Leo by Maryann and Rick Goldman / Mommy and Daddy

In August of 1999, my husband, Rick, and I were adding a garage onto our home. It was a cloudy, Sunday morning, and the painter, Eric, was working inside. Rick was still asleep, and I was outside sprucing up my flower beds.

Eric shouted to me, “Is that one of your dogs in the street?” Fear raced through me. Foxy, our 5 year old red Chow mix and Brandy, our 14 year old German Shepard Chow mix were never outside except on a leash. I was horrified to think that one or both of them might be out.

I quickly dropped what I was doing and ran to the street to see the dog that Eric was pointing at. There was an absolutely gorgeous long-haired German Shepard Chow mix. It wasn’t Foxy or Brandy…whew. But, where did this beautiful dog come from?

Rick and I live in a small neighborhood in ruralville, NC. We know all the neighbors, and of course, all the neighbor’s animals. This dog wasn’t from the neighborhood.

I like most dogs, and most dogs like me, so it didn’t take but a minute to get the dog to come to me/catch him/her. I started my inspection. I figured that this dog was the prettiest female that I’d ever seen just gaging from the beautiful long hair. I quickly discovered that the dog was a magnificent and regal looking male. He had a few ticks on him and was dragging a few twigs in his fur, but he wasn’t in bad shape at all. He seemed to be young 2-3, and he was only maybe 5lbs. underweight. I had to help him. I’m a sucker for any dog with long hair and/or Chow in them. Poor guy, a few minutes later I was giving him a bath with the garden hose and sprucing him up.

By the time Rick got up and walked outside with his coffee to say good morning, I already had the dog bathed and ready for inspection. Of course I knew on the spot that I wanted to give him a forever home, but there were a few other family members to convince…

Rick walked out and said, “Hey, man (to Eric), you brought your dog with you today?” And, Eric replied, “No, man, I think that’s your new dog.” Rick immediately looked at me expectantly.

I started in about how he had showed up in the street, how I just had to get the ticks off of him and clean him up, and about how absolutely wonderful he was. It wasn’t hard to convince Rick. The question was, “Will Foxy accept him?” Foxy is a definite alpha.

Rick brought Foxy outside to meet him. I was really concerned. She doesn’t particularly like other dogs, and sometimes she picked fights with Brandy. To our pleasant surprise, she took to him right away.

I proceeded to tell Rick that the dogs name would be Leo. Foxy looks more like a lion with her red mane than a fox sometimes, and I wanted to make sure that the next lion looking dog we brought into the family had the right name…Leo the Lion!

By midafternoon, Leo was in the house taking up residence on our couch. It was the smoothest transition of adding a new dog to the pack that we’ve ever made.

Since then, we lost Brandy and we gained Sugar, Honey, and Blaze. Leo gracefully shared his house with all the other dogs (girls) and with various SPCA foster puppies that came and went. There just was no dog sweeter than him. He liked almost all other dogs. He loved every person he ever met. He never caused even an instant of trouble the whole time we had him (well, he did make his mom chase him up the street one day in extreme fear that he’d get hit by a car or worse yet get lost and never come home, but that incident ended well with nothing worse than me out of breath and trying to calm myself down). For a 70lb. dog, he never pulled on his leash. When we brought our baby home from the hospital recently, he took to the baby just fine.

Leo was a constant source of joy in the hearts of all who knew him. If you were sad, his beautiful fur would soak up your tears. If you needed a companion to walk beside you, he was always there. If someone came to the door, his big bark would warn them not to mess with you.

Leo was known by all who visited with Rick to shoot pool in the room about the garage as the Rug. We affectionately named him that because he would lie around the pool table and would not move if he was in your way to shoot. He would just let you straddle over him to make your shot. We also called him the Palomino because he was a greal pal and because he liked to stand between your legs kindof like riding a horse. Now, I don’t know where the nickname Leo Spidio Espisito Palomino came from, but we lovingly called him that too.

Leo was very submissive, and he would never look you in the eye. I think that’s why all other dogs liked him; he was bigger than most of them, but he let them run the show. One day the baby lost his balance and fell over on Leo. Leo immediately turned his head away as if to say, “I didn’t cause that…honest.” Leo never gave kisses and never jumped up to great you, but he would always come stand beside you when you came home at the end of the day (while Foxy jumped all over you), and he would use his paw to tap you if you stopped petting his muzzle and he still wanted more attention.

On Thursday, May 1st of 2003, our buddy Leo collapsed in the street during one of his normal afternoon doggie walks. Rick was out with Leo and the baby in the stroller…very scary. We had no sign that anything was wrong, no hint of a problem, no chance to help him. Rick rushed him to the vet, but he was already perked back up and acting like himself. Friday night, he had another episode. Saturday morning, blood tests and x-rays showed nothing wrong. Tuesday, May 6th, we were at the specialty vet…praying to find something fixable.

Unfortunately, after many tests, Leo was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma…cancer in his spleen and heart. Apparently this is a type of cancer that male German Shepards are prone to get. The specialty vet drained a lot of fluid from his chest and in so many words told me that there wasn’t anything we could do to fix this. Tears and tears and tears…

I brought my wonderful boy back home. For most of the following week, he felt much better because the fluid had been removed. We were able to spend extra time with him and give him the love and attention that he deserved. We thanked him for being an extra special best friend, for bringing so much happiness to our lives, for giving us the gift of his love and companionship. I’d had hoped to take him back to the specialty vet and have the fluid drained again and keep him with us and feeling well for several more weeks or months, but that just wasn’t to be. After I got home from work on Wednesday, May 14th (the day after my birthday), he collapsed in the house and it was obvious that he was suffering and that it was his time.
I summoned a mobile vet, who turned out to be a wonderful person, and he helped us say goodbye to our beloved friend…

Leo is buried out back with Brandy, Sheba (Brandy’s mother), Bart (Brandy’s brother), and Pumpkin (cat). I bought a dogwood tree and planted it on his gravesite.

It’s so sad to lose such a faithful companion. There won’t be any replacing him…there just aren’t that many magnificent looking dogs with German Shepard and chow in them that have such a gentle nature and a kind heart. He was a one of a kind extra special friend.

The mobile vet suggested, and I think it is a very sweet idea, that we save his dog tags and put them on the Christmas tree each year. We already have several Leo doggie ornaments, and I intend to do just that.


Leo, we'll always keep you in our heart...
Maryann and Rick Goldman