Sunday, September 25, 2016

Silky - our canine family member.

In almost my entire life, there was always a German Shepherd dog, each of them had their own distinguishable personalities, as well as their peculiarities and I can still vividly remember all of them.  But, there was never a German Shepherd like Silky; she was one of a kind.

It hadn’t been long since we had lost “Toby” our German Shepherd dog, through scrub tick paralysis, a real curse, and endemic to North Australia. With our cabinet making business at the back of our premises, we urgently needed a guard dog first of all – a pet was only a distant consideration, although all our dogs were always considered as a part of our family. I often said that if I get reincarnated as an animal, I would want to be a dog in the Schmidlin Family.

We were scanning the newspaper for advertisements – to find a replacement.  So, on a Saturday an advertisement in “The Cairns Post” caught my eye “German Shepherd puppies for sale,” at Freshwater. We rang the advertisers to make an appointment to see the puppies and possibly find one we’d like.  “We’ll be home all afternoon, come anytime, I was told. I decided to go for a drive and call in on the way home, but the kids were all psyched up to see the puppies so we went there first.

When we arrived at the place we were led to an enclosed compound at the back of the yard, which contained a German Shepherd bitch surrounded by eleven gorgeous pure bred pups. Now came the difficult part, which one to pick. “Take that one, no take the other one, no take that one over there,” the children called out with pointed fingers and enthusiasm.  Karola said: “This is hard, they are all beautiful”. It became obvious to me very soon that I had to take over the pup selection task.

Beforehand, Karola and I agreed that we would take a female this time.  We took into consideration past experiences, males tend to roam the countryside when “love is in the air,” a bitch in season.  Sex is the only thing on their brain then, being a guard dog becomes only a far distant secondary consideration – if any at all.

The picking task had now become considerably easier; there were only five females.
One particular pup caught my eyes, it was standing out from the rest, and it had beautiful markings on its fur, was particularly lively, but was only half the size of the others.  The reason it was so small was, we were told, because the mother had only ten teats and one pup too many.  This one was pushed away at feeding time and had to be content with the “leftovers” after the ten bigger pups had their fill.

“What is the gender of this particular one?” I asked the lady owning the dogs, “it’s a female”, she responded.  “Could I get a closer look at that little dog, please?” I asked. “Certainly,” said the lady and went into the pen and handed me a delightful furry “ball”. The coat of the puppy felt so soft and it felt as if I had a silky fur ball in my arms. It seemed to be quite happy to be in my arms and away from her milk depriving “tormentors.”  We all had a good look at the pup, but something inside me said repeatedly take this one – and that’s what we did. When it came to giving the pup a name, we all agreed that “Silky” would be most appropriate.

We paid for Silky and went straightaway to the veterinarian in Cairns, Mr. Kenny, who lived behind his surgery and was always on call. He examined the pup, checked its weight, gave it the necessary injection and medicine and, gave us some good advice. Silky’s, weight was a mere two pounds. Needless to say that this was the end of our planned Saturday afternoon drive, going home with the new acquired family member became the preferred option.

Silky settled nicely into her new place of abode, we kept her inside for the first night and her bed was a big carton.  She got into her food with gusto and gobbled it down quickly. No doubt, in the back of her mind must have been the thought about being pushed away by her siblings and missing out on one of her mother teats.  Within a week she had doubled her weight and looked like a fury ball with four little outriggers attached to it, and having difficulty walking as the underbelly was just about dragging on the floor.

At the time, we also had three cats, the mother cat and her two half grown kittens.
They all became friendly with this “fury ball,” played with each other, ate their food from one plate, at times Silky dragged a kitten to the plate as if to tell her, you eat this.  We were really amazed about this congenial cat & dog relationship; normally there is the inherent and mutual hostility for each other.

This unusual relationship lasted about nine months, until Silky came into season for the first time - then things changed dramatically.
The chemistry in Silky must have changed with her gaining the equivalent of a dog’s adulthood.  Her attitude towards the cats changed to hatred and she killed both kittens. This was a real enigma for us. How could such a sudden change take place? We asked.  Perhaps the intrinsic hatred for cats was dormant in Silky until her maturity, we speculated.

