Sunday, 30 December 2018

Losing a Part of My Heart

It doesn't matter how much we think we are prepared for our dogs leaving us - it still hurts like hell when they do.  Sometimes we have a long period of decline during which we can say goodbye - old age or illness does gives us that opportunity, although the downside is watching our friend slowly become less able to enjoy life until the time comes when we must make the decision.  We can stop the suffering for them, bring an end to the decline, allow them to leave this life with dignity.

On the other hand, sometimes we lose them suddenly, and the shock can be something that consumes our minds and our thoughts.

I guess when Tussock left me, I had the best and worst of both worlds.  I knew she was slowing down, I knew she was tired, I knew she had mammary tumours, laryngeal paralysis, a weakening back end - but all these things seemed to be kind of under control - not so bad that she couldn't still enjoy life.  Indeed, the supplement I put her on in the last month of her life had given her a new lease of life - she was playful, trotting along on walks, more able to get into the back seat of the car.  I really didn't see it coming so soon.

Our early morning wander into the wooded area over the road from the house is just that - a wander.  Okay, so the youngsters tear around and chase one another, but of late, Tussock and I just went as far as she needed to go to have a pee and a poo.  This was a wander we had if I had to leave them for a couple of hours in a morning.  That Saturday was such a day.  We wandered over, I saw her poo, then she had a long, long pee, kicked up the leaves, looked at me as if to say "can I go home now?".  I nodded yes, and she set off on the path to the gate.  I shouted the others to come, and as I walked back, they shot past me, and round the bend in the path.  I came round the bend, and Tussock was laid out flat.  My first thought was that the others had knocked her over.  I reached her, she took a breath - but then I realised that breath had just been her body closing down.  I don't actually know if I reached her before she died, but I hope so - in time to tell her I loved her, to tell her to go free, to tell her I will see her again one day....  I was lucky in that I had told her I loved her many many times over the years, and certainly over the last few months.  But it still doesn't seem enough. 

It's amazing how much emotion and how many thoughts can be in your brain and mind at a single moment.  At that moment in time I felt peaceful and I felt grateful - for her long life, her good health, her rapid exit, at not having to make a decision further down the line, for her not having to go through pain and loss of dignity.  I felt immense sadness, concern about the others, and a bizarre train of logical and practical thoughts which enabled me to function.

I had to find someone to help me carry her home - a passing friend came to my aid.  I laid her on the sofa in the conservatory, arranging her so that it just looked as though she were sleeping.  Then I just sat with her, and cried.  At some point I pulled myself together enough to phone the pet crematorium to arrange to take her there. That evening, I put on the radio for her, and lit a candle, and we kept the door to the conservatory open, despite the cold.   The candle burned all night, and the radio played until we left for the crematorium on the Monday morning.

Skara kept approaching Tussock's body, have a sniff, and look at me in puzzlement.  She seemed to be processing it.  River wouldn't go near her, and I realised she would be the one who would need the most support in the coming weeks.

The journey to the crematorium was stressful for a whole load of reasons.  But we got there.  We said our last goodbyes, and then we had to leave her.

A week on and we are beginning to adjust.  Skara is very clingy, and River is looking for reassurance from me.  It is as if she knows she is boss-dog now, but she doesn't know how to be.  It will come in time, I'm sure.  Her respect for Tussock was immense.  She came along when Tussock was in her prime, and got flattened on many occasions.  But it wasn't just respect - there was a love there, too.  I would catch her quietly and gently washing Tussock's face on many occasions.  The whole dynamic has changed and is still changing as River and Skara find their feet.  

And me?  I miss her nose in my hand out on a walk.  I miss feeling her eyes upon me, watching my every move, and that intensity of her eyes.  I miss helping her in and out of the car, and up the stairs.  I miss her suddenly sitting down in front of me and tripping me up.  I miss her coming for her morning bum scratch, her excited voice when I came home from somewhere.  Today I missed her at work - carrying her blanket into the cottage where we were working and having her under the table.  I miss her stretching out beside me on the bed.  I feel as though I have lost a part of me.  Yes, I still have River, and Skara, and Talulah some of the time, but - they are their own "people", not Tussock, and I wouldn't have it any other way.  All our dogs are special in their own particular way.

