Wake me up when September Ends…

If you are reading this blog for the first time in a while (I know – my fault!) you might want to scroll down to catch the entries for June, July and August before you get to this one!

SeptemberIt’s hard to believe that in the space of one month one can experience such a huge tumult of feelings and emotion. Bittersweet seems hardly adequate to explain it – but imagine that term magnified by a trillion and you might come close.

The last day of August was the Monday the 31st – the day Raven saw Amy and Spryte saw Nola.

By the Thursday the 3rd of September Raven was no longer with us.

Tuesday and Wednesday saw her having at least a few episodes each day of upchucking and we were feeding her nothing more interesting than plain rice and cooked chicken by this stage. She still wasn’t going to the toilet properly and I hadn’t been able to keep any tablets down her. Thursday morning she didn’t get up to say hello or be let out when I walked through around 7am. When she did get up, she really had to put a lot of effort in and I could see she was just worn down from it all. Her breathing had become a lot more laboured in the days before and when I watched her eat I could tell it wasn’t easy for her.

They say you’ll know when the time comes. I knew.

She’d had enough – she’d perk up a little at the thought of food but then when it came to it – it was just all too hard. I had to make the call. First we wanted a home visit but neither Nicole nor Cirsten was on at Vet West that day. We had to take her into Osborne Park, I made the appointment for 3pm. In the meantime we took her outside and just let her potter around in her backyard, she had her usual back roll/rub in the sun and checked out her usual spots before she headed back inside. We had some Baskin Robbins ice cream left over and her face lit up at the concept of a bowl of ice cream all to herself (her humans had thus far always been stingey with the ice cream privileges – nothing more permitted than the licking of an empty bowl).

So she quite contentedly plonked herself down and licked away at some premium gold medal chocolate ice cream whilst the other two sat around thinking how unjust this family was right now and surely there was enough ice cream for everyone? I do think Raven, being the kind of bitch that she was, took more than a little pleasure out of the special treatment. Especially when that little upstart Spryte didn’t get any at all. So around 2.30 we headed off.

Amy saw her around 3.30 and took her out the back to put in a catheter. At this stage Raven’s veins were pretty much shot to pieces with all the scarring so IV was really the only guaranteed way to ensure it all went ahead smoothly. With her head resting on my leg and me stroking her gently she went to sleep for the final time. It’s still incredibly hard to think of without getting upset – I don’t remember Bear’s loss being this hard for this long. She had fought so long and so hard against this disease and she was just such a tenacious and strong willed character I honestly didn’t think we’d reach this day for a while. It was quite shocking to see how fast the disease progressed when unchecked. But I guess two and a half years after initial diagnosis is indeed ‘a while’.

I miss her badly and there won’t ever be another Raven. Tim and I were a little staggered by the messages that came in from all over the country – I have kept and saved over a hundred messages of condolences. She clearly was a memorable dog to more than just her immediate family. Raven took me to such great heights really – not just in dog training and agility. She made it possible for me to see how exhilarating and thrilling running a course could be – she showed me the best of the Border Collie’s trainability with her never give up attitude, her willingness and her desire to just DO.

She sure as hell frustrated the hell out of me at times, reduced me to tears and just kept me coming back for more because what can you do with a dog that will just never quit and is happy to just keep going and doing for as long as you want to. So selective with her friends and completely disdainful of the majority of the canine species she was also discerning when it came to her humans showing her affection. Never a cuddly, smoochy kind of dog, she would assess early on if you warranted the privilege of giving her a pat or a hug. Some people were found wanting.

One of the messages I received that stands out in my mind because it just summed Raven up so succinctly was this:

She was a bitch, she had allergies, she barked, she didn’t like other dogs, she had to wear a bucket, she knocked bars, she was the boss and for these reasons you will never forget her.

It’s all true and it made me smile even whilst I cried. She taught me more in those 9 and a half short years of her life than I have ever learnt about dogs and training. I’m determined to take what she’s taught me and put it to good use with whatever other dogs I am fortunate enough to share my life with, it’s only fitting. Raven’s ashes are now in a wooden box, much like her father’s and she sits side by side with him on our sideboard. The inscription on the metal plate reads

“Raven” 07.03.00 – 03.09.09 Here for a good time not a long time – run free with Bear and give them hell girl.

I’ve had a few people email me after reading Raven’s story on the blog here, they have dogs that have just been diagnosed or they know someone whose dog has the disease. All I can say to these people is that you should do all you can with the resources you have. That is all your dog deserves and I would not trade these last two and half years we’ve had with Raven for all the tea in China as the saying goes. The quality and joy these dogs bring to our lives cannot be measured in dollars or cents, their companionship and their friendship is not something you could ever quantify. Their presence in our lives is not something we should ever take for granted. And now before I get all far too invested in the raw emotion of this topic I should move on.

Spryte – a couple days before she whelped

September 29 saw the arrival of seven brand new border collie puppies into the world. Seven Sprytelets to be exact. So you can see what I mean by the bittersweetness of this month. Spryte whelped at the surprisingly convenient time of 9pm on a Tuesday night and finished whelping all seven puppies by about midnight in what was a fairly easy and uncomplicated first time whelping for her. She took to motherhood like a duck to water and has decided that yes, she quite likes puppies when they are her own.

Random photo of Spryte – March 09 – BC Nationals

She gave birth to five girls and two boys, all black and white and fairly darkly marked apart from two who are all traditionally marked (white collar, normal white blaze, white stockings on the front legs and white socks on the back). They are five days old as of now and the pictures below were taken no more than a day after they were born. They are at Robyn’s place and there they will stay till they go to their new homes. Of course everyone’s asking if I have picked one out yet and the answer, understandably is no. If for no other reason other than we have no idea if there is a pup in there that will be suitable. I’m not in any hurry because to be quite honest training Spryte up for the Nationals in 2010 is going to be the priority, along with Cypher. We shall just have to wait and see.

I will probably upload week by week pics here of their progress. It’d be nice to have a record just in case we do end up with one. The timing is pretty good too I guess – given that I’d be two weeks away from holidays when they’re 8 weeks old. But we shall see – I met their dad Liam in Canberra at the second Border Collie Nationals. He seemed like a very friendly, outgoing Border who is quite confident and busy. His sister apparently is a real fire cracker with tons of attitude and drive. I’m hoping all these temperaments will combine to produce some great agility dogs but we’ll see. Robyn is of course hoping for it all, temperament, conformation, attitude and looks. They shall be an interesting litter to watch grow up but it’s all very early days yet.

Boy 1

Boy 2

Girl 1
Girl 2
Girl 3

Girl 4

Girl 5