The intercom at the animal hospital boomed, “Attention, Grendel’s mom is here, Grendel’s mom is here.” I smiled a bit and inside my head laughed while wondering if anyone else there was laughing.

Why was I laughing? In high school and college I read and liked the story of Beowulf and my sense of humor is a mystery to some, but I find irony funny at times. Grendel is a character in Beowulf who is depicted as a monster. Large, hairy, mean—this monster invaded Hrothgar’s mead hall and eats his Viking warriors for breakfast. After the hero Beowulf kills Grendel, Grendel’s mother goes mental and causes even more destruction before Beowulf has to do battle with her as well.

Grendel driving

Grendel driving

My Grendel may have been very hairy and big for a dog, but he was the most gentle, kind, loving creature you could hope to love. When I brought him home as a puppy, my one cat tolerated him and the other went out of her way to smack him in the nose at every opportunity. He would sit and take it, even though he could have eaten her in two gulps. Grendel outlived them and had the experience of getting love from several new kittens in the house who adored the big guy.

The absence of Grendel’s presence is so pronounced in my house. He was always right in the middle of the action—whether that was lying down in the kitchen as five people worked their way around him trying to cook a meal, or blocking the doorway of my bathroom every morning to await his breakfast. He would never hurt a fly on purpose but he did take me down by the knees going down the stairs as a puppy. And he liked to play that game where he sits behind someone who doesn’t know he’s there and they turn and trip over him and fly to the ground as he hopes they drop some food.IMG_5731

One of my favorite activities to do with Grendel was to walk on the beach or in the woods. No leashes, no rules—just sniffing away at all the smells. I laughed when the experts told me to get him a dog bowl on a tray up off the ground to help ease the strain on his neck. Well then what do I do about him every other minute when we are walking and his nose is on the ground sniffing?

g-surfingOn the off-season down at Bethany Beach, we would head out sans leash and he would trot alongside the dunes as I walked along the surf. The dunes provided more smelling opportunities and then sometimes he would venture into the waves to fetch and surf. A water dog at heart, when we visited the lake, he was all about jumping off the steps of the dock to swim out and save me or to chase a duck. I never worried about his wandering up on Walloon Lake and even met some neighbors who lived several houses down because he had first made the introductions and of course gave everyone a great first impression.

At home I was embarrassed at times when he would just run into my neighbors’ houses and before we could grab him, would gobble up any food left out for their cats or dogs. He was part of the Briarleigh pack, letting the little dogs bark at him and running around the children with a delightful look on his face.4188_83427987487_6046940_n

Grendel was a quiet dog—very much to my liking. He barked only on special occasions—like when he would see family or friends approaching, or when he was at the dog park and wanted his buddy to run and play, or at home when someone knocked on the door. Just one definitive bark—nothing ongoing and noisy—just enough to warn away the bad guys and let me know a friend was at the door. And my gentle giant would sometimes bark at the little cats who would venture too close to his bone. He would put up with a lot but he was not okay with them messing with his bones. Even though the bones were as big as the cats themselves.

10398500_57849267487_1153483_nWhat a comfort and joy he was to me for 11 wonderful years. Lying with me on our sofa, riding along with me to the beach or Michigan, or just on some errands as we did a few days ago. He saw me leaving and rushed the door—standing in my way determined to go with me, so I brought him along and he had a happy last ride sticking his head out the window.

God gives us what we need and I believe He gave Grendel and me to each other at the right time. I finally was settled with a house and ready to take care of a puppy. Lab Rescue had a male yellow lab puppy who needed a home just at the time I was ready. I drove up to Baltimore to meet him at a vet office. The woman said I could spend a few minutes with him and decide if I want him or not and that she had three other people lined up if I didn’t. He burst into the room—a ball of energy running around sniffing and licking and his happy tail knocking over everything in its proximity. I took him home and soon realized I needed a bigger car. So instead of getting a little sports car, I got a big SUV to hall me and my baby and all our stuff on our adventures.10398500_57849252487_6768651_n

Nine years ago I remember sitting in my room crying out to God to please save Grendel for me. I had come home from work with a bad back only to realize that Grendel had gotten up on the counter and eaten through a large bottle of Advil I had just bought. He ate 200 times the toxic dose and somehow still managed to survive. Praise God. I cried again last week when the doctor told me he had cancer. For a few days it seemed maybe this would be something they could fix and he would live a couple more years. But just as life brings us unexpected blessings, so too it gives us unexpected blows. After a routine visit for a cat scan things progressed rapidly and no one could figure out why. In a blink of an eye I had to decide whether to fight a seemingly losing battle and keep him around for a little while longer or to stop the pain and suffering he seemed to be in. I am going back and forth about the wisdom of that decision now. It may be just because I miss him and I’m hating the uncertainty of what the outcome would have been. And some moments I am at peace knowing that it was his time to go and I just hate that it happened.10398500_57849257487_5295814_n

Thank you—all of my dear friends and family—all of the wonderful supportive words and actions you have given me. Yes, he’s a dog and not a human. But anyone who loves animals understands the loss of a beloved pet. They are our companions, they comfort us and love us and are part of our families. Thanks to all my human friends and thank you God for giving me a wonderful decade with the Grendel dog.

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