dogs, life

Telling Oscar’s story: a healing process…


When Dachshund IVDD Support Australia (DISA) asked me to write an article on emotional trauma following Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), my initial idea was to collate a collection of experiences from those who had gone through this tumultuous journey.

As I began to write, words that spoke of my own experience with my beloved Oscar poured onto the screen and with them, a time of healing.

What I discovered in writing about my own emotional trauma was this: it opened the door to healing, and for the first time in the 6 months since Oscar died, I began to feel the wretchedness of his loss easing. I also began to fully identify with a passage I read in Ben Moon’s book in which he says: “When you lose your canine soul mate, you not only lose the dog that has been your companion and friend through so much, you also have to let go of that chapter of your life, and who you were then. It forces you to grow into what you’ll become, the last parting act of friendship.”  Denali: A Man, a Dog, and the Friendship of a Lifetime.

What follows is our IVDD journey and the emotional trauma it forced upon us both.

If only there were a guidebook that prepared you for the emotional trauma the IVDD journey invokes. Yes, there’s an abundance of information and support out there, however when IVDD invades your reality, confusion, despair and grief wash over you in ways you’d never imagined.

As a dachshund owner for nearly 20 years, I believed I knew enough about IVDD to ensure I’d taken precautions to reduce the probability of this insidious disease entering our home.

I now know that despite my knowledge and preventative measures, IVDD was destined to crash into our lives and the emotional trauma left in its wake had me feeling bereft and at times, inconsolable. I’ve blamed myself, rehashed scenarios of the should’ve, could’ve, but the reality is this, there was simply nothing more I could’ve done to change both mine and Oscar’s life path.

Oscar came into our lives as an 8-week old, bundle of standard wire-haired fluff. At the time my Dad was an All-Breeds judge, and his contacts in the dog world were varied and vast. As such, Oscar’s breeder was well researched, well known and above all, well respected. Over the years her dogs had very few litters and IVDD was totally absent in her bloodlines. From a background perspective, the chances of Oscar succumbing to IVDD were remote. Of my four dachshunds, Oscar was the one I was least worried about.

On the night of September 15, 2020, Oscar went to bed without showing any sign of pain or discomfort. At 5am the following morning, I woke to see Oscar struggling to get off his bed. I shot out of bed as I thought he was ‘stuck’ on something. A stupid thought I know, but at that moment IVDD did not enter my head, particularly as he did not appear to be in any pain, moreover, he seemed to have his normal, happy disposition. I looked around him and could see no reason for his inability to move – it was only on lifting his back end and have him collapse back onto the ground that panic set in.

I was terrified.  I scooped him into my arms and raced down the stairs and frantically started knocking on my 24-year old son’s door. As the door opened, so did my emotions. I began to sob uncontrollably, and I could barely get the words out. Max was confused, yet somehow managed to understand my garbled mutterings about Oscar being paralysed.  I placed him in the car, and with sobs racking my body, I somehow managed to get him to the emergency vet, 10 minutes later.

After what seemed an interminable wait, it was explained Oscar was Deep Pain Negative and they suspected Stage 5 IVDD. She explained he would be transferred to North Coast Veterinary Service (NCVS) at 0800 and would undergo a CT and MRI to confirm their suspected diagnosis. They brought him out for a hug before asking me to await the surgeon’s call later that morning.

At that point shock had numbed my reality. I was floating in a fog of confusion and concern and all I wanted to do was be with Oscar. I wanted to hold him and comfort him, despite my all-consuming fear. I wanted to take him in my arms and run as far away as possible. Shield us both somehow with the ‘if you can’t see us, then we can’t see you and all of this is just a horrible dream’ approach. Denial was hijacking my thoughts, in all its ugly glory.

