Desert Horses

Welcome to my horse blog, Desert Horses. We live in the desert southwest, near Palm Springs, CA, but board our horses up in our local mountains where it is cooler in the summer. I have 4 horses, all rescues. Here is the ranch up the mountains where the horses stay.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Our beautiful German Shepherd is gone...RIP Rommel 2003-2011

Rommel, our beautiful German Shepherd, died 5 minutes after we arrived home tonight.  It was as if he hung on to life until we entered the house.  Then, his job was done, and he quietly passed.  My husband and I sat with him and stroked him until he was gone.  It's never easy losing a it a cat, dog, or horse.  Rommel was our third German shepherd and we had bought all 3 of them from different breeders in Riverside.  Our first one, Metternich ("Nick") was a huge, mostly black shepherd.  He HATED all men except my husband.  For some reason, he especially hated my grandfather!  Go figure...Grandad had dogs his whole life.  I remember one time we were renting a house about a block from my in-laws.  It was in Rancho Mirage and open desert was near it.  We had a 6 foot wooden fence in the back yard.  One evening a coyote jumped OVER the fence, saw Nick out there in the back, and I swear, he tried to stop mid-air!  I've never seen an animal do a U-turn so quickly BACK over the fence!  Nick was always very protective of me.  He lived to be 10 years old.  Our second shepherd, Maverick, we bought from a lady breeder who actually lived in Jurupa, which is next to Riverside.  She kept him because he had a floppy ear.  We didn't care, we loved him too.  Maverick hated every vet we ever took him to for shots...he would growl and I finally had to just muzzle him.  Turns out, one vet at PetCo said to him, "Oh, KNOCK IT OFF!" and gave him a cookie!  He was the only vet who Maverick loved!  Unfortunately, he was cursed with hip dysplaysia and we had to put him to sleep when he was 9.  He loved our son and all his high school friends and would play with the boys for hours.  Rommel, our last shepherd, we purchased from a different breeder in Riverside, out on Victoria Avenue.  There were 9 puppies in his litter.  Somebody recently asked about how much to spend on a dog.  Well, Rommel was the most expensive we paid for a shepherd and he had the most medical problems.  After he was about 3 years old, I noticed he was losing hair, so I took him to one vet down here in the desert.  They did a skin scan and said he had mange and wanted $1,600 to fix this.  Er, uh...I don't think so, so I took him up to an old vet up in Anza, where I board my horses.  He did a skin scan and found 1 mite, so thought it was something else.  He did blood work and for 2 years of treatment, he came up with 2 different diagnoses...either canine lupus or something else, which my mind has blocked...thyroid?  Anyway, after 2 years of baths and medications, last spring, my aunt suggested I take a day off and drive Rommel down to San Diego (she offered to pay for the exam) to her dog dermatologist.  So, off we went.  $600 later, this vet also couldn't come up with a clear diagnosis, but sent us home with more sprays and ear cleaners and medicated shampoos.  In the meantime, Rommel continued to lose his hair.  He still had energy and played with our other two dogs, but I noticed after the last day of school this month, the spark had gone out of his eyes and he wasn't eating on a regular basis.  We went to Arizona and our son reported that he didn't eat the whole time we were gone.  I tried to get him to eat when we got home and finally wet his food and he ate it with some warm water.  Then, we left for an annual family Christmas dinner with my sister-in-law up in Napa.  Our son, who stayed behind because he had to work, phoned us to tell us Rommel wasn't eating at all and was extremely thin.  He made him a little bed in the house, gave him extra water, but when we arrived home, Rommel lived only for about 5 minutes and then was gone.   It's very quiet without my buddy, but my husband and I have talked and we don't think we can support breeders who so carelessly or thoughtlessly continue to breed dogs who don't live long lives and who have medical problems, like our last two shepherds.  Rommel was only 8 years old and his last few years, well, they involved a lot of trips to vets.  We have Ripley, our black lab mix, who is a mutt, and is by far the smartest dog we've ever had and she was free at the swap meet.  We also have our son's Weimeraner, Atticus, but he's getting up there in years (I believe he's 7).  So, our house is a lot quieter tonight.  RIP Rommel 2003 - 2011. Here are some photos of him when he was about a year old.  He was a bright, curious, intelligent dog and never growled at anybody, vet or not.  We miss you, old friend.  He used to LOVE to come with me and visit the horses.  He would sniff them and then go sit down far enough away that he was out of harm's way.  They all accepted him and none of them ever tried to hurt him.  He was a good dog.  It's just a shame that breeders can't be more responsible for these wonderful animals and make sure they don't have health problems or issues. They are wonderful working dogs and family dogs, but it's a shame they are so thoughtlessly and carelessly bred.  Rommel was actually the offspring of an "unplanned" mating between his father and mother.  Another dog was actually chosen to be the father, but that didn't happen.  I've often wondered if his litter mates had the same health problems that he had.  And, YES, we visited the breeder...twice...before we brought him home.  So, it seems to me that price has nothing to do with the quality of the dog.  A secretary at my school had a shepherd who lived to be 14.  I think my husband and I need some "down" time.  While we appreciate the loyalty and devotion of a German Shepherd, we honestly don't wish to ever go through this again.


