September 30, 1997 - August 7, 2010
On New Year's Day 1998 we arrived home with a 12-week old bundle of fur that we named Aria. Her father was a large, gorgeous German Shepherd, her mother equally beautiful, but of a more nervous disposition. Aria inherited her good looks from both parents and the nervousness from her mother. On her first trip home with us she threw up in the car and there were many more similar incidents to follow.
Aria was nervous riding in the car most of her life and she was afraid of loud noises -- thunder, fireworks, yelling, my dad grinding his flax seed in the morning. I recall one drive home to western Massachusetts. I was alone with Fargo and Aria; both were confined to the far back of the Subaru by a metal barrier. By the time we reached I-495 Aria was fed up with the cramped space and the road noise. She pushed through the barrier, climbed over the back seat and into the front seat, then plunked herself down half in my lap and covering the stick shift. By this time she weighed more than 70 pounds. Meanwhile Fargo was still stuck in the back beneath the fallen barrier and I was speeding along at 65 mph barely able to downshift. We all survived.
Although Aria was nervous about noise, she was not skittish or afraid of anything else. She was the sweetest dog and certainly one of the nicest German Shepherds. All of our vets marveled at her beauty and appreciated her gentleness. We felt completely comfortable with Aria around small children, even babies. Aria did not know how to harm; that tendency was not in her.
Her best pal was Fargo, our yellow lab that died several years ago. Aria reveled in stealing his toys and sticks. The two would lie on the floor barking and yelping at each other. She loved to chase after tennis balls or swim after sticks, but she never, never returned them. It was all part of the game. Aria chased squirrels and chipmunks, never forgetting the location of a chipmunk hole.
In the house she played hide and seek with her squeaky toys. As a Shepherd her vocabulary was rich. She knew the names of all her toys, of people, and places. Her favorite pastime was swimming. She could smell water and would start running ahead to a favorite swimming hole. Her swimming style resembled that of a moose -- her big ears sticking out and occasionally twitching to swat deer flies. In her younger days she bounded up trails and climbed atop big boulders to look down on us.
A diagnosis three years ago of degenerative myelopathy was probably something else, most likely a ruptured disk. Regardless, it slowed her down some, but she carried on stoically until the last month or so. Then muscle weakness, arthritis, and more serious internal maladies gained on her, sapping her strength and her spirit.
Aria had a beautiful sable coat with a long, lush tail that just barely swept the ground. We miss sinking our faces into her thick ruff. For some reason her head always smelled like chicken, except the final morning when she walked behind the tomato plants to lie in the shade and emerged smelling like Sun Golds.