Shadow came into our lives the weekend before Christmas 1997.

The first ten or so years of his life remain a mystery that he alone knew.

But the last 10 months of his life were the story of a courageous caring,

intelligent wonderful dog that fostered an attachment and a love that few

dogs can inspire even given an entire lifetime.

Shadow was found in mid-June 1997 chained to a vet’s door with only a bowl

of water for companionship. Whoever left him there knew the dog needed

help but didn’t want to get involved past that point. He was so covered

with mud no one could even tell he was a Collie. Once cleaned he weighed

50 pounds looked like a greyhound and had a terrible case of mites. He

almost died from the mite dip but his determination to live pulled him

through. A few weeks later he was well enough for Collie Rescue to place

him with what they hoped would be a permanent home.

But the permanent home was only temporary as work opportunities forced

Shadow’s new family to move to another state. Although their cat moved with

them Shadow didn’t make the cut. Instead they listed him for sale in the

weekend classifieds.

Over 200,000 people receive our Sunday newspaper. But none of them called.

No one but me and my wife Debi. Everyone else wanted a young puppy for

Christmas; no one cared about an 11 year old Collie. With two shelties and

a cat we weren’t sure we wanted him permanently either. After hearing the

story about his determined recovery from the brink of death last summer,

though we agreed that a dog that determined to live deserved a chance in

our home not the pound.

Besides we figured at the very least we could provide a foster home until

Shadow could be replaced in another permanent home by Collie Rescue.

At that point I had no idea how much we would come to love Shadow nor how

much Debi and I would miss him now.

Christmas night Shadow and I bonded. We were at my parents house. When I

let him out that night he wandered between their house and the neighbors.

Thinking the area was fenced I didn’t worry. When he didn’t return I went

to investigate. I found him stuck between two fences unable to get out.

Many dogs would have panicked and injured themselves trying to get free.

Instead he looked at me as if to say “please help me.” He was so calm. I

pried the two fences apart enough for him to slowly back out of the tight

spot he had wandered into. Ten minutes later he was free.

Although he was exhausted from the effort he was so grateful. He trusted

me and I knew then I would never betray that trust. I promised him a home

for the rest of his days my friendship and total commitment to him.

We gave him the best nutrition the finest health care and I truly

believe the happiest days of his life.

Gradually yet undeniably his health continued to fail him despite his

and our best efforts. The trips to the vet became more frequent. His

appetite dwindled and his weight fell. Friday he went to the

board-certified vet specialist who diagnosed him with mystenia gravis a

serious auto-immune neuron-muscular disease where the nerves send a message

to the muscles to contract but they don’t respond.

As a result of the disease his esophagus was four times normal size. He

couldn’t keep food and water down and developed severe pneumonia. Faced

with a chronic auto-immune disease and severe pneumonia he began today in

critical condition at the animal hospital. I had to make the decision I

dreaded. As I talked to Debi friends and various vets I remembered the

look he gave me on Christmas night. Was “please help me” this time a plea

to help him out of his pain?

Debi drove since I was too upset to operate a motor vehicle and I wanted

to really think about the decision. When I saw him I realized it was time

for him to go. He was so weak he couldn’t get on his feet. He couldn’t even

accept the treat we offered him by hand. Debi and I didn’t want to make the

decision to let him go but we had to.

It was so hard to say good-bye to him. I know we did right by Shadow but it

really hurts to not have him on the floor by my chair tonight or to not

have him to go for a walk around the neighborhood tonight. Shadow had a

depth of character and a soul that I will truly miss.

Whatever those first 10 odd years of his life were like I do believe we

made him happy in the last 6 months and I know he left us today

surrounded by love.

He drifted away with us holding him and petting him.