One less "crocodile" in the world…

They say life can change in the blink of an eye… well two days ago I blinked and my life and that of my wife and kids changed… forever.

It was around 1PM this past Sunday. I decided our rambunctious 11-year old German Shepherd Lyle needed some exercise. His youthful exuberance consistently belied his advancing dog year’s age… He was always ready, willing and able to stretch those sturdy, muscular legs of his in our back yard…

As I had done countless times before, I selected his softball (yes an actual softball – Lyle weighed 90 pounds and surely some “normal” sized ball would never do) – as the exercise device of choice.

Snatching the ball off the ground before he could get to it before me, I launched the ball off in the other direction of our rather large back yard… Lyle, as usual, dutifully surrendered it back to me, eventually…

See, Lyle was never the kind of canine to return something (stick, ball, dead animal, etc) back to you and simply leave it at your feet. Oh no, he knew the game. He knew if you wanted something from him, you were going to have to take it from him.

And a game it surely was… those who says dogs are not very intelligent just have not been around the right ones… Trust me, Lyle knew exactly what he was doing.

So, I played the game, as I had done countless times before and got the ball back in my possession and heaved it a second time in the same direction.

Only that was the last time anything would ever be the same again…

Lyle took 3, maybe 4 steps toward the ball… and collapsed, letting out a bloodcurdling yelp on his way down.

My wife and daughter, having heard this horrific sound, came rushing out to investigate. They found me on the ground, trying to ascertain just what had caused a seemingly perfectly, happy, healthy dog to drop to the ground in such obvious distress.

A little more than 24 hours later… Lyle was gone.

They say it could have been a result of trauma to his spine or a Fibrocartilaginous Embolism.

Feel free to read all about it but quite frankly I’ve read it enough (as has my wife) and I really don’t want to read it again.

***

It was 2003… my wife and then 3-year old daughter decided it was time for a new dog. It had not been much time since our last dog left us and since we are dog people and that’s what dog people do (in our case rescue dogs) we decided it was time to get back in the game…

We found a German Shepherd Rescue online, checked them out, did our due diligence and made the trip to find a new best friend. After just a few minutes of “interviewing the applicants” we informed the owner (a woman) of the rescue that we wanted Lyle.

She immediately started to cry. She said “I knew you would take Lyle… he’s my favorite. My son has been sick the past week and Lyle never left his bedside. He’s a great dog.”

Despite being a little older than we wanted – Lyle was 4 at the time, my wife and I both knew that he was the one. However, getting a “previously owned dog” is akin to getting a used car. Unless you know the previous owner(s) you don’t know what, if any, problems, issues, etc. you are inheriting.

Here’s what she was able to tell us about Lyle’s previous owner: He gave him up because he was going into drug rehab, and that he had kept Lyle in a too-small-for-his-size crate for upwards to 18 hours a day. We had no way of knowing if the former was true but judging by the all-too-noticeable downward slant in his back, we could see the latter was unfortunately all too true….

To say it was a struggle to gain Lyle’s trust would be an understatement… it was apparent from the outset that he was harboring some painful memories and that we would have to work very hard for him to accept us as his new family.

But accept us he did and nearly 7 years later, here we were… in the waiting room of an Emergency Vet waiting word on what felled our “crocodile.”

My wife and I made the difficult decision to ease his pain in the best way we knew how… we both knew in our hearts this was the right thing to do. We then had to tell our daughter, now 10 and our 5 year-old son Josh that their big, lovable puppy would not be coming back home.

***

These past 48 hours have been a roller-coaster of emotions and in between the laughter and the tears I find myself looking for him in his usual haunts… I turn a corner and swear I get a whiff of Lyle…

And today I made the trek that he could not… I went out to the other side of our yard to retrieve his softball… the one he so wanted to retrieve and return to me to continue the game but was sadly unable to…

The ball was lying there among the leaves and sticks, waiting for that sloppy, messy mouth to place it’s inescapable grip on it …

Unfortunately, there’s one less “crocodile in the world” so it had to settle for my meaty, grief-stricken ham hock…

Rest in Peace Lyle… We love you and miss you more than you could possibly know…

And say hi to Casey & Rocky for us in heaven…

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5 thoughts on “One less "crocodile" in the world…

  1. Lyle was a challenge for sure….he was abused by the previous owner and had his own quirks to certain things…..be it a word, a sound, etc.But one thing is true we loved him like a part of our family which he was until the end. We love you Lyle….rest in peace….I know you are in spirit still at the foot of our bed as you have been for sooo many years.

  2. Sorry for your loss, Steve. As a feloow dog lover, I feel your pain.

  3. Oh what a sweet post. Its a tough time. Our beloved animals are truly important members of the family. Any thoughts for a new addition?

  4. Hi Lilly, thanks for the kind words. And yes, my wife and I are now taking the steps to adopt our next new member of our family, working with several German Shepherd rescues in our area.

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