Two dogs with big hearts, that now leave broken hearts
Any touching story about a dog is one that I am bound to read. I love dogs. I have had a dog beside me for most of my life.
But I didn't want to read our story about Astor, the DuPage County Sheriff's Department bomb-sniffing dog who suddenly became ill. Cancer had ravaged his body. Astor was mercifully euthanized.
It wasn't that the story, by Christy Gutowski, was a poor read. It was wonderful work.
It was just too hard for me to get through.
Because on the same day that story ran, Oct. 17, I was hoping beyond hope that the same thing wasn't going to happen to my dog, Savannah. Like Astor, she quickly got very sick.
I clung to faint optimism that the huge lumps in her throat and in her belly that seemed to come out of nowhere weren't what I feared. But a biopsy confirmed cancer. It was very aggressive. Within days of that diagnosis, my golden retriever stopped being the spunky, attentive, sometimes irritating but always playful dog I'd grown to love.
But even as the tumors made every move a chore and began to disfigure her sweet face, Savannah still would pull herself up to greet me, her tail wagging in time with her signature panting.
There is nothing quite like a dog in the rhythmic throes of joy at being with a human being. Tails fanning the air at all the fun, paws prancing and ears perked full forward in anticipation of the greeting that comes with a pat on the head or a gentle slap on the side. Imagine coming home after being away from your family for many years at a time. Think of the lovingly robust welcome home. It is that way for a dog, every day you walk through the door.
But Savannah was suffering. So Monday, it stopped. We put her to sleep.
This is never easy. Don't ever tell me these are just animals. But what made this particularly hard is that she was just past her pup stage. And we put her down just two years after we had to do the same with our other golden retriever, Scarlett, who at least lived to 10.
It's so sad, and strange. I swear I can still hear Savannah padding down the hallway, hitting the place where the floor creaks, heading to the bedroom window where she would stand sentry against noises in the night. And then nestling up against the side of the bed, putting herself between me and danger, even if it wasn't there though she wasn't going to take any chances. I think I miss that the most.
I had a grudging admiration for her occasional stubborn streak, as much as it irritated me when she wouldn't immediately obey commands. If Noah had had to wait on Savannah to come before he launched the Ark, the world would be under water. But I guess this whole loyalty and obedience thing can get to be a bore, and a dog sometimes just has to have its fun.
I went back and finished reading the story about Astor. A great dog. Heckuva cop. Smart German shepherd, he was. Sniffed out guns and explosives on 42 occasions. He was a fixture in the DuPage County courthouse, too.
But at the end of his day, Astor was just another dog ready for a good time, and dedicated to his master.
"All he wanted to do was to go to work and for us to be together," said his handler, Deputy George Foy. "He was so social, but also very protective of me."
Much like Savannah.
A hard thing to let go of.
"My heart is broken," Foy said.
As is mine.