When you lose something
4 min read
It is usually only when you lose something that you realize how much you used or relied upon it. Such was the case with my dog Dolce.
Apparently, I did not know when to go to bed. Dolce had subtly brought my slippers and barked at the door when time had gotten away from me and I was still working on the computer at 1am. I was never late for appointments. The moment the alarm sounded, Dolce was nosing the blankets off me and, unless cued otherwise, would nose me until I got up in a fit of laughter. It was a wonderful way to start the day.
While Dolce was environmentally sensitive, she was also acutely aware of me and my needs. She was trained to do many things on command, but because of her environmental sensitivities, I could not take her out. I could not show her off, brag and feed my ego. She was what many labelled as ‘dog and person/stranger reactive’. Our outings were private events to get a sausage at Bunnings or train in a hall I had hired just for us.
I always viewed this as somewhat tragic. Now she has gone (unfortunately, euthanized on the 26/09/2018 due to cancer which had metastasised in her lungs), I realize that the real tragedy was that I had not realized the enormous value of a ‘reactive dog’. She had brought her insights to our relationship and they had enriched my life substantially. Sensitive-reactive dogs do not share their love and lives with everyone. They concentrate it on one person with such joy and passion. They do not want the world to live in…you are their world. They are a gift few humans deserve.
Dolce left a void in my life that will be hard for any pet to fill.
So how do I decide upon my next companion? I do not want a Dolce replacement. She was unique, irreplaceable and it would be an unfair expectation. I want to cherish the special relationship Dolce and I had, while building a new exciting chapter in my life.
Many considerations, such as commitment, costs, grooming needs, activity level, lifestyle, age, training, neutering, ID/registration and equipment, are considerations that must be considered carefully. But there were additional considerations I felt I needed to address.
I have discounted many breeds that I consider we have genetically manipulated for size or colour, at the expense of the animal’s well-being and temperament. I would not have a dachshund or a German shepherd as their conformation now results in numerous conformational issues, such as spinal disc damage, hip dysplasia, congenital deafness and entropion eyelids (growing inward).
Although very cute, the pug struggles to breathe through their brachycephalic (squashed up) noses, Chihuahuas have become so small, their legs are too fragile for them to safely play together, without breaking. Like many other breeds, Chihuahua puppies are usually delivered by caesarean section because the bitch’s hips have become too small to enable normal delivery. I want my next companion to be as healthy as possible, and while I cannot predict the future, I can try to avoid as many genetic conditions as possible.
Dolce was over 26 inches high at the wither. This meant she had to ‘pace’ to match my normal walking gait. Pacing places additional stress on an animal’s joints. To prevent this mismatch between us, I will need a dog that is closer to my knee height.
I also changed my mind and would prefer a puppy rather than adopting an older dog as originally intended. I thought I would get an older dog so the puppy would have a doggy ‘role model’ to look to. Unfortunately, most of the animals in the shelter were staffies or pitbull crosses, with an occasional scattering of beagle crosses who were proven escape artists. I did not want to risk puppy learning bad habits. While losing Dolce was sad, it had created many opportunities for me to train a dog with ‘new eyes’ (Laurence, Kay. Every Dog, Every Day)
I am currently observing a litter of eight Smithfield puppies. Tasmanian Smithfields are not yet an ANKC recognised breed. Dedicated breeders are working hard to document the history of the breed to enable it to be registered. They already have eight generations which include hybrid vigour and imported blood lines listed. The parents of this litter are well known for their amiable temperament and the breeder is known for the experiences she very carefully exposes the puppies to.
I will visit the puppies when they are five weeks old and decide if we are ‘good fit’ and if so, which puppy will eventually come home with me. If, despite my best efforts, this puppy evolves into a special needs dog, I know she will not be a hardship, but just another unique and special relationship to enjoy. The puppies will be eight weeks on the 30th December. What an inspiring way to start the new year it could be…