On my flight back from Ireland I watched the movie 'Marley and Me' - very much what we all experience with our pets. Not necessarily the characteristics of this particular labrador, but generally the place of a pet in the family and the value added, as well as the learning curves through the frustrations of 'delinquent behaviour' and all that comes with training (or trying to) a dog, and the attachment/bond that arises with the animal and the various other members of the family. This has certainly been true of our dogs.
Rumble was a labrador X dalmation - but more labrador. We called her Rumble because on the night that we brought her home as a puppy, she seemed to be making a purring sound. She never learnt to 'fetch and bring' a ball/ stick etc, but was very enthusiastic in chasing around when Judy did the playing. Even when they got older and Judy didn't see so well, Rumble would nudge her to the ball or the ball to her so that she would get it. Rumble aged graciously, and very noticeably towards the end. We thought about 5 years ago when she was unwell that her time had come, but she recovered well after her infected uterus was removed. She had a minor stroke, and then last year soon after we came back from our trip to England and Mexico she suffered a major stroke - and we thought that was definitely the end. But after a few days of just giving her water to keep her hydrated, she got up and started staggering around, and then got stronger gradually and even lost the 'tilt' to her head. What a 'hard core' dog she has been. We put a pool net on and she fell in 7 times, and then seemed to be able to walk around the pool again without falling in. Until recently - when she really became 'frail care material' in becoming weaker and less continent. And then she fell in the pool again, and must have been there for a while because she was in shock, very cold, and shivering. So she was placed in the sun and Paul put a blanket over her - and she seemed to recover from that as well. Amazing, as she was drawing closer and closer to being 16 years old.
As Marley's owner did, so did we - wrestle about when would be the time for her to go to the Happy Hunting Grounds. It is so hard to make that decision. She became weaker and thinner, and had to be carried from her sleeping nook to the sunny grass patch and back again - but she was still eating well and enjoying her food, and happy to have her head scratched and attention paid to her - and would still watch with interest while the younger generation (Bess and Bonny) chased sticks and each other. But then it sort of seemed obvious - she could no longer get up and walk, and couldn't even use her back legs to move herself around, but had to struggle and pull with her front legs and would almost get stuck rolling on her side and trying to get back on her tummy. And so, on Tuesday 14th July, we bid farewell to her and Ned took her to the vet. A faithful dog from beginning to end - only barking when there really was something wrong so that we would know to listen for her bark and follow up on it. Perhaps she is once again encouraging Judy to run around, and enjoying the freedom to run again herself. Thanks Rumble, for being the pet you were. You certainly added value to our lives and our family.