There's More to Life Than Knitting!

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #8: Gwynneth of Braesgate

Yesterday was a hard one. As if the job disappointment wasn’t enough, we had come to the very hard decision that it was time to let Gwynneth, our Welsh corgi, go off to join all my past canine and feline companions. It was not a fun thing to do, at all. I know it was right—she couldn’t walk anymore and had lost control of her bladder and bowels. Not fun for either her or us. Picking her up to bathe her after these incidents was hurting me, too, as was the close contact (I have grown allergic to her dander since her illness). It was so hard for her to get around, not being able to walk or see. Lee and I took her to the vet, hoping for a peaceful last few minutes, but it didn’t work out that way. She got all scared and upset when they were putting in her IV, which took forever. I feel horrible about that, and about how upset she was when we were trying to comfort her during her last minutes. I wanted her to peacefully transition, but, as usual, her plan was to make a lot of noise and fuss. I guess it fit her disposition.

To honor the 12 years we spent with her, I have made Gwynneth of Braesgate the Wednesday Wonder this week. We got Gwynnie right after we moved into this house. We had decided the kids were old enough for a puppy, and that since I worked from home, it would be not too bad training one. I chose the breed, looking for something not too big or small. I now wish that the cute “frapping” the corgi magazines and websites all talked about had been adequately translated to “incessant sharp barking.” I was ready for the “blowing of coat” aspect of corgis, but I think I thought it would last a few weeks a year, not about half.

We got her from a breeder in San Marcos, and were able to meet her parents. We were relieved that she was raised in the home, not a cage or anything. She was the puppy that seemed to like us the most. We enjoyed her puppyhood a lot, and even did puppy training. She failed at “lie down” because she was so short-legged that you couldn’t lower a treat enough to get her to go down. She loved to go for walks, but had a life-long habit of wanting to hold the leash in her mouth as she walked. So, we let her do that, and she did fine. We walked her a lot, for years, until the mean neighbor chased me down on a walk with Scrunchy, because I’d used up all my poop bags and he went again. I was heading home to get another bag, but he was so awful that I just never walked the dogs again, other than a couple of short ones since Lee moved in. (The joy of walks is diminished by having to carry smelly dog crap around with you, anyway, though I agree it is nice to clean up.)

Gwynnie always “smiled” like my mother, and sometimes I got the feeling she was like Mom. Who knows, maybe people show up again as dogs. This agnostic grants that anything is possible, and I have no proof either way. But it’s a nice thought.

She was mostly a very happy dog, and would have been an ideal canine companion except that she just barked too much. Way too much. If she saw someone moving on the cul-de-sac, heard a car, thought maybe there was a cat outside, or whatever, she’d start to bark. Bark. Bark. Bark. Slightly off rhythm. And that inspired the other dogs to join in. I have to admit it was incredibly annoying. And we could never cure her of jumping up on people, no matter how many knees to the chest we delivered or how we ignored her until she did the right thing. Only blindness cured that—she couldn’t aim anymore. Her other annoying habit was trying to eat other dogs’ food. Poor Scrunchy can’t eat as quickly as her, and for years we have had to stand between them so she wouldn’t rush over and finish his food. Rose eats so slowly that it took Lee quite some time to get them all calm and only eating their own stuff! Again, blindness helped. Lee took to scattering some of her food near her dish, so she’d get all distracted ferreting that out that the other dogs would have time to finish their meals.

Gwynnie liked all the other dogs, and she and Scrunchy had a blast when he was a puppy. They played and played. They’d tug on the same chew toy until they were totally spent. Those years were fun, when we had those two and lots of time to spend with them. She enjoyed Rose, too, even when she couldn’t see her. Rose learned to bring a toy to Gwynnie to play with her.

The last couple of years were hard for Gwynnie. As you probably know, she suddenly went blind right after one of my jobs ended. I spent so much money on the various vets, when I didn’t have anything to spare. And we never got a better diagnosis than “some fungus or something.” She did OK until 6 months or so ago when there seemed to be something wrong with a foot. They said it was the fungus and that it would only get worse. Then it became harder to walk, as I’ve mentioned. The last few days were really bad. She made a lot of mess in the house and was cutting herself on the legs by dragging them. A couple of people I know have mentioned having dogs like this, where the front half seems happy and the back half so sad. How do you know when the balance between OK quality of life and not-so-OK quality is reached?

I wish I’d had more time with the dogs the last few years. I like to have someone home with dogs. It worked out fine when I worked from home, then when Jeff was home most days. When Lee came, not only did two more dogs show up, but when we are both working, the dogs end up alone during the day. They get into mischief then. This is not really how I wanted it. And I feel bad for the dogs not having much human company. At least they have each other. I hope that the other three don’t get too sad when they realize she’s gone. Buddy will be breathing a sigh of relief, since she and he didn’t get along to well at first, and she was always getting in his way during the mad scrambles to eat or greet some poor unfortunate visitor. On the other hand, as the photo shows, toward the end, Gwynnie and Buddy spent a lot of quality time together. She used him as a guide dog sometimes, following him wherever he went (to his annoyance—he has been known to pee on her).

I guess you can see I have mixed feelings here. I really enjoyed Gwynnie, especially when we just had two dogs. It was challenging accommodating her special needs for the past couple of years, but I didn’t mind all that much—it’s part of the commitment you make when you get a pet. I do think the house will be quieter, and there’s at least a little chance that some time we could go out of town and have someone watch the other dogs for a couple of days.

I guess Gwynnie’s like any of us. She had her good and bad points. She was loving and kind, and fun to pet. She’d roll over and wag her stub of a tail to get you to rub her belly. She was not big on begging for table scraps, once we cured Jeff from giving them to her, and she was very good about getting into her crate when told. It was her haven and she’d run in there any time there were raised voices in the household. She insisted on participating in gift opening every Christmas-- always right in the middle of everything, loving the bows and boxes. And when she could run, she was like a rocket playing fetch. That’s my best memory of her, running like a low-flying missile with her toy in her mouth.

Thank you to everyone who has said nice things to me about her passing. I appreciate all the words. Pets really are members of the family, and there’s a hole in your life when you lose one. I’ve lost both my cats and Gwynnie in the last few years. Gwynnie and Seamus weren’t that old, either. I wish they could have stayed longer. I could use a break on this kind of thing, too.

I have a baby shower to go to this evening, so maybe that will cheer me up. I wish I’d managed to block the baby blanket, but I was a bit overly weepy and sad last night.


Dragonfly said...

I am so sorry for your loss, that is always the hardest decision to make. This post was one of the most heartfelt I've read regarding a pet. Joys, faults, humorous anecdotes and just plain truth. Warm thoughts to all of you in honor of Gwynnie.

Suna said...

Thanks, my friend!

Cheri said...

Sue Ann,

I knew this was coming - you had mentioned it before - but I am still sad; I am sad for you and your family and I am sad because she was such a sweet dog. I have had to make that decision before and it is no fun at all. I am sorry to hear about your job, too. I will be in the same boat in 4 months as my job is being sent of to New York :( Sending you healing and job vibes. Give Katie a hug for me when you are at the shower.


Sylvia said...

She lived a good life with a loving family. It's what every corgi deserves. She has crossed the Rainbow Bridge and is happily barking somewhere.

Lee said...

And the experience drove home to me that I really dislike that vet. I hated the way she kept trying to sell tests and treatments right up to the second she started the injection. Her heart is in her wallet, and I don’t think she cares a bit for the dogs and certainly not for the families.