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The Luck Dragon gets her wings April 20, 2013

Posted by therealtinlizzy in pups.

I woke up this morning, from a night of not sleeping very well due to oh-so-smartly eating a large-ish meal (delicious though it was) and drinking both red wine and espresso late at night while at the Dakota for a really lovely Ricky Skaggs bluegrass show. It was the morning after we’d gotten clobbered by a ridiculous late-Spring 6-8″ snowfall, Lisa had already called into work to take a PTO day and I was planning on a leisurely work-from-home Friday.

I finally hauled my ass out of bed, after a few minutes of snuggling with Chloe and enduring some of her morning nibbling of the bedclothes, as she does. I noticed Shi hadn’t gotten up to wander about yet, but Shi sleeps hard sometimes, and being deaf as a post, she doesn’t wake up to ambient noise; ambient breezes, touch or shifting of whatever she’s laying on, then yeah she’s up poking her cold nose blindly in your direction, but otherwise Shiloh sleeps like a boss, case in point:

I’d just stepped over her lying on her dog bed on the floor at the end of our bed to look at the snow carnage outside, when I bent down to snuggle Shi and wake her. She was oddly still, so I felt her nose for breath and oh no oh jesus fuck Shiloh was gone. I uttered something half-coherent to Lisa, who clambered over to the end of the bed in disbelief and no-no-no-no-no while I felt, touched, confirmed that indeed – Shiloh had died in her sleep. You wouldn’t have even known, to see her laying in her usual sleep spot, in her usual sleep position, that she was anything but sleeping like usual.

Shiloh was, as of this morning, at least 16.5 years old. I say “at least” because when I and my sig-at-the-time Angie adopted her from an Aussie rescue org in October of 2000, one of the few tidbits of info about her the org possessed to give us was that she was “between 4 and 6 years old.” They didn’t know her age for certain but the guy she had come from – an older gentleman in San Diego who raised Aussies but whose own health was in rapid decline so that he could no longer care for them all – asserted she was somewhere between 4 & 6 years old.

Another thing to know about Shi is that in the 12.5 years I’ve had the privilege of knowing this fluffy white pinball of blind deaf dog, she’s had nil in the way of medical issues/conditions – the exception being the dislocation of her right hip less than a week after we adopted her, which resulted from said newly-adopted Aussie leaping out of our second-floor bedroom window (that we left open because why would you think to close a window on a nice warm Fall day??) presumably trying to find us when we left the house for less than an hour to run a few errands.

We came home that afternoon to find Shiloh standing in the yard with one leg not working, subsequently discovered the window upstairs with a busted-out screen, and put 2 + 2 together. The eventual fix for Shiloh’s dislocated hip, which wouldn’t stay re-located even after being re-set and with her leg in a sling for 3 weeks after, was for veterinary friend Dr. Jami Stromberg (one of the damnedest-fine vets around, I’ll wager) to lop off the ball of the femur and let the muscles take over holding the leg in place in lieu of a joint. Who in fuck would have thought THAT would have worked? Oh AND – Jami used a chisel bought at Home Depot (of course subsequently surgically autoclaved/sterilized) for the procedure of lopping off the ball end. I would call that baller, but for the bad pun.

How Shiloh survived a two-story fall I still can’t fathom, and how she then managed another 12+ years of walking for miles at a time and running around like a boss (and she could – you should have seen her off-leash at the big wide-open dog-park by the airport) is just a ridiculously lovely bit of fortunate happenstance. I’ve always called her the Luck Dragon as she had more than a passing resemblance to The Neverending Story’s Falcor:

Falcor the Luck Dragon


Other than that one Aussies-can’t-fly surgery when she first came onto our scene – Shiloh was a 16+ year old pup on no medications, with no chronic or old-age type conditions, not a speck of arthritis, not even showing signs of slowing down – hence our dubbing her recently as the Elven dog. And while we’re not nonsense people who thought that Shiloh was going to live forever (Elvish or no), both Lisa and I are acquainted with canine end-of-life scenarios that entail at least a hair more advance notice, or even downright drawn-out slogs down the path to a pup’s final breath. So while I’ve been reminding myself that Shi would eventually be moving on one of these days or years, the abruptness with which she departed was, well – heartbreakingly abrupt. Hell, it’s Dax with all her arthritis and creakiness and now diabetes, whom I expected would be the first of our canines to exit-stage-left. 

