Friday, February 19, 2010

Is it time for a walk yet? *elkington*

Elkington Park, NSW

Early morning, Friday, 19th February 2010

Got lost [again] looking for bread scraps in the bushes near the pool.                                              
Met little Prince.

Spring/Early Summer 2009, Summer 2010

                                    27th December, 2009
Rufus slips off the ledge and falls into the water. HAHA! Too much Christmas pudding will do that to you.

How To Get Here:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mr Piglet died a year ago today.

If you’ve been following my story, you will know that Mr Piglet was the dog that used to live here and Mr Thumper’s oldest and best friend.

Sadly I never got to meet him but I hear his name mentioned quite a lot, especially when I’ve been bad.

So today, I’m going to let my human tell you the story of Jordan P Piglet and Rufus B Thumper, and of how I, Georgia Little Pea Ratatouille, came to be part of this family with very long names.

10th February, 2009

Jordan died last night at around 8pm, February 9th, 2009.

I don’t know how old he was because he was a rescue dog and we got him as an adult. But we think he would have been between 10 to 11 years old. We celebrated his birthday on October 29th, the day we adopted him in 2000. He was our Halloween baby.

K and I had to put him down last night because the vet had discovered just yesterday afternoon that he had a cancerous tumour growing next to his heart and it was bleeding into his chest cavity. There was nothing we could have done that would have kept him with us, without causing him more pain.

We had a last walk with him down the back road at the vet’s, sat on the floor and held him while the vet put him to sleep. I was holding his head and it went heavy and still so fast. Less than the 20 seconds the vet said it would take.

I get really angry thinking about Jordan being dead. I feel so cheated. Jordan was never sick. Not like Rufus. In all the time we had him, he had one bad bout with a stomach bug years ago when every other dog in Rozelle and Balmain came down sick as well.

So we never prepared ourselves for this day, never had a chance to say a proper goodbye. What IS a proper goodbye?

Jordan was always going to be the one left behind. The one we would take on long road trips after Rufus. Maybe he was even short changed a little for affection because Rufus was so pushy and because we always thought we had time to love him more.

Jordan was a labrador crossed with a bullmastiff. He was 40kg of muscle that would have made an excellent pig dog but was a gentle, timid soul.

We named him after Michael Jordan because he had long black legs. He had 2 middle names. Puff, after Puff Daddy because he looked like a mock gangster. And Piglet because, true to his labrador genes, he was always hungry.

We found Jordan at The Sydney Animal Welfare League. We were told he had spent most of his life at The Saint George Animal Hospital. No one wanted him so he was going to be put down to make space. But a lady called Helen Watson who worked there decided he was worth saving and took him to The Animal Welfare League, a no-kill shelter.

The first time I saw Jordan, he was sitting, head down, leaning against the wire at the front of his cage. He was thin with an oversized head and a blank face. They called him Caesar. I remember it was feeding time. And although Jordan probably didn’t get very much food there, he let some other dog eat out of his bowl. Helen told us they were friends.

There was something about Jordan that reminded me of another dog K and I had had. Isn’t that always the way it goes?

We took him home that day. On the way back, we stopped at PetBarn. I went in to get a bed and leash and food while K waited outside with him. Jordan must have look really bad because some lady came by and scolded K for not looking after his dog better.

Jordan’s first night home was a nightmare. He was so scared, he peed in the bedroom and there was this horrific smell that we later found out was something that a dog would secrete under stress. I remember waking up and yelling, and that made him run out of the house into the yard where he hid in the bushes. We were living in Lindfield then and had a big rambling yard. We couldn’t find him, and we couldn’t get him to come out, so we made coffee and sat there on the back porch in the middle of the night and waited.

We soon found out that Jordan was scared of everything. Had he been abused before? Probably, though we will never know.

He was scared of tiny dogs in the park. Middle aged ladies in hats and sundresses. Yelling and violence on TV. Loud voices, even if they were friendly. The first time I took him for a walk, he was so weak, he couldn’t make it round the block and we had to sit and rest.

I tell you this because by the time he died, Jordan was a different and, I hope, happier dog.

After about 2 months on his own, and after he'd settled in, we got Jordan a friend.

