When I first posted his story in 2012, my dog Sylvester was a 6-year-old, pure-bred German Shepherd Dog; I speculate a West German Show Line. He was a wonderful boy and drop-dead gorgeous. He looked like a dog that just jumped out from a magazine cover. Sylvester joined my family in 2009. I adopted him from a local animal shelter. Anyone who thinks there are no great dogs at shelters should look at my boy.
When I rescued Sylvester, he was physically in good shape. However, he had never learned that he couldn’t do whatever he wanted when he felt like it. This is what got him into this place. Of course, that wasn’t his fault. Also, he had not been adequately exercised or trained. He seemed to know the ‘sit’ command, but that was about it. He pulled on the leash like a freight train. Sylvester was a strong dog!
How We Found Each Other
He was perfect for me! Exactly the dog I was looking for when I searched the shelters. I got really lucky. He was only surrendered by his previous owner the night before I walked into the shelter. I was probably the first to see him, as I was there early. The previous owner told the staff that his dog kept running away and he could not take care of him. What’s a dog to do if he never gets out? That was all in the past, and Sylvester won the lottery. Because I love German Shepherds, was looking for one and was ready to give him a great life!
In the Beginning
Sylvester was neutered at the shelter before I was allowed to take him home. So he had to rest for a bit. But he recovered quickly, and we started going on short walks a few days later. We started a regular walking routine a week after the surgery. Veterinarians usually recommend waiting for two weeks to be safe. But, many vets agree that one week is usually fine if there is no swelling.
I was planning on walking enough to tire him daily. But the working doggy’s energy level greatly exceeded my physical capacity. So, I put on my rollerblades, and we started rollerblading for 20-30 minutes every day before going for a walk. That became our routine. We rollerbladed first, and Sylvester got to pull me on my blades through the neighborhood until he got tired.
He got to run as fast as he wanted. The session ended once Sylvester got tired and fell behind me. He usually got tired after three rounds.
Next, after a brief water break, we went out on our walk, which was another 30-40 minutes, and my somewhat tired Sylvester was now in an excellent state of mind for training. We did all kinds of loose-leash walking and obedience exercises. When we came home, I fixed him his breakfast. He deserved it after all that work. He was on a once-a-day feeding schedule, as that is healthiest. I cooked food for him once a week, and he had fresh food all week. I firmly believe in breed-specific nutritional needs and, as such, avoid commercial dog foods. Later, I converted this breed-specific recipe into a raw diet, even better for Sylvester. He LOVED his raw food!
At this point, Sylvester was great on the leash. I had to correct three years of living without rules. I always knew it would take some time, but the progress had been remarkable. My dog Sylvester used to become excited around other animals and looked at everything smaller than him as prey. He was always great with people and had no issues at the dog park or beach. However, my cats were a target, and other dogs on our walks were a problem. ‘Were’ is the keyword, though. We changed all of that through training.
A Remarkable Journey
We certainly had challenges as we worked through the issues. In 2009, I was still a reasonably new trainer and not as proficient in many things as I am today. But we managed and got where we needed to be. It was fun to see Sylvester develop his full potential. Well-bred German Shepherds are un-shockable in their focus and determination— I love that, but it posed some challenges along the way. Still, to this day, Sylvester is one of the most psychologically sound dogs I have ever had in my family.
We became a great team and set clear rules for the home. Sylvester learned to leave the cats alone and even ignored rabbits in the field that crossed our path—a remarkable transformation. I was so proud of my boy. Through persistence and training, I put Sylvester on the path to passing his AKC Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification, which he received in April of 2011.
Over the Years
Over the years, our connection grew stronger and stronger. Sylvester always kept an eye on me and followed me everywhere. He made many dog friends over the years and ended up living with several other dogs in peace and harmony. It was clear that they all knew Sylvester was on top of the dog hierarchy. This seemed impossible when we first met.
We started going on off-leash hikes in the hills and mountains of Southern California. My dog Sylvester’s most fantastic adventure was to summit Mt. Baldy in 2016. We had to train to get up there. First, we went halfway only so I could see how Sylvester was handling it. He was 11 years old, so we had to take things more slowly. Finally, after three conditioning hikes, we summited together! I was so proud of him. Sylvester is the best dog I have ever had and could have ever wished for. He was a fantastic animal!
In 2019, Sylvester developed hip dysplasia and intervertebral disc disease. His mobility started to be affected, and our hiking trips had to end. We had done a lot together. Many adventures. Many hikes. A lot of great memories!
In 2021, his mobility significantly reduced, and Sylvester had difficulty walking. I had to help him get around with his wheelchair and carrying slings. But, he was happy and comfortable. Nutritional supplementation and pain relief through cannabis oils significantly improved his quality of life. I cared for my loyal companion, spent time with him, and loved him just the same. But it was undoubtedly hard for both of us. Regardless, Sylvester was always a very important member of my family, and I would be there for him as long as he needed me.
All Good Things …
One day, he lost his appetite, and I knew where this was leading. He was sleeping most of the day, and that evening we sat together for quite a while. His head was in my lab, and we looked at each other. I could see him drifting. His time was coming quickly. I told him it was okay to go if he was ready. I told him I loved him and kissed him good night. He peacefully fell into his final rest in his bed early the following morning.
Sylvester had a great life. I have beautiful memories I wouldn’t want to miss for the world. I will always love him and miss him dearly. Rest in peace, my friend.♥