As I waited at home for the surgeon to call, I begged my memory to recall the previous nights events. To play a movie in my mind so I could see if it was my fault, if I missed something. I vividly remember him doing his nightly ritual of heading outside to wee, then plodding past the bathroom as I showered. My memory clouds when I attempt to visualise him in his bed, and keeping to my nightly ritual of kissing my boys goodnight before climbing into my own bed. I’m sure I bade them all goodnight, in my usual manner, however not being able to have an absolute recall of that moment, I fear I could’ve missed something. Did he look comfortable, or did his disc explode as he settled on his bed? Was he in pain then? Surely I would’ve known that right? Yet the thought he may have been in pain and suffered through the night was terrifying. I’ve read countless stories about other IVDD cases and majority state there were notable signs, yet Oscar did not display any signs, of that I’m sure.

Later that day, as I met with Dr Nima, a surgeon at North Coast Veterinary Service (NCVS), I felt terrified and lost – just as Oscar would’ve been. And whilst I listened to her heartfelt words confirming Stage 5 IVDD and all the possible complications, tears fell silently, and the helplessness intensified.

She began to speak of progressive myelomalacia (PMM), words I’d not heard before. And as she explained that it presented in only 5% of cases, I felt nausea rise in my throat. My heart raced, yet I did not want to appear weak and vulnerable, so I nodded quietly whilst digging my nails into the palms of my hands in an effort to distract myself from the wave of fear her words triggered. My nails dug harder as she relayed her concerns for Oscar, for in light of his diagnosis, the chances of myelomalacia presenting rose to approximately 30%.

Conservative treatment was not a favourable option, so Oscar was scheduled for surgery later that afternoon; a hemilaminectomy and durotomy for a severe disc extrusion at T13, L1. It was then that Dr Nima revealed the ugliest of truths – IVDD could in fact, be fatal. She reassured me that the possibility of this was slight, yet I needed to be prepared as Oscar’s condition was considered severe. Despite my despair, I appreciated her honesty.  She was kind, empathetic and clearly cared about Oscar’s well-being. I will be forever grateful for her kindness and I cannot fault her care.

Yet as I continued to listen, I felt the nausea rise again. This could not be happening; I’d done all the right things and why my Oscar? My soulmate, my heartdog, my everything. Once again I felt the need to find Oscar and run. Run far, far away.

When I returned home, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and I paced the house not knowing what to do with myself. I couldn’t help him, I couldn’t protect him and now, I couldn’t hold his paw, stroke his silky head and tell him I loved him. He would be scared; he would be confused, and I couldn’t be there to support him. Not being able to be in the surgery with him, or be there when he woke was for me, the epitome of helplessness. My best friend was hurting and there was nothing I could do to ease his fear or alleviate his pain.

When Dr Nima called me later that night telling me Oscar had done really well in surgery, my heart soared. And when I saw him the next morning, I felt so relieved. They said he was doing well and even managed to walk, albeit aided with a specially designed sling to support his back legs and spine. Whilst I felt so happy to see him, he looked despondent and confused. Nurse Tegan reassured me and said he was on heavy painkillers and a little confused with what had occurred.

The following two days showed promise. There were no neurological deficits presenting, he seemed alert, responsive to physio, yet still no response to deep pain stimulus. Dr Nima was hopeful and on Friday, September 18, said he could be expected to go home the following Monday. Nurse Tegan sent me regular texts when I couldn’t be with him. I will always be grateful and thankful for the love and care they showed Oscar. Knowing he was in such caring hands made this traumatic time a touch more bearable.

The following day (Saturday, 72 hours post op), I had a mid-morning call explaining Oscar had deteriorated overnight and was beginning to show signs of ascending myelomalacia.  

I cannot begin to articulate the level of despair I felt at hearing those words. I had spent the last 2 days heavily researching and I knew what this diagnosis signalled.

I hung up and fell to my knees and sobbed inconsolably. I was alone, I had no one to share this pain with and I felt so, so lost. I had experienced loss of incredible magnitude several years earlier when my little girl died from heart disease; at that moment, as I lay weeping, the grief I felt was measurable to losing Meg. That may be hard for many to understand, but Oscar was my everything and the thought of losing him was beyond comprehension.

