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'Loyaultie me lie'

By Gay Published: October 10, 2009

The above is the standard of Richard III of England, who fought to keep his crown and was grievously betrayed. Nevertheless, despite bad press (Shakespeare did much to sully his reputation, because Great Elizabeth's father is the man who defeated Richard and became the usurper of the throne), Richard III was a good ruler, a good man (for the times), and when he gave his oath, he remained loyal to it. All of this happened over 515 years ago, of course, but the expression describes a dog perfectly.

"I am loyal."

Dogs are loyal. Yeah, they might leave your side for a minute if some interloper waggles a fresh, juicy bone in front of her, but basically, your dog will always be loyal to you, to a fault, and to the point that one could cry thinking about their devotion.

Four and a half years ago, my husband Buz had been pulling stumps out of an old garden that was to become an herb garden. He worked all day, but decided he would walk our beautiful, huge Golden Retrievers, Jake and Savannah. I took a shower and had just finished dressing when Buz called and said, "Gay, I feel tired, and I don't think I can make it home. I love you."

I knew which trail they were walking, asked him where he was on the trail, told him to sit down, and I called 911, gave them his location and drove over back country roads about 80 miles an hour. When I got to the trail, I could see the EMT's loading him in the ambulance. We had been in constant contact since he first called, but his phone wasn't ringing. It was too far for me to run in my flipflops, so I asked a young woman if I could borrow her bike and flew down the trail. Lance Armstrong would have trouble keeping up with me. But they pulled away before I got there, and as I was returning the bike a young man came walking up with my dogs, who continually stopped to turn around to look for Buz. They wagged their tails to see me and strained at their leashes. The young emergency worker said they had taken him to a small local hospital, but that the dogs were on either side of him, very protective. They let Buz be helped, but they were watching out.

A friend drove out and got the cars with my dogs waiting in it and took them home. I went to the hospital, where Buz was having a heart attack and was subsequently life-flighted to a large regional hospital. It was nip and tuck for a while, but he survived the attack and the surgery, and came home.

Not six months earlier, he had had both knees replaced--at the same time. Since I was at work all day, it was the dogs who stayed with him, walked by his side as he rehabbed himself. After a few weeks, he walked up and down the driveway, the dogs with him every step. He'd lie down, and they would lie beside him. They were his nurses while I was at work.

Now, he faced another convalescence and rehab. They walked with him, adjusting their usual bounding enthusiasm for more measured steps. As he increased his tempo, so did they--but not until.

In the spring, we noticed foam in their pen and thought that one of them had eaten a mushroom I had missed and hurled it. But one night, while we were upstairs, we heard a huge thumping and odd noises coming from the hallway. It was our beautiful Savannah, having an epileptic seizure.

We took her immediately to the vet who put her on barbiturates, and she seemed to be doing fine, and we were relieved. But toward the end of August, she began seizing, and she was put on a barbiturate drip. As soon as the vet took her off, she seized again. We took Jake to visit Savannah. She was losing brain tissue and there was no hope. The veterinarian heavily drugged her, and the four of us took a last walk together.

Jake busily licked her and engaged her eyes, and Savannah leaned against us and begged us to relieve her suffering.

The three of us were in the room while Savannah was euthanized. Jake's nose was touching hers--she stretched her head to reach him, and we held her. She began to howl and I asked if she were suffering, because I had never had a dog do that. They just died. He said, "no, it's an altered consciousness."

But strangely, Jake threw back his head and howled along with her. We knew they were saying goodbye to each other, and Savannah to us.

Jake was severely depressed for a year. He no longer was the lovable clown, the naughty boy stealing cat food, sitting on couches he was not permitted to sit on. He would make cursory hunts for her, but he knew she was gone. All of us grieved for a very long time. Even as I write this, I have tears falling on the keys. Jake is better now, but he never got over her loss. They were littermates, and they never spent a minute apart. They were always touching; as babies, they'd lie on the same bed pillow, little tails together, or nose to nose.

I know of nothing that is more loyal, more devoted, more dedicated than a dog. Richard's middle English expressed Savannah best. "I am loyal to you, I will give up my life for you, I will stay with you."

Too bad people don't share the morality and devotion of dogs.

-submitted by Gay Fifer, owner of Parsley Hollow, Inc.

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