Sheena, a beautiful White German Shepherd, passed peacefully at home yesterday morning in her sleep at the age of 12yrs, on March 3, 2016. She passed quietly as she napped on her favorite couch after sending the girls off to school. She is missed by so many who loved her deeply and her life not only touched more people that I could ever list but she changed peoples lives for the better.
This beautiful puppy was born on Dec 20th, 2003. She was destine for greatness right from the very beginning. I had purchased her with the intent of training her to be my Psychiatric Service Dog. Something that was still fairly new in the US and unheard of in Canada. Seeing how medication to treat my PTSD and agoraphobia was not an option for me, she was my next option to try to have an independent life. She flew into Montana where I and my now ex husband drove to get her. I picked her up at the airport and didn't let her out of her travel crate till we got to our car. When I open the cage she pranced out full of confidence. It was February 12, 2004 and she walked around like she already owned the world. She feared nothing and immediately came to me and licked my hand and tried to cuddle. On the drive home she was the perfect little angel. She settled in quickly and was adored by Isabeau who had just turned 5 the fall previous. The next day she showed us that she feared nothing. We took her to a garage where a friend of my husbands was working on a demolish car. They were reving the engine really loudly yet she didn't care one bit. Then a huge rotti walked up to us. His head was bigger then her entire body. So I picked her up thinking this giant of a dog might make her fearful. Nope. He came over and stuck his nose in her butt to get a sniff. Her reaction was to reach down and snap at him to let him know that is not how you treat a lady. From that point on I knew I had an Alpha personality on my hands.
She sailed through training like she was born to it. And frankly she was. No matter how difficult a task she learned it quickly and easily. Every test I put her through she confidently did. She learned more tasks then I could even go into. Some of which that helped with my disability was finding exits, finding a person I was with, body blocking, using her body to create a larger personal space for me. Bringing me drinks when asked, bracing to help me get up when needed, picking up anything I asked for, finding keys, remotes or so on. She even learned to help with the laundry. She would gather clothes on command and put them in a basket, drag the basket from room to room and then to in front of the washing machine. She could then do a paws up on the machine to drop clothes in, she could take them out of the drier and then pull the basket from room to room. I used to joke that if I could teach her to turn on the machines, transfer clothes and to fold I would not need to do laundry ever again. lol She loved to learn new tasks. And since I got pregnant with my oldest son 2 weeks after her arrival, I was more then happy to teach her anything that I thought would help me during my pregnancy.
She didn't just help me. She helped so many others. My oldest son when born swallowed some of the birth fluid. This affected his ability to make sounds for the first month of his life. If he was in his crib and woke up you could not hear him even on a baby monitor. Sheena had a solution though that I didn't even teach her. From the moment she met my oldest son she camped out in front of his bedroom door if he was in there sleeping. The second he woke up she would come and get me. She watched over him like he was her pup. She loved me, she loved everyone in the family but she lit up for my son. He learned to walk by crawling up on her and holding her tail. When he could crawl and then walk, he would take his blanket and favorite big stuffy into her crate and nap with her. If you wanted to find my son you just had to call Sheena and she would let you know instantly which room he was playing in. Those two were soul mates right from the beginning. And now that I know my oldest son still wants to train dogs I know it was Sheena that started his love of them and created that passion. He was feeding her himself at 2yrs old. Walking her on a leash at 3. People would be amazed to watch this little toddler give commands to this big dog and she would not just listen but rush to do his bidding.
My son instilled in Sheena a love of children that never died. It was her one fault as a Service Dog. Kids. She just could not completely ignore them. She thought they all needed kisses, or all needed to pet her or toss a ball for her. Many a child that had been hurt by mauling from another dog over came their fear of dogs thanks to Sheena. Parents would see how wonderful she was with children and would ask if they could allow their traumatized children to see Sheena. I never said no to this request. She seem to know just what they needed. She would stay calm and quiet and let them approach her. She would show her belly to invite tummy rums, she would shove a ball over to them to invite them to toss it. She would even do the "military crawl" over to the ones who were really scared, usually to giggles by the time she made it to their side. On one occasion she saved a child from being kidnapped. I used to take my oldest son to a mom/tot play center. They all knew Sheena there and adored her. During reading time some of the kids would use her as a pillow. Parents would come and stay or could drop the kids off to go do shopping or such. One day a man walked in. Not a new thing. Both moms and dads came and Sheena never reacted. But this time she did. She immediately looked at him and started to growl. This alerted the ladies who ran the place as Sheena never reacted that way. They later told me that man did not have custody of his child and had come there in an attempt to take the child without the mother knowing. As soon as they escorted him out Sheena was right back to her normal self. How she knew we will never know but everyone was glad she did.