And I will miss Tussie for a long long time.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Time and Age Marches on......

That awful moment when you realise your dog is getting older, and that time is now limited.  You start to think of the things you didn't do, the places you didn't go to, the games you didn't play.  But your dog doesn't really care about those things - all he or she knows is their life with you - your love, your time, your attention, your company out on walks or even just at home.  Nothing else really matters.

That moment hit me hard this morning with Tussock - or perhaps it was when I actually admitted it to myself.  She passed 12 back at the beginning of April.  This hot weather has made me fully realise that she definitely has a touch of laryngeal paralysis - the change in pitch of her voice and its accompanying hoarseness.  And she pants more in the warm temperatures.  It's supposed to cool down a bit this coming week, so I daresay that will be a relief to her.  And I might invest in a cool jacket for her.  Surgery is always an option, but it is at what point to jump - and I must take into consideration other stuff going on with her.

She not only has LP, but it is just a part of GOLPP - Geriatric Onset Laryngeal Paralysis and Polyneuropathy.  First symptoms are in the voice and breathing.  Then it affects the rest of the nervous system - the back end begins to weaken, heading steadily to a point of uselessness.  I am seeing it slowly happening with her.  Initially it was just the times she was thrown off her feet because she insisted on catching the tails of the youngsters as they charge by.  They just carried on, leaving her with a mouthful of hair, sprawled on the ground with a look of - a look of what?  I think it was indignation.  Mixed with a bit of "how did that happen?" 

Now I give her a help into the van - just to make sure she doesn't stumble.  And a hand under her bum going up the stairs to make it a bit easier for her.  This morning I realised I will have to give her a hand going down the stairs, too.  She has always gone down stairs like flowing water, but always under control - the control was rather lacking this morning and her back legs almost over took her front ones.  So I will make her wait and hang on to her tail going down so I can keep the brakes on.  Or use a towel sling.    I have done all this before with Leroy some years ago. 

Where we have been walking most recently - down on the shore where it is cool and they can swim - there are lots of fissures in the ground - a couple of times her back legs have fallen into them.  But she has pulled herself out and carried on.  Occasionally I need to give her a bit of a helping hand.  But she still has her sense of humour, and dignity, and bloody minded determination, and so I will not coddle her.  She can still get up on her own, still lay down, still walk and still run - but the balance goes if she turns quickly.

So, yes, I could have the tie back surgery done - but I have to question if the stress of that, and risks of complications, are really worth it at this time.  We might have another year - maybe two.  She also has a couple of small lumps on her boobs - the last one we had taken off was benign.  Do I assume these are the same?  They are slow growing.  Chances are the GOLPP will take her before they do.  Getting this balance right, making decisions like this are so hard.  What would she opt for?   Would I be doing it just to appease the part of me that feels I should, because not doing so would be classed as neglect?  Would SHE really benefit?

I hadn't been giving them their turmeric paste this last few weeks - I have begun that again as the natural anti-inflammatory should help the LP.  As well as help the stiffness.  All the girls get it - and me, too.

And what happens when the legs don't work anymore?  Do we get a pair of wheels?  I don't know.  Much will depend on her, and how she is generally in herself.  I hope it will be sometime before we get there.  But all of these thoughts have overwhelmed me this morning - that knock on the door to let you know that the time will come, and that in the meantime a few small accommodations will have to be made.  Tears have flowed this morning - but perhaps they are a preparation for an inevitable event in every life. 

And in the meantime she still rushes out to bark at a passer-by.  She doesn't think about it all in the way I do.  As long as I am here for her, and she can be with me, she is content.  I hope.

