This is the love story as told to me by Robyn Monaco, mama of Chula, the German Shepard – Lab Mix from the state of New Jersey.
Tell me about the first time you met Chula, when and where was it? How did you feel, and what made you feel that way?
I met Chula at the stable where I was riding. I was seriously thinking about getting a dog. I was so ready for a dog that I remember going to the library and sitting on the floor, surrounded by books researching dogs. Books were everywhere! A man stopped by and commented, "You sure have a lucky dog!" I told him I don't have one yet, but I'm going to! And just a few weeks later, there she was with her sister only two weeks old. She and her sister were abandoned in the woods, and somebody brought them to the doorstep of a groomer. The groomer's assistant was also a worker at the horse stable. These two were so young that she had to bring them everywhere to bottle feed them every two hours. When I first saw her, she was smaller than her sister, and she had white on her paws. She looked like a sausage with legs. I thought, "that's my dog!"
Thinking back, how would you describe Chula's personality as a puppy? And as an adult?
As a puppy, she was wild and carefree. As an adult, she was in one word: JOYFUL. She was so incredibly intelligent, understood everything you said, and could do compound commands like, do this, then that, and like most shepherds, she was intuitive. Super friendly, tail always wagging, always giving kisses. She was the best. She was my little project. For an almost feral dog, you could say, she grew into a fantastic dog. I raised her very strictly. I was with her all the time. When she was ready to go to the dog park at four months old, she was the belle of the ball. She loved getting all the other dogs to chase after her, she would trick them and then jump over them. She would run for hours, she was a jumper, what an athlete, she could jump 6 feet in the air. She even jumped onto the vet's table, "Boop," no problem! She was my once in a lifetime dog.
And now, how would Chula describe your personality?
Fun, loving, and infinitely interesting because I taught her so many tricks/commands, and we did lots of activities. I trained her as a service dog, therapy dog, search and rescue dog, and agility dog. She loved to learn. And we spent hours every day at the dog park and walking in the woods: rain, shine, snow, whatever. She had lots of doggy friends. Everyone loved her, at the vet, at the pet store, in all her classes, she was the darling. I was always teaching her things and taking her to different places. We liked to go jogging together, we were both sporty.
What did you learn from Chula?
To be happy in life, no matter what. Enjoy the moment.
What are the top three things you always want to remember about your love?
1. How utterly beautiful she was, inside and out, a beauty with a beautiful soul.
2. How sweet (everyone used the word sweet in describing her) and smart too! Just lovely to be around, lovable.
3. What a great athlete she was. Even my vet was amazed by her physique!
What has or is helping you get to the other side of grief? What advice would you share with someone who recently started grieving?
Time heals all wounds. Do whatever you feel you need to do to get through this. For me, I needed to talk about her. I had put so much training into her; the list of what she could do is way too long to list here, but when she died, 12 years of my life's work went with her and, I had nothing left to show for it, I felt hollow. She was my masterpiece. I just needed to talk about how great she was. So the Facebook page Paws to Celebrate helped a lot in that regard. People understood that need. Pam Baren Kaplan understands that compassion is needed. That meant a lot to me. As time went by, I was more and more myself again. It was rough going, but the pain subsides with time.
Where are you now in your grief?
I still think of her every day, but I know dogs can't live forever. She was with me during a challenging period of my life. I wish she were with me now when I could give her even more time and attention. When she was a pup, I was with her all the time. When she was five, I commuted to the city for work and went to law school at night. I had a dog walker, but I couldn't spend as much time with her for four years. I regret that time, but I reminded myself that I was doing this to make a better life for both of us. By then, she was nine, and she died at 12 and a half. It just wasn't enough time left to be with her.
When did Chula earn her wings?
When did you join Paws? Do you remember how you found Paws?
I joined May 2015, but I don't know how I found it, divine intervention I guess.
Using your spiritual and intuitive mind…
If I could get a message to Chula from you, what would you want to say?
Come back to me. I miss you more than I can stand. Will you wait for me, will I see you again, will we be the same, do you forgive me, do you still love me, will you never leave me?
And if I could get a message from Chula to you, what would you like to know?
I’d like to know if she will be there waiting for me, if I will see her again.
Is there anything else you would like to share with your Paws Pack about Chula?
There are no words to describe Chula the 'Wonder Dog,' as she was known. Her sweetness, intelligence, joy, trust, absolute love she gave me, there’s nothing like it, no one like her.