I can remember when we first saw Dax in 1997, a clumsy 8 week old German Shepherd pup with gorgeous coloring and a docile demeanor. I picked him up and laid him in my arms, looking down into his brown puppy eyes as he looked back at me curiously. It was love at first sight.
Dax was actually my parent's dog, as I was leaving for college in the fall of 1997. However, whenever I came home, loud barks and sloppy wet kisses always awaited me. Dax and I were the best of friends, and went everywhere we could together when I came home from school. Going on jogs, playing fetch until 11:00 p.m. at the local park, racing around the house. I can remember his first experience with water when I tossed him as a young pup into Chartiers Creek in Meadow Lands, PA. He was so funny, slapping at the water with his ears down, totally hated it. But after swimming a few times, he would actually run ahead of me on the dirt trail toward the creek and I would hear a loud SPLASH in the distance. That was Dax swimming already.
Dax loved to swim! When we moved to Florida, I taught Dax how to retrieve toys from the bottom (yes, the bottom) of the swimming pool. This was by far his greatest trick. Holding his breath for up to 10 seconds, he would dive into our pool's deep end and retrieve toys from the bottom. Everyone who saw this was always impressed. Dax would swim as long as we would let him, hours on end. He loved the water.
Dax also loved playing fetch. He would spin in circles when he saw me reach for his leash or a tennis ball, which meant we were going to the park. He would jog alongside me around the track when I exercised, and if you have ever ran with a German Shepherd, it is a wonderful feeling. He would remain ever vigilant to anyone who came around. You never felt scared when Dax was in the house with you.
And boy, when Dax was in the house with you, he was ALWAYS there. He slept in bed with us from time to time, but usually lied alongside. He had his "spot" on the couch, and should you even begin to pet him, he would nudge your hand with his muzzle each time you stopped petting. He was always so bright eyed, looking at you and ever ready to obey any command thrown his way. His ears perked and turned constantly, ready to save the family if need be.
When Dax was 5, Tiffany brought home a companion, a Cocker Spaniel puppy named Broadway. The two were friends right from the start, as Boradway clung to him like a little brother. Now Dax had a playmate, and they spent many days playing together or sleeping together on the couch.
When we moved to our new home in Florida, Dax was 9 years old. His back legs were still pretty good, but would give him trouble on occasion. His endless fetch sessions were now becoming shorter as he would lay down after a while, signaling to me it was time to go home. He was still an awesome protector of his family, and he would alert us to the slightest noises without fail.
In the recent months, Dax's back legs were getting worse and worse. He was unable to get into the car, and our fetch sessions turned more into a sit down session at the park where he would just enjoy the scenery. Our trips turned into short walks around the yard, as he enjoyed laying in the grass and watching us do yard work. From his irritated cries, you could tell he was becoming annoyed that he was having so much trouble participating in the things he used to do. Soon enough, his attempts to even get up from laying down sounded painful.
We went through cortisone shots, anti-inflammatory pills, and everything the vet could recommend, but he advised us that his time was coming, which was a diagnosis that Tiffany and I weren't interested in hearing or considering at the time. Our last visit to the vet he informed us that he would give him another pain shot, but that Dax's legs were really bad. He gave us a month. That apointment was 5 months ago.
Tiffany and I live in a 2-story home, and since January we had been carrying Dax up and down the stairs for bed. He didn't mind, waiting for us at the stairs to go up and down. He truly loved being close to us, sleeping by our bed and sitting by our sides. All the while his back legs got worse and worse, with muscle disappearing and Dax stumbling and tripping when he walked, never missing an opportunity to lie down when he could.
He was also starting to lose control of his bladder and bowels. This we didn't mind, as long as he was still in non-serious pain and able to move OK. Cleaning a floor was a fine alterntive to losing a friend.
Yesterday when I came home from work, Dax was not able to get up anymore. As I called to him, he attempted time and again, but with loud whines and then collapsing again. His eyes looking into mine, he trembled sadly. I sat with him, knowing this was the cue that my baby was ready to go.
I hoisted Dax up and carried him outside into the backyard to sit in the grass, which he loved. I sat alongside him and we shared a beer together. I thought back to the amazing memories I had with him and the times in my life when he was my only friend. My one true friend. I gave him a bone to eat and a stuffed animal, which he tore into a hundred pieces, most likely to vent his pain. His bladder began a steady trickle which would continue through the night and next day.
When Tiffany came home from work that night, we ordered 2 pizzas, 1 for Dax and 1 for us. Dax devoured his meatlovers pizza, and we sat with him and Broadway having a picnic. We cried and joked, talked about the great times with Dax and how replacing such a wonderful dog would be downright impossible. We both slept with Dax, as he had a long and painful night, crying through most of the night as we gave him asprin and other medicine. It was obvious that his hip and leg degeneration had taken over his entire back half, and he was paralyzed from the waist down.
When we awoke from a long night at 8:00, Dax was awake as well. We cooked him a big steak and potatoes breakfast, which he happily wolfed down. We then prepared him for his last car ride, picking him up in his blanket and carrying him to the car. Dax was in a lot of pain at that point, snapping at me (which never happened) and trying to get us to stop moving him around. (Dax hadn't moved willingly for 2 days).
We drove to the vet in a daze, quite sad, keeping an eye on our baby. When we got there, they brought a stretcher out as Tiffany and I sat with Dax, softly singing to him and kissing his head, brushing his fur, reminding him of the love we will always have for him. The nurses then came out and slid Dax onto the stretcher where he lost control of his bladder heavily. He looked at me and I reassured him he was going to feel no more pain. I made sure he saw me in his sight from then on.
Dax slowly fell asleep in my arms and died at 11:45 on 5/7/08. As they administered the drugs, I whispered to him about how much he would be missed and how much he was loved. Then I broke down and cried, more heavily than I think I ever have. His head relaxed in my hands as I soaked his fuzzy face with my tears. Tiffany was just as upset as we said goodbye to the best dog I've ever had.
Goodbye for now Dax! You are in no more pain, and once again running for the toys. Keep alert my baby, for one day you will once again hear me calling your name. Sadly missed......