You do not know him personally but at the same time you all know him well. His name is Montana and he is my avatar. He was also the best friend I could have ever had.
I have had a few dogs in my life, but none of them have touched me at my core or impacted my life the way he did. And the funny thing about it is I did not raise him from a puppy. In truth he was already six years old when we first met.
My scam had started at the beginning of April 2008. And life at that time seamed good. Then the following month I found out from a friend of a friend about a six year old Alaskan Malamute that was destine to go to a shelter because the owner could not take care of the dog. And could not find anyone willing to take him on. So I had made arrangements to meet this dog face to face. If there seamed like there could be some sort of connection between us I would take him myself. If not,,, well that decision was not mine to make. But obviously there was and I took him home. It was only after that I had discovered his back ground in more detail. And not from the past owner. I learned everything I needed to know from Montana himself.
First he was way too high strung and hyper for a mature dog. Later I found out information that Montana was always kept in a cage at all times. He would only be let outside to relieve himself then right back in the cage he would go. But it was his body language that spoke the loudest to me. Every time I would reach down to scratch his head he would flinch his head downward quickly. I have had enough experience with dogs to know that sign for what it was. He had been beaten as a form of correction. This had left me thinking that Montana was going to be a lot of work. But it only took two weeks of TLC handling and just letting him be himself and free to run in my closed in back yard to transform him into a completely different dog. Sadly he never did get over that reflex of jerking his head.
As that year went on my scam had built into full gear. But I still made time to play with Montana and take him for long walks.
Then of course like everyone else here I had to face the hard truth. I was scammed and someone had touched my heart deeper then ever before. And did this through nothing but lies.
I was beyond crushed. I was devastated. And sadly I felt that life had lost all meaning.
It was Montana who stopped me from making the biggest mistake of my life.
I'll spare you the details, but when I was in that state of deepest despair he knew.
The way he looked at me along with his sad whimpers. Not to mention while writing my farewell letter he had laid his chin on my avenue of escape. All of this had struck me so deeply and it snapped me back to my senses. What's more is at the very moment I put that “cop-out medium” away Montana's whole demeanor changed abruptly. It happened so abruptly I was stunned. Then just on impulse I pulled out my cell phone and took his picture.
That photo is the very same one all of you see as my avatar today.
I did this so that maybe his expression of love and hope for a better tomorrow mite be past onto anyone else who needed it as bad as I did.
But this was only the beginning of how he helped me get through that first horrible month after excepting the truth about the scam. And the months that followed.
He would never let me fall into depression. If I would sit with that far off share too long he would get in my face and nudge me back to the here and now. All those time when I would not feel like getting out of bed he would nudge me just the same but only harder. And no matter how hard I tried to tell him to leave me alone. He would not stop. And being a dog of his size there was no ignoring him. He even knew ever time I simply needed a hug.
It's ironic when you think about it. I rescued Montana from going to a shelter. And in the end it was he who came to my rescue.
God dose work in the most mysterious ways. And he most defiantly sent me a guardian angle with my four legged best friend.
There is so much I owe him for. And the amount is higher then anything I could have ever repaid in one life time. That list is far too long to get into. However there is one item on it that I must mention.
Besides everything else Montana was in my life he also played a large part in introducing me to the woman I now proudly call my wife. For this I am eternally grateful.
As you have guessed by now Montana is no longer with us. 19 months ago he was diagnosed with cancer. They could have operated but there were two strikes against. One was we were told these types of tumors would most likely return. And then there was his age. He was turning 13 then and the vet only gave us a 50/50 chance he would even survive the surgery.
So my wife and I decided to just spend what time God would allow us to have with him. And make him as comfortable as we could.
And for most of that time he did okay. He was a lot slower, and his hips bothered him some when getting up. But the pain killers we were proscribed helped a lot with those ache's, or at least they did.
About two months ago his front shoulders joined the party. And the vet had to give us even stronger pain killers. This is when I had to start facing the fact that my friends time was growing near.
The saddest part was that his was alert, his brain was still scarp. And mentally he was still himself.
It was his body that was failing him.
If you have ever seen a dog near the end of their days. When they finally do go down hill. They go down hill very fast. And it can typically happen within a weeks time or even less.
For Montana it was the week of Christmas.
God, what is it about Christmas with me. It's the time of love and joy. And yet at the same time Christmas fills me with my most painful memories. And now Montana will be added to that painful list. Because on December 29th, 2017 my wife and I took Montana for his final trip to the vet.
I've been through this before. In Fact just last year, January 9th we had to put down our Dalmatian of 15 years whom we also both loved dearly. But this time is up there with the hardest things I have ever had to do. Because even though I knew I was doing the right thing for him. And to hold off any longer would have been cruel and inhuman. Plus I loved him to much to let him suffer.
But at the same time the feeling rolling over and over in my heart was that I was betraying my best friend. He saved my life. And I was powerless to save his.
I know it's illogical given the average life span of dog's. But when strong feeling stab deep into your heart all rational thought goes right out the window.
And because both my head and my heart have been on the mend for a while is also way I have not been around much lately.
Nearly a month has past and the saddest, deepest parts of grief have ran their course. And lately my wife and I have been recalling the good, and even the funny times. Even though there is a huge hole in our house hold that was once fill with a Giant of love and good will.
And he was. In all my days I have never seen a dog of his size so loving and gentile with every form of life on God's good Earth.
The careful tenderness and tolerance he showed around children, including infants was only the beginning.
But I truly am talking about all forms of life. Cat's, rabbits, and even squirrels were given this same love thy neighbor attitude of his.
One evening while watching some T.V. My wife and I saw a mouse slowly tip toeing his way past Montana while he was sleeping on the floor. At that most precarious moment when the mouse was right in front of his snout Montana woke up and the mouse froze in his tracks.
My wife and I sat there equally frozen waiting for the carnage that was to come, but it never did.
He just gently raised his head and looked down at it poor frighten thing as if to say hi Fred.
A short moment later when the mouse realized he was not going to become an evening snack. He did just that and scurried off towards our kitchen. My wife and I could only look at each other in total disbelief.
Our Dalmatian on the other hand, waking up late to join the party. Launched herself off of our couch where she had been sleeping. And made a mad dash for the offensive rodent who slipped underneath a kitchen cabinet just in the nick of time.
I had to get up at this point. Not to find out how the mouse had gained entry in the first place. That would come later. I needed to save the cabinet itself before our Dalmatian could totally destroy it so she could continue her chase.
And this is only another small example of the kind and loving spirit that was Montana.
Now there maybe those who may feel this tribute to may dearly departed friend has nothing to do with victim support. To them I would beg to differ.
In a legitimate way we have lost one of our own.
A champion of victim support who helped and saved a victim who was at their lowest.
And he has been my face as a victim / survivor since the very beginning.
And not just that. This is the only place where I can freely and fully describe not only what Montana had meant to me. And the grief I'm going through. But also the service he did to help save my life.
He truly was a tremendous gift in my life. And his story needed to be shared.
I owe him that much at the very least.
And besides. My wife a side. This is the only place with others who can truly understand without judgment and / or ridicule.
Plus there is also no better place for Montana to be honored and remembered.
And he will always be with us here. Because I have no intentions of changing my avatar.
So in loving memory I must say goodbye to not only a loyal and loving soul.
But to the best friend this man could have ever had.
Rest in peace Montana. I have to let you go for now. Though you will always be with me.
Until one day, in the fullness of time. We will meet again.
Wingman182 Pay It Forward