Rufus bullied him from day one but somehow, they never fought. They would have the occasional squabble but only once, in Centennial Park, did they actually have what looked like 2 monster dogs battling it out. It was over a bone and it was started by some other dog that wandered up to them while they were eating. And even then, miraculously, no blood was drawn.

They were both such dominant breeds, everyone told us to feed them in separate enclosures. But all their lives, they ate amicably, 2 metres from each other.

Jordan would always greet his meal with one very loud woof and, after Rufus had eaten, would sniff around for any stray scrap. He never wasted food. He was persistent and would patiently scratch and use his tongue to unearth a carrot strip or soggy kibble stuck between the pavers.

It seems so silly now to have put him on a perpetual diet hoping it would make him live a longer healthier life. I wish I had given him more treats and not been so harsh with the baker for throwing him fruit buns. What was the point of it all?

There are many things I’m going to miss.

Every morning, Jordan would be up with the alarm clock at 6, ready and eager for his walk. If you were late, he would snuffle you out of bed. If it rained, he was inconsolably sad.

Every evening, he would lie down straight as a rocket, nose to the front door waiting for K to come home. And when K opened the gate, he would run back into the house barking madly, as if to tell me “The man is back!”

Jordan always had a welcome home smile for us, a big teeth-baring, gum-showing smile, even if we’d only been out at the supermarket for 15 minutes.

We never managed to capture that smile.
Once you got through the front door, he would be pushing Rufus aside - no small effort since Rufus weighed almost 20kg more than him. But it was his tail that was his greatest weapon. It would whip us in the most painful way. Once he hit it so hard against something, it must have fractured because he couldn’t wag his tail for a long time after.

Jordan loved licking faces. I wish I’d let him lick my face now but I didn’t and so, he would lick my kneecaps in greeting. I think it will always stay with me that he licked my face last night. For the last time, and maybe for the first.

Jordan was our postie, carrying in any mail we had from the front door or gate to the dining room. No one taught him to do that. He just decided to do it one day, and did it every day after when K came home with it. Jordan came to us untrained and was very much a self-taught dog.

I never gave Jordan one word commands because he seemed to understand what I wanted just as well when I spoke in full sentences.

He particularly loved the word ‘Cat!’ and would dash off barking madly, looking for one whenever we said the word.

His least favourite words were probably “Cut nails.”

He was our watchdog and I was never afraid when he was around because he was attentive, night and day.

I’m afraid that Jordan spent his life feeling second best. Almost everyone we met on walks would make a fuss over Rufus and ignore Jordan. In the early days, I think it really bothered him because he would try to get their attention. But as the years went by, he gave up and seemed content to just accept pats from the few who gave them to him.

To me, Jordan was never second best. Of the two we had, he was the one I thought of as my dog. He was clever and funny and handsome and kind and gentle. He wouldn’t kill a rat that ran across the lounge room, but wouldn't mind eating the occasional fly.

Rufus always looked to Jordan because Jordan always understood what I was asking of him. Now, Rufus is going to have to figure out by himself where to go when the vacuum is on, how to remind me to feed him at exactly 6.30 every night, how to choose a walk for the day. I’m scared for Rufus too because he’s never been alone. And I do believe that although he bullied Jordan, he also knew him to be his friend and family.

And now my rambling is done. I know I will never forget all the many ways in which Jordan was special to me, But I wanted someone else to know too. Maybe you’ll find this all too silly but it doesn’t matter. If you're still reading this, at least now, it won’t only be K and I who know Jordan's story.

Jordan and Rufus.
10th May, 2009

If you’ve had dogs in your life, then it’s likely you’ll have a story not unlike mine. The names of your dogs might be different, but the outcome is always the same.

We once had 2 dogs. Their names were Jordan Puff Piglet and Rufus Belvedere Thumper. Silly big names for abandoned pound puppies who found a home with K and I, and who made our family complete.

Jordan’s unofficial birthday was October 29th, the day he came home with us from the Animal Welfare League at Terry Hills. It was 2000, just a little while after the Sydney Olympics had ended. We hadn’t had a dog in 10 years.

We called Jordan our Mongrelian Pounder, a mongrel from the pound, that special breed where every dog is unique, not even quite the same as his brother or sister. He was probably around 2 years old then, a weak, timid dog, anxious about everything.

