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It’s situations like this that make me wish that my memory were better. This musing likely contains inaccuracies and is often based on impressions rather than facts.

Shadow Steele was my mother-in-law’s dog and then my brother-in-law’s dog, but also a member of the Rebelsky family. I can’t say for sure what his mixed breed was, but he was as protective of his family as a Chow and as batshit crazy as you’d expect of a black lab [1]. Kathy got him soon after moving to Grinnell. If I recall correctly [2], a friend of her nephew owned one of the parents, she had recently lost her Chow, and was looking for a new one.

It’s amazing that Shadow survived his first year of life. Why? He was incredibly protective of the Rebelsky children. They were his pack and he clearly felt it necessary to guard them carefully. How protective was he? Very. It was not safe to have other people around them when he was outside and there was an incident that made us think we might have to have him put down [3].

I’m glad we didn’t. As he grew up, he mellowed. Not completely, but enough. By the time he was three or so, he could be trusted to walk on a leash without a muzzle [4]. And he was a good companion. He’d happily claim couch or chair space in any room people were in. He was surprisingly patient about letting people dry him off when he came in from outside [5].

At some point, he decided that I was his alpha male, or at least one of his alpha males [6]. I think I may be the only person he allowed to clip his nails. That may not seem like a big thing, but I appreciate that he trusted me, particularly since I cut him to the quick at least once.

We’ve seen less of Shadow these past few years, since he moved in with my brother-in-law. But he’s come for some multi-week visits and, in spite of the extra effort having him in the house requires, I always enjoy having him visit.

I’m grateful for the huge positive difference he made in my mother-in-laws life when she lived in Grinnell, for his love of my kids, and for the company he gave my brother-in-law.

Mostly what I remember are the small things. Shadow begging at the table. Shadow putting his face in my lap. The happy tail wags. The way-too-loud and way-too-frequent barking when people were outside [7]. His joy at going on a walk or even jumping into the car [8]. Shadow begging at the table some more. His attempts to dig under our fence. The way he claimed portions of the furniture and was utterly stunned if you tried to take them away [9]. His love of snacks. The way he claimed the area under the kitchen table. And, oh, so much more.

I’ll miss you Shadow. You were a good great dog.

[1] Yes, I think he was a Chow / Black Lab mix.

[2] Probably not.

[3] I’d written a longer story about two events. But I don’t think Shadow should be remembered that way.

[4] We did, however, need a muzzle at the vet’s office.

[5] If you have ever owned a big dog, you know how important it is to have one willing to let you get the mud off of its feet.

[6] My brother-in-law was the other.

[7] Those got better as time went on.

[8] That’s somewhat surprising, since 80% of the time he got in a car with me, he ended up at the vet.

[9] Stunned, not angry.

Version 1.0 of 2017-08-16.