And finally - at least she has been allowed to get to 12 and I am grateful for this much. Laren never made it to 7, and there are folks out there who know their dog won't make old bones, and those folks have my heart felt sympathy.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

The Hairy Army

Casting time has come again
The dog hair’s on the move
It’s gathering up its armies
And hiding in every groove

The dogs are just a breeding ground
For soldierly recruits
Ignore them at your peril
As they polish up their boots

The dog shakes once and more come out
And scatter round the room
There’s no point trying to sweep them up
They’re faster than the broom

They march to all the corners
And hide up in their squads
Exterminating all of them
Is much against the odds

You do your best to make believe
They really are not there
You also do your very best
To pretend you do not care

But the morning comes when your patience snaps
And you stamp your foot in frustration
“This is my house” you shout at them
Not a bloody army station

War has been declared by now
As you approach a bloody fight
“It’s me or them” you calmly shout
And the dogs shake out of spite

The Dyson cleaner roars to life
And starts to gather its prey
Up and down the room it goes
Like a combine making hay

But still they hide in all the corners
Under sofas and the rugs
And now you’ve started disturbing them
They attack like bloody thugs

They turn from army to RAF
As they find their hairy flight
And float in front of your very eyes
And dance like Faery sprites

A new tactic must now be found
To tackle the hiding troops
And you unleash the Dyson nozzle
With a loud and victorious whoop

The suction is relentless
As they are pulled into the abyss
“At last!” you cry, “the house is clean”
And sit down in contented bliss

But unobserved behind you
A dog has shaken once more
And lots more hairy soldiers
Have been released upon the floor……



Saturday, 10 March 2018

Judging the Judges

Well, that's the annual pilgrimage to Crufts done and dusted for yet another year.  As always, I enjoyed the travelling up and down the road with Min and her dogs - the chatter, the snippets of wisdom I always glean from her, the chance to see countryside other than my own little neck of the woods which I seem to leave less and less.  I also enjoyed meeting up with good friends, and spending some time with them, swapping stories, enjoying laughter, teasing one another.  And seeing other people I know less well, but nevertheless enjoy meeting up with - the usual hugs from some of them, the genuine pleasure in meeting up again.

It was also good to meet some folks whose names I know, but hadn't yet had the pleasure of putting faces to them.  (Accompanied by the worry that I might forget them by the time I get there next year!)

This year there was a little bit of time to wander around and look at some of the "shops" and see all the things you really don't need, but really would like.  So many smiling faces, so many dogs, so much colour and atmosphere.  It really is a planet all of its own, and any dog lover who has never been really should go, if only once.  It is a celebration of all things dog.

Our hotel this year, wasn't the best - a bit dusty and grubby, but the beds were clean, and I was allowed to take River and Skara in at night (but the receptionist didn't tell me that!).  I would sleep in a shed rather than be parted from them at night.

All in all, it was great, and I loved it.  My only gripe was the judge.....

Some people may think this is sour grapes, but honestly, it isn't.  I am really chuffed with the two yellow ribbons we brought home to add to our little collection of coloured ribbons in the cabinet.  Yes, I am always a bit disappointed that River's glorious and powerful movement is overshadowed by the colour of her eyes (too pale), but I understand that that is the standard, and I guess I am actually delighted that we do consistently well, on the whole.    I don't do much showing, I have never attended ring craft classes, never really taught my dogs to stand "properly", never fiddle with them when they position themselves, other than to move them to rebalance themselves - it is their natural stance and my feeling is that that is what they should be judged on - not my fancy grooming, or masking something - that's a thought...... I wonder if you can get coloured contact lenses for dogs???
I don't really take it all too seriously, and never want to, to be honest.  I see (and hear) the bitchiness that emanates from the people that do take it seriously, the virtual pushing and shoving, the dirty tactics.  I want no part of that - I want to enjoy it and for us all to get on together and enjoy being with our own dogs, and seeing each others' dogs and be delighted for those that win their classes and have that joy.

The judges I have so far met, on the whole, have been friendly, compassionate, gentle - and genuinely interested in the dogs they are meeting - showing pleasure in each individual, and making you feel relaxed and comfortable.  Their write-ups have been insightful, helpful, informative.  And they have expressed their pleasure at meeting the dogs and their owners.

