She was born in the Soviet Union. A few months later, her owner received the good news. He was permitted to leave the USSR, and emigrate to Israel. He brought her with him.
Living in the absorption center, he found that it was almost impossible to keep her in the small room he shared with another new immigrant. Through a relative he reached out to find her another home.
I loved Great Danes. To me they were a wonderful breed of dog, but the larger ones did have their problems. Due to their size, hips and bones often suffered. This Great Dane, whose name was Greya, came to us in near perfect condition. She was a blue Dane, her coat a steely gray color, and she was not that big at all. She carried a tremendous pedigree, which I had translated from the Russian.
Very quickly she established her love for my son, allowing him to shower her with love and affection. She went everywhere with me. We became inseparable. That is not to say that Greya couldn’t be mischievous. On occasion she “escaped” and returned covered in cow dung. She had a need, usually after her bath, to run to the cow shed of the kibbutz where I had lived, and roll in the dung. It was her perfume, but it certainly was not mine.
I drove the big rig. It was one of my dreams come true and for close to fifteen years I handled a truck and trailer, hauling all of the agricultural goods produced on the kibbutz. The rig was outfitted with roll-on / roll-off capabilities, as was the trailer. Everything was custom made for an agricultural application. I hauled everything from chickens in cages to potatoes and peanuts, harvested in the sandy soil near the Gaza strip. Greya was my constant companion, and she rode with me in the cab of the truck.
She would sit in the passenger seat like the royalty she was, erect, regal, stoic. If a worker or guard at a citrus packing facility or a grain silo opened the passenger side door of the cab, to ask for a bill of lading or other document, well, they were in for a surprise, and they would hurry to the driver’s side to get those documents from me there.
I don’t remember ever hearing Greya bark. She would growl on occasion. If a stranger passed by on the main road of the kibbutz, she would growl, and the hair on her shoulders would stand up. I could only attribute it to the odor of the smoke she must have sensed on that person, whether that Turkish tobacco or the smoke of the cooking fire that still clung to that individual’s clothing.
I was called up for reserve duty. My tank unit covered the northern Sinai and the southern portion of the Gaza strip. We met up and traveled to Sheikh Zuweid, now a part of Egypt and the site of recent battles between the Egyptian military and terrorists.
My tank crew was assigned to a post on the beaches of the Mediterranean, and we assigned a patrol along the water, on the beach. It was going to be wonderful, and I brought along my camera to shoot the most breathtaking sunsets ever. I asked for, and received, permission to bring Greya, provided that she would not interfere with the crew’s duties.
On my first 24 hour leave I found a kind friend who would bring Greya and me back from the kibbutz to the platoon’s base in Sheikh Zuweid. My friend headed back to the kibbutz after I unloaded my gear and the goodies I had brought from home for my crew. Greya stood next to me, all the while patiently waiting for what was to be the next leg of the journey, to the outpost on the Mediterranean.
It was then that I saw one of the officers of my unit get into a patrol vehicle some fifty meters away. He accelerated rapidly, and headed directly at me. I suppose it was his idea of a joke. I suppose he was going to trust the brakes to stop just short of hitting me. I suppose that it was his way of welcoming me back.
Greya supposed nothing of the sort, simply sensing an imminent danger, and as she leapt, pushing me aside, she absorbed the force of the jeep before the officer driving it could fully stop.
She lay there on the ground, silent, stoic, emitting nothing but a quiet whimper. Still in shock I bent over her and she looked at me, as if to apologize. The officer driving the jeep came to his senses, and realizing the terrible thing he had done, pressed the keys of his personal car into my hands. Someone else came by and said that there was a veterinarian in Be’er Sheva, about an hour’s drive away, and he wrote the address on a piece of paper for me.
I gently lifted my true companion and placed her on the back seat of the car. I drove to Be’er Sheva, still in shock. I arrived at the veterinarian’s clinic, and his staff helped me put Greya on his operating table. The doctor examined her, and told me that she had suffered massive internal trauma from the impact of the vehicle. He told me he would end her suffering and that she could not be saved.
Greya and I had spent almost six years together. She had sensed a danger and she gave her life to save mine.