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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Why She's Named Promise

April 12--

A little background on why I named the boat Promise. Well, she represents just that, a promise -- one I made to my best friend. His name was Shep. You may have seen him listed as First Mate Emeritus under Ship's Info. Shep was an Australian Shepherd and the love of my life. He and I were "best friends, bosom buddies and life-long pals", as Fred and Barney used to say. Shep was a very special dog -- he was born on St. Valentine's Day and everyone who saw him fell instantly in love with him. I'll get a photo up as soon as I can and maybe you'll see what I mean. Unfortunately, he had a bad birth defect, the result of an accidental merle-merle cross. If you know anything about breeding dogs, you'll know why that's bad. (If you don't know anything about breeding dogs, let me just tell you, that's bad!) Anyway, he was born with what is known among Aussie breeders as "ocular dysgenesis complex". What that means is he had multiple problems with his eyes, he was blind in the right and couldn't see out of the left and, to make matters worse, he was deaf as well. I was the only one who believed he deserved a chance at a happy life, so he became my constant companion. Maybe it was his physical problems that gave him his outlook on life, maybe it was St. Valentine, I don't know, but he was the sweetest, happiest dog I've ever known with a unique personality all his own. But I digress. The point is, I made several promises to him over the years, and I managed to keep all but one.

You see, Shep loved the sea. He loved being on boats or even just near boats. He could stand on a dock for hours facing into the wind, sniffing the sea breeze. Well, we'd both do that. And I promised him that one day we'd have a boat all our own and we'd go sailing 'round the world and find out what that odor was he was smelling and find where it was coming from. But time goes by, and life was rough for us. I had a hard time finding good work and just as I'd get some money saved up something would break or something would go wrong somewhere and just like that the money was gone. But we got by and Shep was happy.

Then on St. Valentine's Day of 2001, his 11th birthday, Shep went into a seizure that wouldn't stop. I took him to the veterinarian who gave him some medication to knock him out and stop the seizure. Despite his physical problems, Shep had enjoyed good health most of his life, although recently he'd developed diabetes. That probably complicated things. He spent a few days in the hospital and had a bunch of tests before he finally came home. He seemed exhausted and for the first time in his life looked old. After a few weeks, he seemed to improve, but then he suddenly developed diarrhea -- a problem with his medications. Back to the vet for more tests. He became weak, and I had to carry him up and down a flight of stairs 3 times a day so he could go outside and do his business. The diarrhea went away after a few weeks, but then one night he started vomiting, and it was obvious he was in pain. This time it was a trip to the emergency vet. Numerous x-rays and tests later, he was diagnosed with a bad gall-bladder. More medicines. He was getting weaker. He could only stand up with my help and I had to continue carrying him outside. I was missing work because I'd rather stay with him. He was still alert, though. Fetch was one of his favorite games. He could barely stand now, let alone chase the ball, but one night we had a fun game of fetch -- Shep laying on his side on the floor and me sitting a few feet away. I would roll the ball towards him so that it would stop just next to his nose. He would watch it for just a moment, as if it might suddenly roll away, then reach out and grab the ball. He'd chew it vigourously for a few seconds, then spit it out right back to me. But he got tired after about 30 minutes. He got tired easily at this time.

After a few more weeks and a few more problems, and to make a long and painful story shorter, Shep came looking for me one day. Something was wrong, and he knew it. I looked at him and he was cyanotic -- completely blue -- he wasn't getting any oxygen. Another trip to the hospital and more tests. He spent the whole day there, but I finally took him home. All he wanted to do was lay in the grass; Shep loved the outdoors. Eventually, I put him inside -- I had work to do and I needed to know he was safe in the house. Later, when I went inside to give him his nightly meds, he was gone. He had laid down and died.

I have always regretted not having the opportunity to take Shep sailing on our own boat, but I haven't forgotten the promise I made to my little buddy. I sold the house, a house I'd bought just for him so he'd feel more comfortable, and used the proceeds to buy a little boat and fulfill a little promise. A promise to my best friend...

A boat named Promise.


Blogger Don said...

I cried as I wrote this essay, and I still cry whenever I read it.

I miss you, Shep.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005  

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