Every now and then, we are truly blessed with the opportunity to share our lives with a special soul, in this case a very special dog – our dog Simba.
Simba came to us 12 years ago as a 7-month old puppy, extremely dehydrated, his skin felt like shoe leather, no doubt being lost in the desert for some time. He did not come alone, but brought his best friend Sierra (who passed away last May). We searched over a period of many months via local newspaper ads, registration with the Humane Society, Animal Welfare Department, etc., for their family. But nobody ever came forward and asked about them. Unfortunately, this happens to be an everyday scenario here in the high desert of New Mexico. People just allow their dogs to breed and the unwanted offspring are just discarded in the desert (?!) (even though there are many excellent spay/neuter programs in place, some free, some for a very low fee). Needless to say, these dogs became integral parts of our family, loved and cherished. Our first dog Sheba loved them instantly, and their presence made her feel safe, when asked to stay at home. This was a great gift to us and made our lives so much easier.
However, Simba was not always the easiest of dogs to live with. He was a mixed breed dog, and it was everyone’s guess what predominated at any given time. He was mostly Tibetan Mastiff, with some Golden Retriever and Chow thrown in for good measure. A very large dog, in his prime, Simba weighed 94 pounds. His health was very poor when we found him. His then veterinarian diagnosed him with an inoperable form of hip displasia, and advised us that he would most likely not see his 5th birthday, due to the severity of this condition. We contacted a close friend in Montana who had been involved in animal rescue and rehabilitation for most of her life, and she counseled us as to supplements and nutrition to help support Simba and give him at least a chance at life. Nobody had ever invested any time or energy in him, or Sierra for that matter, and, as a result, he had not been socialized or taught how to be a family dog. Through excellent nutrition, multiple training sessions, exercise and much love and lots of patience ( !!!), he became a beautiful dog.
Simba was a powerful and exuberant dog, full of energy, and very stubborn. He was also very loyal and loving. He taught us all to seek and find yet greater levels of patience and love within ourselves on a daily basis. Dogs truly teach us more, if we let them. But it was not until one of our cats, a mere kitten, about 4 weeks old at the time, dared to walk up to him, tapped him on the nose, and taught him to be respectful of cats, that he actually accepted cats as companions and not a possible hunting or dinner option . He completely surrendered to cats from that moment on. What a huge step up for this beautiful dog! As you can imagine, this newly gained insight on his part, again made our lives much simpler. We no longer had to confine him when in the house, but could allow him free access for the last 3 years of his life.
But as life tends to play itself out, Simba lost his best friend Sierra, who suffered a major heart attack, in May of last year, and never quite regained his equilibrium after that. He felt completely lost. Having lost most of his vision at that time, he not only lost his best friend, but his personal seeing eye dog and guide. Naturally, we took over the responsibility of guiding him. As long as no changes were made within the home, he negotiated the space easily. Walking outside, he no longer felt safe and one of us always walked with him. In the backyard he initially guided himself along the fence, having walked there so many times with Sierra over the years. His grief for his friend was palpable and slowly his health began to fail – spiraling downward rapidly towards the end. In the last few weeks of his life he had several strokes (two over Christmas), but given Simba’s incredible inner strength, resourcefulness and will to survive, he recovered from the first two. In the beginning of January, he had another massive stroke which left him with a severe neurological impairment of his hind legs. He could only control them intermittently. On January 10 he lost all control of his hind legs. He finally was granted entry to his spiritual home on January 11, 2011. We will always hold him in our hearts and think of him with fond memories, and of the very special soul that he is.