Remembering and Honoring Prince
On Super Bowl Sunday our beloved German Shepherd Prince passed away. To honor him this newsletter is dedicated to telling his and our story with him.
MEETING PRINCE- THE BEGINNING
Wes was surprised when in the fall of 2011 I told him I wanted a German Shepherd. We had previously adopted 3 golden retrievers, Berkeley, Betty, and Michael, and this breed was a change from our adoption norm. Our house was still mourning the loss of our first dog, Berkeley, who had died of cancer in February. But by that fall I felt it was time to bring another rescue into our household.
We had moved to Maryland that fall for a job opportunity for me, and I had begun the process of researching how to adopt from the Virginia German Shepherd Rescue.
Once we had gotten approved for adoption, we spent several weekends meeting all sorts of German Shepherds, and enjoying the horrible traffic that the infamous Beltway had. We first met Prince at a park near Quantico, Virginia. Our first attempt to walk him was a disaster, as he would jump wildly and bark non-stop! His behavior coach James gave us some tips on walking him, which eventually worked. The second walk was much smoother and we began to fall in love with Prince.
We officially adopted Prince in January of 2012, and he immediately took to liking our existing pack. Our two other dogs, Betty and Michael, didn’t take to him, but he remained polite and respectful of them, especially their seniority in the house.
Prince got off on the wrong foot with Betty soon after we got him. Prince loved squeaky toys. We had this one toy that belonged to our first Golden Berkeley. It was extremely loud. One evening Prince got ahold of it and started squeaking it endlessly. Betty started following Prince; she was clearly annoyed. As soon as Prince put it down, she quickly snatched it up and kept it from him the rest of the night.
We left Maryland in July of that year to move back to Knoxville. During the move home Betty and Michael went to live with my parents in Bristol as we made the transition back to Knoxville. The long drive for me back to Bristol and then later Knoxville was smooth, as Betty and Michael were good passengers who just laid down and slept most of the way. The same experience was not had by Wes, who got to drive Prince back to Knoxville. Wes tells of the experience of Prince getting extremely anxious just as soon as they hit the beltway, leaving Maryland. Prince would bark angrily at every truck that passed. After an hour of non-stop barking and driving through heavy traffic on the beltway, Wes pulled over at the first exit on I-66 and gave Prince 5 Benadryl pills as recommended by his vet. He also gave him some Composure, which we would give to Michael who freaked out during thunder and fireworks. The drugs has zero effect on Prince, as he continued to bark and whine constantly for the entire 8 hour journey!
We bought our house on Surrey Road in October of 2012, and Prince, Betty, and Michael began to settle in to their new digs. Prince became really attached to the house and the fenced in yard and didn’t like leaving for any reason- whether it be to go on a trip or even for a walk in the neighborhood. When we would take him for walks he would make anxious whines and resist leaving the premises- it was as if he never wanted to leave his home base.
OF SERVICE TO OUR FAMILY AND OUR CHURCH
Prince was the ultimate guard dog. He loved going outside in his yard and he eagerly barked at every human who walked by, or dog for that matter, as if to state his guardianship status of his house at 500 Surrey Road. I liked to view him as the true protector, who was incredibly loyal to our family. He was very suspicious of strangers and new people who came to the house, as we would have to carefully introduce them to him and let him know they were ok.
We slept well each night knowing that he was downstairs keeping an eye and ear on things! His big ears would always stand up straight listening for the slightest noise that was out of place or not ordinary. We had occasions where we would hear noises in the basement, and his instincts would always kick in and he would methodically walk downstairs to inspect and make sure everything was ok. When he was finished he would give the “all clear” by coming back upstairs.
Prince, unlike my other dogs, was never food motivated. Whereas our other dogs would eagerly grab the food off your plate, if when offered a treat Prince would gently take it from your hand- and even at that would sometimes drop it on the ground to inspect.
He loved the leather couch in the living room- that became his place, his office, where he would hold court in the evening when we were home watching tv.
One of Wes’s volunteer jobs at our church, St. James Episcopal, was to do a rotation on responding to alarm calls at night (when the alarm was set off). Prince would accompany Wes on those calls, and he stepped up to the job of walking through the church to make sure everything was ok. His natural instinct would take him to methodically searching the perimeter of each room and moving on to the next room without prompting.
In 2015 Betty and Michael passed away, and Prince was the lone dog in the house. You could sense he was lonely, missing the company of the two of them, despite the fact that the affection wasn’t mutual.
We adopted Samuel, a golden retriever lab mix, in November of 2015, and brought him home one Thursday night. We were worried that because of his territorial instincts that there may be an issue between the two of them, so we introduced them outside of the house on the street, where they both went for a walk. And they instantly took to liking each other! Prince accepted his little brother immediately. Samuel turned out to be a feisty little guy, who we could call the “whipper snapper.” He loved scrapping with us and his big brother Prince. Wes and Prince would tag team Samuel during sessions of “Puppy throw down!” Samuel adored his big brother and the feeling was mutual. They would often cuddle together on Prince’s leather couch or you could find them sleeping side by side on the floor.
It is very obvious that Samuel misses him now. When its time to go outside, he’ll often look back at the door to see if Prince is coming behind him. He has been a real comfort to me over these past weeks, coming in to comfort me when he hears me crying about Prince.
In recent months Prince had been having a hard time getting up from the ground, particularly on the hard wood floors in our house, where he couldn’t gain traction to lift himself up. He began to rest more on the oriental rugs in the living and dining rooms, which provided him the traction to get up.
Sunday morning I was woken up by Wes to inform me that something was wrong with Prince. I immediately felt the grief and panic of impending bad stuff, and rushed downstairs to see him. He had fallen down and was unable to get back up.
We went to the Vet at UT and something told me that he had cancer- that it wasn’t just old age but something else. While laying in the floor with him earlier in the afternoon I could tell that he wasn’t all there- like he had mentally check out. Normally when you pet a German Shepherd they pull their ears back in submission. Prince wasn’t doing that now. And he wasn’t responding to his name either.
The trip to UT was short, and we got Prince out and he slowly walked into the hospital. We met with the doctor’s assistant, and she got the information on what was going on with him. His breathing had become erratic, and she wanted to put him on oxygen while they were doing his exam.
We left the examination room and went to the lobby, where we waited to the hear news on him. About one minute after sitting down the doctor’s assistant rushed out to say Prince had entered a critical state, and asked if we advised further treatment, which we did. They promptly gave him fluids, which helped stabilize his condition.
A few minutes later we met with the doctor, and we agreed to have xrays done first to see what was going on with Prince.
An hour later we met with the doctor to get the results. He informed us that Prince had a large tumor on his stomach that was pushing his internal organs to the side of his body. It was likely cancer, and the surgery for removal would likely be unsuccessful, as they would have to put him on his back, which would limit the blood pressure to his heart.
We made the hard, but best decision in Prince’s interests, to tell him goodbye that Sunday night. I held his paw as he breathed his final breaths, telling him how much I loved him and thanking him for being so good to us.
Today is Monday, and I’ve cried several times. It feels like a low level depression or sadness, a dullness, hovering over me. Samuel has seemed upset as well, wondering where his brother is.
This is all the part of the process of loving, and losing, a loved one. The pain is a necessary component and representation of the love felt.
As a dog gets older, you begin to worry about the end coming, and I had that in the back of my mind in recent months with Prince. Despite knowing the end is coming, it doesn’t make the actual event any easier. But there is peace in knowing that he is no longer suffering.
Prince, our protector, we will forever miss you and we pray we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge. You are a wonderful dog and we will forever love you.
THE RAINBOW BRIDGE (AUTHOR UNKNOWN)
There is a bridge connecting Heaven and Earth. It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of its many colors. Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows, hills and valleys with lush green grass.
When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place. There is always food and water and warm spring weather. The old and frail animals are young again. Those who are maimed are made whole again. They play all day with each other.
There is only one thing missing. They are not with their special person who loved them on Earth. So each day they run and play until the day comes when one suddenly stops playing and looks up! The nose twitches! The ears are up! The eyes are staring! And this one suddenly runs from the group.
You have been seen and when you and your special friend meet, you take him or her in your arms and embrace. Your face is kissed again and again, and you look once more into the eyes of your trusting pet.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be separated.