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Norwich Bulletin - 12/19/2004

In Memory Of Jennifer

Just before the Christmas holiday in 1970, my then boyfriend bought me a German Shepherd puppy for Christmas. Although Jay and I lived together, from the moment this lovely black and tan pup came into our home, Jennifer was all mine.

Everyone who reads my column knows me for a cat person, but what most people do not know is that I have a love for German Shepherds that dates back from the time I was a small child. Intelligent, beautiful, and loyal, this breed is by far my very favorite and always will be. The only reason that I do not have a German Shepherd today is because I have never gotten over the loss of my dear Jenny.

I was twenty-one years old when Jennifer came into my life and I was working as a bartender in a so-so type establishment. From the time she was a pup, Jenny went everywhere with me, including to work. As she got older, it became well known that if you made an unwanted pass at the bartender, a very large German Shepherd would put her front paws on the bar and show you her gleaming, white teeth! I never had any problems on my shift - I wonder why?

Jenny had a huge vocabulary and ride was one of her favorite words. Friends knew if I was invited to their home, that meant my dog would be coming with me. She was exquisitely trained and although I would like to take credit for her obedience training, the truth is, she trained herself. She just wanted to be with me and would do whatever was necessary to accomplish that.

I never had Jenny on a leash - no matter where we went or what other animals might be around. The only thing that mattered was what I was doing - and nothing else. I began showing her at Obedience Trials and we were very successful.

Our friendship was one that lasted throughout the years of my up and down relationships and my journey in trying to "find myself." She moved with me to Washington, DC, to Puerto Rico and all over Connecticut. When I was working for Arthur Murray, she used to love to watch our rehearsals and every time my dancing partner Richard swung me out on the floor, she would be there, taking a nip at his behind to let him know she didn't like the treatment I was receiving! It was a familiar thing to hear Richard give out a little yell when he got to close to Jenny!

Jennifer also had a hobby. She collected rocks, all shapes and all sizes. She carried them around and left them on the bed, on the couch and all over the floor. Nothing like jumping into bed to find your head using a large rock as a pillow - or tripping over a stone in the dark while you were trying to quietly sneak in and not wake anyone else up! Sometimes I think this was Jenny's revenge for having to stay home on some of my dates.

When I got married the first time, Jennifer made no bones about disliking my husband. I should have listened to her because the marriage didn't last very long at all. Jenny was a much smarter person than I was. So at the age of 10, Jenny found herself with me, and my infant daughter, living in Vermont with my parents.

Jenny was suffering from hip dysplasia at that point and she was very cranky at times, although with me she was always a sweetheart. Unfortunately, she did not feel the same way about my baby. When Heather was just a few weeks old I walked into her bedroom to find a snarling German Shepherd at her crib. That scenario changed my life forever.

What to do - Jennifer had been my companion for ten years. She was always there for me and loved me completely and unconditionally and depended on me. The only other people who could have taken her and made her remotely happy would have been my parents, and we were already living with them. On the other hand, there was my baby - completely innocent and also totally dependent on me.

There was no easy answer. Jennifer could not go to another home, nor would I subject her to that feeling of abandonment as she had no way of knowing that I couldn't choose her over the baby. I started keeping Heather and Jenny apart as much as possible. At her next vet visit, x-rays showed that her hips continued to deteriorate and it was obvious that her condition had something to do with her increased irritability.

Just after Christmas in 1980, just over ten years from the day Jennifer came into my life, I made the hardest decision I ever had to make. I had Jennifer euthanized. I brought her myself and stayed with her, explaining how sorry I was and how I hoped I was making the right decision. I felt that I could no longer trust her at all around Heather because of the pain she was in, and that she was my responsibility. I did what I felt was the right thing to do.

I still question myself. After almost twenty-five years, I still can feel how sad I was the day her spirit left this world. I have never been able to have another German Shepherd. And, to this day, no dog has ever filled my heart the way Jennifer did. I still miss her.

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