In December, my Bernese Mountain Dog Bella marked her second Christmas with us. However, before Bella was our family pet, I spent most of my Christmases with another dog, a German Shepherd named Penny. My family had Penny for 14 years before she passed away, and around the holidays I couldn't help but remember our many years with her.
I remember when we first got Penny. When I arrived home, she was running around with my dad in the backyard. My brother and I couldn't have been more excited.
When we brought her inside, she huddled in the corner, scared to death and shaking like a leaf. It took us the rest of the night for us to think of the perfect name for her. Mom finally suggested "Penny." Penny it was.
It took that scared little puppy awhile to warm up to us, but after she did, she loved us whole-heartedly.
Penny quickly developed her own personality. She loved us and was very protective of us - even after years of living with us, she still barked when my grandma came over. Penny knew her but was still making sure we were protected when anyone else came into the house
Penny loved all of us, but the person she loved most was Mom. Penny would follow her everywhere and even slept on the floor at Mom's side of the bed. Being so territorial was part of her strong personality.
My dog had many "favorites." Being outside and running around was among them. She enjoyed chasing our neighbor's cows that were on the other side of the fence from our yard. Penny also loved to swim. She would have stayed in the water for hours if we had let her.
One thing that she didn't like to do, however, was ride in the car. It took great effort to get her to get in the vehicle.
Throughout the years, Penny was a loyal and loving companion to all four members of our family. She always wanted to be with us. She watched TV with us, lay in the dining room while we ate dinner and played outside with us. She was the fifth member of our family.
I came home one day in November after a normal day at school. I knew there was something wrong when I didn't hear her barking and running to the door to greet me. Going inside, I found my dog lying on the floor, as if she hadn't even heard me come in. I called to her, and she slowly got up and walked listlessly over to me.
The rest of the evening with her was much the same. Later that night, Dad took her outside before we went to bed. The rain poured down, but Penny just lay there in the rain, refusing to get up.
Dad went out to her and tried to get her to walk inside, but Penny could not make it under her own power. My parents carried her into the house and laid her in the dining room. Penny struggled to get up and walk to us, but her back legs gave out, and she fell to the floor. She curled up in the corner where my family and I lay with her for a long time.
Late that night, Mom and Dad put her in her bed in the garage so she could have some peace, and we could go to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning, I rushed out to the garage. There Penny lay, stretched out in her bed, still and cold. I couldn't stop crying. All of us cried for days over the loss of our faithful companion and friend. We had experienced a death in our immediate family, and it was horrible.
I love my current dog, Bella, and she has become part of our family, too. But I often think of Penny and all the fun we had with her over those 14 years.
She loved us, and we loved her. We always will.
Jillian Byler is an Indian Valley High School student reporter.