© 2018 Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior, LLC
There are things in life you have to experience to understand. Your first love. A first child. Your once-in-a-lifetime dog.
If you have to ask, “What’s a once-in-a-lifetime dog?” you haven’t had one yet. And, by the way, you only get one. The Dog Gods deem it so.
"If the Dog Gods feel you are worthy, you will get your once-in-a-lifetime dog too."
I’ve already had my once-in-a-lifetime dog. His name was Fred and he was a rescue. Like almost all German shepherd dogs, he was most likely born in a puppy mill.
Despite being a puppy mill dog and a rescue dog, he was magnificent. He had a heart the size of Ohio and was supremely confident. There’s a funny thing about confidence in dogs, the more confident they are, the less aggressive they are. Dogs are aggressive to things they fear in order to scare them away. No fear means no need for aggression. It’s counter intuitive and ironic.
Fred had just the right mix of neediness versus aloofness. I always knew that he loved me and wanted to be with me, but at the same time he wasn’t always in my face annoying me. He was easy to live with for this reason.
An attribute of once-in-a-lifetime dogs is that you aren’t the only one who sees the greatness in your dog. One of the most telling comments that made this point was when someone met Fred and said to his wife that he wanted to get a German shepherd. His wife responded, “You don’t want a German shepherd; you want Fred. There’s only one.” Even though he’s been gone for years now, people who knew him still reminisce about him.
As is true with almost all German shepherd dogs, he had significant breed related health issues late in life thanks to puppy mill breeding. Dogs are stoic and rarely show pain, but when Fred started whining in pain in the middle of the night, I knew his days were short.
He was in so much pain at that point that he would growl anytime anyone got near him. If he was touched, it made the pain much worse. Anyone, that is, except me. I was allowed to get as close to him as I wanted and even touch him gently. No growling. His final gift to me.
A trusted veterinarian called me one day in the late summer and said, “Scott, it’s time. We’ve done everything we can do for Fred. He is in very severe pain and can’t walk any longer; it’s no longer fair to him to have to deal with his pain.”
Fred is at the Rainbow Bridge right now waiting for me. I pray that there really is a Rainbow Bridge and that the Dog Gods will see fit to reunite me with that noble boy.
I miss him so much. Fred taught me about being a better man and how to better help others with their dogs.
If the Dog Gods feel you are worthy, you will get your once-in-a-lifetime dog too. Maybe you’ve already had yours. Maybe you have yours right now.
One thing is certain, when you get your once-in-a-lifetime dog, you’ll know it.