Joyful Goodbye

Goodbye, Celhaus Ode to Joy, better known as Joyful

11/14/03 – 6/27/11


My beautiful Joyful, the joy of my life, collapsed while playing and died in my arms early in the morning. She had wrenched her back two weeks earlier, playing too wildly, so I was keeping her quiet, not throwing the ball but letting her “kill” a Jolly Ball while I walked around picking up poop or watering flowers during her regular morning play time.   Suddenly, she collapsed on her side and I had just enough time to gather her in my arms and call her name, and she was gone. At least she was doing what she loved and knew I was there when she died. The vets think it was a freak heart attack, though tests are being done.   I just can’t believe it. She was in beautiful shape, glowing with health, annual blood work in late February was all normal, she was having a normal heat and Chaos had bred her the day before. I was hopefully looking forward to one last chance to keep another of her daughters.


Joyful always lived up to her name. She was the happiest German Shepherd I have ever seen. She loved life and gloried in whatever the day brought. I was often awakened by a nudge in my face and opened my eyes to see her laughing face inviting me to get up, it was a beautiful new day and surely it must be time to go out and play ball. . If I wasn’t getting to her playtime fast enough, she would bark and bark, telling me to hurry. I often went to sleep with her curled in my arm, lying as close as possible to soak up my love and give me hers. She was my comforter when I was sad or lonely or upset. The house is strangely quiet and empty these days, even with the six other GSD’s.


Joyful was a great Therapy Dog, very intuitive about who needed comfort and loving from her. Even though she was a very active dog, she quieted down when we entered the nursing home or other facility, moved calmly, sat quietly by a person for as long as they wanted to pet or visit with her. She listened to them as if they were the only people in the world and she had all the time in the world for them.


Joyful was so crazy about water that she destroyed I don’t know how many plastic kiddie wading pools and even the heavy rubber tubs for watering livestock.  She would drag them around, splashing water all over, and as they got lighter she’d get more serious.  Even the rubber tub ended up with chunks out of it. I changed to metal sheep watering tubs.   The first one I got was oblong, about 6′ long and 2′ wide, and Joyful drug it all over the lawn and dumped it, breaking off a canine in the process.  I finally got the 6′ diameter metal sheep tubs and she could no longer move them, so she’d get in and splash out as much water as she could, biting the spray and talking, barking and singing.  It was a riot.   I would leave for work hearing her joyful noise and knowing she had raced for the pool as soon as I pulled out of the drive.   I’m glad one of her daughters, Gracie, is carrying on the tradition.



Joyful had extremely high retrieve drive and an exceptional nose and should have been a narcotics dog. She passed those qualities on to her offspring, several of whom are really good Search & Rescue dogs whose group trainers commented, on their first puppy track, that they already knew how to track and they’d never seen that in pups that young. Every time I threw the ball, she raced out to get it and then tracked her way back, going everywhere the ball had gone. She was particularly pleased when it bounced off a tree and would climb if needed to reach the spot where the ball had touched. We had lots of laughs when my agility trainers said we should use the ball as a reward rather than food. She would stop in mid air if my hand happened to move anywhere towards the pocket where I carried her ball. She wasn’t a very fast dog, so we missed making time a lot in competition, but she enjoyed it and enjoyed working. She made me a better trainer because she had such a long commitment space to an obstacle that I had to learn to give the command for the next obstacle before she reached the current one. All she asked was that I communicated that clearly in enough time for her to accomplish it. I was getting better at that and she was moving faster because I was more dependable, so we were doing well in competition and I was looking forward to doing better and better. We had a ball in the three agility trials during May and she did extremely well. I just can’t believe we won’t be running those Elite courses any more.


You could do anything with her; all you had to do was let her know what you wanted.   The vets loved her because she let them do any needed procedure without restraint or making a fuss. She combined high drive with willingness to please and the ability to thoroughly enjoy whatever she was doing at the moment. She was just plain fun all the time. She consistently passed all this on to her progeny and people rave about how easy they are to live with, how intelligent and eager to learn, and how they almost instinctively know what you want them to do. Joyful’s daughter, Berakah, whom I kept, is very much like her but is fast. She is not quite as serious as her mother and sometimes gets her great-grandmother’s gleeful look in her eye and does something silly, so she is going to be great fun to compete with but perhaps not as accurate as her mother. She began her agility career in May and is doing exceptionally well, already having three novice titles and qualifying scores in the other classes.


Unfortunately, Berakah is spayed due to a multi-gene recessive eye condition (pannus) so she is unable to give me a Joyful granddaughter.


I was looking forward to retirement, or at least to working fewer hours, so that I could track with Joyful and her half-sister, Bunny, and try for tracking titles. I miss tracking with my “kids,” but with my current energy-consuming job as Shelter Director, I just don’t have the ambition to do much in the evenings. If I do anything, it’s some agility, but tracking sits in the back of my mind as a well-remembered pleasure and something Joyful would have loved to do.


Life is definitely not fair. Here I have been worrying over her half-sister, Bunny, who will be 10 on August 1st and has been slowing down, and her aunt, Jubilee, who will be 13 in July and who is failing physically and mentally, and I lose Joyful in her prime, vigorous, healthy and full of life.


OFA Hips, OFA Elbows, OFA Thyroid, OFA Cardiac, OFA Degenerative Myelopathy, CERF, certified free of EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency), hemophilia and Von Willebrands (bleeding disorders), recipient of a Health Award Certificate of Recognition from the German Shepherd Dog Club of America;

Great companion and “heart” dog, one of my all-time favorites;

Devoted Therapy Dog;

Excellent mother;


And slow but always honest and willing agility competition dog whose titles include Superior Novice Chances, Open Chances, 1 Elite Chances leg, Superior Novice Hoopers, Open Hoopers, Superior Novice Jumpers, 2 Open Jumpers legs, Superior Novice Regular, Open Regular, Elite Regular, Superior Novice TouchNGo, Open TouchNGo, Superior Novice Tunnelers, Open Tunnelers, Outstanding Novice Weavers and 2 legs towards Superior Novice Weavers. All of this was accomplished in limited showing in between heat cycles and motherhood and because I’m alone and have no one to care for the dogs left behind, so I must drive back and forth to the trial each day.


The joy has gone from my life.



to Joyful’s page

to my favorite photos of Joyful

to Joyful’s agility competition photos

to Joyful’s pups

Leave a Reply