~ October 15th 1999 – October 5th 2011 ~
Life is always a coming and going. It is sad losing grandparents and later parents along the way. And later, as we approach our final curtain, we begin to lose our friends. But something else sad occurs in our journey along life’s path. We live longer than our pets, and we have to deal with losing them. Over the years we lose a number of them. It is never easy, and it never gets easier. If anything it’s ten times harder each time. When my parents passed away I grieved deeply. Losing one’s parents is difficult, perhaps even more so when, like me, one is an only child. All your ties with the past are cut forever. All the questions one wanted to ask, all the things one didn’t get a chance to say echo now in the emptiness. But when my faithful German Shepherd passed away four years ago on this date, it was as if a piece of my heart was torn out. Staring into that empty hole is hard. The bitter taste it leaves never quite goes away.
Jalk was the most intelligent, well-behaved, kind and loving dog I have ever known, and I’ve known many. A dog’s unconditional love and constant companionship is one of life’s most treasured gifts. The girlfriend I had at the time in 2001 rescued Jalk from the Frankfurt airport, where he had been trained as a guard dog. He was a year and a half old and had already been through a lot. Trained at first in Bavaria as a sport dog, he had been abused because apparently he didn’t always want to do what his trainers expected. At the airport too he was mustered out of service because when commanded to jump and grab and hold onto the trainer’s arm, he would sometimes let go. Actually I always thought that he was very smart because it seemed as if he didn’t really want to do that kind of work. He probably would have been shipped to the U.S. had we not intervened.
He was stubborn in the beginning if I commanded him in German (I think he had the memories of his earlier abusive trainers), so I taught him in English and from that point on he obeyed with no problems, no hesitation. We both had a deep trust in one another. He never begged, he never stole food, you could take him anywhere (in Europe people take their dogs in stores, to restaurants, to pet supply stores, just about anywhere except supermarkets, butcher shops and bakeries) and you wouldn’t even know a dog was there he was so quiet and well-behaved. He was a good-sized German Shepherd, large husky men would cross to the other side of the street when they saw us coming. Actually it was funny; because when she took him for walks he protected her completely. But when I went walking with him, he expected me to protect him. I suppose in his eyes I was the alpha dog. I could tell a thousand stories, share so many memories, but here is not the place for that. I just wanted to remember this sad day. He passed away ten days before his twelfth birthday, not a bad age for a Shepherd.
He died peacefully in my arms, on this day four years ago. Not being a believer in any kind of afterlife, I know that I won’t ever scratch his head behind his ears or look into those deep sad brown eyes again, but his memory and the joy that he gave me will stay deep in my thoughts until I too take that last walk into nothingness. Hail and farewell my friend, my life would have been so much less rich and more meaningless without you…
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