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Lynne and I lost a wonderful friend and companion of 7 years this week. Reo (short for Oreo because he was black with a white middle) had slowly deteriorated over the weekend from what started as a broken and bleeding toenail. He then ate a plant to calm his nausea then threw most of it up (the plant turned out to be toxic), therefore adding to the stress he was already feeling. After several days of listlessness his heart finally gave out. The vets didn't fully understand all that was going on in this 150 pound Great Dane but it seems that the very loving and sensitive heart that so endeared him to us just couldn't handle the pain and discomfort of the calamity of events that led to his demise.
The deep love we felt for Reo left us crying and empty for several days. That vacuous feeling was well earned. Reo was human like, more so than most humans I've known. He would sit with me most every night. He would place his hindquarters on my ottoman leaving his feet on the floor like a Lion statue with a look of proud nobility as he watched outside for a suspicious visitor to warn away with his booming bark. After he served an hour or two of guard duty he would then lay his monster sized head on my arm as if to say, "Well, everything is secure for the eve master", then gradually he would ease his way into sharing my chair fully. There we would share a mutually cozy dose of contentment before fully retiring for the night.
As a puppy he slept with us until he got so big that the three of us could not all fit in the king sized bed. But on particularly thunderous nights we would relent and find a way for us all to fit thus calming Reo's fears. If I were to come up to bed after he and Lynne had already stretched out I would have to play king of the bed with him. He would playfully but fiercely growl and slap at me when I asked him to move or get off the bed. I would egg him on as it made Lynne laugh hysterically.
Great Danes like most giant breeds live shorter lives. But emulating their over sized bodies, they leave over sized impacts on those that share their lives.
The catharsis of grief has left us exhausted. We hear ghost barks. We expect to see him in his usually places. We've realized that we needed to pet him (he loved to have his majestic chest rubbed) as much as he needed to be appreciatively stroked.
He was raised with a Jack Russell Terrier named Sadie (I know you're asking why the disproportionate size match - so were we) so he had the playful demeanor of a terrier. But he never lost his Daneness. He would lean against you to show his affection. He wanted your hand in his mouth at least once a day. He had a cookie jar on the counter with his rawhide bones in it - he would rattle it with his nose at least once a day to make sure he got his "bone-y". The counter was also fair game for anything else food-like that we forgot to put higher.
He loved to tease Lynne with stubbornness; playing "I'll come in when I'm good and ready", then prancing right past her when Alpha Randy would give him a command. I especially liked that about him; he let me trump Lynne in at least one area of control (Good Dog Reo!)
Reo lived through these years as our grandchildren were born and started growing up too. They knew him as a horse like creature who would never do them harm. They all loved Reo. He stood at my Dad's side wanting him to come play when Dad was too sick to get out of his chair; but at least he asked.
He would play fetch as vigorously as Sadie until he got older; then he would let her fetch it half way back then gallop up to take the ball away from her when she was only a few feet away. He loved to wrestle with Sadie; and though he could have easily hurt her he always knew just how much he could getaway with without hurting her. He would carry her around the yard after she grabbed on to his collar like she was a rag doll.
The better part of any day was calling Lynne to tell her I was almost there and finding him ecstatically prancing in the drive way, welcoming me with an enthusiasm that defined the word (the word does come from the idea of the presence of God in us). Being so tall he would be looking in the window of the car as I parked. He would stand there looking at me with ears perked and tail wagging saying, "Well, get out big boy and give me my hug and a wrestle!" Yep, he said that.
We will continue to miss this amazing (a strong enough adjective escapes me as does a tear just now) person in dog skin. He brought a precious abundance of joy and smiles and endearment to us.
I found myself asking Dr. Lawson if dogs go to heaven as we all continued to pet Reo just after he had died. She said that Dogs like Reo are good souls...so of course.
I knew that, but just then I needed to hear someone else say it. If the Lion lies down with the Lamb in the future state of Rightness, then I can also envision heaven for me as coming home to a house full of all those people and animals I've loved in this life, including the front porch of my house in His Glory being covered with those tail-wagging puppies. See yah later, Reo.
Woof! (love yah)
Copyright © 2007 Randy Hurst
Published by special permission from the author. Any further use must receive the author's approval.
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