The mother cat was so frightened that she went into hiding during the day and visited us only late at night or early in the morning, when Silky was locked in her kennel. She announced her presence by miaowing in front of the door. We would let her in to give her milk and food and then she would disappear again until the next evening or morning. Some time later, when the cat did her usual miaowing in front of the door, Silky jumped at the kennel door, which opened and she made a beeline for the cat and up the external stairs. By the time Karola opened the door, our cat was dead on the top of the stairs.

Silky looked at Karola with a pleased facial expression. She was wagging her tail and the body language indicated that she expected a pat and praise for her “magnificent” deed.  This wasn’t forthcoming. Instead she was severely scolded, but we were sure Silky wondered why. What else could we do than to forgive Silky for her, in human terms, terrible misdemeanour, but in a dog’s way of thinking she did exactly what her instinct told her to do. The cause of this calamity was, it appeared, one of the children didn’t shut the bolt of the kennel door properly when locking Silky up for the night.

Silky grew into a beautiful dog, with a wonderful silver fawn coat; she was an excellent watchdog, exceptionally loyal, clever, obedient and, very easy and a pleasure to train. When customers or friends arrived, she barked until we said, "That’s enough, Silky." But she never took her eye off them, nor did she allow herself to be befriended. People used to ask for her name, so they could call her.  Silky, however, totally ignored them and pretended not to hear. If there was a persistent person who called “Silky” more than twice, she would look at the person, lift her lips, show them her white teeth and give off a growl – making it manifestly clear that she wanted to be left alone and didn’t want to befriend other people.

After a few years I decided to have Silky mated – to the chagrin of Karola and, oblivious to me at that time, of what I had let myself into.  In the meantime, Mr. Kenny’s veterinary clinic had been bought by a young veterinarian, Bob Griffith & his wife Pam.  Silky was regularly taken to Bob & Pam for examination during her pregnancy. As the pregnancy drew to the end, Bob gave me instructions in (dog) “obstetrics.”  He said everything seemed normal and he expected no trouble when the time came for Silky to give birth. “Once the waters break, things should proceed rapidly, and you, as the “chief obstetrician” should not encounter any problems.  If however,” Bob concluded, “things don’t go smoothly after Silky's waters have broken– give me a ring.”

In anticipation to this event I constructed a 1.5 x 1.5 meter enclosure with a bottom, serving as the “maternity ward.” I felt relaxed and calm, knowing that everything was under control and I was prepared for the “happy” event.  What I hadn’t anticipated was that Silky would start her "labour" late on a Sunday afternoon.  The “maternity ward” was in my workshop and I resigned myself to the fact that I’d spent the night with Silky in the workshop. However, the mosquitoes took a liking to my blood, and after 9 pm I shifted the maternity ward into the more comfortable lounge room.

When Bob told me to give him a ring if the waters had broken and nothing happened, he would have hoped that Silky started her birth during the normal office hours – not on a Sunday night.  At 11 pm the waters broke and I waited in anticipation for pups to appear. An hour passed and nothing happened. “Oh my God,” I thought, “do I have to ring Bob at this ungodly hour and tell him that the waters had gone, but the pups refuse to come out?” 

Bob & Pam lived in a Townhouse in Cairns and I was mulling and agonising, whether to ring or not to ring. Eventually I bit the bullet and rang.  I apologised profusely for ringing him at this time, but Bob said,"That’s OK, don’t worry. Give Silky another hour and if after that time still nothing has happened, ring me again.”  I waited two hours before I rang Bob again; it was just after 2 am Monday morning.  “Bring the dog in straight away!” Bob said. “We’ll be waiting for you downstairs.” I started the onerous task of getting Silky into the car; I had the backseat covered with old blankets.  With all the commotion, Karola woke up and helped me to lift Silky into the car.  Fifteen minutes later I arrived at Bob’s townhouse.  Bob & Pam had the lights on and the door open, and had the bathroom downstairs converted into a maternity ward. It was a relief to hand Silky over into good care. I was prepared to stay there, knowing too well that Silky was strictly a “one person” dog and doesn’t take easily to strangers, and I made this clear to Bob. But Bob said, “That’ll be OK, you go home and get some sleep.”

I arrived home just before three am, had a shower, and went to bed, but the though of not being with Silky and leaving her with strangers prevented me from sleeping.

Karola left just before 5 am, as usual for her job as a breakfast cook at the Imperial Hotel in Cairns. At seven o’clock I went to my workshop to work on a new kitchen for a customer, but I couldn’t get Silky out of my mind, nor could I concentrate on my work.  I just had to ring Bob again to see how things were progressing. “Everything’s fine, we have one pup and will take both down to the clinic at 8 O’clock.” Bob said.

