I consider myself to be pretty experienced with dogs, but there is one thing that many of you have experienced that I had not, and up until now, this has been my little secret. I have never had to put down a dog, until today.
This morning my fiancé, Michael, had to make the heartbreaking decision to put down his 11 year old German Shepherd, Kaiser.
Kaiser lived up to his regal name. He was a 120 lb gentle giant, a true gentleman, and a truly amazing dog. Kaiser was a true alpha dog, he never challenged another dog, but he would not be challenged.
Michael got Kaiser when he was in college up in Bellingham. Kaiser was the ultimate companion dog, he went absolutely everywhere with Michael. As a pup roaming around Bellingham he was almost always off-leash and was by michael's side with just a little "click click" call that was his signal from Michael. Between surfing, camping, snowboarding, partying and more, Kaiser learned the back of Michael's truck was home and whenever he was with Michael, he was a happy guy.
I got my dog, Bailey, when I was the same age, and I think there is something so special about the bond that develops between a kid and their first dog at that age. In college and the ten years following, a whole lot changes! Different houses, different jobs, different friends, different significant others, different schedules, but the one thing that sticks with you through all of that is your dog. The dog learns that you are the one constant thing in their life, and they are the same to you. It would be impossible to raise a dog again the way that Kaiser was raised, and those experiences are what shaped him to be the wonderful companion that he was for those years.
While I only really knew Kaiser in the last half of his life, I love the almost fairytale stories Michael tells me of Kaiser's earlier days. I'd like to celebrate Kaiser today by sharing a couple of these stories with you. (Disclaimer: I can't attest to the accuracy of these stories, you know how storytelling goes, but this is how the stories were told to me and this is how I choose to remember them-
Although I'm interested to hear other versions ;)
Kaiser goes swimming
Michael just told me this one this morning and I couldn't stop laughing.
Up until a few years ago Michael's family lived down the street from View Ridge Pool, where the family were members and the kids grew up swimming. One hot summer day Kaiser decided to take himself on a walk down the street and ended up at the pool where he full speed launched himself into the pool to cool off. Scared screaming children ran out of the pool while the flopped his giant furry paws around and swam around. Apparently every time they got him out of the pool he would launch right back in. Eventually someone had to call Michael to come pick him up. I can just picture the big smile Kaiser had on his face when he finally walked back home.
Kaiser gets a baby sister
Michael loved having a Shepard by his side so much that he got a second one, for his sister, an all black female named Timber.
I forget all the details leading up to this, but basically they were approaching someone's dog who got off leash and was charging towards the sheperds to attack them. The frantic owner called ahead that his dog would bite, and Michael knew Kaiser would handle it. As the dog approached, Kaiser stopped and grabbed tiny Timber with his paw and shoved her underneath him to protect her. I think I stopped listening to the rest of the story because that was so sweet.
In Kaiser's later years, he spent most of his time living with Michael's mom while his dad worked in Alaska during the week. He spent his days in a big yard with all the sticks and soccer balls a dog could dream of. He went on his evening neighborhood walk with his head held high, proud to be protecting his lady. He loved having a job and guarding the house. Which leads to...
Kaiser and Timber on Movie Night
One night while Michael's mom and sister were watching a movie at their old house (by the pool), they heard a noise. They called Michael and he said to "let the dogs out". The dogs were in their fenced in area right next to the house, but they had to go outside to get to the gate to let them out. As soon as they were out, Timber ran in the house and searched every room, every closet, every stairway in their 3 story home. Kaiser took off down the street and searched every yard and driveway, the police believe he actually chased the person away. For two dogs that have never had any formal obedience training, or even ones that had, those are incredible instincts.
The bond between Michael and Kaiser was incredible to watch, up until his last breath. The Kaiser stories will live on forever. He was that kind of dog. Michael's Facebook page is filled with comments of people he's known over the last decade, all sharing their stories of Kaiser. I don't think I've ever known a dog to have this many famous stories to tell.
If you've read this far, then it's time to put down your phone/iPad, shut down your computer, and go spend some time with your dog. And tell them that you love them every day.
We love you Kaiser