She had taken her regular group walk on Thursday, and was happy and hoppy and extra into trying to play chase with all the other dogs. Friday when her walker went to pick her up, she didn't meet her at the door. The walker found her in the bedroom, laying down, not interested at all in getting up. She brought her out for a pee break and I called her owner to let him know she was feeling ill and we weren't going to force her to walk on the mountain in that condition. He told me she had been throwing up all night, and that if she wasn't better by the following morning, he was taking her to the vet.
Saturday morning she was so weak, she could barely walk to go pee. He took her to the vet where blood tests showed she was in liver failure. He said there was no treatment, and that the most likely cause was tumors. The vet said the only option at that point was to put her down.
When I heard the news, I broke down crying. SB thought something had happened to someone in my family. In a way, it had. She was one of the first dogs I walked when I started this job. The previous owners of my company said that she was on her last legs, and that she could go at any time. But the more I walked her, the more I saw how this wasn't true.
She was vibrant, and excited to get out and see the world. She liked to walk along beside me and let me lay my hand on her back as we walked. She loved to play stick, and would hop up and down until I threw it - she looked like a newborn fawn with her big, long, awkward legs.
The thing that set her apart though was her sensitivity. When I looked her in the face, it always struck me how wise she seemed. She was always right there with me, engaged, and totally into what we were doing, what we saw, what I said. She was extremely sensitive to people - she knew a weirdo from a nice person and would often run to cower behind me when she wasn't sure about someone.
When I took over the company, I asked her owner what he thought about placing her in group walks. I had seen how much she loved other dogs we met, and thought it would be really good for her. He agreed, although said she hated the car and might give us some difficulty. She did, but we got through it. And for the past year she has been running through the woods playing and goofing around with dogs half her age.
We've lost a couple of dogs this year. But none of them hit me this hard. She was so rare - I don't even see a connection like that when I look in my own dog's eyes. I'm sure there are a lot of big black Danes out there - but none like her.