Sheena worked hard as a Service Dog but she played just as hard too. She was trained in agility and loved to show off her tricks. But her all time favorite sport was flyball. She LOVED it. She was ball trained as it was for doing tasks. So training her for flyball was easy. For those who don't know what that is it is a relay race for dogs. Two teams of 4 race against each other. The track is straight with 4 jumps spaced evenly apart and a box at the end of them. They jump the jumps, hit the box that has a ball it shoots out, catches it and then turn around and jump back over the jumps to cross the finish line. The team that finishes the fastest with no faults wins. She would run her paws bloody she loved that sport so much. She hated it when we would say she had to stop so as not to over do it. She was usually the anchor dog as she was always steady with not missing jumps. Her fastest time was 5.4 seconds.
Sheena also was a mom. She changed my life so much that she created the dream of me wanting to give the gift of independence to others. So we decided to breed her. We did the health tests and researched to find a good stud. And the results was a beautiful litter of 6. One of which we did donate to be a Service Dog. And Polar made his mom proud by accomplishing our dream for him. Sadly he passed away last year but he changed his families life just as much as Sheena changed ours. One of her other pups actually saved my life when my ex was abusing me. He was slamming the back of my head against a brick wall and I could not fight back. Ajax bloodied his paws and mouth tearing open his metal crate to slip out and attack my ex giving me enough time to get up the stairs and outside so neighbors could call the cops. I don't know what would have happened if he had not done that. She was a dedicated mom to her litter and they went on to have wonderful lives. Sadly Sheena does not get to see us continue this dream but she was the foundation of this dream and as this year progresses our dream for our kennel will come to fruition.
Sheena also helped pick my partner that I have today. I was at a friends house, who adored Sheena, and he was visiting. I had only met him a few hours earlier. Our friend asked me to go get Sheena as everyone loves Sheena. I lived across the street so I went and got her. When I came in the door you could hear him asking what is a "Sheena". There was a long hallway that Sheena and I walked through and then you turn a corner to enter the living room where they all were. Sheena at this time was not a fan of men after being witness to my ex beating on me on countless occasions. She ignored men most of the time. But when we came around the corner she changed. Between him and her was a large coffee table. He took one look at her and said "She is gorg..." before he could finish she had leaped over the table and was in his lap licking his face. She never greeted anyone like that, ever. Everyone's mouth dropped open in shock. She chose him and I trusted her.
Sadly through the years Sheena lost her soul mate, my oldest son, through lies and perjury. As I was able to show in court this past September, my children were literally legally kidnapped. She was so depressed about that. She never forgot my son. Even just a month ago I could say my sons name and she would race through the house looking for him and whining. She never lost her love for him and it broke my heart that even though my name was cleared in court of any wrong doing that led to my sons being placed and kept in care, that the court did not right the wrongs done but allowed my sons to be sold to a family who were proven to lie to professionals to keep them from their own proven loving family. I honestly think that is why she held on so long. She was hoping her boy would return to her so she could say goodbye.
Sheena changed many lives through the years. By the time her PSD training was complete she was only the 2nd Psychiatric Service Dog ever in all of Canada and the first in Western Canada. She was a part in the meetings for writing the Alberta Service Dog Act. She was so well mannered and well trained that the people running the meetings thought she was facility trained. They were shocked to learn that she was owner trained and I used how good she was trained as a basis to get people to consider testing for Owner Trainers to do be able to train their own Service Dogs. We were advocates for Owner Trainers and Disabled people who work with Service Dogs. We opened many businesses doors that were previously closed to Service Dog users, we changed many business people minds. All it took was them meeting Sheena and observing her working and they would give us the time to teach them their rights. Sheena got to be so well known that business would ask us to do presentations to their staff about Service Dogs, working with disabled patrons and their business rights. She also knew with an uncanny ability to tell when people were depressed or having anxiety or panic issues. If she was not on duty at that time she would go an alert for others as well. She would attempt to help them as she would help me. People would be shocked when she would do it for them and when I asked them if they were ok they would tell me they were upset or anxious. Many a person, adult and child, cried on Sheena and accepted her comfort and support. Her greatest joy was being able to show everyone love.
Her last years were spent watching her family grow once more. First with our beautiful son Nico. She was so happy the day we brought him home. Then Isabeau coming back home as well. Then this summer her pack grew by 2 more. Another son and daughter. She will be remembered by all and will never be forgotten. I will never be able to repay her all the love, confidence, independence and so much more that she offered to me and everyone else. She had 4 feet and a tail but she changed the world for everyone that let her.
We love you Sheena and you will never be forgotten.
For pictures: Sheena pictures
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