Having experienced both the scenarios of drawn-out health demise with Kaci (the pup I navigated highschool with) before she died, and knowing for days as a 12-year old that our husky Sitka was to be put to sleep (goddamn torture THAT was), I know why an abrupt and painless departure at the end of a long full life is the very the thing, short of immortality, that we all want for our four-leggeds, our people, and ourselves.  However, I can now also say that a sudden exit of one’s pup sucker punches you in its own special ways:  no last deliberate and drawn out hugs, snuggles, burying your face in warm fluffy fur, being licked, getting snuffled with a cold wet nose, holding puppy toes, rubbing a soft pink belly and velvet ears, scritching that spot that makes a leg twitch. Missing out on those last-known moments cauterizes your neural paths after your pup is suddenly gone in different ways than happens when you see it coming.

That said – having Shiloh depart so abruptly granted me the gift that all of these last moments, hours, days with her up until sometime after 5am this morning when she was still present and raised her head to snuffle in inquiry at Lisa stepping over her on the way to the bathroom, were exquisitely, beautifully perfect in their unharried, un-fraught, utter mundaneness full of love and life and normalcy and goodness, rather than days or weeks or more of pain, hurt, heartbreak and is-this-it, or that special hell of having to deliberately end suffering.

This is my first loss of a pup as a grown-up – that is, a pup who’s lived with me, been part of my own pack and household and daily routine, whose ticks and fidgets and bumping into my shins and pacing to find me and ambling through the room like SNL-David-Patterson and click-click-clicking of her nails on the hardwood and Helen-Keller-style nosings/pawings/demands-to-be-petted and backing all the way up the stairs and snuffling my hair/head like a crazy person have all so thoroughly and indelibly been woven into my daily-life muscle-memory over twelve years.

One would think given such a week fraught with national and collective angst and bad news (Boston Marathon bombings, Congress/Americans devolving into some nasty awfulness over guns and gun laws, the explosion of a fertilizer plant in Texas, and manhunt/shootouts to find what may turn out to be the Boston Marathon bombers – even the Onion called it with “Jesus, This Week”) that waking up to find that my little Shiloh, my Luck Dragon had passed away during the night in her sleep, would perhaps be the grimest of cherries on an already grim cake.

However, I’ve found that more grim on top of grim isn’t how today has been at all. Having my attention jolted from the frenzied cacophony of the world’s current madness-du-jour by a gut punch of the sudden and unexpected exit of this sweet kitten of a canine of ours, to be undone by grief and weeping and memories and loss…is wrenching, is jagged, is devastating. But it perhaps is no bad thing to tell rest of the jacked world to just fuck off for a time, to weep and grieve and rejoice in and remember the life of one of my little daemons.

Shiloh was a double-merle Australian shepherd – mostly bright white in color, but for a couple of small Holstein-like dark patches. However in the winter, somehow the snow still beat her in pale brightness by comparison. It seems fitting that the White Dog took leave on a ridiculous late spring day when the surrounding world was utterly buried in snow.


Enjoy the bellow snippet of Shiloh doing something she was awesome at: digging the shit out of things – floors, dog beds, occasionally dirt, but mostly impenetrable things:

It hurts so very badly only because we love them so very much. Goodbye my sweet kitten, my Luck Dragon, my daemon, my Elven dog – you, originally named Avalon from San Diego, who will forever be Shiloh: you are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray, you’ll never know dear how much I love you.


1. OrangeRuffy - April 20, 2013

This breaks my heart, I’m so sorry.

therealtinlizzy - April 22, 2013

thnx ❤

2. dolly - April 20, 2013

I can’t imagine a better life for her than being loved, cared for and enjoyed by you and yours. I’m so sorry for the loss of your luck dragon..

Take care!

therealtinlizzy - April 22, 2013

3. Stefanie - April 22, 2013

James and I were so very sorry to hear about Shiloh the other day from Ang. She was such a sweet dog. Not only did she look like the Luck Dragon but she had the good fortune to find you and a home where she was so well loved. Big hugs!

therealtinlizzy - April 22, 2013

I’m happy she was still here to snuffle/greet you when you stopped over a couple weeks ago. ❤

4. Mandi - April 26, 2013

I’m so sorry bud. I am forever convinced that dogs are what people would be if we weren’t jerks.

therealtinlizzy - April 30, 2013

That’s an excellent way to put it, my friend.

Thanks for saying hi. 🙂

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