Our judge this year was, in my opinion, rude and brusque.  For my part, a smile, or eye contact, or a greeting from the judge is something that adds to the day.  And a greeting or endearment to my dogs.  All of this would help to relax both human and canine participants.  And audible instructions for those of us that are a bit deaf would be very helpful.  This particular man did none of this and apparently he commented, within earshot of another handler, that it was like taking a kindergarten class, and that we were totally unprofessional, and that we should be watching and taking note of what he did with other entrants and therefore know what to do.  I beg your pardon?  Excuse me, but I am not professional!  And in my first class he seemed to do a slightly different routine with one or two of the dogs so how could I "know" what he wanted me to do?  And if he wouldn't speak clearly enough, how can I hear him?  Must I start to wear a badge to say "I am a little deaf, please speak up"? He seemed to have an attitude that we should feel privileged and honoured that he put his hands on our dogs, that he would give his opinion (an extremely brief critique).  He acted like a little god.

If it is such a trial to be pleasant to dog and handler, why do you do it.  Does it not give you pleasure, in which case perhaps it is time to stop, as you are certainly, for me, not a good advert for the joy of showing my dogs. 

Finally, I am sorry matey, but my dogs might just be another dog you must judge, and I might be just another unprofessional handler you must tolerate, but my dogs are my WORLD, and YOU are honoured to have had the opportunity to see them. 

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Santa's Little Helpers

Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a mouse

But the hovies are a-waiting
For midnight to strike
So they can go out
For a wonderful hike

Seems Santa is poorly
And just cannot cope;
And this band of brave doggies
Is his best and last hope

Lead dog is Riversong
A proud girl indeed
A perfect combination
Of power and speed

Her co-pilot is Skara
Her coat full of sheen
Her energy is endless
She’s youthful and keen

The rear guard is Tussock
An experienced old girl
Quite happy to go for
A clandestine whirl
Also in attendance
Is Talulah the flattie
Full of enthusiasm
But ever so scatty

And driving the sleigh on this
Night of all nights
Is pack leader Jan with the
Stars in her sights

But we need to get dressed
So we look the part
And that means some costumes
Before we can start

We need some tree branches
To go round the face
And plenty of sticky tape
To hold it in place

We then need a red nose
To show us the way
And glitter and tinsel
To put on the sleigh

Sadly this is where
We meet disarray
Dressing up hovies?
To hitch to a sleigh?

River is wanting to go right away
No way does she wish to stand still
She huffs and puffs as I put on her traces
Hurrying me with the strength of her will

And Skara’s decided the costumes are naff
And no longer wants to dress up
She wriggles and shuffles and rolls on the ground
And causes a major hold-up

Talulah is also so keen to move on
But like river she fidgets and jumps
Her vertical take-offs are something to see
But her energy’s escaping as trumps

Tussock is bored with the whole silly farce
And insists on going to sleep
I have to persuade her to shift off her butt
And the stress is making me weep

I take a step back and I look at the mess
And at what is attached to each hound
The branches are broken and chewed up in bits
And the parcel tape stuck to the ground

The traces are wrapped around both of my legs
And my arms are attached to my head
The thought of flying the skies just right now
Fills me with a deep sense of dread

I manage to wriggle a hand from the mess
And find a bottle of whisky
I glug a bit down and then with a frown
Realise driving is going to be risky

But suddenly a shout goes up through the night
And a streak shoots over the skies
Perhaps Santa is better and can do his own job
Or the elves have launched a surprise

But no! The colours are wrong and the reindeer too small
There’s a hint of some black and some white
The organised collies have seen our disorder
And now are the stars of the night!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A Wind is Blowing

We all have wind from time to time
It’s a natural part of living
It only becomes a problem
When the smell is unforgiving

Tussock is the older dog
And her body is loosening off
As she climbs upon the sofa
Her bottom gently coughs

I rarely hear Talulah parp
Unless they are always silent
But I’ll never know for sure
Because they’re certainly never violent

Skara does some pips and pops
But nothing too alarming
They are quite like the rest of her:
Sweet and cute and charming

River has been known to cause
Some night time entertainment
I only wish I had a box
For gaseous containment