Over the weekend he continued to deteriorate, as did I from an emotional perspective. I spent hours at the hospital in his crate, lying by his side comforting him in every way. I held him, played music and fed him pieces of chicken and finely diced frankfurts. I felt so helpless and whilst I didn’t realise at the time, the nurses must’ve known he was now palliative as they were so kind.  On the Sunday I spent most of the day lying in his crate with him. The nurses would come by and offer water and biscuits and generally just ask if I was ok.  At one point, one of them gave me a huge hug, which simply allowed the tears to flow more quickly.

By Monday, Oscar had lost the use of his front limbs and was unable to lift his head. Dr Nima said he was not in pain and she assured me he was comfortable.  I clearly remember her saying that even if there was only a 5% chance of him surviving, she would do everything in her power. Yet, deep down, we all knew the reality.  Myelomalacia was fatal. And I’d done enough research to know that after paralysis of the thoracic limbs, which Oscar now had, paralysis of the respiratory muscles would present. I did not want that for him, so I knew I would soon have to say goodbye to my precious Bear. 

Overnight, Oscar deteriorated rapidly and on Tuesday morning, the 22nd of September 2020, I was told our only kind option would be to send him across the rainbow bridge. As per his clinical notes: Oscar has deteriorated overnight with progressive myelomalacia after severe disc extrusion at T13/L1 with flaccid paralysis of both fore and hindlimbs. Panniculus reflex is absent. He is mentally depressed and less responsive than yesterday. I have had a long discussion with his owner and unfortunately advised euthanasia and the owners have accepted this recommendation.

I knew this was coming, yet when those words were spoken, I broke. I was about to lose my precious boy and that was unfathomable. I asked how long we had before myelomalacia would begin to affect his respiratory muscles. I was told maximum 24 hours.

I decided to take him home as we wanted his last hours to be surrounded by those who adored him and in a place he felt safe and loved. I bundled him in my arms and held him close as we drove home. I opened the window and as his head rested against my shoulder, I felt his breath quicken as he tried to sniff the passing air. 

Being in the car was one of his greatest loves and he would sit upright, with ears flapping, nose sniffing and a look of joy on his beautiful face. As we drove home, I made sure he was doing just that and I sensed he knew I was helping him, and I knew in my heart he felt safe.

As I walked inside, Stanley and Eddie walked slowly toward me. I knelt down so they could see their brother and they gently sniffed him before Stanley gave him a slow lick on his face. I sat on the couch and cradled Oscar and noticed his breathing slow as I believed he knew he was home and he finally felt at peace. My heart was breaking, yet I felt comfort in knowing he was home and that in his final hours, he was bathed in love. As the afternoon drew to a close, his breathing became more difficult and we knew it was his time to leave. We had hoped to say goodbye at home, but sadly and despite our best efforts we had to return to NCVS.

Oscar crossed the rainbow bridge at 4.51pm on Tuesday, September 22, 2020. As he crossed, I held him close and through the uncontrollable sobs, I whispered that I would love him forever.

The emotional trauma IVDD invokes is both individual and undeniably painful.

There is no BandAid for the wound it opens, no aspirin for the pain it places in your heart. It simply breaks us in ways we could never imagine.

Many years ago, after the loss of my daughter, I read the words: ‘when tragedy strikes your life you can be one of two things – bitter or better – I choose better…’

Losing Oscar broke me, and in the last 6 months, I had moments when I felt I would never recover. On writing his story, in detail, something changed. I realised I had been so lucky to have known him and in knowing my precious Oscar aka Bear, I had become a better person. Yes, his loss was indeed a tragedy, and in moving forward, he would want me to continue to be better, and he would want me to embrace life just as he did: with love, laughter and light.

I will love you forever my precious Bear…

life

A letter to Mum…


It’s 0730, around the time I normally call, and knowing I can no longer continue this mutually enjoyed ritual of ours, one week after you passed is surreal.