Katharine Swan said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I've had that experience more than once -- a pet holding on until everyone was there to say goodbye. I am grateful for every time I've been able to say goodbye to a pet in their own time and in their own way.

I agree with you about not supporting irresponsible breeders -- and really, the vast majority of them are irresponsible. Will you adopt a rescue next time, do you think? If you like German shepherds, you can actually find specific breeds fairly easily from shelters and rescues. And although when you don't know their breeding, you don't know what problems they might have later in life -- better that they be with you, someone who is willing to take them to the vet and take care of them, than someone else, right?

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for your loss - he was beautiful. We too have a German Shepherd, so I understand your attachment to the breed - they are so smart and interactive.

Margaret said...

What a beauty and so loyal. He wanted to see you before he passed on... I just know it. He had a wonderful life with you.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Awwww. So sorry. That is amazing that Rommel held out until you got home. Our experiences are the same as yours -- the pedigreed dogs having all kinds of health problems while the shelter dogs or freebies ended up being maintenance-free and living long lives. It's so painful to lose them.

Donna K said...

So sorry for your loss. My brother is a responsible German Shepherd guy although he no longer breeds them. He authored the Barron's Dog Bible on German Shepherds. They are a wonderful breed but unfortunately are prone to health problems that are exacerbated when breeders act irresponsibly. My heart goes out to you in the loss of your fur friend. It is never easy. ((hugs))

Holistic Horse Care - HHC said...

Sorry for your loss. RIP.

Owlfarmer said...

Cheryl Ann, I can't tell you how sorry I was to read about Rommel. Like you, we've had trouble with short-lived dogs (English bulldogs in our case) that just didn't have the genetic strength to make it beyond 8 or 9 years. After our last bulldog died, we vowed to only rescue mutts. But that doesn't make losing friends any easier. Rommel sounds like a great dog, and I'm pretty sure he had as good a life as possible in your care.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

The story about Nick and the coyote cracked me up. I could sooo see that happening.

Your Rommel is the third dog loss I've read about on blogs today. I'm so sorry.

German Shepherds are great dogs, I agree. We're on our second one and our first was a rescue from the SPCA and died at 14 yrs old from old age and hip dysplaysia complications. We had been giving her fish oil and MSM when she first showed symptoms and it helped give her a good 10 more years of her life, but the lack of muscle tone as she aged negated that benefit.
Buy Cory was loyal, sweet, patient, well-behaved, and a part of our family in every way. She loved our twins when they were just babies and would let them crawl all over her and hang on her neck. She was like their Nanny and was so patient and loving.

Our second shepherd, the one we have now, is missing a few marbles and is ADHD and OC. She's more like a border collie or jack russel than a GSD.
Hubby bought her from the back of the truck from a breeder (I know!) a few days before Christmas, 4 years ago. I've never truly bonded with this dog and hubby either because she's just so spaz and can't pay attention for more than 3 minutes.
She loves her job up at the barn guarding our goats and llamas, though and is happiest when she is outside and able to run, run, and do her OC, spaz thing.
But it makes me sad because we were both hoping for another special shepherd like our first GSD.
I agree about irresponsible breeders over-breeding and not for quality.
I'm afraid Zuni will be our last shepherd, too.


wilsonc said...

I am so sorry for your loss. We lost our collie this past year. It is very painful to go through I know. I hope you can find comfort in the fact that you gave Rommel a good life.

Breathe said...

We have a German Shepard from a shelter - Bella. My first ever GSD, and I agree they are terrific dogs. But pure reds do have so many health problems, I'm so sorry Rommel and a difficult passing.

The greatest sorrow of loving dogs is when they pass so quickly relative to us. Keeping you in my thoughts, and hope Rommel is off chasing bunnies in heaven.