I woke last night to noxious fumes
Arising from her bum
A slow and thick and heavy gas;
Which left my senses numb

But Sisko was the King of Farts
Nobody would deny
His emissions after a knuckle bone
Would bring tears into your eyes

Nobody ever told him
That a bone was just to gnaw
His mission was to eat the lot
Leaving little for the craws

He would come in looking chuffed to bits
At conquering such a feast
Then settle down to have a sleep …
…whilst brewing his inner beast

And just in time for guests arriving
He’d suddenly wake up again
And dash out through the open door
Like a supersonic train

At the point the guests walk through the door
You understand his hurry
The gasses milling round your feet 
Are reminiscent of slurry

They grab the bottom of your legs
And climb up on your clothes
Heading to their destination:
The innards of your nose

They hang on to your nostril hairs
Bringing tears into your eyes
And through the haze of evil gas
You suddenly realise

The guests think you’re the author of
This fetid smelling fog
And all that you can think to say -

“It was the bloody dog.”

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Missing Dog

We are slightly bereft this morning - we have no Talulah!!  And how we miss her.  But don't worry, she is just a quarter of a mile up the road, having a weekend with her "dad".....

People have often asked me how I cope with four big dogs.  I don't really see it as coping, rather it is just a way of life.  I have had some folks say that at least I wouldn't notice it if I lost one - I would still have three more.  That says more about them than me and most dog owners that I know.  Would you say such a thing to someone who has lost one of four children?  No.  Each child and each dog is an individual and brings their own touch to a cohesive unit.  Granted, if you do lose one, then yes, you still do have others to love and cuddle, but it doesn't stop  you missing that lost individual.

But back to Talulah.  Chris and I have often discussed her having some lone time with him.  As she gets a bit older, she has been showing a preference for "me time".  She stays downstairs at bedtime for a few hours, she sometimes doesn't want to go in the back of the vehicle with the others, often does her own thing out on a walk, gets a bit grumpy with the younger ones, goes up to the bedroom in the evening, or if it is summer, stays out in the conservatory.  She also loves to go visit Chris.

I have often left Tussock and Talulah with Chris if I have been taking the two youngsters to a show, and lately, on returning, Talulah has actually been quite "off" with them on their return.

Anyway, we decided to give it a go this weekend and Chris picked her up on his way home from work last night.  How strange it was without her last night - and the other three dogs noticed it too.

I missed the 9.30 reminder that it was nearly supper time.  I missed my special cuddle time that I have with her before going to bed.  I missed the grumble from the sitting room as I came down to the loo in the night.  I missed the gentle woof at the bottom of the stairs as she asks me to put the light on when she is ready to come up in the night.  I missed the jostling for position that she and Skara perform on the bed.  I missed the pre alarm clock whines and whistles as she tells me it is nearly breakfast time.  I missed the frantic scuffle as she finds my slippers to take downstairs and presents them, foot-ready, in the sitting room.  I missed the fight for my socks.  I missed the vertical jumps at the door as she waits to get outside.  I missed the increasingly loud whingeing as I prepare their breakfasts.  I missed the paddling she does with her front feet as I go to put her bowl down.  I missed the growl as she bursts back through the door when I let her in the house when she has finished, and she aims for the other bowls to see if anything has been missed.  I missed her morning grumpy sounding growls as she wishes everyone good morning and how it increases in volume as she vies with Tussock for the morning bum scratch.  I miss seeing her and Skara have their morning play session, with River voicing her jealousy.

And it's only 9.30 am...... Going to be a long weekend!

And the other three are very quiet too - there is an air of puzzlement about them.  Part of their team is missing, and it will be interesting to see how they adjust, and who will fill in for each of her duties within the unit, and in what way.  It will be also interesting to see how they will be when she comes home again.  Will she tell them all off for invading her space, or will they tell her off for going away?

It isn't a permanent arrangement.  She will be generally be better off with me due to our different jobs and lifestyles, but it may well be that she will spend a bit more time on her own with Chris at weekends.  And I have to put aside any ego accepting that she might actually prefer to be there!