We said goodbye to our big buddy Abe on Sunday. It was quick and he didn't appear to be in pain. For that I am grateful but it is hard to say goodbye to our gentle giant.
Nic and I were newly married, living in our starter apartment and were scheduled to close on our first home in just a few weeks. We'd talked about getting a dog, some sort of BIG dog, but the plans were on hold until we could get settled in our new place. Over spring break we stopped by our favorite pet shop to pick up fish supplies and as is common a local animal shelter was there showcasing some of the dogs looking for homes. We spied Abe sitting with a nice gentleman in a folding chair. We were in awe of his size... as a Mastiff mutt he was one of the biggest dogs I'd ever seen. He was named Titan by the shelter but the name didn't fit. He was so super sweet and seemed to grin from ear to ear. We gave him some scratches but continued inside the shop. No dogs for us. Too soon. We couldn't take a GIANT dog back to our apartment. As we browsed around we saw Abe had crawled into the lap of the fellow from the shelter and was tracking us as we shopped. No dogs, I insisted. No GIANT dogs!
Several days after this initial meeting Nic and I agreed we could hide a giant dog in our "no pets allowed" apartment for several weeks until we had a home of our own. I called the shelter and was told that, yes, he was still available for adoption but he'd since tested positive for heartworms and his new owners would be responsible for treating the condition. Oh... now he was no longer just a giant dog with no home he was a sick, giant dog with no home. Who would be willing to take this dog in...?! With that the decision was made. Within a few days we had a sick, giant, non-house trained dog with separation anxiety and no concept of how furniture worked inside our tiny apartment. I had a neighbor as a child with a cool old dog named Abraham and we both thought it fit our new pup. Best decision we made as newlyweds!
Abe was potty trained in no time and his heartworm treatment went smoothly. At 113 pounds he was still very underweight and had permanent scars on his bum and tops of his ears from the small crate his previous owners kept him in. He put on weight quickly, topping out at a healthy 140 pounds but the scars never went away. It's impossible to believe that someone, somewhere thought a small crate would be the place to put this sweet lap dog. He was enormous... but gentle and he longed for nothing but attention.
Abe's face graced our Christmas card one year.... I have a copy somewhere... A sad puppy face wearing reindeer ears with a thought bubble saying something like "Cheer up, sadface! It's Christmas!" He was the inspiration for several art projects. I made a few dog-themed books and Nic made several charming clay sculptures.
When Eli arrived we were concerned about how Abe and his sister pup, Frida would transition. They were curious about the new arrival but always very sweet and gentle. At 140 pounds with a head at about my hip height Abe would carefully lay on the floor and allow the boys to crawl, poke and pull at his fur, tail and ears. Once Eli started talking Abe became "Bebe" though we sometimes referred to him as "Abey Baby" and "Aberham".
He didn't get the attention he deserved once our family started growing but he took it all in stride and was always a happy pup. Visitors to our house will probably recall having giant Abe sit directly on their toes, throw his head back and wait for a loving rub. Ohhh the toes. How many times did I have giant paws step on my toes?? A million! It comes with the territory of owning a giant dog.
I will miss those giant toes.
Our best guess is that Abe was 10 or 11 years old when he passed away on Sunday. In the world of big dogs that's pretty darn old. I'd like to think he was as happy to have us as we were to have him. Abe was proof that the best dogs are rescue dogs. If you or someone you know is thinking of expanding your family I suggest contacting your local rescue shelter. It may be the best decision you make.