Thursday, February 11, 2010


My longtime dog Sheba died this morning, a few months past her fifteenth birthday. By all predictions from numerous learned A&M trained vets in Houston, they said that she likely wouldn't live past seven years, with a likely lifespan of five years, due to an epileptic condition that arose after she was about a year old.

Treated with massive shots of some kind of barbituate, which had to be squirted into her mouth with a water and drug filled syringe during the attack, the attacks came twice a year for the first few years of her life, then the attacks stopped some years ago. She thrived and was a loyal family companion her entire healthy life. She only required medicine when she was having an attack, but again, the docs said that although it was necessary to give her the doses of strong medicine during an attack, that it's use would cause wear and tear on her heart.

I had gotten Sheba on a cold and rainy December day, right after Christmas, just over 15 years ago. Turned out to be the then-future-but-as- yet- unmet Mrs. El Fisho's birthday. I had actually wanted to get a dog that year for Christmas, and toured shelters looking for an animal I thought I could get along with.

One morning at work, my secretary came in carrying a bundle of black fur that was a five or six week old Sheba. She had been soaked, and although my secretary had dried her, she looked soaked and traumatized. I held her and we bonded instantly.

My secretary lived outside Houston WAY in the country, on her way to work that day and seen Sheba thrown into a ditch by a car in front of her in some sort of bag. The ditch was, of course, filled to the brim with water from the driving rain, and had not my secretary intervened, Sheba would have likely drowned.

Despite the crowd gathered at my secretaries desk cooing and petting the pretty pup, when I left to go to my office she followed me, leaving behind about ten people. Once in my office, she jumped into my lap, and that was that.

A trip to the vet revealed her age to be 5-6 weeks old and the old A&M vet offered the following possible history, based upon the events that led to my secretary finding her. He guessed that since she had been fixed at too young of an age, that she came from a shelter, because they tend to fix dogs too young at times. He guessed that because she was mostly lab and probably a bit collie that her chewing and puppy hyperactivity led someone who brought the dog home for a family dog thought better of it a few days after Christmas.

No matter, for she was mine now and I was hers. I was single, and had recently decided to swear off dating for awhile until I met someone I absolutely felt was worthy of dating and a long term relationship. That is why I had decided to get a dog some weeks before.

We took a road trip for New Year's Eve a couple of days later, up to Ricky Ray's family place in Hunt County, up past Plano. My good friend Smitty and I put Sheba in the back floorboard of the Honda I owned and off we went to meet Billy Ray and Ricky Ray for an impromptu New Year's party. Billy Ray was then living in Lubbock, and I in Houston, and it was much closer for both of us to meet at Ricky Ray's then to attempt to meet in either Lubbock or Houston.

It was cold up there in North Texas that trip, down into the teens. Sheba and her heavy black hair loved it, and she cavorted over several hundred acres of pasture as we walked Ricky Ray's property line and did some holiday rifle shooting. I'm not much of a hunter, but she was pointing birds on that trip even though she was all of six weeks old.

Soon, I met my future wife, and upon making acquaintance with Sheba, Sheba decided she had a new owner in my wife and daughter (THE PRINCESS) to be. After we got married, and settled in to our new life together, Sheba and my wife's dog became constant companions. Sheba had a special fondness for The Princess and would often sleep cuddled up next to her in bed. Sheba loved her Princess.

A few years later, along came El Fisho Jr. and Sheba once again decided that she had a new owner.

When El Fisho Jr. was a small child, he was given to coming into our bedroom at night and sleeping on a small couch we had in the master bedroom. Sheba would dutifully follow El Fisho Jr. from his room, where she liked to sleep on a small loveseat, and jump up onto the couch in our room with El Fisho Jr. She would wiggle herself under his head and torso so to be his pillowed, positioned so she could look out and keep all hazards away.

Sheba didn't tolerate the other dogs coming near El Fisho Jr. He was her boy, and there would be no discussion about it. The only time she ever growled was when another dog tried to steal her chewy rawhide/pig's ear or tried to get near El Fisho Jr. Her growl quickly deterred the other animals of any thought of playing with HER boy unless the wife and I were around.

Soon after getting married, Mrs. El Fisho discovered that Sheba had a like for butter and other dairy products. Cake batter, sticks of butter, food that has butter in it, pans- bowls-plates-utensils that once touched butter were not safe on the kitchen counter if you left the room for a moment. Sticks of butter would just DISAPPEAR off the counter, wrapper and all, with a large black dog smacking her lips after veritably swallowing the stick whole.

She could jump straight up high enough in the air to see what the neighbors were doing over a six foot backyard cedar fence until she was 10 or so, and was flat out fast when chasing a ball or a squirrel or bird. She was so fast and stealthy that she often did catch birds in her youth.

Sheba always had an ability to predict an approaching storm, particularly thunder storms. The worse the storm was coming, the more freaked out she got. If it was a minor storm she'd just slink around the house scrunched down with her tail between her legs, but if it was a major thunder storm, she would shake and quiver as if she was at the North Pole and it was 50 below 0. This action would begin about two hours before the storm would hit.

Several of her vets said that they theorized this storm sensitivity was because of her medical condition of epilepsy, which is based on electrical issues in the nervous system, that perhaps she had a heightened alertness to electrical energy in the air.

In any event, I could ramble on and on with stories of my life about my loyal friend Sheba. I probably will write more about her, and the joy she brought our family. I'm glad her passing was easy and natural. Two of our previous dogs, also shelter/rescue dogs, had to be put down to end their suffering. Sheba just basically got really tired early this week, and I was with her as she was having a mild stroke.

She was my late night companion, from the first day I had her. I'm a night owl by nature, as was she, particularly in her later years. She cared far more for human company rather than that her fellow dogs and cats. She was a member of the pack always but with an opt-out clause when she didn't want to participate.

I just really miss her, and there is a pallor over the El Fisho household with a void that is bare and open. The other dogs know. The cat knows. We, of course, know. El Fisho Jr. wanted to help me wrap her up for her final resting place, and I think he got some closure out of that. He later said prayers for her and has a lot of questions.

I know she is in a good place right now, surrounded by my family and friends who knew Sheba in life and who have moved to Heaven. I also firmly believe that most dogs are better than most people I've known, and surely our Lord takes care of animals in the afterlife. I just have to believe that.

I miss her.

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