But despite all the assurances given to me I just couldn’t get Silky out of my mind and wished I could be with her. Shortly after 8 am I rang the clinic and Pam told me that they had just delivered another pup, but it had to be induced with a drug injection. “Are you sure, that you don’t want me at the clinic, just in case Silky causes trouble?” I asked Pam, in the forlorn hope that she might say yes, come in. “Don’t worry, Werner, we are quite sure we’ll be alright. She’s no problem and we will keep you informed of Silky’s progress." After I got off the phone I felt utter uneasiness, knowing too well that Silky never made friends with strangers and now with her pups around her, that would be really unusual.  Perhaps, she has mellowed since becoming a mother; I tried to tell myself, hoping to ease my disappointment of not being with her.

I had hardly taken ten steps away from the phone, when it rang again. “Hi Werner, this is Pam. We have a big problem, Silky won’t let us go near her.  Would you please come in as soon as possible?”  This was like music to my ears, and told me that Silky was still her old self. “I’ll be on my way, Pam. I’ll see you shortly, bye.”  I rang Karola at work and told here what had transpired and where I was going.

At the veterinary clinic I was led straight to the enclosure where Silky was. Pam opened the gate, I went in and she shut it quickly behind me.  Silky was so glad to see me, and that was mutual.  She greeted me like a long lost friend, wagged her tail profusely and the look on her face was very close to a big “smile.” The enclosure had a low ceiling and I couldn’t stand up, so Pam brought me a footstool to sit on.   This was now my “prison” for the rest of the day.  As it happened, this was a difficult and drawn out pup delivery affair. Silky needed an injection to bring on the birth for every pup.  Karola called in after work, shortly after 2.30 in the afternoon, by then, we had accumulated 4 pups.  The 5th died as it had a torn navel cord and Bob couldn’t stop the bleeding.  By 4 pm the 6th pup was born and I was hoping it would be the last one, as I wanted to get out of this claustrophobic box. Bob examined Silky and was convinced that it was the last pup and said that I could go home with my “menagerie.”

The first night we kept silky and her litter in my purpose-build “maternity ward” in the lounge room so that we could keep an eye on things. While having breakfast, the following morning Silky started to mill around inside the enclosure arching her back and it seemed that something was wrong. I rang Bob and told him what was happening, and asked Bob, “Surely she wouldn’t get another pup, would she?”  “No, I don’t think so, but you better bring her in immediately.”  Bob had just uttered the last word, when I sprang in, “Bob! Silky has just given birth to another pup!” “Oh my God, that’s unbelievable, get in here fast.”
Unfortunately the pup was dead, most likely too long in her mother's womb. I rushed into town dreading the thought of spending more time with Silky in a low ceiling box. Bob gave Silky a thorough going over and assured me that it was definitely the last pup – and thank goodness, it was. When I got home, I shifted the pups into their new domicile, a big doghouse, large enough for three adults to sleep in, and it was made dog proof as well as mosquito proof.  It was also surrounded by a fence so the pups had some space to run. From time to time we let Silky out; in order to get some peace and respite from her demanding pups.
Our property didn’t have a fence then and one late afternoon I looked out of the kitchen window, where the Kennel and dog enclosure was and I saw a beautiful male Corgi approaching the enclosure.  I hurried out to chase him away, but I was too late and I found a dead Corgi lying prostrate in front of Silky who looked at me with great satisfaction and wagging her tail profusely. I thought, “Oh my God, I needed this like a hole in my head."  Karola had observed the whole incident through the kitchen window. “Silky,” she recounted, “grabbed the Corgi by the scruff of the neck and shook it a couple of times." And so ended the life of a male Corgi, which had the audacity to approach Silky’s domain and her pups. I agonised for some considerable time, what to do with the dead Corgi.  To find the owner was out of the question, as I though it would be better for them not to know what happened to their pet, and there could have been a hostile reaction about something I had no control over.  After dark I put the corgi in my Ute, went to a friend’s cane farm and buried it.

