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Gunnar wasn't a GSD, but he was still my heart-dog. I lost him to osteosarcoma last June. I wrote this in his memory:

Angel Incognito

Sometimes angels come into our lives when we least expect them, and we don't always recognize them right away. When Gunnar barged into my life (at the worst possible moment), he bore absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to those celestial beings. If he ever had a halo, he must have chewed it up immediately because he sure as heck wasn't wearing one when I met him!

I was devastated. It was the day after I had my Misha dog euthanized, and my world seemed much too quiet. I knew I would eventually get another dog, but not yet. I needed time for my heart to heal before I could give it to another dog. And next time, I would do it right: I would research breeders and carefully select a healthy, well-bred, pet-quality pup with excellent temperament and champion lineage.

I thought some "dog time" might help take my mind off my loss, so I went to the Humane Society to visit with the dogs. When I walked in the door, I immediately had to cover my ears because blood curdling, eardrum piercing screams were emanating from the dog room. The shelter staff, who are accustomed to shelter noise that's sometimes quite loud, had their hands over their ears as well.

I walked into the dog adoption room, wondering which dog was making such an awful racket. I thought such a big noise surely must be coming from one of the largest dogs, but all of the dogs were standing silently with their eyes clenched shut and their paws over their ears-- except for one: A tiny black and white puppy who was listed as a six-week-old Lab mix stray available for adoption in one hour and fifteen minutes. (The shelter has a hold time of 72 hours for strays.) I entered his kennel and he immediately stopped shrieking, toddled over to me and peed on my foot before scampering off to play in his water dish while ignoring me. I caught him & looked him over while he gnawed happily on my hands. He was extremely thin and covered with fleas and, according to his teeth, closer to five weeks old than six. I rolled him gently onto his back and he struggled, screamed and bit my wrist-- HARD. I jumped back and he ran off to gnaw on his chain link prison wall. I was in love-- hopelessly, madly so.

He was the wrong breed, too young, obviously unhealthy, flunked a temperament test with flying colours, and I HAD to have him. I stood guard by his kennel door until his hold time was up, worried that someone else might try to adopt the little demon. I need not have worried; the two other people who showed up gave him a brief glance before quickly moving on. (He happened to be attached to my ankle at the time, and I was the one screeching loudly.) The instant he became legally adoptable, I pulled his paperwork and tucked him securely under my arm (he only escaped once) and went to fill out the adoption application. Less than five minutes later my application was approved and I became a new puppy mom. All the staff were thrilled that the little booger was getting a new home. They had HUGE grins on their faces-- except for the lady who was microchipping him. SHE was spewing expletives because she had a puppy tooth embedded in her thumb. My heart began to throb with pride.

From day one, Gunnar was an absolute terror: Willful, destructive and creatively naughty. To keep him safe while I was at work, I gave him his very own bedroom-- completely empty except for a few heavy duty toys. Crating him was out of the question; he broke out of an airline-approved, heavy duty, extra-large Vari-Kennel less than twenty minutes after being placed in it. I enrolled him in puppy kindergarten; he flunked. He passed the second time around and did well in the rest of his classes, all the way through level III obedience, though he never stopped being the class clown. And in spite of my nearly constant vigilance, he continued to eat his way through my home: One chair, half a sofa, several shoes (but never two from the same pair), numerous books, a slipper (while I was WEARING it), an automotive light bulb, a glass test tube..... The most interesting thing he ate was a set of glow-in-the-dark wall ornaments. I discovered the "evidence" when I stepped outside after dark the next day. I had to install a latch on my fridge after he figured out how to open it, and I frequently found him perched on top of the fridge with his nose in the jar of puppy treats.

His antics were many, far too many to recount here. More than once I wondered if I had made a serious mistake when I brought this incorrigible monster into my life. I loved him so much, though, and always forgave him almost immediately-- except for the time he stole my fanciest bra, took it outside, stood by the fence bordering the logging road, & waved it enthusiastically at the log trucks that were driving by. I heard the trucks slowing way down and looked outside to investigate. One of the trucks had stopped and I could see the driver convulsing with laughter. There was NO WAY I was going outside to retrieve my underthings and my errant pup while that trucker was sitting there enjoying the show! By the time I rescued my bra, it was considerably "lacier" than it was originally.

Amazingly, this monster pup eventually turned into the best dog that ever lived. He was able to predict my migraines and always alerted me to them about twenty minutes before they hit. If I took medication as soon as he alerted me, I could prevent or significantly reduce the intensity and duration of the migraine. Because he needed to burn off his excess energy, I started walking in the woods with him regularly. (He usually did about twenty miles to my four.) He needed to be properly socialized, so I had no choice but to leave the safety of my home and talk to people-- including complete strangers who stopped to admire my cute, friendly, happy-go-lucky dog. He loved everyone and made many friends, both human and canine. He absolutely adored cats-- especially Marissa, who adopted him as her kitten and taught him proper feline etiquette and grooming-- and even the most skittish cats trusted him immediately. On his second adoption anniversary, he acquired a kitty cat of his very own. He and Greta were inseparable and committed many crimes together.

Gunnar lived exuberantly throughout his thirteen years of life. He taught me to laugh, to love, and to enjoy life. Because of him, I was able to get my daily occurring, severely debilitating migraines under control. Because of him, I overcame my fear of talking to unfamiliar people. Because of him, I became more aware of little things I never really noticed before: Dewdrop diamonds sparkling in the early morning sunlight; the smell of newborn leaves and the decaying foliage that nourishes them; the song of the creek as it warbles its way through forests and meadows; how fast a dog and his human can run through thick underbrush and blackberry brambles to jump into the creek after the dog sticks his overly inquisitive nose into a hive of honeybees....

I miss him still.... He was a good boy.
 

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a beautifully written tribute. your words convey how very special gunnar was. my mom always told me that we are never separated from those we truly love. gunner will be in your heart always.
 

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That was beautiful!
 

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Gunnar sounds like he was amazing- I had a destructive naughty Dobe named Zeus much like him. When we went to pick our pup he was the one trying to eat the bunnies in their bunny cages and biting all the other pups....I had to have that one though my mom tried to point out some calmer ones- he was mine. He ate our couch...twice, shoes, papers, pillows, and anything else he could nab despite our diligence. He was an escape artist as well and while smart too goofy to want to listen well though obedient by the age of 4. I still miss him and his craziness as well and it's been 10 years.

Since his passing I brought in Henry and Zoe who are cherished just as he was. It's hard to believe but one day some other goof ball pup is going to steal your heart again, destroy your home, and warm your bed I promise:)
 

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That was just beautiful. God sends us angels in many forms. Gunnar was definitely sent to help you in your time of need.
 

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What a great writing/tribute. I laughed and I cried and I often am in the same state you are in. ;) Thanks for sharing your story.
 

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Thanks, all....

It's hard to believe but one day some other goof ball pup is going to steal your heart again, destroy your home, and warm your bed I promise:)
Oh, I do hope so! That actually put a big ol' grin on my face.... :crazy:

...and yeah, there were times I wasn't sure if I wanted to laugh or cry because of Gunnar's antics. Usually I ended up doing both, like the third time he met me at the door with a tiny white feather balanced on the end of his nose and his tail waggling joyfully.... I guess I'm a slow learner. :rolleyes: (Zoeys mom, I suppose YOU know what an incredible amount of feathers a single pillow contains, huh??)
 
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