Gratitude lists are timely this time of the year as American Thanksgiving beckons. Many of us are thankful for the family, friends, pets, and blessings that are in our lives. However, we should also be grateful for what is not in our reality anymore. While it sounds counter-intuitive it really is not. For everything that leaves our lives, something equal or better enters, and this includes people, places, and things. Some spiritual teachings say that we must discern what is or is not in our best interest. Sometimes what leaves our lives is a matter of timing and/or they are simply not in our best interest to keep around. Since 2008, losing the Rockies and Canada as my places of residences were grateful loses because it opened up the space and place to have California as home sweet home. Long-time friends have remained but in July 2011 I lost my 16 year old German Shepherd named Benjie. He had been in frail health after several bouts of cancer and he had been with the family through a major move. Benjie outlived the average age of his breed whose life expectancy is approximately 10 to 13 years. When Bejnie went to the Rainbow Bridge last summer I was convinced that he was the last of my German Shepherds. The thought of another dog felt wrong. In all honesty it was selfish because I just couldn't bear the thought of going through the loss of another beloved canine again.
Benjie was the perfect dog. Yes, every guardian thinks their pet is the best. The truth is they all are. Pets pick us in my opinion. Benjie was protective, alert, and his bark was nowhere near his bite. Typical of his breed he was a big softie underneath. Fierce and loyal, tough and tender, guard dog to the end but loving and kind. He was my protector, my friend, and in my heart the best Ambassador for his breed. Benjie had all those German Shepherd qualities that has marked the breed: intelligent, quick to train, obedient, and athletic. In his last few years his deterioration was tough to watch. The noble nature of a German Shepherd left him as arthritis and senility took hold. I held on to him as long as I could and finally, when it became evident it was his time, he spent the night crying in pain and also because he knew he was going to heaven. The first week without him I was in grief and I didn't care that people thought it was silly to want to see a pet bereavement counselor. By Thanksgiving 2011 I was able to be thankful to have had such a "braverhund" (good dog) in my life or so long. Like many have said on German Shepherd facebook fan sites, anyone who thinks a dog can't love you back has never known the love of a German Shepherd. The first few months after Benjie was gone I'd tear up at the site of a Deutscher Schaferhund (the breed's name in its native Deutsch) in an ad or if I saw a K-9 in the BART with its handler.