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Conversation With A Dog
By Diane Schachter

In March of 1997, 5 months after my Dad died, my husband and I decided to adopt a puppy.  We already had a wonderful 12 year old dog named Mitzi, a sheltie golden retriever cross whom we loved dearly.   It had been a very long and arduous haul witnessing my Dad die.  We had been enveloped in sickness, death and then mourning. After witnessing my Dad wither away and die, adopting a puppy seemed to be the perfect antidote to breathe life into our family.  A puppy represented birth, joy and new beginnings.  I started visiting the Winnipeg Humane Society to seek out the right pup.  One day I was there near closing time, and the staff had just brought out the most adorable golden retriever cross puppy that I had ever seen.  Without even holding her, I immediately knew that this was the one, and I hurriedly ran to the front desk to put a deposit on her.  The following day, my husband and two children went to pick her up.  We named her Shayna, meaning nice or pretty in Yiddish.

We had been advised that Mitzi and Shayna should meet on neutral territority, so we introduced them at a nearby park.  Everything seemed to be going smoothly, that is until Shayna walked into our house.  Mitzi did not take well to her newly adopted younger sister.  Being a puppy, Shayna wanted to play and jump on Mitzi who, as an older dog, understandably found this annoying.  Soon after, Mitzi went into a deep depression.  There was no doubt as she began putting her head down, avoiding eye contact.with me or anybody else.  Listless and sad, she sequestered herself in the master bedroom where Shayna was not allowed.  I was heartbroken to witness this.   

A week passed with no change.  We began to seek professional advice.  We were told that in some cases the older dog does not adjust to the new family, and subsequently the puppy has to be returned.  By this time, we had all bonded with Shayna, and could not fathom relinquishing her.  I sobbed at the prospect of returning this bundle of joy.  Yet, I knew in my heart that Mitzi was our priority and with sadness and tears, my thoughts turned to the reality that we would have to return Shayna.  Teary-eyed, I went to the master bedroom where Mitzi was hiding out.  Sobbingly, I talked to Mitzi and told her how much I loved her, and that no other dog could ever replace her.  She was our first “child” after all.  Tearfully, I pleaded with her to accept Shayna. 

Then a miracle happened.  Mitzi had clearly absorbed what I said.  At precisely that moment, she stood up and walked to the kitchen with her head up high. This time, when Shayna tried to jump on her, Mitzi snapped at her showing Shayna that she was the boss. Shayna immediately backed off.   Within a blink of the eye, Mitzi had returned to her former self or more accurately a younger version of her former self.  She began doing her old tricks and playing with the ball, something that she hadn’t done for years.  She began to play with Shayna, and as an older sister, Mitzi showed her the ropes of “dog life.” In fact at one point, Shayna was confused as to who was the leader of her pack – Mitzi, my husband or myself.   

Mitzi died about 4 years later at the age of 16.  Up until the last month or so when she was ailing, Mitzi thrived in her special relationship with Shayna.   I believe that Shayna was instrumental in keeping her young and invested in life. We still have Shayna who is now almost 14 years old.  I take comfort in knowing that Mitzi acted as a role-model for Shayna, and for that reason there is a little bit of her in Shayna.  This whole experience taught me what I already knew at some level– that our four-legged companions have the capacity to both sense and understand our emotions and words.   I am forever grateful that Mitzi had the grace to put my needs before hers and to make it work with Shayna.  That was an incredible gift, which I will always remember. .

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COMMENTS (12) | animal companion
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Comments

12 Responses to “Conversation With A Dog”

  1. Joel Brass
    September 16th, 2010 @ 11:19 pm

    Congratulations on putting your self out there! Conversations With Dog reaffims for us all that, if we can see what is really in front of us, it is Conversations With God.

    Please give my admiring thoughts to Racine on the concept of the magazine.

  2. Becky McCaffrey
    September 18th, 2010 @ 12:03 am

    Diane,
    What a delightful story about Mitzi and Shayna. I was so glad that it had a good ending and also that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Shayna and now Oreo.
    Thanks so much for warming my heart.
    your friend,
    Becky

  3. Kevin
    September 26th, 2010 @ 9:24 am

    This is really beautiful to read. I always find it interesting to read such a perspective on something from the past, realizing how much more layered reality is than how I viewed it as a kid. I don’t remember the initial clash at all.

    I also thoroughly agree about the emotional connection one can establish with dog and cat friends. If it weren’t for living in an apartment, I think I’d really consider getting a dog someday soon.

  4. Carol Ann Drope
    October 1st, 2010 @ 1:20 pm

    Diane I really loved hearing your story about Mitzi and Shayna – (you should supply kleenex) I am looking forward to hearing and seeing more on this websit.

  5. K Lee
    October 4th, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

    This is truly an amazing story not only about the bond between people and their pets, but the bond that two pets can share as well. It just goes to show that “conversations with dogs” really do exist!
    I fully believe in the miracles that we share with animals, thank you for sharing your story Diane!

  6. Sharon
    October 10th, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

    What a great article and an awesome magazine! Sharon from PA

  7. Dorothy Beavington
    October 11th, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

    Dear Diane,
    I was so touched by your story. I do believe that dogs understand much more than we know. Mitzi heard you with her heart and was able to give you the gift of putting her needs aside for the sake of you and the family. How beautiful that is, and how fortunate we are to have such creatures in our life to share our joys and sorrow and love us unconditionally.
    Dorothy Beavington

  8. alma
    October 13th, 2010 @ 7:02 am

    Dear Diane….
    I was very touched by your story.

  9. Angie
    October 19th, 2010 @ 8:55 pm

    Great title ,
    Thanx for the lovely story,
    Like my mum used to say

    ‘Sometimes a good talkin to will do the trick,. I believe!

  10. Evelyn Lemer
    November 2nd, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

    Hi Diane:

    You told the story very eqloquently. Good luck with your new rescue puppy, Ollie. I’ll speak to you soon.

    Love,
    Evy

  11. Brenda Dahle
    November 7th, 2010 @ 11:38 am

    What a beautiful story Diane! It brought tears to my eyes just thinking of Mitzi and Shayna.

    Love,
    Brenda

  12. Caney Texas
    August 1st, 2013 @ 4:33 pm

    Hello! I’ve been reading your site for some time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from New Caney Texas! Just wanted to say keep up the excellent work!

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