Farewell, sweetPetunia...
Last month a very special Great Dane from Oklahoma City breathed her last breath. She had been born deaf. Her breeders brought her to the veterinary clinic when she was just five weeks old. They told the doctor to put her down. But the frail little puppy was lucky that day. Someone named Sheri Thompson was working at the clinic when she was brought in. Sheri had worked as an interpreter for the deaf. She didn't consider deafness a handicap, but rather just a different way to communicate. Though she had never owned a Dane before, Sheri brought the tiny pup home with her. The puppy didn't have a name. Sheri started calling her Petunia because she reminded Sheri of Porky Pig and his charming girlfriend, Petunia. It was a good name, because Petunia charmed almost everyone she met.

Petunia grew up learning hand signs. She finished top in her Obedience class and was training to be a CGC-Therapy dog. She got along well with people and especially well with the four other dogs she lived with. Friends would comment that watching them play together, you would never know Petunia was deaf.

Petunia excelled because she had a special owner and because she was very smart. But she was also at risk. You see, Petunia was the product of bad breeding. She had a bone disease, Cranial-Mandibular Osteopathy, and she was a "bleeder," meaning she had a blood disorder that could result in death if she was in a serious accident or if she required any type of surgery. And lastly, she had tunnel vision that progressed to highly blurred vision, leaving her almost blind. Because of her vision problems, Petunia become increasingly spooked by strangers and strange locations. She even had to stop training for her CGC/Therapy title, which she used to enjoy.

I met Petunia at the 2000 Great Dane National Specialty in Kansas City last October. I had used her a couple of years earlier in a composition titled "Snow Baby," and I was excited to meet her in person. She was very shy and very gentle. We did a photo shoot. At the time, Sheri mentioned that Petunia wasn't doing as well as she had been. Little did we know. On December 18, 2000, I received a note from Sheri, "Just wanted to let you know that our Petunia has been fighting anorexia along with multiple other problems over the past few weeks, and today she lost the battle. After much discussion and tears, we decided the most loving thing we could do for this sweet baby was to help her to the bridge. It was the hardest thing we have ever had to do, but know in our hearts that it was best for her."

May you rest in peace, Petunia.

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