Thursday, June 12, 2008

A pet is for life, not just for Christmas

We all know how easy it is to love a cute puppy. Loving that same dog 16 years later, when she is old and not so cute: that shows you are a true pet owner!

We drove from home to Doncaster to buy the puppy we saw advertised in the paper: a golden retriever/labrador cross. Visions of our new golden dog as a change from black crumbled when we arrived and met the tiny, black bundle who was coming home with us! But to touch, so soft - naming her was easy! She was silky-soft and Silky the Fairy (because little girls are little girls!)

Silky came home and joined the family, including our black labrador/kelpie cross Sasha, who though she might lactate for her new baby, but decided that was too hard, so just mothered her instead! We all lived happily ever after until Sasha died in her sleep one day, aged 12 and Silky became an only-dog.

We moved house in 1997 and Silky happily walked from our old home, around a couple of blocks to our new one, smiling as ever! A few months later, my father bought the house next door to ours and we knocked down the dividing fence, giving Silky the run of two backyards, to her great delight! Two watch dogs for the price of one. There is nothing quite like the deep woof of a black dog in the dark to make bad guys think twice and only we knew she would lick them to death if they climbed the fence!

A few years later, we adopted another lab: this time golden, a boy called Buddy. This was not the most successful integration and after about a year, Buddy moved on, leaving Silky older and wiser. She went from being a mostly outside dog to being a ostly inside dog quite happily! My lifestyle had also changed due to health issues and so I was now full-time at home and Silky proved the perfect companion. She was also an excellent hostess and welcomed visitors, who spent the whole time patting her despite their insistence they wouldn't! Silky was just like that. Anyone little was treated with kid gloves and she allowed babies and toddlers to climb over her body, pull her ears and use her to stand up! She asked only that they slip her a bit of morning tea .. or, if unoffered, would help herself gently!

Life went on, with annual outings to the Frankston Pets Day Out and the Pet and Pony Expo providing new people drawn to pat her! Sh would calmly enjoy the day, taking draughts from water buckets like it was sme sort of wine tasting! One year, she even tried Doga, a canine yoga class, to the great amusement of all. Last year she palyed supermodel and had her portraits taken. She was that kind of dog.

But life catches up with us all, and old age too. The past year or so saw a few health problems and treats like walks at the beach became too hard. She had to content herself with shadowing our house cleaner, watching the world walk past the windows and leading a more passive life. She missed Melissa during her two years in New Zealand, but became adept at the web cam to keep in touch! She even tried motherhood with our two hand-raised magpies, with varying success.

These past few months, the back legs weren't so good anymore and getting off the floor became an effort. Some days going down the back steps was too hard. Increasingly, stumbling and falls became part of life. Other areas at the rear end were also not always controlled and we all knew the time was approaching.

Yesterday was a bad one for Silky and overnight I knew what today had to bring. However, if there is a “good” way for this to happen, then all went well.

I ran our vet and explained, asking if they could come here, which they organised quite simply and is actually only $15 extra – I would urge anyone in the same situation to check this out, as it made an enormous difference. No need to disturb Silky, she was in her own space – and we had the privacy you just don’t get at the surgery. They asked what we wanted to do with her and when I said cremation, they said they can organise that for us. I thought I would have to do this, so another burden lifted.

The two girls – vet and nurse – were so lovely to us all and to Silky. They took it all slowly and with respect. It took ages to get a canula into a vein and there was much joking during this time, with Silky smiling away as it was all just lovely attention to her. Then she just slipped straight away, peacefully and with the girls and I touching her, with Kieran nearby. Then they simply took her into their car and allowed us to grieve.

When Silky returns, we will plant a special place in the garden and place her ashes there. Not a bad end for a little puppy who came home with us aged six weeks and lived a happy and carefree live surrounded by love. Her legacy, for me, is the number of ABA babies and toddlers who loved her and gained dog confidence with her. Quite a few kids learned to stand and walk hanging off this patient dog, who smiled and took it all as love.

The kids are coping well and there is warmth and laughter as well as tears. Ashley has been great and even rang Debbie to let her know, to reduce the shock when she comes to clean tomorrow – she so loved that dog and I am glad they had a few weeks back together.

Poor old Frodo tried to come and investigate almost at the last moment and ended up sitting close by, while Merry was in the other room. The vet said she smelled of angry cat, as her previous patient didn’t appreciate vaccination at all. After, Merry behaved very wary around Silky’s mat for a while – they know these things, cats.

So now we look forward. Not too far forward yet, but we feel happy that there is no more discomfort and loss of dignity for Silky.

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