My parents loved dogs, which I’m sure is where I got my love for them. Growing up we had 3 German Shepherds, all males and all named Duke. After Duke #3 went to the Rainbow Bridge, my dad swore he wouldn’t get any more dogs. Famous last words….
My mom passed away in 1995 leaving my dad very lonely, even though she had been in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s. He kept busy by working part time for an old boyhood friend and visiting the nursing home twice a day to feed my mom her breakfast and supper.
A few years after losing my mom, he started thinking about another dog. I was not at all surprised when he called me and told me he had gotten another German Shepherd, this one a female. He couldn’t very well name her Duke so he named her after a nurse that took care of my mom in the nursing home – Tara.
German Shepherds have always been my favorite breed; they're so intelligent and loyal and great protection. Even the nicest dog will scare someone with just one great big bark and a flash of those huge teeth!
She was only 7 weeks old when he got her and he immediately started taking pictures of her and sending them to me. I swear I have more pictures of Tara growing up than I do my own 2 kids!
Here are a couple of pictures of Tara as a pup:
She’s 4 months and 6 months in these pictures. I always thought she’d grow into those ears but she never did. They just kept growing right along with her.
In 2002 I lost my Dad very suddenly. He told me he was putting himself in the hospital because he had pneumonia. He lived in Massachusetts and I’m in Florida so my husband and I jumped in the car and headed north. We got to his house on a Tuesday and on Wednesday he went into the hospital. He passed away Thursday.
For anyone who thinks that animals don’t mourn, let me tell you – they do. The night we got back from the hospital for the last time, Tara went into my Dad’s bedroom, laid on the clothes he changed out of before leaving, and let out the most awful, loud moan. She knew her Daddy wasn’t coming back.
The only people I trusted to keep Tara couldn’t for different reasons. The one person who said he would take her ended his offer with “and if I can’t keep her I have a friend…” I wasn’t about to let her be bounced from home to home, so we brought her home with us.
My Dad always told me that he took Tara to disobedience school. I would laugh thinking he was joking. After living with Tara for a short time, I do believe he meant it. Don’t get me wrong, she was a very good dog, but also a very hard headed dog. And it’s very hard to get a 110 lb. dog to do what you want them to do if they don’t want to do it.
She would sit out in the back yard and when I would call her to come in, she would turn her back to me and act like she didn’t hear me. She would just look all over the place but not at me. I swear I heard her saying "La la la la la I can't hear you". Dumb animals – yeah, right!
Tara was TERRIFIED of thunder storms. Her ears would go back, her eyes would get huge and she’d pant like crazy. I began calling it her thunderstorm face. When we saw her like that we know something was scaring her and we would brace ourselves because she would try to become a lap dog.
She had a lot of funny habits, one was barking without making a sound. Honest! She would mouth the word “woof”. When she did that she either needed to go outside or she wanted fresh water. You could tell because if she wanted to go out, she’d “woof” and look out the window. Who says dogs can’t talk??
I always called her our gentle giant. She was so good with other animals, never hurt any of them. She actually is the one who found our cat. Frankie was a tiny kitten about the size of Tara’s muzzle. She would attack Tara and grab her tail and wrestle with it and Tara would just lay there and let her play. They grew very close and at the end, Frankie would back up to Tara and they’d lay together on the floor and sleep. When we brought home our second mini-dachshund, I got the best picture of the 2 of them together. Smoke was about 2 months old at the time. Tara leaned down to sniff him and Smoke gave her a kiss.
She was such a sweet dog. The only thing I ever worried about with her and the smaller animals was that she might step on one of them.
Tara could also sound very ferocious when she wanted to or felt she needed to. Let anyone come to the door and she would bark and bare her teeth. Strangers would think twice about knocking again, which I liked since I was home alone most of the time. But as soon as either I or my husband let someone in the door, she knew right away they must be all right and would cover them in great big doggie kisses.
In 2010, right around the time Tara turned 12 years (she was a Christmas baby) she started having trouble with her hind quarters. She walked with a wobble and would slip on our hard wood floors. I would walk into the living room and find her spread-eagled on the floor. I would put my feet against her hind feet and she would push herself back up. I went out and bought a lot of throw rugs and put them everywhere to keep her from hurting herself.
She took a real turn for the worse in late February of 2011 and it got to the point that she couldn’t stand at all anymore. My husband was on the road so it was up to me to take care of everything. For several days I tried to get her up but she would get scared. I ended up letting her stay on the rug in the living room and I cleaned up after her when she needed me to. I brought her food and water to her while we waited for my son to be able to come and take us to the vet.
On March 3rd my son carried her into the vet’s office and we said good-bye to one of the most gentle, sweet dogs I’ve ever known.
I know Tara is happy though. She and my Dad are together again.