He became the love of our life so quickly and easily, I still wonder about it.

About 2 months after we got Jordan, we decided it was time for him to have a four-legged friend of his own. I can’t remember the exact date, but it was in January 2001 that we found Rufus at Saint George Animal Hospital.

He was a wild thing, howling in his cage. For K, it was fascination at first sight. We had never seen or even heard of an Alaskan Malamute before. He was very big, very beautiful, only 8 months old, and had already been abandoned twice.

Ignoring dire warnings from the shelter lady about how much work he would be, Rufus came home with us that day.

Rufus’s first meeting with Jordan didn’t go well. Despite being neutered, he was too dominant. So after a few days, we decided it wouldn’t work and brought Rufus back to the shelter.

Incredibly, all of us missed him, even Jordan. So after another few days, and a hormone injection to help quieten him down, Rufus came home to stay.

In May 2002, we moved to Balmain.

Jordan filled out and became a muscular strong dog, clever, playful, independent and a good defender of his new home.

Rufus quietened down and learnt how to make friends with other dogs. In 2003, he fell playing at Mort Bay and never regained the full use of his right front leg despite months of conservative treatment followed by major surgery.

I call the 8 years that our boys were together The Jordan-Rufus Years. From January 2001 when Rufus arrived, to February 9, 2009, the day Jordan died.

Jordan-Rufus, Rufus-Jordan. Ate together, walked together, slept together, went on holidays together. Grew up and grew old together.

They didn't have fancy leashes or collars. They ate out of the same plastic food bowls their whole lives, a round one for Jordan, a square one for Rufus. They weren’t even allowed on our beds or the couch.
But they became the alarm clock by which K got up at 6 every morning. And the reason I vacuumed and mopped twice a week. They were the pattern of our daily lives, mundane, habitual, unexciting, and sometimes the cause of complaint and argument.
I didn’t necessarily enjoy it, and I never particularly thought about it. It was just the way our family squandered the years.

This coming Monday, April 6th, Jordan will have been dead for 8 weeks.

I don’t know where these 8 weeks have gone.

The first 2, Rufus went off his food and even treats. He stopped sleeping at night, and would look for Jordan in every park, going up to black dogs. If he heard a bark that sounded like Jordan’s, he would strain to get to it, even if it came from a strange house. He looked out to sea a lot, maybe because Jordan loved water.

Or maybe I was just reading too much into it, as you tend to at times like these.

By the 3rd week, Rufus's spirit had picked up a little. The week after Jordan died, K lost his job and so the 3 of us found ourselves with a new routine that was anything but routine.

It’s 2.49am and as I write this, Rufus has come down to the study to be with me. After almost 2 months, he still doesn’t sleep well. He pants heavily and constantly, only at night and the vet can’t tell us why. He struggles to go upstairs, but insists on sleeping with us every night. And he often just stands by our bed and stares at us.

I can’t begin to tell you how sad it is to see him like this. Rufus has become an old dog.

Why should that make me sad? I don't know, but it does.

When Jordan died, I resented the fact that this sickly dog had outlived his healthy friend. Now, I’m afraid that he won’t be with us for much longer either.
First Christmas, 2000

Last Christmas, 2008With cousin Ralph.

When Rufus dies, the last link to the Jordan-Rufus Years will be gone. There will be dogs in the park that will never play with them, friends who will never meet them. We will have new dogs that will never know them.

One week ago exactly, we came home with a new dog. We call her Georgia. She’s the first girl we’ve ever had and she was living with an Animal Welfare League foster-carer in Rouse Hill. They say she’s about 8 months old and she’s another Mongrelian Pounder. Skinny with a small head, a tail and legs that are too long for her body, an eye with an unpigmented membrane. She was so impossible to control in the car, we were tempted to turn around to return her.

I don’t know if I really want her but I was desperate to have her. We don’t know if she’ll stay. But I feel it’s important to have her meet and get to know Rufus, even if she’s only a possible future dog. I can’t explain it.

