My Sentinel: Athena and my recent surgery
I had to share this story with a German shepherd forum, because I figure that you all are the ones who will nod your heads in recognition the most. I know dogs are world-famous for their loyalty. But I believe German Shepherd Dogs take this quality to a whole other level. I would love to read any similar stories you have!
Last weekend, I kept feeling an intermittent pain in my right side. Athena, who normally sits on my right on “our” couch, wouldn’t stop sniffing at my side. I thought it was a muscle strain. She knew otherwise. I went to my doctor for a routine physical Monday and casually mentioned the flaring burning above my hip. The doctor ordered me a CAT scan, and it was discovered that my appendix was enlarged. I saw an internist/surgeon for a second opinion on Wednesday who decreed that I should check into the ER. Immediately. So Wednesday night, I had my appendix removed; thankfully, it hadn’t ruptured (yet).
When I was discharged from the hospital, a very anxious fuzzy nurse was waiting for me. For the next week, Athena strayed no further than two feet from me. If she was further away than two feet, it was because she was on her blanket monitoring the front door and window, on full alert, lying like a sphinx, her ears pricked, her eyes watchful. Any noise outside my house caused her to spring up, roaring at the front door. As far as she was concerned, any stranger needed to be warned—my mommy is hurt. BACK OFF.
My regular dog walker came, and Athena had to be physically manhandled away from me out for her walk; she kept pulling back to me, whining. My dog walker said that Athena did her business in the first few seconds outside but then kept trying to turn back to the house. It was a fight during the whole walk, and Athena practically dragged my poor walker to the ground on their way back home. My dog walker said she had never seen anything like it.
Athena also understood after only once, that when I asked her to come and “stand” she was to stand immobile, allowing me to use the back of her neck and shoulders to push myself up from either the bed or couch. We must have done that at least ten times; I wouldn’t have been able to get up by myself those first few days without her. She kept attempting to groom my incisions, but she stopped when I gently pushed her muzzle away, explaining that I was sore. The remainder of my convalescence she stared at me with a tender, worried expression that belied any foolish belief a person might have that animals do not feel compassion.
I have never felt so loved or protected by another creature, and as unbelievable as it sounds, that would include my family. As awesome as they all are, Athena’s care was single-minded and entirely focused. The word for her unwavering devotion that kept forming in my head every time I looked at her was this: Sentinel. She was my sentinel. Courageous and true.
Bless her beautiful, brave Shepherd heart.