Alethea didn't inspire me to be stronger, although she did harass me to put in more miles. She didn't inspire kindness, but she did help me learn patience, which is a part of kindness. She may not have made me greater, but her insatiable need for exercise and dominion drove me to Cesar Milan, whose books and TV show taught me to be a calmer, more assertive person with firm boundaries and expectations.
Alethea also inspired a character named 'Milah' in Kergulen. For those who need a refresher, Milah was Driston's goatherd who drove him crazy and terrified Rima. When she was young, and not so young, Alethea drove my husband and me absolutely crazy, to nearly Marley and Me levels. One night about twelve years ago I was working on Kergulen, Alethea was whining incessantly about only walking four miles instead of sixteen, and the character Milah was born. I didn't expect the character to become important to the plot, more just a way to write out frustrations, but in the end she did something very important. And I could say the same for Alethea. She never saved anyone's life, so far as I know, but she played an important role in our family, several, actually--the roles of child, older sister, guardian, exercise partner, teacher, friend, ice breaker and playmate. We joke that she prepared us for an attention-challenged Trooper.
It will be a long time before I stop finding fluffy white hair in the corners and imbedded in fabric, a long time before I get used to walking without her or forget that I used to trip over her in the dark. I'll probably never forget bandaging her feet a couple times a year when she'd chase four-wheelers so far and so hard that the pads would wear off her feet, or how she loved to jump off the dock and splash everyone, and then come up on land, always waiting to shake off the water until she stood in the middle of a crowd.
This dog has been a pain in the butt and a family member for thirteen years. I'm really going to miss her. But she's traded in a crippled, unreliable body for endless swimming, running, and wrestling, for paws that never wear out and knees that never go bad. Cheers.