– Calling All Angels
September 30, 2002 This sweet
face belongs to "Gabriel," CH. Ragz Seventh Heaven Angel
of Dixieland, CGC. His owner, Cindy Niske, is my friend and neighbor.
I took this photo the day before Gabriel died. Ten days earlier
Gabe had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. He was barely
six years old. Other than the fact he was losing weight and muscle
mass, Gabriel's symptoms were not immediately obvious. None-the-less,
Cindy and her husband, Glenn, made the difficult but humane decision
to end Gabe's life while he still had some sparkle in his eyes and
spring to his step. His untreatable lung cancer was advancing rapidly
and soon he would be struggling for every breath.
Gabriel was Cindy's "heart."
Letting him go was not easy. She had acquired him when he was nine
weeks old, and for the next six years he never left her side. He
followed her around the house and even went to work with her every
day. He was Cindy's first champion in the show ring. Along with
his conformation and canine good citizen titles, Gabriel was trained
as a therapy dog. His steady, easy-going nature made him well-suited
for visiting nursing homes, hospitals and elementary schools. One
year he even assumed the role of "donkey" in the church's
Christmas pageant, much to the amusement of both children and adults.
Gabriel was the eldest Dane in a household of five. He set the standard
of behavior for the others, and enforced his rules like a benevolent
policeman. Above all, Gabriel was devoted to Cindy and ready to
do whatever she asked of him. When it was time for Gabriel to take
his leave, he did so peacefully – at home and in Cindy's
arms – with the help of a caring veterinarian who had
become a friend as well.
Not long ago somebody wrote me with a gently-worded complaint about
the "obituaries" that appear from time to time on DaDane
of DaWeek. She said they made her feel sad and a little apprehensive
about visiting my web site. She said, "It just seems like no
Danes have simple, carefree lives." To some extent I can appreciate
her point of view. Compared to other breeds, Great Danes are short-lived
and we lose them far too soon. Every loss hurts, but I think most
owners would agree that they'd rather have their Dane for less time
than a "fill-in-the blank-dog" for a longer time. It comes
with the territory. It's part of owning a Dane.
I feel whenever I tell the story of one Dane who was cherished and
lost, it represents the story of countless others. These stories
really aren't so much about their deaths, but about their lives.
They are reminders of how precious our Danes are to us and how fragile
they can sometimes be. Each Dane is a gift, and we are caretakers
of the gift. It is up to us to make sure our Danes are properly
cared for both physically and emotionally, that their days spent
with us are happy days, and when the time comes to let them
go, they are put to rest with compassion and dignity.
Gabriel's life with the Niske's was a short on time, but long on
quality. May he rest in peace.
by Ginnie Saunders. All rights are reserved. No part of this web
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