In the few weeks leading to you leaving, I knew something wasn’t right: you seemed defeated, it was as if you knew your time here was coming to an end. You didn’t speak in a negative voice, for you never complained about your life, on the contrary, you were so happy, particularly these last 7 months. But I believe you somehow knew your stroke was pending, and you were at peace with that. You had completed your journey and now it was time to start another. And as I held your hand last week, I knew you struggled knowing you would soon leave me. I told you I would be ok if you needed to go and my words, I believe, gave you peace.

I didn’t want you to leave, but you were so frustrated at not being able to communicate or move your body. Yet you maintained your humour: pulling faces, poking out your tongue, albeit sideways and we could see the joy in your eyes at knowing those who truly loved you, were there, holding your hand.

You said many times how happy you were. You spoke of your happiness at being so close to me, the boys and the pups. You spoke of how you were now free of fear. Fear that came from worrying if they would find you. Once reassured they couldn’t & wouldn’t, your fear dissipated.

You did not harbour hatred for what they did, rather, you released them from your life without bitterness. We both did. We released those you trusted for deceiving and stealing from you. Yet whilst you were at peace with the deceit, you didn’t forget. Didn’t forget how those who were once family, used your money at whim and depleted your once healthy bank account.

Yet we took their deceit for what it was and found their blatant audacity in leaving their digital fingerprint across countless transactions the epitome of stupidity. Such ignorance made it so easy for detectives to find and create a fraud investigation. Pages and pages of transactions showed over a period of 3 years, $30,000 was spent without your consent or knowledge. We wondered why you spent so much on cigarettes when you didn’t smoke, and found it highly amusing that you bought sperm in Seattle. We figured that was for when you found that man your searched for with the E Harmony account you somehow created without internet access. Yet what intrigued and amused us most, was the fact you spent thousands, at age 89 years old, to undergo IVF.

Oh how we laughed at that IVF discovery Mum, we laughed at their blatant ignorance at believing their expenditure of your money would not be discovered. And we rejoiced at knowing it had, knowing they were exposed. Rejoiced that one day, their time will come. You won’t see that now, but it will, even if it does take the detective’s estimate of 5 years to come to court, I will see it through for you.

Most of all we rejoiced at being free, being together and being so, so happy. We forgot about them and simply lived happily. You would speak of having 2 daughters and 4 grandchildren. You were not sad, you were at peace.

Whilst sorting through your clothes yesterday, I found a t-shirt you wore often. It reads; No Regrets. You definitely did not have any regrets and I love wearing that t-shirt as it smells of you and that makes me smile.

I’m so grateful for our relationship, so grateful that I was always there for you and so grateful you were always there for me. I’m so happy I took you to Europe, Bali and many other destinations we found ourselves in. So grateful we spent the afternoon of Christmas Day watching the world go by at Mooloolaba beach from the comfort of the car. Dogs on laps, we laughed as you did a running commentary of people strolling by. You loved that. You loved it when we took a leisurely 3 hour drive through the countryside to take my foster, Buddy to his new home. We stopped many timed to take in the quiet, and simply to be.

Mum, I could write for hours about all the things we did together and : slipping in Singapore, crazy mattress rides in France, accumulating traffic on Austria’s winding roads and drinking vin chaud in Switzerland.

I won’t pretend to say I’m not sad, I am, I’m heartbroken knowing I can no longer create memories with you. Yet despite my sadness, I know you were so happy these last months and that replaces all my sadness with joy.

Mum, you were my greatest support.

I will miss you forever…

dogs, life

For Bear Dog…


In life, there is loss. It is painful and it is at times, grossly unfair as some experience great loss while others experience very little. It’s just the way it is.

And if I’m to be honest, thoughts of unfairness hijack my thoughts as of late, there has been many losses, in many forms.

But please understand I’m not writing this from a ‘poor me’ or self-absorbed perspective, quite the contrary. I’m writing this because I find writing to be therapeutic and consoling. I guess in some ways it’s my own personal therapy session. Tapping words onto a screen seems to somehow ease my grief as I discovered the hard way that internalising pain is not conducive to the healing process.

