Sherry A. Phillips

Suspense Author

Saying Goodbye To Your Pet

Pets at Rainbow Bridge

My beloved German Shepherd Dog, Reagan who is now at Rainbow Bridge

Last Friday, I had to say goodbye to my best friend, my German Shepherd Reagan.

It was not an easy decision. In fact, I put it off for months, but in the end I know it was the right decision for her.

I was not always on board with German Shepherds. My husband is the one who kept insisting we get a German Shepherd for the family. My biggest concern was that we had 3 small children when we were deciding about adding another furry member to our family (we had a yellow lab, Genie, we brought into the family when our daughter was 2).

Our daughter Taylor was 7, our son Jackson was 2 and we had a newborn son Montgomery who was only 8 weeks old when we started discussing adding another dog. When I was growing up, German Shepherds were the “pit bulls” of the time. You were always hearing horror stories on the news about how a german shepherd dog had attacked someone or bitten someone, so I wasn’t very receptive to the idea. My husband kept insisting that was the breed he wanted.

One day we were out and about in our town and we ran into a police officer who was a friend of my husband. He had his long coat german shepherd with him and our children instantly fell in love with him. The shepherd loved them back. It was the first time I ever interacted with a shepherd one on one and I was pleasantly surprised. I started doing research and found they would make excellent family pets. I relented and we put a deposit on an upcoming litter with a reputable breeder, which meant we had months of waiting before we would get our new family member.

In the meantime, I had always wanted a collie and while we were awaiting our new German Shepherd, I came across a breeder who was selling a blue merle collie puppy. They were planning on him being a show dog, however he did not have correct eyes and therefore could not be bred so they were selling him.

I started pestering my husband to buy the dog. He was $850. I don’t think a day went by that I wasn’t checking on that dog to see if someone had bought him and showing him to my husband. Finally, my husband who worked for himself said, “If I have a really good week at work, I’ll buy you that dog.”

He had a really good week at work and I got the dog. He was flown to us from New York, we renamed him Duke (after John Wayne) and though shy (he wasn’t used to a rambunctious house with young children), he was soon a beloved member of our family.

Two weeks later, it was time to pick up our German Shepherd puppy from the breeder in West Virginia. She sent photos of the female puppies as that is the gender we wanted and my daughter picked out “pink girl” for our family. Pink girl was named Reagan and from the time she entered our home, she was the greatest playmate for our children we could have ever hoped for.

Whether chasing the children around the house on their riding toys, or lying beside them as they watched television, Reagan proved to be a great family pet. She, Duke and Genie became fast friends, but it was clear that Reagan was the Alpha of the 3 dogs.

And a funny thing happened after we got the dogs. They say German Shepherds choose their person. As it happened, Reagan chose me. Whether I was cooking dinner in the kitchen, making the bed in our bedroom or simply watching television, Reagan followed me wherever I went. If I left the house and she wasn’t with me, I could hear her moanful cry as I pulled out of the driveway. She would even wait outside the bathroom while I showered.

She became my best friend.

In a karmic twist of fate, Duke bonded with my husband.

When Reagan was 5, she had a growth on her muzzle that seemingly appeared overnight. We took her to the vet and the news was not good. She had cancer. My heart was heavy when I heard the news. They did surgery and when we went to see her afterward, he told us that the cancer had wrapped around the nerves in her face and he was not confident they were able to get all of it. He gave her 6 months to 2 years at best.

I had recently seen on Dr. Oz that saffron killed cancer cells and asked if it would be okay to give her the saffron. He told me yes and that in fact, one of his other patients, a poodle, had cancer and his owner started giving him Noni juice every day and the cancer was in remission. I went to Whole Foods and bought Saffron and Noni Juice. I gave Reagan the saffron and Noni Juice every day and prayed.

The cancer never came back.

The years passed by too quickly. When Genie was 13, we had to make that fateful decision, the one all pet owners dread. She had been a wonderful family member and it was painful to say goodbye. You can read my husband’s tribute to Genie here.

Two years later, Duke had a stroke and we had to say goodbye to him as well. Duke, like most collies, was a gentle, loving member of our family and it was very hard for us to lose him.

Blue Merle Collie Duke

Our blue merle collie, Duke in the snow.

Reagan and Duke, since they grew up together, were a bonded pair. Reagan mourned Duke as much as we did and I was afraid she was going to be so depressed she would soon join him.

We moved back to Tennessee from Virginia and soon got a sable rough collie puppy for our daughter. We named her Zelda. Zelda brought new life back into Reagan. It was like someone had given her a youth tonic. She was like herself again and became like a mother hen to the new puppy.

German Shepherd and Collie Puppy

Reagan and Zelda, our German Shepherd and Rough Collie puppy enjoying a nap

A few months later, we got another rough collie puppy, Link.

Tri-color Rough Collie puppy Link

Link our tri-colored rough collie puppy

Zelda and Link loved Reagan and I believe Reagan loved them. The three of them played together in our back yard and slept together every night in the floor by our bed.

Reagan, Link and Zelda

Reagan, Link and Zelda hanging out and playing with a Kong

However, time marches on and Reagan became weaker. Her hip dysplasia was so bad she was walking sideways. Many times she could not make it up the stairs to our bedroom and she would have to be carried. She was losing weight. She started to lose control of her elimination. Around Thanksgiving my husband started saying, “We’re going to have to make a decision soon, but she’s your dog, so I’m going to leave that up to you.”

I wasn’t sure if she would make it to Christmas, but she did. Then I wondered if she’d make it to my birthday. She did. The boys had birthdays in February and March. I hoped she would make it until after their birthdays. She did.

Then, last Wednesday as I was washing her bedding, she started making a choking sound. I said, “Reagan?” She sat up, then convulsed over onto her left side. I thought it was over and she was having a stroke. But she sat up again, then it happened again only this time she fell over and landed on her right side.

She managed to get up again, disoriented, but calm. I put her outside with Link and she walked around a bit, then laid down in the grass.

I watched her from the doorway and knew it was time.

You will probably be like me and read article after article to find out when you will know it’s time to say goodbye to your beloved pet. Only you can answer that question.

I cried all day Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, knowing we had that appointment at 5:15 on Friday afternoon. I did not tell our children until they came home from school. They all said their goodbyes and my husband and I took her for her final ride in to the vet.

Under a canopy of trees on a warm, sunny afternoon, the veterinarian gave her a shot to relax her. He left us alone to say our goodbyes before the final shot. We kissed her and hugged her and told her how much we loved her. Then the veterinarian returned and gave her the final shot.

I like to think of her running through the fields of heaven with Genie and Duke now. I envision her playing fetch with my father and taking walks in beautiful places with my mother.

I know there will be other dogs in our future. More than likely there will be another German Shepherd.

But there will never be another Reagan.

Reagan, our German Shepherd Dog

Me and my German Shepherd Dog, Reagan

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