Thursday, June 05, 2008

Changes in the household: More loss, and a gain as well.

In the beginning of April I left home for 3 weeks to go to Colorado to attend 2 National Specialty dog shows: Sheltie Nationals and Australian Shepherd Nationals. It was a hectic few weeks leading up to my departure for a number of reasons.I was preparing for a show I'd not taken artwork to before (Shelties) and so I needed to prepare a lot of new artworks and prints of the artwork. I had the trophy art for the Aussie Nationals to frame and package. In addition I had a litter of puppies out of Ribbon which were growing by the day and turned 7 weeks the week I was leaving town. They needed their veterinary eye exams before heading out for their new wonderful homes and lives. It was a particularly busy week of calls for Poodle rescue, which I'd been doing for several years for Greenspring Poodle Club. I actually was handing off the rescue duty immediately prior to leaving town but of course got calls to place dogs just before I could hand off.
I was leaving on a Sunday and the plan was to go to Virginia on Saturday to drop off the remaining 2 Ribbon puppies with their co-breeder. As for the resident population I planned to board Flash (my adult male tri Aussie), to leave 13 year old Emma with 9 year old Ziggy my Standard Poodle in the care of neighbors and my sister, and to take Ribbon and Encore. with me on the trip. Encore was entered at the dog show and Ribbon was leaving her litter and is an easy travel mate and company for Encore.
Friday night was the normal routine at bedtime: everyone had a cookie at bedtime and Ziggy slept in the 'dog room' off the kitchen. All was normal and nothing out of the ordinary.

Except that when I got up Saturday morning and went to let everyone outside, I found Ziggy in his crate, dead. He always went in to eat his cookie there and then slept out on the floor or a dog bed. There had been no sign of any illness the evening before, he'd been his usual energetic self, normal appetite, etc. I think he'd been dead only a couple of hours before I found him.
After giving the dreadful news to my sister, who adored Ziggy, we took him to the vet to be left for a limited post-mortem exam (nothing found, incidentally) , and I then went on to VA as planned to deliver the puppies to their co-breeder and co-owner, and arranged for Emma to go stay with a friend for the month as she'd have been extremely lonely without a buddy in the house . (Flash is too much dog to leave in a dog-sitting arrangement with neighbors; where he boards he gets to run with girls and get some serious exercise).
I left for Colorado with Ribbon and a loaded van on Sunday (well, left with Ribbon and had to travel EAST for 2 hours to pick Encore up at a dog show in Southern Maryland, THEN start heading west. ). Not much time to process the loss of my dear sweet Ziggy and terrible for my sister, who was truly bereft over the loss. (A side note: I had originally planned to leave for Colorado about 3 days before I ultimately did but plans changed due to my host's schedule; I can't begin to express how fortunate that change was, as otherwise my sister would have been the one to find him that morning instead of me).Ziggy and Bobby a couple of years ago.
My 3 day drive gave me plenty of time to think about Ziggy, and Bobby, and the importance of my dogs in my life, but leaving home after his death was a bit surreal as well; I would not have had him along anyway, so I had a distressing sort of removal from the occurrence; I'd much have preferred to have been at home to experience his absence in the proper way, if that makes any sense. My departure so soon was also difficult for my sister, who had a very profound sense of loss. She'd been having him over to her house when she wasn't working and had really become his favorite person, and he, hers.
I talked to her at least daily the first week or so after his death, and after a couple of very sad weeks she decided she would like go ahead and get a dog. Up to now she had always planned to do this after retirement in a few years. But with her living so close it would be easy for me to help out by letting her dog out during the day. So I sent out some feelers to friends likely to come across possible candidates (young adult female something-mix, not too many issues for a novice dog owner) . In addition we made plans to go see Ziggy's breeders and talk about Ziggy when I returned home. Thy don't breed anymore, we just wanted to visit and tell them how much we'd loved him.
We walked out of that visit a couple of weeks later with my sister resolving that indeed it would need to be a Poodle for her, and we discussed a little about how we might find something suitable. Of course the paradox was, the day before Ziggy died was the day I mailed all the Poodle rescue paperwork to the club and had my name removed from the web site's rescue page. I would probably be filling out one of my own applications and mailing it to the new rescue chair.
A week or so after our visit to Ziggy's breeders my sister and a friend and I were watching TV at my house and I did a quick email check and decided to check the dedicated rescue email account I'd created, just to be sure I wasn't getting correspondence that needed to be forwarded. Well, a friend from the club had included me in a small group mailing telling of a 3 yo cream StdPoodle in her training class on the Eastern Shore, who needed to go to a new home. She reported the dog as basically perfectly trained, sweet, no apparent issues, needed placement because of a conflict with another dog in the house which had seniority over her. She been with owner SS for a year, having been adopted by her as a favor to an acquaintance who'd gotten displaced in Mississippi by Katrina. So Deja was the odd girl out in the household. SS is a kennel manager and a true Dog Person, working in agility and obedience with her terrier breed and also had Deja ring-ready for Rally, but she had decided the best thing for this dog would be a home of her own if something really good were around. She wanted the best for this dog and she wasn't in a hurry.

We were, however. I called the writer of the email immediately and got the contact info and some more details ; at 9am the following morning we were on the phone to the owner and by 9:30 were on the way to the Eastern Shore to the property where Deja lived .
Well, too late to make a long story short but Deja is here at my feet now (my sister's double shift day) and is beyond perfect if that is possible. Bright, good natured, sweet, friendly with everyone though very 'soft' in attitude, extremely well trained (unlike any of my dogs, come to think of it...!) and a pleasure to be with. We took her home that morning. And since then, every day my sister pinches herself over the good luck of having her come along and she is a perfect First Dog, if deceptive (since few are so good and none are unless trained well by a good trainer) . Anyway, that is the story of loss and gain in this little family. I include pictures of my dear sweet good boy Ziggy, who opened the way for Deja to become a member of this family. And then lovely lively Deja, who is turning my sister into a Dog Person. This is a good thing to be, of course!


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear of your loss. We dog people see our dogs not as pets, but "fur children"! I am happy that you have a new charge and your sister has her own dog. I had a standard poodle/afgan (sp?) mix years ago. A very odd looking dog, but a dear! I wish you all the best of luck!
Vikki Schultz

Unknown said...

I am so sad that you lost Ziggy. He looks like he was fun. I've only had miniature Poodles but would love to get a Standard. There are no other dogs as smart as poodles!