We adopted him in 1995. We don't know precisely when he was born but we, or perhaps it was me? decided that May 15 would be a great birthday for him. My mom named him Shelby, after Shelby Foote the historian, in an effort to persuade my dad to like the dog. I don't think that worked as well as my mother would have liked, but my dad was always polite to the dog and was solicitous during Shelby's last years as he grew feeble.
Shelby was supposed to be an outdoor dog, but he soon was fighting for his life against Parvo. He spent hours cuddled up on my mom's lap as she rocked him like a baby. My mom liked to joke that our $30 pound dog was now a $500 one. And that was the end of Shelby's being an outdoor dog.
He was a Britney Spaniel/Walker Hound mix. Little kids often thought he was a Dalmation because of his black and white coloring with dots up and down his legs. He had a great howl and loved to track things. He especially liked squirrels; back when we lived in Virginia we would check for squirrels before letting him out because he would run himself silly trying to catch them. He even learned how to spell squirrel: everytime we would spell it he would run to the back door and try to get out. His spelling abilities weren't just limited to that word. He also knew how to spell walk, kibble, and rabbit.
He was incredibly well-behaved. He would let visitors pet him but wouldn't try to sit in their lap. He would sit, lay down, and roll over upon command. And the ultimate test: putting a doggie treat between his paws and telling him to ignore it. He was superb-he would stare straight ahead until you gave him permission to eat it. He was trained to heel and was fun to take on walks and runs. Once when we were out walking a little Chihuahua was wandering about loose and decided to attack Shelby. He was running around yip-yapping at Shelby's heels and Shelby merely looked at us with a puzzled expression as if to ask, "What in the blazes is that?"
When we made the 3-day drive to move down to Texas in 2001 Shelby was not exactly pleased. The first day he was greatly relieved to walk into our hotel room at the end of the day. The next day when we showed signs of getting ready to leave he decided to sulk and would not look at us or interact with us all day. The third day my mom decided it would be best to dope the dog and so that third day was a bit easier on all of us. I think Shelby enjoyed Texas. He had a bigger backyard and more local wildlife to chase after. Although sometimes the prey had already fried itself on the electrical wires and caused part of the neighborhood to lose power. Toasted squirrel, anyone?
I wasn't there for Shelby's last years but my mom was a superb caretaker, the best momma any dog could ask for. She switched Shelby to a raw food diet and took the time and effort to make sure he was the healthiest dog on the block. She continued taking him on walks even when his progress was painfully slow. She cleaned up after him when he couldn't make it outside without complaint. Both my mom, dad, and brothers adapted to new forms of communication when Shelby lost his hearing. And God gave my mom a Christmas gift when he gave Shelby a brief reprieve from some of the problems he had been having over the Christmas holidays. She, and all of us, got the chance to enjoy Shelby's company for just a bit longer. He got to see all of his family one last time and even got to know the newest member Brenden.
He was unable to get out of bed the morning of December 31st. My mom and my brother took him to the vet that day so he wouldn't have to suffer anymore. They gave my mom his paw print and he is buried under the trees in our front yard.
He was a great dog, and he had a great life.
Goodbye, Shelby. It was wonderful knowing you these past 14 years. I'm looking forward to seeing you again when we get to heaven. I'm pretty sure you'll be chasing squirrels.