Until One Has Loved an Animal, A Part of One’s Soul Remains Unawakened. –Anatole France
On Friday, December 4, 2020 I said goodbye to my best friend. My beautiful, sweet Raven. Hers was a life well-lived. In our years together, I gave her the best of me. The best food, toys, adventures…My family gave her the best kind of love. But what she gave us in return far surpassed anything we could have given her.
Raven came into our lives as a young pup and immediately stole our hearts. We purchased her from Haus Juris, a German Shepherd breeder in Gainesville, VA, where we used to live. She instinctively knew she was to watch over my boys and she did it perfectly. Her and my youngest bonded quickly and their relationship only grew through the years. She always wanted to be where her boys were. And she loved settling down by them and napping when they were relaxing.
I grew up loving the German Shepherd breed and with Raven I finally had the chance to pursue my dreams of training a working dog. It became a passion and Raven willingly trained alongside me. She loved to work! We began with basic obedience at Haus Juris and I recall many days of long talks with the owner, Megan Judge. She taught me so much about the breed and to this day, I treasure her wisdom.
Raven and I eventually began training in the use of the e-collar and it opened up the door to finally living the life of freedom with a GSD I had always dreamed about. Through this training, I met Garry, our main trainer. We hit it off and have remained friends still today. His knowledge and experience with training helped us so much. Finally Raven and I could roam about on our adventures with her e-collar and the freedom we both grew to love.
Raven made friends wherever she went. You couldn’t help but fall in love with her. While she was every bit an alpha, she had the kindest heart with people. She was gentle and loving. She and I had a very special bond. She grew to know my next move before I even took it! We were connected on a deep level and she went everywhere I went. She went on our family vacations and adventures – If she couldn’t go, I didn’t go. We thrived off each other.
In 2016 I retired from my first career and my family moved north to PA. Without the long hours I’d previously worked, Raven and I suddenly had lots and lots of time together while everyone else was in school or working. Our days were filled with local hikes and adventures. But during that time, I also had to deal with some personal struggles and losses. I can honestly say that Raven is what pulled me through that darkness. She instinctively knew I was hurting and she always knew how to pull me away from the pain I was going through. Simply put – She saved me.
In January 2019 we were crushed with devastation. Raven ruptured three discs in her spine. She was paralyzed and we thought we were going to lose her. But God sent us a miracle by the name of Dr. David Brewer, DVM, DACVIM, at Hope Veterinary Specialists. As a neurosurgeon, he was able to repair the damage and save her life. It was a long road to recovery but I slept next to Raven for 6 weeks and gave her all she needed to recover. And she did just that!
Life was a bit different after the injury. We couldn’t do the long hikes anymore and she couldn’t jump like before. But it was ok. We adapted and found new ways to have fun! She remained just as loyal and loving as she’d always been.
During 2020 our family decided to sell our home and move to a nearby neighborhood. We moved into our new home in early November. Raven really seemed happy here and she settled right in. Life was good…Until the early morning hours of Tuesday, December 2. Raven woke me up to go outside, something she never did. We went out and I noticed it was taking her a very long time to “empty.” That’s when it began. I immediately knew something was wrong. She kept wanting to go out but she couldn’t “empty” normally. Hardly anything came out.
I took her to the vet that day and they weren’t sure what was wrong. They sent her home with an antibiotic but I knew it was something else that medicine wasn’t going to fix. I spent that night and the following night with her making repeated trips outside. By Thursday, I knew I was taking her back to Hope Veterinary Specialists. She didn’t seem to be in pain and was happy to hang outside in the sun. So I grabbed my camera and we spent the afternoon together, talking and taking pictures like we used to do.
That evening, I took her to Hope. After 4 hours, I learned that there was definitely some type of mass in her. She’d entered distress by then with her distended bladder. Thankfully God helped them get a Catheter in her, past the mass, and they were finally able to empty her bladder. I returned home around 3am and tried to sleep. Friday early evening the radiologist finally did her ultrasound and confirmed my worst nightmare…Raven had cancer.
Her cancer had spread. We made the incredibly difficult decision to end her suffering. My family was able to spend some time with her at the hospital that night. Then my husband and I laid down with her as she crossed over.
There are no words to express my pain and emptiness. She was such a part of me, as I was such a part of her, it’s as if we were connected to each other and without her I have this void. Everything feels disjointed and broken. I know in time the heaviness will lighten a bit but life will be different now without her. There will never be another Raven but I know that my family needs a new GSD to help us heal her loss. And so the search begins.
I will love you forever, my sweet, beautiful Raven. You are irreplaceable and one of a kind. Thank you for loving our family and giving us so much more than we could ever have given you. I know I will see you again one day. Until then, I hope you find Lakota, Cooper and Macchia up there and I hope all of you are running and playing fast and free! Just promise me you’ll be waiting for me the day I finally cross over and come home…Until Then…