Dog Art by Stephanie Fitzsimmons

A Tribute to a Very Good Dog.

IN LOVING MEMORY OF VEGAS, 3.23.02 to 12.12.12

Sometimes a little thing reroutes the path of your life and you are forever changed. For me, that little thing was a puppy.

1st Car Ride
Everything about the way we met was wrong. I was 30. I hadn’t had a dog in my life since I was 13-years-old and I wanted one desperately. My husband and I were on week 2 of a cross-country road trip with no intentions of picking up a dog along the way. We’d spent time mostly in Colorado and California hiking and swimming in the ocean and it seemed like dogs were everywhere. We went into an exotic pet shop in Las Vegas to gawk at the freak show of reptiles, monkeys and pot-bellied pigs, and there he was. We left the store and I tried to forget him but for the next 2 days the bright lights and excitement of Vegas paled in comparison to the thoughts of the furry little nut barking loudly in his sister’s ear in a too small cage in the back of the shop.

I knew it was crazy but I wanted to make the little furball mine. The sign on the cage said “german shepherd mixes $250”. We inquired about buying a puppy to find out they hadn’t had their necessary shots and they couldn’t be sold until the next week. We weren’t going to be there that long. At this point we were already emotionally invested and felt sad. We left but they took our phone number. Soon thereafter the store manager called and said, to our shock, that they couldn’t legally sell the puppies but he could give him to us for free. I know! Weird.

So needless to say we jumped on that offer before the guy changed his mind. They said we could have his sister too. We declined. I have always wondered what happened to her, and if she was ok. At the time I didn’t know if I could handle 1 puppy. Heck I didn’t even know if a German Shepherd-ish could really live happily in a house. All the Shepherds I’d known had lived outside, at least part of the time. His sister was anxious and had bit an employee’s mother in the ear. I wasn’t sure I could handle that, and I wasn’t sure if she liked her brother, she seemed annoyed by his noisy barking and ridiculous antics. We left the store with a small bag of puppy food and a furry 12-week old beast of a puppy. Next stop was Petsmart for supplies and a “Raising Your German Shepherd Puppy” book. We loaded him into the backseat of the car where he immediately pooped and peed as we zoomed off into our new life. We named him Vegas.

Right or Wrong


We took a puppy class and he towered over his malamute and border collie classmates. People said his feet were huge. When he was four months old he was full-grown dog size. I think some people thought he WAS a full-grown dog, and that his crazy puppy behavior was rude.

When we got him, he was scared of grass and bikes and big dogs and he hated the hot of the summer but he was brave and a fast learner and quickly accepted all these unfamiliar things.

His next big trip as a puppy was to a cabin in Wisconsin, where he immediately jumped fearlessly off the dock into the lake, to the shock of my brother who at that very moment was telling me how proud he was of his lab mix, who he had just convinced to jump into the lake after 3 years of encouragement. That was Vegas.

you can do anything

favorite puppy pics



Vegas 2002

And he grew up to be an awesome, beautiful best friend. February 2004

When he grew all the way up, he stood over 6 feet tall. His tail was 24 inches long. His paws remained huge. He looked like a Great Dane shoved into a German Shepherd suit that was a little tight. He was a thin and lanky 115 pounds. A walk around the neighborhood would literally stop traffic. We got asked if he was a police dog. Once a guy said “Now that’s The Real McCoy”. At least one person who passed us frequently while we took our nightly walked went out and got his own German Shepherd puppy because he thought Vegas was so amazing. For years following he would stop and give us updates on his new dog.

Vegas was a “gentle giant” and at least a few times I had the pleasure of seeing a person fearful of dogs pet this big dog and conquer some of their apprehensions. 

To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.” – David Viscott



Some photos from 2005. 

“I talk to him when I’m lonesome like, and I’m sure he understands.
When he looks at me so attentively, and gently licks my hands;
Then he rubs his nose on my tailored clothes, but I never say naught threat;
For the good Lord knows I can buy more clothes, but never a friend like that!”

– W. Dayton Wedgefarth




12 muddy paws










I don’t have enough words to express how much we’ll miss our boy. He was a once in a lifetime kind of a dog. He brought lots of love, and people, and dogs into my life. It’s hard to believe there will be no more photos and no more soft kisses. He was a faithful, loving and loyal friend for ten and a half years.

“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” – Vicki Harrison

Cancer sucks. Vegas fought it like the brave dog he was. He was helped over the Bridge with his big head in my arms on December 12, 2012. 3 months short of his 11th birthday.

“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief. But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.” – Hilary Stanton Zunin

I’m glad I took that risk. I love you Vegas.


3 responses

  1. Michele

    Such a nice tribute to your Vegas! He was a beautiful boy!

    December 18, 2012 at 1:11 am

  2. Linda Ricci

    OMG, I only found this today and crying as I read it. You are so brave to be able to share. I am sooo very sorry for your loss of your special guy. You painted my dog, ‘Billie’, and I know how devastated I would be if I lost her. And someday I will. All my best to you and your family.

    January 2, 2013 at 1:42 am

    • Thank you so much Linda! Hugs to you and Billie. It was very difficult to write but I wanted to share what a wonderful friend he was and keep his memory alive. Life will never be the same without him here.

      “The biggest problem with dogs is that they don’t live long enough. They always seem to leave us behind when we are the most vulnerable, most in need of their biased, affirming, presence. Dogs make us believe we can actually be as they see us, and it is often only when they are gone that we realize their role in what we’ve become.” – the New Monks of Skete

      January 2, 2013 at 3:18 am

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