Many years ago I experienced immense loss and rather than express my grief, I internalised it. I wept in private, I didn’t speak of my grief, rather, I spoke of Meg’s death in clinical phrases. I could explain in detail the intricacies of her heart defects and the consequential operations. If you asked, I would tell you. Yet if you asked how I felt, the wall would immediately build. Feelings were off limits.

After keeping my true grief private for 16 years, a small issue sent me spiralling into a breakdown, which thankfully forced formal counselling. From that, I now know internalising grief or pain is detrimental and if you can find a way to unburden if you will, only good things can result.

So I write. And now, I write about the despair and all consuming grief at having lost again, and this time he was one of my best friends and my soulmate.

There are many who may baulk at that last sentence, for my best friend and soulmate was a dog. But to me Oscar aka Bear Dog was my best friend and my soulmate, and his loss is immeasurable for me. And this grief I feel is real, it is intense and at times, it hurts so much, and is comparable to the loss of Meg. That may be hard for some to understand, but that’s okay. Views differ and always will.

But Oscar’s loss has truly broken me.

The following words were written a few days after Oscar’s spinal surgery. I believe a part of me knew I was losing my friend. I tried to fight the negative feelings. I tried to tell myself that he would not be in that 5% who would succumb to myelomalacia, following Grade 5 IVDD, but like Meg, I somehow knew. I knew goodbye was looming on the horizon. I didn’t want to say goodbye, but in my heart, I knew goodbye was coming. And it did.

For Bear Dog

Your morning ritual of waking, shuffling over to the carpet, having a big shake which made your collar jingle, then you’d roll for ages and make your bear sounds:  ah kar kar, before leaping onto the bed, and onto me and showering me with your unique ‘chin chews’.

At breakfast you’d always come into the kitchen and make more Bear noises, voicing your impatience at the time it took for me to make your breakfast. They were unique and so you. Arhharhhh

After eating you’d walk around and check the other bowls, then often you’d go onto the verandah and look at what was happening on the street.

You’d shuffle over to the bean bag and make a leap, it would take a few shuffles before you got your spot.  Then you’d sit like a human and look sideways at me with those beautiful, brown eyes.

The moment I sat down on the couch with my coffee, you’d rush over and ask for help to get on the couch.  You would sometimes do little half jumps and your front paws would tap, tap tap on the floor. Once up, you’d often snort at me if I’m in your way, or if I am in the ‘best’ spot. Yet you always, always would sit directly beside me. I could always feel your gentle breath against my leg.

You would come into the bathroom, peer around the door, see me in the bath/shower and give a short, loud snort before leaving. As if you’re saying pffff, guess I’ll go out here.

You would sit like a human in the front seat of the car, and the joy you’d get from having the window down was pure bliss.  If I put it up, you’d shuffle and the turn your head to look at me and give me the white eye, downward look.

The soccer fields was one of your favourite places, besides the car.  All I’d have to say is run and run and run and run…  and you’d run, then you’d find the best place to roll. The cricket pitch with its fake grass was a favourite.  But if you’d find bird or kangaroo poo, that was the best place for a roll.

You’d always want me to share my breakfast, that was a given. None of the others do, just you.

Down in the backyard you’d always help Stanley search for lizards, then if you got bored with that, you’d find a good digging spot for eating dirt.  If I pulled out the piece of shade cloth, you’d run over, step on it and try to bite it as I pulled you along.  When I stopped pulling, you’d roll and roll; the look of joy on your beautiful face was priceless. It was one of your favourite games.

If I mentioned the car, your ears would prick up and you’d start your Bear noises, and if I put my runners on, well that that was pure bliss and signalled more intensive Bear noises.

You are the one who loved cuddles the most, and I loved running my fingers through your shoulder hair, it was so full and fluffy. And you loved your head being scratched and if you wanted more, you’d raise your front paw, look at me with those eyes and head cast downward and demand more pats.

