Animal Writes
13 February 2000 Issue
The Love and Loss of Cheyenne

By David Meyer

Former President of Last Chance For Animals

Words cannot express the sadness I feel at the recent loss of my nine-year companion and close friend, Cheyenne, a hundred pound shepherd mix. He died on Saturday, October 30, just 2 days after my birthday. One would not think that the loss of a dog would have such a profound impact on a person, but he continues to teach and surprise me even in his death.

I've made a career out of seeing suffering and death of animals and limiting my emotional reaction, but with Cheyenne this is not possible -- I'm distraught. He was an integral part of my family and my life, he was a source of joy and support for me, and was among my closest friends. He was a part of my daily routine, an integral part of my world, my plans, and my actions for almost a decade. And his death is made more difficult for me by a deep sense of guilt -- a true irony -- that in my fanatic attempt to devote all my attention to save the animals of the world, neglected giving the proper attention to animals in my own home and family.

I adopted him from a rescue kennel in Canoga Park. I had asked for their biggest dog, and they took me to "Scooner", a 2 year old, lanky, goofy looking dog with scars on his head and a piece of his ear missing. They told me he had been caged for a year, and had been returned by a family because he had fought with their other dog. I looked at his bouncing gate and excited and friendly attitude and insisted that he was free forever of his cage. His name was now Cheyenne and he was coming home with us.

We took him to the car and it was clear he needed to stretch his elongated legs. As Shama waited, I began to run with him down the street. I instantly found myself sprinting at full speed, being dragged even faster forward by a dog who had been caged for so long. He was born to run -- he didn't like leashes. His energy was endless, and as we put him in the car, we knew his life was about to change. He was going to our home in Agua Dulce, with a full two acres of backyard and his new lifelong companion, Poki.

The years can't be summed up in one story. His many fun and odd antics. One of the first days in his new home when our housemate (who was a hunter, of all things) yelled at Cheyenne to get off his favorite bean-bag chair. Cheyenne immediately obliged, but before leaving the room, he lifted his leg and emptied his entire bladder on the chair before the hunter's stunned eyes.

The time he started a stampede of cattle running our way in the middle of the night in the Golden Trout Wilderness as Shama and I sat trembling in our tent.

The way he would chase me on my runs in the mountains, inspiring me to run faster by nipping at my arms and at my rear end.

His insistence on jumping into the car whenever the door was open -- and staying in there until we went somewhere fun.

The way he would literally sit on my head, posting a quiet guard on my squirming body.

His never failing habit of passing me on a walk by brushing under my down-stretched fingers to let me know he was at my side.

The time we went camping and he passed me on a thin ridge by brushing under my down-stretched fingers to let me know he was at my side -- as his strapped-on saddlebags with his food nearly knocked me of the cliff.

His game of pretending to be asleep at home and then lurching forward with a viscous growl in hot pursuit of a passing cat, only to corner his little friend and caress him gently with his nose.

His curious habit of drinking a lot of water before bed time, then happily running toward the bed for a pat on the head, only to burp up the water onto the sheets. This may not sound like a happy memory, but you just had to know the "Glorfman" to appreciate it.

His love of small dogs, and his love affair with the dachshund across the street.

His faithful return to my calls and whistles. His loyalty to me and Poki, to the cats, to Shama and then to Genia, who helped me realize how needy he had become and helped me care for him.

In the second half of his life, health issues continued to plague him. Surgery on both knees, onset of seizures, arthritis in his spine. His spirit never waned, even as our runs turned into walks. Even lying down and getting up became a difficult chore. His medication time became a regular fixture of his, my and Genia's lives, getting me out of bed in the mornings and making me come home virtually every night for years. He didn't like the pills, didn't like the squirts of fluid in his mouth, but always willingly came to me and let me give them to him. He was the very definition of a "Good Boy".

He was there for me through my divorce, always present and a gift in my life -- Me, Poki and Chey (pronounced Shy). Even as walking became difficult, he could always jump up and spin around when it was time for a walk, heralding the upcoming adventure with his characteristic and slow "Wooo Wooo Wooo". He was the dog I called Bubberific -- the Munker -- the Big Baloonias and many other names. But he was just Cheyenne. In every asked for attention, he also said to me "you are important" and "I need you".

I wasn't there when he needed me most.

Genia and I were at a press conference helping animals, and then exercising near the beach. His intestines twisted and in a condition apparently not uncommon in some older large dogs, his stomach bloated. Over a span of what must have been unbearably painful hours he died without me at his side -- a place I had always promised to be. I had heard of this condition, and always knew it was the odd type of thing that would probably kill him. I had just discussed it several weeks before with my friend Paula who is a vet.

I cannot have been with him every moment, and perhaps the surgical remedy for this condition would simply have been another in a growing list of painful conditions for a dog who was physically deteriorating. But I could have kept him bathed and more desirable for longer petting from my hands. We wanted to take him swimming. His favorite swimming hole had dried for the summer, and there was no water hole we could either find, or he could hike to with his weakening body. We were going to take him to a lake the next day and willingly accept a fine for breaking the law to let him swim. Genia had just moved in, which promised to mean a great deal more attention for Chey and my other animals. Chey won't get that attention now -- attention he so deserved.

So I say to him that I love him forever. I miss him in every room of the house and in every mountain. I'm sorry I didn't give him more love, more attention. I'm sorry I didn't take him swimming more often. I'm sorry I neglected him for the fur campaign. I thank him for nine years of daily love and friendship. I miss him. Poki misses him. Genia misses him. The world has dulled its colors in tribute to a lost and lovely boy. And I say to God, give him peace and freedom. Let him run free - Cheyenne does not wear a leash. Feed him Natures Recipe Vegetarian dog food, and he won't be needing his pills. And please, give him a bath and take him swimming. I couldn't. And forgive me if I don't save the animals of the world for at least a few days. This desk and computer at which I sit took my attention away from him and I hate them.

And for those who think that a dog is "just a dog", that the entire world can't have changed because there is one less pair of eyes looking at you every morning, it is your loss to never know the true and divine meaning of real unconditional love, unconditional and complete trust, and never ending friendship. No human can ever give it.

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