This last week our dog died. She actually tied her innards in a knot somehow. At the vet, when we took her in they gave us a handout, "Bloat - The Mother of All Emergencies". And it was.
Xan was a rescued dog. At the German Shepherd Rescue center in LA, where we got her, we could see that she had been through a lot. For a large framed dog, she weighed only 42 pounds. She was listless, timid but ready to go anywhere. When they brought her out to meet us (Tom had seen her photo on a insomniac's midnight computer cruise of all the dog rescue places), she came out with a young dog who was all paws and perk. She seemed so well behaved and ladylike, and only snarled one time at the rambunctious young dog that came with her. She was still a beautiful long haired German Shepherd, and when we walked up to our car, she automatically jumped in without having been invited. Of course we took it as an omen. We later found out that she would jump into anyone's car at any time, but we believed she had chosen us, and we chose her in return.
When she got to our house, she charged in, surveyed the whole house, and then settled on the shower enclosure in our bathroom. That was where she wanted to be. We guessed that it approximated the kennel that she had spent the last two months in, being smallish, dark and confined. For her to be able to relax the first few weeks when we all slept, we built her a tent in the bedroom. She seemed to feel safe while confined in a small place. She would happily retire to her tent, at any time during the day. She was also afraid to go outside by herself and would refuse to go anywhere unless she had a leash on and a human to accompany her. She never barked. We began to believe we had found the perfect dog, well-mannered, quiet, she didn't do any of the obnoxious things dogs usually do.
As time passed she began slowly, with the love and encouragement we gave, to do more doggie activities. She began to eat, and to respond to attention and affection. She finally barked after about seven weeks of silence. She began to put on weight, and now that she was clean and smelled good, she got more and more positive attention.
We took her out to Palm Springs for a little vacation, and while we were there we were at a Sunday Swap meet at the College of the Desert, and we met a man who told us that she had used to be his dog. He had the timing down right and the story he told fit into what we already knew about her. She had cow-hocks which had eliminated her as a breeding dog at the kennel who imported her from Germany. She had a German breeder's tatoo in her ear. She had been given away to this man's son, and she lived on his ranch as a visitor, but not as a cherished pet of anyone. She had puppies with a black Lab who lived at the same ranch, I don't know what happened to the puppies, but he said that she disappeared one day, and they all assumed she had been shot by a sheep rancher who lived nearby.
We calculated that she had lived on her own, "on the road" for at least two months before being caught by a shelter that would have put her down quickly. Saved by the LA German Shepherd Rescue, she then spent another couple of months in a kennel.
Tom had spent the first 23 days trying the sounds of each letter of the alphabet, in order, to see if she would respond to any of them. When he got to the sound of Z, he believed that he saw some response. We named her Xanax for the anti-anxiety medication, because it has a Z sound and because that was the effect she had on us, she alleviated our anxiety when we spent time with her. As the man in Palm Springs walked away, he turned back for a second before disappearing into the crowd, and he said, "By the way, her name from Germany was Zoe!".
As she became more a part of the family, she seemed to regain more of her true doggy personality. Her nose became an incoming missile aimed at the private parts of anyone who was nervy enough to visit our family or our house. She could hit with uncanny accuracy or she would assault with pokes of the nose till the unfortunate visitor gave up and let her find out what it was she seemed to want to know.
Being a sheep herding dog, she wanted to gather and organize visitors and wasn't above bullying to get what she wanted. She was so happy to see people she would practically dance with an energy that was impossible to contain. She hated other dogs, and would try to charge them on walks, especially if they were untethered and came in her direction. We imagined that some of her fears and aggression toward other dogs had somehow resulted from the time she had spent lost and alone on the road.
In the morning when we would take her out for her first outing, she would wash her face on the grass, and then roll around on her back, getting all wet and "clean". We suspect this might have had something to do with the torsion of her stomach and the bloat that came with it. They told us that "big chested" dogs were more vulnerable to "torsion and bloat" than smaller dogs. She lived four of her nine years with us, I believe that they were happy years. We had to say good-bye to her at the vet's office, she was in pain and unlikely to get better. We held her head and stroked her foxy ears and let her go.
Tags: german shepherd, dogs, pets, L.A. German Shepherd Rescue