Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

C: The Legend of Shadow

shadow Do all of you have “legendary” pets?  I certainly hope so.  We have many, in fact almost all of the pets we have owned over the years have their own legends.  But the one that stands out—the one about whom almost all my friends have memories—was our Alaskan Malamute, now gone from us for years; I forget how many, but more than five, I know.


He was a gift to us from V.  V and her family owned Shadow’s mother, Brenna.  When Brenna had her first litter, V called and offered.  We accepted and V and her family actually chose him from the litter for us.  He came to us as “Big Mac” because he was the largest of the bunch.  We looked him over and decided he just did not look like that name to us.  My son’s good friend came up with the perfect one: “Shadow.”

Shadow’s coloring was striking.  He was black and white, and his eyes were ice blue against the black eyeliner of his coat pattern with shadowy shades of wolf grey.  Perfect camouflage in shadowy woods.

We learned that his blue eyes disqualified him from registration.  Apparently it is fine for Siberian Huskies to have the blue eyes, but Malamutes must have brown.  We did not care.  Those blue eyes became his hallmark on a dog much, much larger than any Husky.  He was a beautiful, exotic-looking dog.  He was, to be truthful, arresting.  I have had more than one person tell me that his eyes frightened them.

But spooky eyes notwithstanding, Shadow was a true family dog.  Msketey son housetrained him in a manner we learned from the New Skete Monk’s book, The Art of Raising a Puppy (which I still heartily recommend).  Shadow was tethered to Son’s bed side for the night.  In the night, when the pup whimpered, Son would drop his hand down to give comfort.  If he  quieted, all was well.  If he didn’t, Son got up and took him outside.  It was a method that worked like a charm to manage two objectives: Shadow learned to be housebroken in lightning speed, catching on to the fact that all “business” was done outside.  And, equally important, this bonded him to our Son like superglue.  Son was his “boy,” and Shadow was at boy’s side everywhere.

Shadow grew to be huge.  We were always amazed when he would go to the vet and we were told he weighed only 85 or 90 pounds…he looked much bigger with his thick coat.  His head was broad as a bear’s.  He was a serious dog.

Some mornings Son and Shadow would appear at breakfast, with Son sleepily rubbing his eyes.  When I would ask why he was still sleepy, he was likely to say, “Shadow kept pushing me off the bed last night.”  They shared his twin bed, which was a bit narrow for a small boy and a huge dog.  But they made do.

When we moved to the country, Shadow was in his element. Until he was two years or so old, he had been in a fenced yard, but now he had the run of woods, and he had to deal with other country dogs who came our way.   He guarded our place with regal confidence.  Even large dogs who came down our driveway would turn on their heels and leave when Shadow strode out to face them.  He never chased them, never barked.  His gaze and his presence were enough to ward off any interlopers.

In fact, “noble” was an adjective I often heard used about him, and he had many mannerisms that seemed “noble,” indeed.  For example, Shadow would never eat in our presence (other than treats we handed him).  When we would fill his bowl with food, he would politely wait until we walked away or, if he was fed on the back porch, he would wait until we entered the house before beginning his meal.

The other thing that running free brought out in Shadow was howling.  After we moved to the country, we could hear him at night sending uphowling long, drawn-out wolf howls to the sky.  Our two Shelties loved this and would join in, all three dogs appearing to go into some kind of moon-worshipping trance.  But the Sheltie contribution was a yipping-yapping.  It could not compete with Shadow’s powerful, deep howls, lonesome and haunting.  Our neighbors through the woods would comment that they had heard a wolf howl in the night because it was just different from what the coyotes out here sang, and we would smile to think that Shadow’s howling had been so appreciated.

As much as the Shelties loved the howling sessions, those sessions died when Shadow died.  It seems the Shelties needed a leader to hold such concerts.

Shadow would also vocalize to us.  He would often greet us with a low woo-woo sound, a cross between a deep growl and soft howl.  Hard to describe here.  It, too, frightened those who were new to him, but we knew it for what it was: a loving salutation.

Shadow never bit a single person, but his presence was a powerful suggestion that manners ought to be minded. I never doubted that if he thought one of us was in trouble he would be quick to the rescue.  One time I was having our carpets cleaned.  I had put the little gate up to keep the two dogs in the kitchen with me off the carpet.  As I sat at the table, the carpet cleaning man came to the gate and said he would like to get water for his steam cleaner, lifting his leg and stepping over the gate as he spoke.