Maybe I’m hoping that Rufus will tell her about his old friend Jordan and about the life they had with us. Maybe he’ll tell her about the holidays they shared, and the special Christmas lunches she can look forward to. Maybe he’ll teach her where to go when the vacuum is on and how to not steal food even if it’s sitting on the ground. Maybe he’ll tell her not to be scared when she’s home alone or has to go to a boarding kennel because we’ll always come back for her. Maybe he’ll tell her about us.

By the 2nd night, Georgia had Rufus all figured out and now they have a relationship that I don’t think Jordan had in 8 years of living with him.

I look at Rufus and I don’t know whether he enjoys having her here or whether she just makes him feel very old and tired.

But for as long as he’s with us, for better or worse, Rufus is now part of a new story. A story whose ending I already know and dread, even though it’s hardly begun.

Rufus-Georgia. Georgia-Rufus eat together, sleep together, but can’t really go on walks together because Rufus is too old and slow for Georgia’s strong young legs.

Postcard to Jordan.
1st April, 2009       

Hello Jordan. It’s been a month since I wrote and I have so much to tell you.

We’ve brought a new little one back. It’s a girl, maybe about 8 months old. I think you would like her. She’s almost your size already and is light brown, skinny and quite ugly. She loves playing and we think she’s smart, though she did just poop in the study this morning. We call her Georgia.

We picked her up last Thursday from an Animal Welfare League foster home. But we didn’t decide until this morning that we’re going to keep her. She’s been sleeping on your lumpy old bed and she didn’t complain. So I guess maybe it’s time to get her her own little bed.

Rufus didn’t seem to mind her when they first met. You know how grumpy and what a bully your friend can be. The first day, she was quite scared and tried to hide from him. But by the next night, she had managed to train him! Can you believe it Jordan? She can sleep with her paws and head on him and he’s alright. She’s not even scared of him when he growls and puts his mouth round her head! I bet you’re laughing now. I think she might be good for him.

I wish you were here to help us train her though. You would have made such an excellent big brother.

So there you are Jordan. We now have another dog. Don’t be mad, sweetie. It’s been almost 8 weeks now and I still can't seem to stop crying. I’m so tired of being sad, Jordan. And I really, really want to move on. Maybe she’ll help us do that.

She’s never going to be you. And she’s never going to replace you. But we hope that she will one day be as much a part of this family as you were. You know, I think she’s already found you. I see her sniffing in the corners where you used to sleep. Maybe Rufus will tell her about you. Maybe he will.

We still miss you so much. In many ways, she reminds us of you. She a fast learner, a grumbler, yet a happy little girl. I guess we could do with some happiness right now.

Did I tell you that before we got Georgia, we went back to Lindfield? I really needed to do that walk down memory lane. We went to the oval and talked about those days, 8 years ago, when we had all just found each other.
We even went back to where we found you – the Terry Hills Animal Welfare League. It was so quiet and deserted. It felt sad and lonely. It made us realise how awful it must have been for you there.

I think we DID give you a good life, Jordan. We DID keep you from the big green needle for a long time. And we DID have a good 8 years and 3 months together. As painful as it is now that you’re gone, I have to be grateful for that.

I hope Ru stays with us for a while. I hope he tells Georgia about our family and about you, so that she can tell the one that comes after.

That’s life moving on, Jordan.

Wish us luck.

A big hug and kiss. Love you xox

Where has the year gone?
February 9, 2010

Georgia proved to be just what we had to have. A dog that was so challenging, we had no time or energy to brood.

For the first 6 months that we had her, K and I never left the house together. There was just too much damage to come home to. Georgia tore through her toys and our cushions, dragged up carpets, chewed candles and baskets, ornaments and blankets. She dug out plants, destroyed leashes and harnesses. Chilli oil sprays and bitter lime ointment did nothing to deter her from biting things. Vet-prescribed anti-anxiety drugs and valium could not sedate her. 3 hours of walks and playtime every day did nothing to slow her down.

Then, almost overnight, she stopped. It was as if she decided it was okay to let us out of the house again.

In truth, I don't believe K, Rufus or I could have recovered from Jordan's death as well as we did, without the help of Georgia.

Where has the year gone?

Into hours of training and learning. Into making new friends and memories. Into realising that every dog is special when you get to know them.

All it takes is time.

I don't intend to think about Jordan anymore, except in the very happiest of ways.