This Christmas we gave what was the most difficult of all gifts to give. We gave our beloved German Shepherd Ecko, the gift of peace. We gave her our breaking hearts so that her boundless soul would no longer be trapped in a failing body.
We surrounded her, my husband and I as her blessed humans and our two little boys as her charges. As the vet joined us Ecko hobbled to each person, circling again and again to soak up all the love and adoration being poured onto her. The December sun shone brightly and made her labored breaths sparkle in the cold morning air. The vet continued to remark that she was the sweetest Shepherd she’d ever met. Ecko then laid down in the grass, an area of pasture we’ve always referred to as “cloud field” named for the year-round, thick carpet of the softest grass I’ve ever put my toes in. You can see the entire farm from this spot. It was a terribly beautiful morning as she quietly, peacefully, slipped away.
This process of letting go comes at the end of an already difficult week. And well, as you know, the end of an already difficult year. But it’s through this process of letting go, that we also receive the gift of peace. A gift that we must accept grudgingly, with shaky hands, and broken hearts. Throughout her
many not enough years with us, she gave us love, adoration, awe, protection, laughs, snuggles, and enough loose fur to know she’ll be a part of our wardrobes and furniture forever. This sense of peace will be her final gift to us. No longer will we wonder if her stoic personality is covering deep pain. No longer will we lie awake in bed at night as we hear her sliding and crashing across the floor on her way to her water bowl. No longer will we need to carry her 100 pound body up the few flight of stairs she is no longer coordinated enough to manage on her own. No longer will we watch her struggle to play with our younger pup when it’s clear her body can no longer keep up with what her heart desires. No longer are we full of this wondering and worrying.
We’ve moved out of the pain of fullness and now, we move into the pain of emptiness.
When we adopted Ecko, we had two other dogs and zero children. There is a special place in the hearts of parents for the furbabies that came before the human babies. Ecko was being kept at an unoffcial GSD “rescue” where she was housed in a crate in a garage with a dozen other crated GSDs with several fans to keep them cool. I should also mention this was a garage in Las Vegas in August. She weighed 70-some pounds and was rightly food aggressive. Her behavior and her loyalty and her love for her people came on almost immediately. The weight soon followed and looking back through the many outings, vacations, moves and adventures we took each other on – I know we did right by her. She was loved beyond reason as every dog should be.
I found this video, which I know she would approve of, and have included the transcript below. So for every human who has been blessed to be owned by the best dog in the world (your own, always), I wish you the pain of loving (it’s always worth it) and a bowl that is never left abandoned.
With abiding love to our ever loyal, ever loving, 100+ pound lapdog ECKO
Owner, Dearest Friend
by Vivian Matthews
I could never say enough, Owner, dearest friend, to thank you for the love you gave to me, until the end.
I’m sorry that I hurt you by saying my goodbye. You gave me such a happy home, I lived a happy life. I leapt and played and laughed in ways you maybe couldn’t see. Of all the pets you might have loved, I’m glad that you chose me.
It’s okay to miss me, for I miss you too.
It’s okay to bow your head and cry if you have to.
However hard it seems today, your dear sweet heart will heal.
For now, my friend, remember me and feel what you must feel. But don’t give up on loving, Owner, dearest friend. Although the cost is oh so high, it’s worth it in the end — to know that you made this pet’s life the best one it could be. It should be no mystery why you meant the world to me.
So here’s my final word, my friend, this is my last wish: Find another lonely pet, then give to them my dish. And every time they make you smile, know that I’m smiling too, still so proud to once have been a dearest friend to you.