A couple of weeks later, Karola went to the Yorkeys Knob Post office and she was introduced to a lady by the postmistress. She went on to tell Karola that this lady lost a male Corgi recently and may perhaps want to replace it with one of our pups. The lady explained to Karola that she was puzzled by the sudden disappearance of her Corgi, but she thought that because it was such a friendly dog and would go with anybody, she was convinced that somebody piked him up and took him away.  She told Karola where she lived and that was 1.5km away from our place. Karola though it best not to tell what really happened with her dog and let the lady live with her assumption.
Silky’s extreme dislike of cats hadn’t diminished, no cat dared to come into our yard and disturb my vegetable plants, except when she was secure in her kennel or inside the house. But she was able to sense, hear or smell when a cat was in the yard and went nearly berserk and wanted to desperately go outside - and we knew exactly why and tried to calm her down. But on one occasion Silky was so determined to go out that she  put a slit in the door's mosquito screen with her claws – and the end result was, the neighbour’s cat was badly mauled and the vet had to put it down. After this incident I put lattice work on the bottom half of our mosquito screened doors.
In the early 1970s I managed a cane farm in Smithfield for a Cairns doctor. The Farm was located on the Captain Cook Highway as well as halfway down Yorkeys Knob Road.  The tractor shed and one of the farm houses, which was occupied at that time by an old pensioner, was on the Captain Cook Highway side and the house we lived in was on the Yorkeys Knob side. The pensioner had rescued a terribly skinny mother cat from a cane fire; her teats were full with milk and looked as if they would burst any moment. This of course indicated that she had kittens in the cane, which perished in the fire. This lucky cat had found a new home and the old man nurtured her back to good health.
One Sunday morning, I had to go over to the other side of the farm to check out the irrigation pump. Silky stood beside the “Land Rover” wagging her tail so profusely that that the whole hindquarter went from side to side,  indicating that she would like to come along for the ride, something which she absolutely loved doing. I opened the door and she waited for my command to say “jump in” and she sat on the passenger seat next to the open window. We drove into the farmyard and there was the cat walking leisurely across the lawn.  I stopped immediately, as I wanted to close the car door window on Silky’s side. However, Silky saw the cat and jumped through the open window.

I yelled at her, but despite being a very obedient dog, whenever she saw a cat her hearing went into selective mode, and she was oblivious to commands from her master. The cat tried to run up a palm tree, but with Silky in hot pursuit the cat had no chance.  The cat was about 1.5 meters up the somewhat leaning palm trunk and Silky grabbed the cat by the tail, pulled her down and shook her a couple of times and, the poor cat was dead. All this happened in a matter of seconds, much faster than I can tell the tale. By the time Silky died, she had killed nine cats. This was not a pleasant record in human terms, but for a dog’s way of thinking to kill its arch enemy is ingrained in their psyche and they just act instinctively.  Nevertheless, despite this unwelcome trait we couldn’t help loving Silky.
Silky was an extremely intelligent and a loyal family friend and it was a pleasure to train her all sorts of things very easily.  One of the first things she had to learn was not to run over my vegetable garden beds when chasing birds or cats, or when the kids played “catch ball” with her. She always followed diligently, after only a few lessons, the pathway between the beds.  Silky, obeyed any command given by family members when I wasn’t present, but in my presence she ignored them and looked at me, and waited for me to say, “It’s Ok Silky.” Only then did she carry out the command.

Since Karola had to get up at 4 am to get ready and go to work, she knocked off at 2pm and when she got home she always let Silky off the chain and let her into the house while she had a bit of a nap. So one day Edna, her workmate, who had a day off and was in the area, thought to call in quickly to see Karola and have a cup of coffee and a chat. Edna was well known to Silky and she let her in, but Edna found that Karola was fast asleep and decided to depart quietly. However, Silky had other ideas. As soon as Edna touched the doorknob, Silky bailed her up showed her lovely white teeth and growled. Edna backed slowly away from the door and sat in a chair and didn’t dare to move, and Silky didn’t take her eyes off her. When Karola finally woke up and walked into the lounge room she found Edna meekly sitting in the chair, with Silky close by. Edna's involuntary confinement lasted about half an hour, but the consolation prize was a belated cup of coffee, and Silky didn’t object to Edna’s leaving afterwards.
When Silky was about one year old, two tourists drove past and saw Silky in front of our house. They turned around and called in. They said what a beautiful dog she was and said that if she ever has pups, they would like to have one. We promised them that we would let them know. We gave each other our addresses and phone numbers. The people had a sheep station near Canberra ACT.

