When you lose something

by | Dec 17, 2018 | Learning about dogs | 9 comments

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…



  1. Julie

    Lovely article that brings light to the uniqueness of life with a unique dog.

    • Robyn Mayle

      Many thanks, Julie. She was special to me.

  2. Iris Maxfield

    Dolce was truly a special friend, as you were to her. I think dogs like Dolce are our best teachers, as long as we have the patience to listen to them, I feel your pain.
    Good luck with your pup.x

    • Robyn Mayle

      I agree totally Iris. Some things cannot be taught, they have to be experienced…and then we become wiser, rather than more knowledgeable.

  3. Susan Kennedy

    I have enjoyed getting to know Dolce “on line” and watching you train with her. She will live in your heart as you raise your next partner. Thanks for the intro to the “Smithfield”…look forward to following ..

    • Robyn Mayle

      Thanks, Susan. I think Chapter 1 of the next partnership is just about to start… I collect her tomorrow!

      • Kay Laurence


  4. Sam Courtnell

    This rings so true with me Robyn. Dogs like Dolce give us so much that we never new we needed and they are a tough act to follow. Thank you for sharing

  5. Helen Mayes

    Yes, somethings cannot be taught you have to experience them. Just had this happened to me. A really long story, I will attempt to tell you all as briefly as possible. My late husband and I have had dogs for 40 years. John died 2 years ago, we have 2 dogs Biddie a rehomed dog who is now 16 in February and Billy a Springer Spaniel. Each dog has strong personalities, Biddie is a madam with a sense of humour and very affectionate with bad manners which should have been corrected by myself long ago.. Billy very very sensitive, and likes things to be done properly with a temper. I am a full time wheelchair user. Billy would sometimes attack Biddy. Alot of noise, did not make a mark on her, not very nice for her or me witnessing. Eventually I could not cope and he went to kennels so I could have a rest and for him to have rest also. This unabled me to think. Once he came home and I corrected Biddie for her bad manners they became better buddies.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

News on courses, articles and stuff you don't want to miss.