 You had a funny way of eating.  You would curl your neck, so your ears flopped forward, then you’d sniff, walk around the other side, sniff again, then begin eating. Your way of drinking was unique, I always knew it was you drinking even if I couldn’t see.  There was a rhythm, lop lop, – lop lop lop, – lop lop.

You were and still are one of my greatest loves Bear Dog. You are my bubba, my Bear, my best friend.

Oh Bear, I’m broken, truly broken.

My Bear Bear, I love you so much and I will miss you forever…

life

Home…


We all know the old saying; home is where the heart is, and I’ve always found those words endearing as home can be wherever your heart is happy, irrespective of geography or material possessions.

My heart has been happy living in many spaces, but right now, it is happiest simply being in the space I’ve created over the last 10 years.

So in light of Co-vid19 and its restrictions, spending time at home without visitors has not been a concern. As an empath, I find being in my own home with only my dogs & family as company, gratifying and empowering.

Yesterday restrictions were lifted slightly, allowing up to 5 people to visit your home. These restrictions came at the perfect moment for it was my youngest sons 22nd birthday the previous day. And unlike me, he often prefers the company of his friends, rather than time alone. So with the combination of a birthday and lifted restrictions, he invited 5 of his friends over for a few celebratory beverages, to be shared in front of a fire on a cool May evening.

As twilight descended, I stood for a moment and took in my surroundings.

And as my son’s friends arrived, their joyful chatter and laughter filtered through the garden and the sound warmed my heart. A little later as they settled around the fire, I decided to capture this moment in time, for being a silent observer to that beautiful moment made my heart happy.

Yes, home is definitely where the heart is happy…

life

Stay home, be grateful, and embrace this new way of living…


Today I had to go to work. But today was different, very different, as along with 4 of the most amazing, beautiful and honest women I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, it was our last day.

Me, Proooo, Tanya (manager extraordinaire), Merrin & Grace

The company we worked for, like thousands of other businesses, has closed as a result of the economic downturn brought on by Covid19.

Sadly though, we have not been asked to take paid and or unpaid leave with the hope of returning in the future. The company went into Voluntary Administration, and along with all stores Australia wide, our store has been permanently closed.

And whilst I feel immensely sad that I’ve lost a great casual job and I’ll no longer share my working hours with those fabulous women, we all still have our health and our families, a sentiment countless thousands of others around the world cannot share.  

Unfortunately, this scenario is being repeated, not only in Australia, but throughout the world.  So many people have lost their jobs, and as I walked through Sunshine Plaza with my son today, to drop off my shop keys, the reality of those job losses was evident.

The massive shopping plaza that houses over 340 stores, was deserted. Over 95% of stores were closed.

Yet, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. From a financial perspective, I am able to comfortably stay at home and share this difficult time with the best family anyone could ask for. I am not alone; I have food on the table and an abundance of love from human and canine family alike.

So please, whilst it may be difficult that we cannot travel, go on holidays, see friends or simply do what we took for granted, be mindful of what you can do.

You can simply take the time to embrace what is really important. Time. Time spent with those you love and who love you in return.

Stay home, think about those not as fortunate, and embrace this new way of living…

photography, travel

Not all who wander are lost…


Wandering excites the senses and creates a myriad of experiences.

Emotive, exciting & reflective experiences that shape who we are.

What follows is a small snapshot of experiences that have shaped my greatest loves: travel, animals and photography…

photography

Sundays…


A beautiful Sunday with my five favourite beings…

@Mooloolaba beach, Queensland

 

 

 

dogs

Dogs do speak, just listen to their ears…


Dogs can speak. Just as humans use sign language, I believe so do our 4-legged friends, but instead of using their paws, they use their ears.

If you take the time to listen to their ears, you’ll see they actually speak volumes.

I decided to gather a few images of doggy speak, and who better to demonstrate that speak than my beloved Stanley, Eddie and two other 4-legged friends I met on recent travels?

As I went about my business, so did they: sniffing, sleeping, catching a few winter rays, or simply going about the important business of being a dog.

