Two weeks ago, I posted here that I was quite mindful of how lucky I was to have two German shepherd siblings, Leben and Erde, for more than 13 years. Today, that luck ran out. I lost my shadow. On Monday, two days after Leben swam his weekly quarter mile, and on the day I was to start packing for our 6th road trip together, I discovered a large fast growing tumor on his head. He was put down at 1:00 p.m. today at home after he rapidly declined over the last four days and he started to suffer. After five futile attempts, nature finally found a way to take this magnificent dog down.
I do not think that I have ever bonded with any creature, human or canine, more than I bonded with Leben. Nor did I ever think that it was possible that a dog could be as loyal and obedient as this magnificent creature was. If the periods of our lives are cataloged in terms of how we spend our time and whom we love, Leben, and with him his sister Erde, would be the only way I could possibly describe these last 13 years.
Over the course of Leben's 13 years, we traveled more than 50,000 miles over 250 days on five road-camping trips together, twice reaching the ends of the road in he northeast, in Labrador, and the ends of the road in the northwest in both Alaska and Northwest Territories in Canada, among many other places. The joyous memories Leben and Erde gave me on those trips, and at home, will last me for the rest of my life.
On Monday, I will take Leben to the pet crematory, where I will stay by his side until I can take his ashes home. His biggest treat in life was to be with me, so I will honor that even in his death.
I miss that magnificent dog so much already.
August 8, 2014
P.S. After Leben died, I wrote an essay for the Washington Post about him, which they published August 24, 2014. Here it is below: