The view from Dogueville

I love dogs.  I have always managed to be accompanied by a furball or two at different stages of my life.  As far as I am concerned life just doesn’t feel complete without a dog in tow.

They have all had different personalities with innumerable peculiarities and I have loved them all equally.  I have mourned their losses terribly and gone out and fallen in love again with another precious bundle of unconditional love – which is probably the point really.  Unconditional love is priceless.  You can put up with almost any doggy personality when unconditional love is on offer all day every day.  I am probably prepared to put up with more doggy quirks than I would tolerate in any human being – related or otherwise –  or so my loving and long-suffering husband has told me on more than one occasion.  In his defence I do have more photos on my iPhone of my dogs than I do of him.

My latest furry personalities are two Bichons named Ruby and Angus.  From the same litter, they have been together all of their eight years but are as different as chalk and cheese.

Angus likes to think he is a little bigger than he actually is and has often suffered the consequences of his short-dog shortcomings when confronted by larger and sometimes lucky for him, slightly more tolerant counterparts.  At best he has gotten off lightly as he is sniffed and swatted out of the way.  At worst he cost me well over $500 in vet bills for stitches and antibiotics when he got out of the yard and decided that a large bull-terrier cross tyrannosaurus rex was fair game.  Lucky for him his short legs got him as far as our front gate and under my legs before he became a snappy happy meal.

Still, that hasn’t stopped him from constantly testing the limits of our four-foot front gate as he blazes a trail from left to right and back again when supposed interlopers get too close to his patch.  I wonder where he gets it from as his sister, Ruby, is placid and gets tired just watching him.  The only time I have seen her blaze any kind of trail is at the mention of food and the sound of a packet of crisps opening in another part of the house.

Ruby wrote the book on not sweating the small stuff.  I find myself watching her at times just to make sure her chest is still moving.  She knows she is on a good thing in Dogueville and she isn’t going anywhere at any great speed anytime in the foreseeable future.  Nothing phases her.  She can sleep through gale-force winds, a sonic boom and a near-miss lightning strike recently that sent Angus and myself scurrying under the nearest bed together.  Braveheart, as he was so named thereafter, wouldn’t come out for hours while Ruby sat by the fridge in hopes of getting his share of the dinner that night.

For all their antics and foibles, I love them dearly and will continue to love them even when they are no longer with me.  My dogs are not only my companions, they are my friends.  They offer me love and make me laugh.  They make me cry when they are gone.  I wouldn’t change one moment of it.



Dogs and me

I’ve been lucky enough to have had the company of a few dogs over the years.  Each and every one of them has enriched my life in some way and taught me a thing or two about loyalty and love.  Whoever said that dogs have neither feelings nor  souls has never owned a dog and therefore does not matter, in my opinion.

My first foray into dog companionship kicked off when my grandmother came to live with us when I was seven.  She brought along her little terrier and I got to pretend that I finally had a dog for the next eight years.  That little dog put up with dress ups, my questionable dog grooming skills, posing for ‘portraits’, sharing her mat and was my first port of call when life sucked and I needed a unbiased ear.  I was hooked on the dog-bug for the rest of my life.

After I left home I decided on a larger ‘real-dog’ travelling companion.  I purchased a beautiful black German Shepherd pup and she became my copilot for my many adventures as I navigated up and down the coast working and generally having a good time.   Company aside, as she grew she was a marvellous deterrent for any would-be lotharios that were inclined to think that I was up for it.  I have one spectacular memory of her sitting on top of some unlucky sod after she ran him down because he swiped my ice cream cone.  To this day I am still not sure if she was after the ice cream or the thief.

I was companion to a beautiful silky terrier a few years later.  She became the perfect match to my grandmother when I had to move and I couldn’t take her with me.  She was as silly as a wheel but she suited my grandmother perfectly and I got to see her on weekends.  So began my love for the smaller lap dog when I met my future husband and talked him into purchasing my next dog.

Jackson came into my life just before serious illness struck me down.  He was a white ball of fluff that my husband took one look at and asked where the batteries went.  He was the perfect foil of patience, loyalty and love that would get me through the tough times ahead.  He was a gentlemanly dog, preferring to mind his manners at dinner time and always ask for permission before he did something.  Aside from his one grand adventure when he disappeared for hours only to be found curled up under the recliner chair bay sleeping and oblivious to the mayhem that surrounded him – he never put a paw wrong.  He was the light in my life when I needed it most and a joy to be around.  The day I lost him I lost a part of myself that I still haven’t found.

Jackson’s offspring, Dylan, was a completely different fluff ball.  He was brash at mealtimes and would barge in to get his share before somebody else got it.  He thought he was a giant but was scared of the budgie.  He loved to sleep on anything soft that was higher than the floor.  He loved attention and would sulk when anybody else got it.  He would show off to get an extra treat.  We lost him to cancer a few years ago after many operations and no hope.  I still grieve for my funny little soul who snored in his sleep.

These days I am entertained by my two Bichons, Angus and Ruby.  I love them dearly and I laugh often at their funny little ways and different personalities.  Angus is fearless and will bark at anything that moves until he gets outside his home turf.  He owns the world and has a strut to prove it.  His retrieval skills are unmatched and he can play until my arm has gone numb.  He is king of his domain, a bright little button in my life that simply must have his head elevated when he sleeps.  He has taken to carrying his own mini-pillow around with him for portable comfort whenever the mood suits.  Ruby is my lovely little fluffy girlie girl.  She knows her place in the household which is mostly wherever the food is at.  She will hear the fridge open from out in the front yard.  She will be at my side in moments when she hears the crackle of paper – just in case.  She is affectionate and soulful.  She loves nothing more than to lie on her back in my lap for a belly rub and will drop to the floor flat on her back at the hint of a possible spare hand doing nothing.

There is no question that my dogs have been spoilt.  I am probably over the top and am considered a little eccentric by some when it comes to my furry companions.  I would much rather be this way and experience all that a dog has to give and lose them one day than never to have had the opportunity to experience it at all.  Dogs enrich my life, they lighten my heart and they offer solace when I am feeling sad.  They are my constant companions, loyal to a fault and dependent on me to live their lives in the best way they can.  I can offer them a good home and a good life.  At the end of the day and of my life if this has been my only purpose then it will have been a magnificent calling.


Tribute to an old friend

ddogdIt has been only three months since my little mate left us. I think of him every day.

My little Maltese Dylan, is now no longer with us after we made the heartbreaking decision to let him go after the diagnosis of cancer. He did well after his initial operation to remove his spleen and the large tumour attached to it. We bought another four months for him before the cancer finally claimed him 3rd November, 2012.

Within the first two months after his operation another lump was noticed in his stomach. Shortly after, I took him back to the vet for an ultrasound. It was then that I was told that this time there was more than one tumour and that it was now only a matter of time, dependent upon how quickly they grew and how much pain he was in.

He managed for another few weeks relatively free of pain. I spent as much time as I could with him in my arms, carried him everywhere with me and put him on my bed every night to sleep with me. I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my precious boy, although I didn’t want to think about the immediate future. He was still here as a tangible presence in my life and that was all that mattered.

On the morning of 3rd November, he collapsed and screamed in agony. His little body convulsed and his eyes glazed over. We raced to his side while he lay there, panting and paralysed. He then got up and walked away as if nothing had happened. I felt the lump in his stomach again and he didn’t flinch. It was huge and I wondered just what it was pressing on to cause so much pain, as he was walking around and seemed okay, I tried to put the possibility of taking him to the vet at the back of my mind and continued to watch him. A few hours later, I carried him down the front steps of our home to the grass. He walked two or three steps and collapsed onto the ground again. This time there was no scream. He was in too much pain to scream. His little body just writhed in agony as my husband and I cried over him.

My husband looked at me and said that we were taking him to the vet.  I looked at him and nodded my head. Perhaps there was something that they could do.

To cut a long and sad story short, there was no miracle. Our little boy’s tumours were so vast that the terrible spasms that he experienced beforehand were just going to become worse before he died an agonising death. What to do?  I knew what to do, but I didn’t want to think about it.

We made the decision to put him to sleep. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. My husband and I held our little fur-baby in our arms as he took his last breath. I hope he didn’t feel any pain. Everybody assures me that it was the most humane thing that I could have done and the most loving, as we saved him from something much worse than a peaceful death. It still doesn’t stop me from feeling like a monster for putting my baby down.

We were there when he was born. We bottle fed him and raised him. We saw his first breath, his 15 years of life, and his last breath.

I would like to believe that there is life after death and that some day I will see him again. It goes without question for me that out pets have souls. How could something so pure and loving not have a soul?

I keep myself going by telling myself that, yes, I lost a beautiful friend and I will love him forever but I wouldn’t swap any of the sadness and heartache that I feel right now for not ever having known this beautiful little being at all. I feel privileged.

Rest in peace, Dylan. All my love.

My love, my dog

I haven’t posted for a while. It’s been pretty hectic, and I have all sorts of interesting tidbits from my life to tell, but I will start with the most recent and the most traumatic right now.

My fur-kid has cancer.

It’s a hard thing to digest. My emotions are raw and my sadness is deep.

Dylan, my 14-year-old Maltese, my best buddy, and the resident senior fur-citizen, is going to leave me.