Shadow was instantly on his feet, teeth barred and hair on end.  He looked fierce and huge, and his blue eyes showed he meant business.  The carpet cleaner fairly leaped back across the gate. 

I praised and calmed Shadow and said to our intruder.  “I’ve got him, you can come in now.”

The carpet guy said, “Is he okay?”

He’s okay so long as I’m okay,” I answered.

I often wondered if Shadow knew something about this guy that I could not see.

So much did Shadow impact our lives that when my husband went wayward, he asked for only two photographs.  He wanted one of Son on his lap as a baby and this one of Shadow:

 shadow on porch

I still have them both…but I will send him copies.  It would be too harsh to deprive one of such mementos.  Now, I ask you: would you blithely go up on that porch with that dog standing there?

As I write this, I realize I could write chapter after chapter about Shadow.  Perhaps I’ll share more stories of him with you later, for he was unique and brought to our lives many wonderful tales.

I believe that a large, imposing dog is a necessity for anyone in the country, especially surrounded by woods as I am.  Now that I am single, I find I rely even more on my watchdog.  I have Chili now, my solitary sentinel, but he, too, is a fine and noble dog.  He seriously does his job of guardiDSCN1309ng me and, when I leave for work, standing guard over MIL.


With Shadow in our history, Chili has large paw  prints to fill, but he’s doing a great job.  I think he’s building legends of his own.  C.


Vee said...

What crisp writing! Loved reading every word about your beloved Shadow. You brought him to reality for me even more than the pictures...very imposing gentleman he was.

Vivianne said...

Phew - you're back :-) I dropped you an email...
What a fabulous dog :-)

Anonymous said...

What a great dog! I know you miss him. Our Chihuahua took over where our German Shepherd left off. Of course, not many people are afraid of a rat-dog. If I lived in a cooler climate, I would consider having a dog like Shadow. He was beautiful!

Kathleen From Eggs In My Pocket said...

This made me teary eyed as I read it! Such a sweet story of such a good companion. Where would we be without the company of our dogs? Loved reading! blessings,Kathleen

Happyone :-) said...

What a great dog your Shadow was!! I don't think I would have ventured up on your porch!
My dog was Sam. I called her SammyJo. I miss her still and its been over 10 years now since she died.

Karen said...

Oooh, I love this post. Shadow was AWESOME, what a beautiful dog!.. and even though I own a 195 lb. dog of my own, I would NOT take a step toward that porch unless you came out and told him it was OK. What a great picture.

Your Shepherd is handsome too!..

Linda Lou Rogers Averitt said...

Love the post, been too long:) I love big dogs and yes, he would keep me in the car:)))) we keep Hannah's dog, which is a bull mastiff, he is about 180 pds. and huge head, no one comes to our door, he jst stands there, if he barks they will back way up:) I agree all people in the country need a big dog:)

Immigrant Daughter said...

Good post. Your right there are still some funny ones to tell especially about the chickens and ducks that used to be. MIL

Thistle Cove Farm said...

Yes, just about every dog I've ever owned has taken a piece of my heart when they've died. My Shadow was a Rhodesian Ridgeback and what a magnificent companion she was! Abbie, my Jack Russell, is old, grizzled and worn but still my heartbeat. Sadie, another Ridge, is the puppy who is stealing my heart, Sam, my "committee" dog has stolen my heart and Gracie is Grandma of them all.
Ah yes, dogs aren't dogs, they are beloved companions.

Melody said...

I only knew Shadow in his later years, but he was one of the big attractions at your house for my children. We had our own legendary pet- a Husky named Kushata. There is just something about a dog so big and fierce, and yet so gentle.

Joy said...

Very nice. When I lived out in the country on the farm/ranch (for 7 years) I was mostly by myself as my husband was an over the road trucker. I could have used a large watch dog--I was very scared at night.

Linda said...

This is a beautifully written tribute to a gorgeous and noble canine companion. We get so attached to our animals. It's a shame our time with them is so short. Still...the privilege of knowing them makes the heartbreak of losing them worth the price.

Genevieve Thul said...

I just spent a few moments with our third "country cat" on the deck at midnight. God heals us through our animals and I prayed in thanks tonight for the comfort He provides me through mine.

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