A striking black and tan German Shepherd dog, Prince had been with Linda for seven years. Guarding her. Protecting her. Loving her. At just a year old, his protective instincts were well-formed.
Her life is filled with love stories. A thoughtful and devoted husband of forty-seven years, precious children, and adorable grandbabies. And she lives on an idyllic farm in the south with lush rolling hills, a sparkling lake, towering sunflower fields, and tall, sturdy pines that stand like sentinels. Dogs, cats, horses, ducks, geese, and other wildlife add dimension and beauty to her life. But one special dog will remain in her heart, leaving a void that will be with her forever.
“I’ve had dogs all my life, but he was my heart dog.” Her voice had a charming southern twang.
“What’s a heart dog?” I asked.
“One that finds its way into your heart and never leaves.”
A striking black and tan German Shepherd dog, Prince had been with Linda for seven years. Guarding her. Protecting her. Loving her. At just a year old, his protective instincts were well-formed. If Linda moved, Prince mirrored her, leading the way and looking over his shoulder to make sure she was following him.
“In his presence, I felt completely safe. I never had a doubt how much he loved me. He had such complete devotion to me. I’d never had that connection before.”
Suddenly, Linda’s idyllic world was rocked to the core. A routine mammogram revealed a lump in her breast. When further tests confirmed cancer, Linda began an arduous one-year battle to rid herself of the disease.
“You always think that cancer happens to other people,” Linda said, “and now it was happening to me. I was scared and shocked, and I kept thinking about my husband, children, grandchildren, and animals. Especially Prince. I wondered how they would make it without me.”
Linda underwent a bilateral mastectomy and went home the next day with both breasts gone and a tremendous feeling of loss. But she tried to remain strong and upbeat for her family.
Soon Linda was able to get out and take short walks again. Prince was always by her side. “I think he knew that something was not quite right with his mama. Because he saw the tears that I couldn’t let anyone else in the family see. But his strength gave me strength and the confidence that I could beat this. And he was one of the reasons I had to win this battle,” she said.
Just as Linda was feeling her health return to normal, Prince passed away quite suddenly. He had been a perfectly healthy dog in the prime of his life. “His passing was a deep shock for me. We were on a walk. Suddenly, he lay down. Within minutes, he was gone. I held him in my arms and wept, begging him through my tears not to leave me. He was instrumental in helping me battle cancer. He was my rock while I was recovering, the one being I felt I could be completely vulnerable with because I wanted to be strong for my family. It was a tragic loss. After his passing, going for walks was painful and lonely but also therapeutic in a way because I could still see his footprints on the dirt trail. It was devastating to me when the first rain of the season washed his prints away and made his death so final.”
Knowing I was an animal communicator, Linda asked me if I could connect with Prince and get a final message from him. I emailed her days later:
I spent some time today connecting with Prince. When I asked him what he accomplished with you, Prince said three words: “Freedom and peace.” He told me that he is not holding on to anything connected to his death. And he wants you to let go of any guilt you may have. Maybe that’s what he meant when he said freedom and peace. Maybe he wants you to be at peace because that will set you free from the memories. If you can be at peace like he is, then you’ll have freedom.
When I interviewed her for this story, I asked Linda what she would say to Prince if she could see him once more.
“I’m not sure I would say anything,” she said. Then, after a pause, she continued, “It would give me so much comfort to feel Prince’s presence again, but I never have. I have a wonderful life and a lot to be thankful for, but I still miss him. I learned so much about loyalty and devotion from him. He saved my life. He gave me the courage to get through cancer. I think he knew when I was well. Because that’s when he left me. If I could see him again, I’d just hold him and love him. And thank him for being the amazing dog that he was.”
About the Author:
Dobie Houson is an activist for animal rights, an animal communicator, and the award-winning author of Finding Forever: The Dogs of Coastal German Shepherd Rescue, and Four-Legged Wisdom: Sacred Stories from an Animal Communicator. An ardent activist for animal rescue, Houson is founder and executive director of Finding Forever, a foundation dedicated to raising money and awareness for animal rescue causes through the arts. Learn more at: