The pups are huge and very advanced! Which is good as Greta seems to have had enough of mothering. I had her outside with me the entire morning (nearly 5 hours) and not once did she seem stressed about being away from her puppies. She ran around joyfully, sniffing and exploring. She tired to get Hermes to play by body slamming into him, but he wasn’t as into being outside as she was. She seemed to thoroughly enjoy herself. In fact, when I returned her to the puppy room I expected her to be happy to see her pups as she hadn’t nursed them at all. However, when I went back into the room a bit later she still hadn’t nursed them! That was at least 7 hours without nursing! And her teats were really taught…I had to rather forcefully “encourage” her to nurse them. Now that she has, she is scratching on the door, desperate to get out again! I think Greta has had enough of mothering.
We live with killers. Did you know that? Likely all of you reading this are sharing your home and possibly your beds with a known assassin. Even the sweetest among them are lethal and don’t you forget it for a second.
Today I saw first hand, the violence in action. My sweetest of all dogs, Bella is ruthless when her prey drive is in 5th gear. She has been hunting a nest of bunnies in our big yard for a week now. Well, actually, she hunted for a day and then has spent the rest of the week inside. I had hoped that the bunnies would be old enough by now to get away, but I was wrong. I heard the squeaking while I was moving large rocks. I started running while holding a rock, didn’t get far, stopped to drop the rock carefully and ran to her, the whole time yelling at the top of my lungs “LEAVE IT!!!” (which didn’t work, even for me, by the way). I thought I had saved it, it looked unharmed and wiggled in my hand, but then slowly, I saw it’s neck moving strangely and, well, I’ll save you the details. The bunny just slowly died. I stood there for some time, marveling at the beauty that goes so largely unnoticed by us – those velvety ears, the tiny nose, the beautiful fur, the perfect little face. It made me so sad, so very very sad, the waste of it, the loss of such a young life. I walked with it to the edge of the yard and gently slid it to the other side of the fence. Maybe some wild thing will eat a meal today. Maybe the life won’t be lost for nothing.
But then I realized the hypocrisy in me – I nearly rejoice when they kill chipmunks – the critters that ruin my gardens and my morning sleep – why do I have such an arbitrary view on the value of life? And as I turned to walk back to the house, Hermes joined me with a low head, sweeping tail and a smile that said clearly, “wasn’t that COOL? Dude, SO cool!” And I saw Bella in the distance, looking for more. They do what they do without all the stories in mind – they just do what they know to do – chase little furry things that move fast, but not fast enough.
Spring is here and the pups got to play in the BIG kids yard with my dogs, Hermes and Bella and our friend Abby (who is Willow‘s daughter). They had a blast and were tearing around for nearly an hour.
Brandyleft us just over a week ago. It was her time, she told me so in many ways. I could see it in her eyes, her behavior, her abilities, they all said to varying degrees that she was done. I’ll spare you the details of her declining health. She passed quietly in our home, with the kind and gentle assistance of our vet. Euthanizing Brandy at home helped to bring closure for our family and our pack. Bella, Hermes, and Lollie passed her one by one, sniffing her body curiously, knowing she was gone. Kristin and I wept as Ryan asked lots of questions. The vet and his assistant who made the house call were caring, compassionate, respectful, and professional – as they were when we put Sadie down five years prior.
I kept reading and hearing that when it was her time, I would know. And they were all right. The topic had been a frequent one in our home for months, increasingly so in the past several weeks as evidence mounted that Brandy’s time was near. I wavered as I took in the information she presented to me. I really wasn’t sure until I was sure, if that makes sense. But once I knew I didn’t hesitate or look back – it was her time.
I miss her but oddly not as much as anticipated. I guess I had a long time to think about her decline and had come to terms with it gradually. These past months I spent more and more time sitting quietly next to her, gently petting and stroking her head, neck, and back the way she liked. As Brandy aged, she was very reactive to sudden moves or any kind of jostling so I moved slowly and deliberately. She would relax and slowly lick her front paws and occasionally my hand or arm as I pet her. It was in those moments too that I knew she was ready. On her final day I came home from work early to pet her like she likes. She was stoic, guarded, with a long stare that seemingly told me she’s ready. My timing was perfect.
Brandy is gone in body but not of course in memory. I loved this poem authored and read by – of all people - legendary actor Jimmy Stewart on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The poem is called Beau, the name of Stewart’s dog:
The end of the road is nearing for Brandy. I find myself conflicted on deciding when is her time to go – if it should be my decision at all. She could die naturally, but seeing her decline is so hard for me I wonder if it is not kinder to put her down.
I bought Brandy from Animal Kingdom on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago in September 1994 when she was 6 weeks old. She was always a fairly high energy dog who loved to run and jump like most dogs but I will always remember how she seemed to love the wind. On windy days she would stop in her tracks to face the wind, sniffing, blowing her floppy Snoopy years backward. After a short time, she would bolt from that position and run around crazy – sometimes just I circles – as if to celebrate. This is a vivid but now distant memory. She is old now, arthritic, and increasingly losing the muscle needed to remain standing on all fours. Her legs will frequently slide out from under her in all directions just while she is standing or leaning over to drink some water. I’m sure she wishes we had carpeting to assist rather than our wood and tile floors.
Boarding the dogs I once fostered is an interesting thing to do. I get to see what fine specimens my little babies have grown into and I get to see what characteristics from puppyhood are still with them.
Today we are boarding Otis, formerly Willow‘s puppy, Ash.
(Click on the smaller photos to see larger ones…)
A dog as young as Otis young who is that big had better have good manners…and, well, let’s say he is still working on it.
Hermes and Bella, my working dogs who go with me everywhere I can take them are helping me. Notice how Hermes is telling Otis, with his body who is in charge. And Bella, is telling the world (with her barking) what is happening.
After romping in the yard and getting to know one another we took a pack walk. Otis did well and it is clear that his owners are doing a lot of things right. He walks nicely and seems to know his place relative to the walker.
Those who know me often hear me talk about how to walk a dog correctly. I call it a “controlled walk” and here is a great photo illustrating one of my main points…I say, “pretend there is an invisible line coming out of each hip and no dog can cross in front of it.”
Tomorrow Otis leaves but not before another one of his pack mates arrives for her stay at our “doggie boot camp” – Abby, formerly Ginko will join in on the fun tomorrow morning.
I have been training people to teach their dogs to be well mannered for a few years now. I have been teaching myself even longer. But it is always amazing how simple it is for a dog to teach another dog how to behave.
I have a puppy class I’m currently teaching at The Water Bowl. I brought Hermes tonight to show the class what they can shoot for, what is possible. Hermes is a great dog. Very self possessed but still funny and playful. Smart as a whip and very willing to work for me. He always makes me look good and when he bucks my authority it is usually either a helpful teaching moment or a message that I’m asking him to do something I shouldn’t be asking him to do. So, I brought him and as soon as the wiggly, overexcited, and uninhibited puppy, Abby, came in I knew we’d have a “teachable moment.” Abby is old enough to know better. Her family is tired of her antics. In a baby pup her behavior would be considered cute but she is big now and so it is just plain rude. We all are seeking ways to help her understand what parts of her behavior are unacceptable. Hermes did what her family has been trying to do for 2 months in less than 2 minutes. Abby understood him completely.
You know the intent of the sentence, “what, you think it’s just going to fall out of the sky and land in your lap?” – it means you have to go out there and work for what you want in life.
Well, not always.
Today it was warm and sunny for the majority of the day – amazing! The dogs had been in the yard, running and wrestling and were now taking a rest on the warm patio, near the house. The sun was shining hard on the second story picture window and must have made it look just like an extension of the sky, from a bird’s perspective. I was mopping the floor, right on the other side of the lower level picture window when I heard a loud BANG! and thought, and saw, at the same instant, “bird.” It dropped like a stone, right in the middle of the dogs circle. They all leapt up, startled and leaned in to investigate. Hermes figured it out first – “a free lunch!” (another platitude proved false) and grabbed it and ran. I tried not to think about it. It was too late to do much anyway. When I rounded them up to go walk a few minutes later, they all came running to the door where I stood, all except Hermes. He was standing over a pile of gray and black feathers, and lowered his head as I approached. It was nearly gone and what was left looked like a high school biology lab dissection – neat and pared down and red. He gulped the remainder and I said out loud – “This is what it would look like if you ever got Frank Frank…except the feathers would be green” And I think I actually shuddered.
Later, that afternoon I was holding Frank Frank as Hermes laid by the piano and I became aware of his whining, quiet yet persistent. He was looking right at Frank Frank. I said, “LEAVE IT” and glared at him but it didn’t phase him. I truly believe he thinks I am an idiot, playing with my food. Eventually, he gave it up and went to sleep but I fear the damage is done – one slip on my part and bye bye Frankie…yikes.