Five years had passed before Silky had pups and I thought the people from Canberra would have, by now, gotten a German Sheppard, but since I'd promised them to let them know, I rang them. I introduced myself and said, “I just wanted to let you know that Silky has pups now, but I’m sure that you would have gotten a German Sheppard in the meantime.”  “Yes, we did, but it is a male.  Would you please send us a female so that we can breed?” said the lady on the phone. At that time we had the two domestic airlines, the government owned TAA airline and the privately owned Ansett airline. Ansett had also an airfreight service, so I rang them to make inquiries to find out how I could send a puppy by air to Canberra, and when it had to be at the airport. I was instructed that I had to make a box with a waterproof bottom, the dog had to be given a tranquiliser and I could bring the box in any day at 4.30 am.
Constructing the box was no problem as I was a cabinetmaker and I made the box big enough for the puppy to lie down and stretch out. I also had a tin tray made by a plumber with a 5 cm high edge around it, to make the box waterproof. The morning arrived when I had to get up at the “iniquitous” hour of 3.30 am to tranquilise the pup with a tablet and put it into the box and take the whole dog cargo to the airport at Cairns. After all the formalities had been completed and the box weighed I had to pay the clerk $35.00. I handed him two twenty dollar bills and he gave me $5.00 back. Then another employee walked in and said this edge on the tray on the bottom of the box is not high enough and the box cannot be accepted. Arguing with him that the dog had little to drink, is tranquilised and would sleep all the way to Canberra and, that besides that, the dog wouldn’t piddle that much as to cause the tray to overflow, was to no avail. So, I was handed back my $35.00 and contemplated what I should do next?
I thought, I’ll just go to TAA and see if they will take my puppy to Canberra. To my surprise I found Tom Reid on duty, a German, for whom I had only recently installed a new kitchen, and whom I knew very well. Tom greeted me with, “Werner what are you doing at the airport at this hour?”(I didn’t tell him that I'd gone to the opposition first)  “Well, Tom, I have a box with a puppy in the car. Could you get it to Canberra for me?“  “No trouble, bring it in,” Tom said. I handed Tom the box and asked how much it was and he said, "Nothing”. “What do you mean, nothing?" I queried. “Nothing!” Tom repeated again, just go home and go to bed.  I left as I didn’t want to make a case about payment, especially since other people had arrived. When I got home I rang Tom and asked him how he gets away with not charging me, and Tom explained that Airline employees are allowed to send a certain amount of airfreight for free, and he sent it under his name. As the saying goes “all is well that ends well”. This certainly ended particularly well for me and I wasn’t sure if I should have rung the Ansett employee who told me that they cannot accept the box and thank him for saving me $35.00.
It was an Easter Sunday afternoon, many years later, Silky had reached the ripe old age for a dog of well over sixteen years, and this is really a very old age for a dog in the tropics. We were having a cup of coffee with friends, when Silky wanted to get up.  She got halfway up and collapsed and we could hear a distinctive sound like snapping or breaking of a bone. I lifted Silky up and found that her right hind leg was sort of dangling, there was no doubt that Silky had broken her hipbone.  I rang Bob, but I couldn’t get him, but finally got him Easter Monday and he told me to bring her to the surgery. After examining her, my worst fears were confirmed; her hipbone was broken right on the top.
“Werner, it is very difficult to put a plaster where the break is, also this would take a long time to heal, and her age is another factor against her. We could try to plaster it, but with the dog wanting to move around it would not be a success,” Bob said. “What is the alternative?” I asked Bob.  “The only alternative is, and I hate to tell you this, is to put her down.” This was very hard to take; I had never thought that I had ever to make such a difficult decision to end the life of my loyal and wonderful companion of so many years. I agonised for a long time, realising that what Bob said is true and that age is against her. With a very heavy heart I agreed to have Silky put to sleep. Bob said, “You don’t want to see this, you better go home. I stroked Silky, gave her a hug and a kiss on the forehead and left. I stopped at the door and gave her one last glance and I never ever forget the look on her face - it said, “You are abandoning me now.”
I became absolutely overwhelmed by emotion and burst into tears and they were freely flowing all the way home. Karola knew straightaway what had transpired, I didn’t have to say a word. I never ever forget the look on Silky’s face and I ever regret not to have stayed with her till her last breath.  As I write this, it brings once again tears to my eyes. The passing of Silky ended a wonderful chapter in our lives; Silky was an extraordinary dog and one of a kind. We had five more German Shepherds after Silky, all with their distinctive characteristics and personalities, but none of them could surpass Silky. Of these five only one was acquired as a pup, the other four were abandoned adult dogs we rescued from the council pound.
On one occasion, our son was looking for a dog and saw a photo in the newspaper of an abandoned German Sheppard, at the council pound. We went there on behalf of our son. But the dog was in a terrible state with all the ribs and the rib-cage showing, the head looked bigger in proportion to the body and the whole dog looked scraggly and had hardly any hair - in short it was a total wreck of a dog.  I said to Karola, “We can’t get this dog for our son in such a condition.” But the dog looked at us with sad and pleading eyes.  Karola nearly cried and insisted that we rescue this poor soul. I was very reluctant, mainly because we came here for a dog for our son, but Karola insisted and said, “We cannot leave this dog here, it well break my heart,” so we bought it and kept it ourselves.  It was company for the other German Shepherd we already had.   She was a female and her name, given by the pound, was Kora.  It took some tender loving care to get Kora back into shape, but in time she was in a good condition and turned out a wonderful dog and came close to the characteristics of Silky.

