Yesterday, Bernie our Chow/Aussie Shepherd mix of nearly 12 years said goodbye.  He was a true happy warrior.  Responsive, obedient, loving, protective member of our family.  We were introduced to him through the Friends for Life Animal Sanctuary in Gilbert, AZ.  He was roughly two years old at that time.  Bernie exceeded all expectations when we brought him home.  He was thrilled with his newly found freedom and adapted well to our other dogs.  He did nothing more than earn a lofty place in our hearts through the years.

His end came unannounced.  Saturday, he seemed distressed about something and was panting and pacing all day.  I slept in a separate room with him that night, unknowing what I would wake up to the next morning.  I was happy when he got up to get a drink and go outside.  He slept most of the day Sunday, which I could understand because of his restlessness the day before.  Monday, all things seemed right with the world.  He was back to his playful self and I assumed he may have been stung or bitten by something in the desert Saturday, explaining away the condition. Tuesday morning came, and Bernie was out early.  Not normal, as he usually waits for me to get up.  I stepped outside and saw him approach from a corner of the yard where a prior dog (Reagan, a Sharpei) had passed.  Reagan had fought cancer and slipped into the night without notice, appearing to have been ok the day before.  I suspected the same here, and my fear was right.  Bernie was shutting down.  I called the vet, and was rushing to get ready to go.  My wife was sitting with Bernie and he was quickly slipping away.  In a matter of minutes, our gentle friend and guardian said goodbye.  I’m left wondering if I did the right things in the last days of his life.  Did he bounce back on Monday just to spend one more day with us to say goodbye and put up a disguised fight with what was going on internally?  He had been to the vet 3 weeks earlier and was said to be fine.  I’ll never know…I just know he is sorely missed.

Bernie raised the bar for our now current pack of 4.  I know the feeling will eventually pass, but even as I keep telling myself it will be easier next time, it never is.  They all seem so vulnerable at the end, and I just want to do for them as the do for us through the years.   Bernie was a shining star.  His memory will endure.  I just thank God for blessing us with 10 wonderful years.  The picture includes our Bichon Frise (Rush) who passed a couple of years ago at 14.5 years of age.  The adorable little fuzzball.  Bernie now rejoins him in the big playground in the sky.  Love you Bernie!

— Jeff from Mesa, AZ