing when a St. Bernard’s dad had to go overseas with the military and couldn’t take his 140-pound dog. They called my husband, Dale and me, and we adopted Bart.

We were one week into loving Bart when—you guessed it—the phone rang! Itwas the other laughing rescue buddy. She asked me if we had found a St. Bernard to adopt. I told her, “Yes,we have, thank you verymuch. Why do you ask?”

She said that a one-year-old Saint was about to be shot by a country sheriff in a small town forty minutes north of Tulsa.

“Shot?” If you want to get me moving in high gear, all you have to do is mention the words shot and dog in the same sentence. I can flat out move when I have to!

It seems that the Saint’s owners couldn’t keep Bogey in their fenced yard, and the local animal control had already given them three tickets for complaints filed against them. And since this Saint was running loose again, the animal control officer was planning to shoot this gentle giant.

I called the sheriff and told him that I was on the way to pick up Bogey for ARF.

He answered, Chomp, chomp (chewing tobacco), “Lady, you have thirtyminutes to get here—or I amshootin’ him.”

I answered back, Chomp, chomp (sugarless gum), “Mister, you will give me however long it takes to get there—or you will see your face and your name in every newspaper from here to Arkansas, telling how a backwoods country sheriff shot a loving pet while a rescue group frantically tried to get there in time. By the way, do you have any good black-and-white glossies?”

Bam! He slammed down the phone.

I grabbed my purse and ran to find Dale. “TRUCK!” I screamed. “GET IN THE TRUCK! NOW! DRIVE!” I began grabbing leashes and collars and bacon (you never know when you may need a good slab of bacon), and off we raced while I relayed the story to Dale, who reminded me that we already owned one St. Bernard and he was certain we didn’t need two of them.

We got to the address I’d been given. There was no sign of any sheriff, backwoods or otherwise, but there was a beautiful, starving St. Bernard pup. He had been “confined” by a simple piece of chicken wire. He only had to step over it to gain freedom to search for food.

A very poor couple owned him, and the guy said, “He eats like a horse, and we can’t afford to feed him.”

Of course, Dale thought we were picking up Bogey for ARF, but this boy was mine and I knew it. I failed Fostering 101 before I even began.

We took Bogey home to live with us. He especially loved Nicholas, our small something-a-poo, and the feeling was quite mutual. Each morning Bogey and Bart would run with Dale in the neighborhood. There’s something about two St. Bernards that attracts children of all ages. Bogey looked just like Beethoven, the movie star, complete with flopping jowls and drooling slobbers that he could sling a good twenty feet.

The years sailed by. Our two beloved poodles, Fred and Munchie, passed on, as well as little Nicholas. New dogs joined our pack.

When Bogey was thirteen years old, he began to fail. He was having trouble going up and down the steps, moving his 180-plus pounds to stay in our air-cooled garage during the day when the temperatures reached over 70 degrees. I worried that the time was coming when we would have to make the dreaded “decision.”

One night I returned home from a five-day trip. When I got out of the car, Bogey came over to me, wagging his tail. I put down my bags and leaned over to give his bear-sized head a hug. Bogey seemed 100 percent normal and happy to see his mama coming home. How could I have known that it would be his last night with us?

Dale woke me up the next morning with tears streaming down his face. I knew someone had died, and I instinctively began searching frantically for the bichons. Both were in bed with me, still asleep.

Dale managed to mouth the word, “Bogey.”

I flew out of our bedroom and raced out to the garage. There lay Bogey, on his tummy, with his back leg kicked out behind him and his head resting on his front paws. It was the same position he slept in each and every night. He truly had just slipped away peacefully in his sleep.

What I did next may be surprising to some, but if you’ve ever been forced to make the loving, last decision for an older, failing pet, you will certainly understand. Through my tears, and in my nightgown, I walked out-side the garage, just to the beginning of the driveway. I raised both hands into the air and wept openly, saying, “Thank you, Lord. Thank you.”

You see, my prayers had been answered for Bogey: to die peacefully in his sleepwhen itwas time for himto go,when the bad days outnumbered the good. Dale and I didn’twant to have to take Bogey for that final trip to the vet.

I had prayed this prayer many times in my life for several of my dogs as their days drew to an end, but this was the only time in forty-seven years that it had been answered. All the other times we had to help our dogs cross the Rainbow Bridge. Our poodles, Fred and Munchie, had been put to sleep on the same day, May 19. Then, six years later, strangely enough on May 19 again, we’d had to say good-bye to Nicholas, our once-in-a-lifetime heart dog. With a start, I realized that today was May 19! Our Bogey had gone to be with God on the very same date—another six years later.

Coming back inside, I knelt beside Bogey, “Godspeed, my gentle giant,” I whispered. “You are so loved. Run to your Nicholas now. You always did love him so.” I smiled through my tears. There was such peace knowing without any doubt that it had been Bogey’s time to go.

Robin Pressnall

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