I didn’t  listen to the vet at first. Dylan had just come in for a teeth clean and a vaccination. Surely that lump I was concerned about was just a cyst? The vet shook her head and said the cyst was cancer. It had spread to his spleen and into his chest. She showed me the x-rays. I could see some lumps and dark spots. It didn’t mean anything to me, but I felt sick anyway.

I cried. I had brought him in 2 months ago with a smaller lump. She couldn’t feel anything because he was tensed up, so we didn’t do x-rays. She told me she was sorry. I cried even more.

He looked okay. He was eating and drinking. He didn’t seem to be in any pain. Was there anything that she could do?

She told me that if he was a younger dog, she would suggest an operation to remove the lump, the spleen, and follow it up with chemotherapy to the chest via a specialist. I cringed at the thought. His little body had been through a lot in this life, but I doubted that it would withstand the onslaught of chemo. I’d seen what it did to humans.

I took him home to his fur-brother and sister and made a big fuss of him. He took it all in his stride and snuggled into his favourite spot on the lounge after his favourite treat for dinner. He doesn’t know what’s happening, but he knows he is loved.

I have spent the last few days reminiscing and looking at photos of the holidays and places we have been together. The 3-hour bottle feeds when he was born when his mother rejected him. The chewed furniture and the spiteful poo on the bedspread when he got locked in the bedroom. The howls of delight when I came home from work.

We’ve had lots of adventures and he has had a good life with us. He’s been dressed up as Santa at Christmas time and dressed up as a bunny at Easter. He’s been photographed making himself comfortable on the train of my wedding dress, and balancing precariously on the seat of my stationary motorbike. He was first at my bedside when I was ill and last to leave when I recovered.  His good looks and his loving nature have negated his many vices in the past, although he has sailed a little too close to the wind when he has peed on my furniture on occasions.

One day I will remember him, warts all, and wish I was cleaning up the pee, but not today. Today I’m going to make the most of his presence, and feel lucky that I was fortunate enough to have known this special little being. I’m going to give him all he needs, love him as much as I can, and even look into some natural remedies to improve his disposition and prolong his comfort.

Better to have loved him and enjoyed our time together than to never have had the privilege of loving him at all.

With love, for Christmas

I probably should be posting a little more than what I have managed in the last few weeks, but I’ve been busy. And life is just about interesting enough to write about now as Christmas approaches at a rapid rate, and the relatives and presents come out of the woodwork.

I’ve had the usual Christmas cards, the odd phone call, and a handful of low-maintenance return-the-favour enterprises that have involved stamping and posting, but nothing out of the ordinary up until a few days ago.

Santa (with a little help from my husband) has gone all out a little early this year and managed to provide me with a new set of wheels with all the trimmings. The first I knew of this major undertaking was my husband’s self-satisfied smirk, and a jostling of a set of keys in his right hand as he led me to his quarry and ran his hands over the gleaming silver body of a VW Polo. It was love at first sight of course. I am a big fan of the VW range, and my enterprising husband knew it.

He did it all by himself, and I am in awe of him. I am usually the computer geek and the mastermind behind a well-orchestrated surprise-and-a-half.  I am also usually the bargain hunter, the savvy shopper, and the smart buyer of good quality merchandise on the Internet. Two years ago my husband couldn’t send an email. Now he’s buying cars and accessories at the touch of a few buttons.

I’ve taken her on her maiden drive to the first fancy restaurant I could find to celebrate not only my gift, but the precious gift of love that I am lucky enough to have in my life. It’s great to have a new car, that’s for sure, but it’s even greater to have my wonderful husband.

My beloved Jackson

Today is the anniversary of my beloved dog, Jackson’s death. Jackson has been gone for two years today. He may not have meant much to the guy down the road, but to me, he was pure gold. To anybody who has ever had a loving companion with whom they have had the privelege of sharing a part of their lives, know that this is a tribute to your special fur-friend, and that part of you that left with them when they went away.

Jackson was pretty special, and he came to me at a time when I needed him the most.  It was love at first sight, in that pet shop window, that was for sure. And the feeling was mutual. He pranced out of there on the end of his little red lead like he owned the world. He was a bobbing, five inch high powder puff as he strutted with his head high just in front of me, moving through the mall as fast as his little legs could carry him. He was on his way to better things and he knew it!

My husband was harder to win over. The puff ball wasn’t a real dog as far as he was concerned, this was some kind of toy – he just couldn’t find the battery slot anywhere. His tune changed the day he discovered that Jackson was categorised as ‘very cute’ by any female that came within ten feet of him. And so the die was cast for future strolls and time on the beach.  I hadn’t realised that the ‘win-ee’  had finally been won, until the day of one very heated argument, when my husband  interrupted my ranting, reached for Jackson and held him to his chest, screaming  ‘if we get divorced, there’s no way YOU are getting MY dog! 

Game, set and match.

