A German Sheperd from the Mendocino County Coast named Thunder became known nationwide in December 2019 after his then-owner shot him and left him to die in the forest near Caspar.
He would emerge days later, battered and bloodied, to an adoring public captivated by the endurance and resilience that prompted his moniker “Thunder the Wonder Dog.”
“Thunder” has lived on a three-acre, rural property in Shasta County for the last two years with his adopted mom Sheryl Armstrong running, playing, and loving life despite the adversity that marked his past.
Sadly, this last week, Thunder was diagnosed with terminal cancer by veterinarians at the University of California, Davis. They gave him less than a week to live. This last Saturday, April 9, he passed away.
Armstrong’s husband had passed away just months before she began following the story of Thunder and the terrors he experienced on the Mendocino County coast. She dreamed of giving him a home, of helping him heal.
Then, her dream came true.
She picked Thunder up two years ago and he “just threw himself in the car.” When they arrived at her Shasta County property, Thunder pranced and danced about his new home and he had been by Armstrong’s side ever since.
Armstrong would take Thunder on long car rides every day. She said he loved cows, looking at them, barking at them. He loved the backseat, what Armstrong called his “chariot.”
After the cancer diagnosis earlier this week, Armstrong decided to give him the best last days she possibly could. On Saturday, Armstrong took Thunder on a forty-mile road trip, where he barked at cows, smelled tri-tip on a grill, and even munched on some of the bbq delicacies.
Towards the end of the road trip though, Armstrong noticed he looked weak and tired, and he was not eating his tri-tip anymore. She knew it was Thunder’s time.
Armstrong made Thunder comfortable in his “favorite place in the world”, the back seat of his “chariot.” Armstrong laid by his side and a veterinarian administered a simple sedative. In moments, Thunder would peacefully pass away in his sleep.
Today, Armstrong is still deeply in mourning. She keeps thinking Thunder is there, lying at her feet, waiting to go play fetch or run around outside. Instead, she said her home feels “emotionally empty.”
Looking back on Thunder, Armstrong is inspired to heal, smile, to laugh. Even with his history of abuse, he did not let it “make him sad or not trust.” Instead, Thunder “chose to be happy.”
That’s what Armstrong said she intends to do; “I’m going to be like Thunder and choose to be happy.”
If any fans of Thunder would like to send their thoughts, prayers, and condolences to Sheryl, email her at email@example.com.