Sunny’s Story – GA

‘Sunny the Wonder Dog’: A love story



The Times I’ll never win the lottery, and it doesn’t matter. I hit the jackpot when Sunny came into my life. Sunny, a sable Shetland sheepdog, was the best thing that ever happened to me. Every moment with her was a joy, until she died May 27, four days before her 14th birthday. Shortly after she came to live with me in 1991, I started calling her “Sunny the Wonder Dog” because she seemed too good to be true. Somehow I’d found a dog with a delightful personality, stunning beauty and razor-sharp intelligence.

If Sunny did something wrong, she only had to be corrected once and she never made the mistake again. If I gave her a problem to solve, I could almost see the wheels turning inside her head.

When she was 10 months old, we took a basic course with the Shelby County Obedience Club in Memphis. Sunny demonstrated such an aptitude and enthusiasm that I decided to train her for obedience competition at the novice level.

Not only did she earn her AKC obedience title in three consecutive shows, but at each one she was the highest scoring dog in the trial. The club named her “Dog of the Year” in 1993, and I have never been so proud. My three academic diplomas are gathering dust in a drawer, but Sunny’s obedience title certificate is displayed prominently on our living-room wall.

Debbie Gilbert The Times – Sunny, a Shetland sheepdog, died last month just before her 14th birthday.

When you train intensively for obedience, or agility or any other dog sport, you develop a bond that goes far beyond the usual people-pet relationship. Sunny responded to my slightest movement and could even read facial expressions. It was demeaning to even refer to her as a “pet.” We were equal partners. Every single day, rain or shine, we took a long walk. Her stamina and fitness were remarkable. A month before she died, when she was the human equivalent of a 90-year-old, she walked four miles with me.

Yet every time she went out, Sunny put her life at risk. She was on a leash, but almost every other dog we encountered was not.

When she was just 4 months old, she was attacked by two bullmastiffs, a breed whose massive jaws are designed to kill. I dived under them and pulled her out, terrified that even if she survived, she’d be maimed for life. But the blood on her face turned out to be coming from inside her mouth. Two puppy teeth had been yanked out as she bit the monsters, trying to defend herself.

That was the first of countless incidents in which Sunny was attacked by large stray dogs. I beat them off with whatever weapon I could, but occasionally they got her. When Sunny was 11, she was badly mauled by a German shepherd. Even at that age, she recovered quickly. But I still believe that anyone who lets their dog run loose deserves to be shot.

Sunny also survived complete liver failure at age 7. She’d hardly been sick a day in her life, then suddenly she was at death’s door. The veterinarian was mystified.

Much later, I learned that liver failure is a known side effect of Rimadyl, an anti-inflammatory that Sunny had been prescribed for a strained muscle. Fortunately, her liver regenerated itself, and she was healthy for another seven years.

Ten months ago, she finally met an adversary that she couldn’t beat: cancer. Each time our vet removed the highly aggressive tumor, it came back quicker than before.

On April 30, I discovered that the cancer had metastasized, and then all I could do was keep Sunny comfortable until she told me she was ready to die.

On the Friday before Memorial Day, I took her to the vet for one final visit.

Sunny died peacefully in my arms as I kissed the top of her silky head. Afterward, I felt a profound sense of gratitude. She had given me so much more than I was able to give her, teaching me how to live — and to die — with dignity, love and courage.


Thank you for everything, Sunny. I miss you.





Comments are closed.