Jackson grew a little in stature, but a lot in heart, good temperament, and good looks.  He was well mannered, quiet, friendly to all, loving to family and chief chicken taster. He enjoyed the finer things in life just as much as we enjoyed indulging him, but the benefits of his kind and generous soul that we received in return still make my heart grow light and sad at the same time, whenever I think of  him.

He was with me throughout my illness and spent most of his time by my side when I was recovering. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight until I began to do things for myself again. He was there beside me and my computer when I began my study, and he was there the day I graduated, although he was a little miffed at missing the formal ceremony. We moved around a lot, so he did too. He enjoyed a good holiday as much as we did. As long as we were around, he was happy.

We were with him at the end, my husband and I. It was a short illness, but severe. The doctor did all he could do, but it was his time to leave us. I will never forget my last moments with him. There was hardly any time to say goodbye, but a part of me died too as I held him. I’d lost my best little friend.

Sometimes I think I see him around, or I feel his nose on the back of my leg, trying to get my attention like he used to.  Sometimes I still cry, like today. But mostly I’m happy because I know I that was extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to have known such a special little being, and I’m a  better person for it.

Goodbye my dear friend. I hope we meet again.

The tryst

I watch the child pressing her face up against the window of the cake shop.  She’s been there for a while now. Nobody seems to notice her and nobody collects her. There’s a chill in the air, but the child is dressed warmly and seems well cared for. I watch her for a while longer and go back to what I’m doing.

I wrap my own coat around me a little tighter and tuck my hands into my pockets for a moment. The child is none of my business. What is my business is to notice things, notice people, what they are doing and where they are going. I’m distracted by the child momentarily, that’s all. Part of my training.

I’ve seen all kinds of things in my line of work and I have a million stories.  I’ve become accustomed to seeing people at their worst. My emotions became disengaged a long time ago.

I turn my attention back to the man sitting at the table at the cafe next door. He’s still reading his paper.  Every now and then he glances at his watch and looks around. I make my notes behind my magazine. He’s been coming here for days. I follow him from his house, as instructed, and report on his activities.

Right on cue she appears. A middle-aged, non-descript portly woman. Not the type I would consider worthy of a betrayal or any kind of conspiracy. But you never can tell. As I said, I’ve seen all kinds of things. I continue to make notes as they talk and exchange bits and pieces of paper.

The waiter appears with their order. As she has only just arrived, I assume he has ordered for her once again.  He either knows what she likes or just assumes she will like anything he orders. Does this mean some level of intimacy? According to my source, my current client, this woman is the current interest – although I would hesitate to call her a ‘love interest.’ She had to be at least twenty years older than the man I was tailing. I skim over my notes of the last few days. Nothing to indicate a sexually orientated liaison. It was exactly the opposite, warm, but courteous and respectful.

The woman reaches over and touches the man’s shoulder. He looks at her, shaking his head while he reaches for her hand, clasping it in his own. He bends his head slightly, kissing her fingers, softly, tenderly. I’m close enough to see the tears glistening on her cheeks as she pulls away and rummages through her handbag. She hands him what appears to be a photograph. They look at it and smile. As he puts it in his coat pocket, she reaches up and rustles his hair, and he pulls away like a child. They both look around and she blushes, looking down into her coffee cup.

I lean forward slightly. This is a new twist. Even more intimate, yet tinged with a sadness and softness I can’t quite fathom. This is not a normal tryst, if it is at all. I try not to let feelings override my scribbling. This is just a job. I only have  a few hours to go, and then it will be over.

Then the woman drops her handbag, and it’s contents scatter onto the ground. People stare at them above their designer sunglasses as pieces of paper fly in all directions, wafting away in the breeze and out of reach. Their faces are momentarily obscured as they both dive under the table to retrieve her belongings. I strain to see what has been dropped that can be so important, until they both look up frantically in my direction. I sink further into my magazine. Have they seen me? They don’t even know who I am. 

He moves sharply, but she shakes her head and pulls him back into his seat. They settle for a moment, while she smooths down her jacket and dries her eyes. A waiter appears from nowhere and points to the pieces of paper,  now miraculously moving in my direction. I turn my head in the other way, pretending an interest in a pair of swans at the lake’s edge, keeping an eye on them behind my sunglasses. The man shakes his head while handing the waiter a few bills and placing a few more on the collection plate. The waiter smiles broadly, attention so obviously diverted, and disappears back into the doorway. My mind is racing. Opportunity is knocking as the papers blow into the bushes around me, and along the water’s edge. I don’t move. I wait and watch as they stand up and watch me. And they are watching me now, possibly waiting for me to move away. The papers are so close I can almost touch them. I decide to sit for awhile to see what happens. What could possibly be so important in these few pieces of paper that they don’t even want a waiter see?