All of them eventually had to be put to sleep, either because of sickness or old age or both. But I stayed with each of them till their last breath. When we lost our last one in 1998 because of kidney failure, we decided not to get another dog. This time, age, we thought, is against us and it is so hard on you when you lose your dog.  What took a long time to get used to, was not to be greeted by our canine friend when we came home. I hope you enjoyed reading this story. – Werner
My thought for today. - Werner Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole. Roger Caras


Ailsa and family said...

Thank you, Werner, for your fantastic and well written story. It was an excellent read and I enjoyed reading every bit of it – and so did my family. There must be many interesting pet stories around, but nobody seems to write them. Keep writing, Werner; all your postings are interesting and informative.

Jock. said...

Werner,as usual I enjoyed your story of Silky your dog. Joan and I have had different dogs all our married life and to be honest enjoyed their company more than humans most times. They give a love and devotion that is 100% at all times. Unfortunately we had to put Maggie down in the past year, she was a big part of the family and very missed by us all as we had her for a joyous 16 years. Now sorely missed by us all. WE decided not to get another one because of our age. Hope that all is well with you and the family. Enjoy all of your blogs and love to read them all.Take care.
Awra Best,

JT said...

What a lovely tale, Werner. Thank you for sharing. I've never owned a dog but I love them for the exact characteristics Silky had: loyalty, protection, companionship and unconditional love. Excellent stuff.

Dog lover said...

Thank you, Werner, for sharing with us your interesting story and you told it so well. We also have had only German Shepherds and as you wrote they all have different characteristics – so true. It was sad what happened to the cats and the Corgi. However, disliking cats must be inherent to dogs (And vice versa) but it seems that this hatred is only triggered when they reach “maturity” and it is “dormant” when they are a pups. With the Corgi it was pure mother instinct of Silky that made her do what see did. It is wonderful to write your life experiences, your future generation will appreciate it and also enjoy reading them, I’m sure.

Julia and Family said...

Wow! What a lovely animal story. I love reading, and this was one of the best stories I had read for a long time. There are aspects of happiness and sadness in it; in regards to the dog and cat relationship – well, animal have different rules as we humans. I just couldn’t stop reading, thank you Werner for sharing this wonderful and well written story.

Wayne said...

Your story brought tears to my eyes Werner. I was fortunate enough to nurse my last dog, (Afro - a miniature Poodle) until his final breath in the early hours of the morning. I didn't take him to the vet - it was obvious that he was slipping away, but he was in no pain - a Vet was only going to put him down and I didn't want to make that deision - I preferred to sit with him through those final hours. I thought the closure would help - and it did for a short time as I busied myself digging him a grave and gathering rocks to cover him over - but as I wrapped him in a blanket and started raking the dirt in over him I broke down ...... and I remained broken for 2 - 3 weeks after, shedding a tear over him every day, (as I am right now).

It must be hard for someone who has never had a dog as a long term companion to understand the bond that forms between animal and human and I could never adequately put it into words. I have had close relationships with all my dogs over time, but like Silky did for you, Afro stood apart from all the rest. I will never replace him, but I have hopefully found another one in "Bowie" my new Cocker Spaniel Pup that will come somewhere close in his own kind of way. As your ending quote says: They make our lives whole.