This is about three dogs that touched mine and many other human lives. Keegan, Brodie, and Shack started their lives with much in common. They were all born on farms in the Appalachian foothills of Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. They were interrelated by their human counterparts: Keegan and Brodie belonged to my two sons, and Shack to their good friend Dave. They all lived their lives in similar timelines, but different areas of the country, and unfortunately all succumbed to cancer at the end of their lives.
Keegan: The Do Everything Dog
Charleston during one rare, snowy winter.
She grew up in college with my youngest son. She became an instructor for him and his roommates, teaching them how to toss tennis balls. She could catch a ball from 50 yards out and literally could carry five balls at a time in her mouth (wish we had a photo!). She was able to catch a ball while holding another. After graduation, she moved to Arizona to watch over my son and help him start his career. From there she returned and lived with me for close to a year because my son could not afford to have her in San Francisco. She finally relocated with my son in Charleston, South Carolina.
South Carolina was bliss for her. She was a swimmer. Boy, was she a swimmer. Ocean, pools, lakes, anywhere she found water, she was in it.
A couple of years later my son married a girl readily approved by Keegan. Then, their first girl arrived and Keegan busied herself helping to raise her. A little over a year later a baby boy entered her life. She was a wonderful family dog, babies crawled all over her and she kept the floor clean under the kitchen table. She aged gracefully as she got those kids off to a good start in life and we all grieved deeply when she was finally helped to pass from this life.
Brodie: The Wonder Dog
Brodie was born near my New Richmond hospital. My son and his wife wanted a Golden and it was left to myself and my wife to find one. We visited the farm where he was born and picked him. He was the one that was happy to see us but had an independent attitude. I knew he was the one. He moved to Atlanta with his new owners and within a couple of years shared his home with a newborn girl. Then a couple of years later he had his next girl to help raise.
He had an amazingly happy life as he had an uncanny ability to be let outside and never venture far away and always returned home in a timely fashion. He really had a carefree life.
At midlife he got a new neighbor with two Golden Retrievers. Soon, a relationship was developed. He’d get up in the morning, help get the girls ready for school, and then was off next door for play, nap time, and snacks. He’d return home when the girls came home from school. He was the ultimate family dog. He got those girls to their preteen years and will always be remembered as their first dog.
Finally, he was diagnosed with lympho-sarcoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes. He came to live with us for treatment and hopefully extend his life and return home. He did return home for Thanksgiving that year and what a reunion it was. His family also made the trek north to visit him. Despite my and our oncologists effort he finally had to be helped from this world one early morning with myself and my wife. He lived an extra happy six months and became an integral part of my staff’s lives. He lives in our hearts.
And Then There Was: Shack
Shack was the youngest of this trio. His owner is the head greens keeper at a major golf course on the east side of Cincinnati. He needed a working dog that could help control the geese population on the course. He found Shack, a Border Collie, as a puppy on a farm near Felicity, Ohio. The breeder was also a trainer and thus Shack learned his trade there.
Shack was raised by his owner Dave. Shack was always friendly with us, but he was truly a one man dog. He also was a working dog supreme. I saw him more than once at his golf course, working his trade. He was my cart-mate a couple of times. We’d ride together and then he’d disappear for a couple of holes and be waiting for us at a tee up ahead. I wondered what this was all about until he disappeared again and I saw him two fairways over herding geese off the course. He was wondrous to watch as he ran like a greyhound with the grace of a gazelle. And wow, could he swim. He disappeared again until I saw a clutch of geese scurrying across this very large lake. Not far behind them I saw, you guessed it, Shack’s head bobbing above the white water crests in hot pursuit. He was the ultimate athlete. He was truly living the dog’s life.
He continued this lifestyle into his geriatric years. Then one day he suffered an accident, falling awkwardly from a cart. His femur was shattered. We fixed it with pins and an external fixator, but his sciatic nerve had also been damaged. The bone healed but the nerve damage became permanent. Enter: Sarah. Sarah became his therapist. She and Dave worked together, using different splints so he could continue his working life. All went well for over a year but then we started having problems with pressure sores from the splints. From this point on Dave brought Shack in 2 to 3 times a week so Sarah and occasionally other staff members could dress and bandage his leg. He was successfully managed for several more months until as his healthcare provider I became aware of arthritis developing in his back. This was what finally slowed him down and forced him into a gentleman’s retirement. He’d still never miss a day’s work but rested more and rode a lot more. Finally, one day we realized a weight loss and his appetite was waning and he had occasional digestive problems. On exam I felt a mass probably on his liver and x-rays showed cancer in his lungs. His last 2 days he stayed with us in the hospital and Sarah held his head in her lap as he passed.
Because of his long intensive care we had become so very attached to him. When he passed Dave, Sarah, myself and the entire staff wept and hugged. We will truly miss Shack. There will never be another. He was the ultimate working dog. He was a man’s dog. He was Dave’s dog.
We all toast him and thank him for being a part of our lives.