Sunday, June 7, 2015

My Sweet Dog Sheba, My Best Friend

I am sitting here trying to drink a cup of coffee before the week-old baby kitten wakes up again for its next feeding, which has gone from every two hours to every hour. So now I have made up a bigger bottle for each feeding.

Since I am doing this again, I thought it would be a good time to write about some of my pets that I’ve had through the years. I have to start with my beautiful Sheba.

Alan had been talking about a big German Shepherd he had a few years before, and he started looking for another big dog. We went to a few kennels in our area, but nothing was what he was looking for.

Alan then came home one day all excited about a fellow farmer who had Newfoundland dogs. We took a ride to the farmer’s house. Two Newfies were on the front porch, and they pretty much took up the entire front porch. We went in, and I was taken aback by what I saw: A huge Great Dane was on their couch.  Another was on the floor. Dog dishes with food and water were everywhere. A few other dogs that I don’t remember clearly were also present, and I kept saying to myself,  “How does this poor woman try to clean this place?”

When Alan and I left there, the first thing I said to him was that I am never going to live like that. They gave us a few names of breeders in New York State. At the time there were not many breeders of Newfoundlands in the state. We ended up with a breeder in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Sheba was born on December 21 and flew to New York when she was four months old. She came into Newburgh’s Stewart Airport after a delay in Atlanta, Georgia. I had two shocks that night: When they rolled out her crate, there was this big black dog about the size of a small German Shepherd, smeared with feces. Her size and her condition were alarming. 

We brought her home and put her in my big farm sink to wash her. I had promised to call the breeder, Kathy, when I got Sheba home, so I did. I told Kathy that we were giving Sheba a bath, and she heard her bark. Kathy told me that was a good sign, that Sheba would be fine, and to keep in touch.

Sheba was to be Alan’s dog, but that never happened. Within 24 hours, Sheba and I had bonded. She became my best friend and I, hers. She grew and grew and grew.

We made a very large kennel with her own door. Every evening at feeding time, she would chatter her teeth. In time, we took her to dog-training classes, from which she graduated with honors.

Every day, Sheba and I would go to the ponds, and she would go in and catch fish. She would have a special tail wag that went in circles, not from side to side.

We had the pick-your-own-apples program that season, and we put in an electric fence to make sure that Sheba would not wander. The farmer who had many dogs had told us this would work. The fence worked for only a short while, but it didn’t matter. As long as Sheba had the collar on, she knew where not to cross the line.

At first, I would keep her in until all the people who were picking apples had left, for fear that they would get one look at Sheba and be scared by her size. As it turned out, one day Sheba and I were walking around the pond as the tractor that was pulling people on the hay wagon got to the top of the hill. Sheba sat down next to me and we stayed put until the wagon passed. One man stood up in the hay wagon and yelled to me about how beautiful Sheba was.

Sheba became the reason some people came back with their children–just to see and play with her. It was a wonderful time for them, for me, and for Sheba. I took many pictures that I look at often. It was not long before Sheba started butting me occasionally with her nose. I thought she was telling me that she wanted attention. As time went on, I realized that she was telling me that my blood sugar was too low. My beautiful Sheba!

When she came into her first season, she gathered up all of her squeaky toys and put them on a chair, then got up into the chair and stayed there with her toys, cleaning them, arranging them, over and over. She only left that chair to relieve herself in the kennel. Even after I had her spayed, she continued to do this periodically up until she died.

Sheba hated the airplanes that flew over our property, as we are in the airspace for planes landing and taking off from a local airport. She would bark, looking at the plane, and chase it until she knew she could go no farther. I’m sure that her behavior went back to her difficult trip getting here!

Sheba also got very upset whenever Alan went into the pond to adjust the irrigation pump. She jumped in, swam to him, and tried to pull him out, to save him. Newfies are often trained for water rescue, but Sheba never had been. It just came naturally. It was part of her history, I guess. Her father and mother were highly trained dogs.

As the years passed, Sheba started having trouble with her back legs. I gave her everything the vet told me to give her to lessen her discomfort. She never gave up a single day to walk and play with me, no matter what.

Because Sheba had become my dog, Alan found a breeder in Massachusetts that bred another large breed of dog. Thus, two years after Sheba came to us, we drove to get Courtney, a black and white puppy. My breeder advised me to let Sheba meet the new puppy in the driveway, not in the house. I did that. Sheba sniffed her up and down and then showed Courtney the way into the house. They never had a bad moment between them for the rest of their lives. Sheba raised Courtney!

When Sheba turned nine years old, on that December 21st, we went to my son’s house for a holiday dinner. When I came home, I found Sheba lying next to the kitchen table. She had died. I cannot write this or think about her even now without breaking down and crying. I called my son to ask him to help pick Sheba up and put her in a safe place until we could bury her.

Sheba loved me…even in her passing. I have gone through other animals who took a few hours to die, which broke my heart. I don’t know how I would have reacted if Sheba had died with me there. I will never have another dog. I have been spoiled by my beautiful Sheba.


We are serializing the memoir Kidnapped Twice, by Mary E. Seaman and myself, the story of Mary's mostly successful struggle to overcome the abuse she suffered as a child. Published by Outskirts Press, it is available in paperback and ebook formats from OP,,, and other on-line booksellers.

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