But I did manage to capture a little of how their dogships communicate – with a little caption ‘translation’…

 

dogs

A house full of Sausages…


I have a house full of Sausages. Not the greasy, squishy, edible variety, but more precisely, the loveable, quirky Dachshund variety.

Having my home filled with four sausages was not something I’d ever planned: it just kind of happened, as most things do in life.

And it all started with Kiri, or Saus as she was affectionately called.

Saus was a beautiful mini-wire haired dachshund who came to live with me by chance 10 years ago.

After having had 3 litters (grrr) and still only 3 years old, she was apparently no longer of  any ‘use’, therefore she was in desperate need of a new home. Mum had heard about her from a friend, so Mum called me asking if I’d consider adopting her. On hearing her story, I was more than happy to go and meet her to see if we got along.

The meet and greet did go well and Saus entered my life and touched my heart like no other. Her spirit had been severely broken at some point in her life, however she came to trust me and my love for her, in doing so, we became one. sunset and dogs 033

There are no words to describe the depth of her beauty and my love. She was simply Saus, a beautiful, yet incredibly shy being who gave me permission to be the centre of her universe.

I am, and always will be humbled by her trust.

We shared 5 magical years together, years filled with so much love, so much laughter and so many discoveries of her quirky, sausage ways.

Her passion for cheese. Her need to burrow into her doggy sleeping bag and most of all, her great love of being in the car. She didn’t have to go anywhere, just getting in and being in the car was her pleasure.

It was the getting out and walking bit she didn’t fancy: and her hilarious antics surrounding getting in and being out of the car can be read about here.

But sadly, on one tragic summer morning, I lost my girl unexpectedly from complications of the heart.

mudjimba 07 094

I was devastated. And there are truly no words to describe my grief. In losing her, I too was lost.

She had become my world and when she died, part of me died with her. I was inconsolable.

Then the day after my Saus died, I had a call from a rescue organisation asking if I’d be interested in re-homing a male, mini-wire.  My response was instant. No, I could not imagine taking on another right now.

Yet a good friend had other ideas.

Despite my inconsolable grief, my friend talked me into going to meet this little fellow. ‘Jen, you might need him as much as he needs you…’.

As I sat on the grass in a park where his current owners and I had agreed to meet, I watched Stanley (then known as Joey) jump out of the car and cautiously walk toward me.  With his little wiry head darting from side to side, his body language seemed to scream fear, clearly he was frightened of what lay ahead.

Standing momentarily beside the man who held his lead, he looked around before tentatively walking toward me, cautiously sniffing the area around where I sat.

I didn’t speak, I simply let him do his thing.  Then without warning, he climbed onto my lap and buried his head in my arms. I was completely taken aback, yet held him close, hoping my touch would lessen his fear.

IMG_0215

A little while later I placed him gently on the grass, stood up and walked toward the picnic table to retrieve a bottle of water.  Stanley followed and would not leave my side. At that moment I realised he had made his decision, I was his person.

So Stanley came to live with me, and just as my friend said, we needed each other. In his company, my grief over losing Saus slowly subsided and I believe his memory of a life less than perfect also faded.

Four years on, his loyalty has never waned.

However in the early days of him being with us, that loyalty also seemed to cause him to suffer from separation anxiety.  Family told me that when I left the house without him, he would wait by the window, forever watching for my return.

And it was this anxiousness that led to Oscar’s arrival.

At the time I was also still working for an international airline as cabin crew, which had me jetting off to various destinations for up to 4 days at a time. This was hard for Stanley (and me, I might add), so I decided a companion may help ease his separation anxiety.

Enter Oscar aka Bear.

Oscar came to us as a pup, full of life and love and the perfect companion for Stanley. In an instant Stanley was his protector and the two became firm friends.IMG_1479

Whilst I’m told Stanley still ‘waits’ for me, it is not as prolonged as it was before Oscar’s arrival.

Oscar is a standard wire-haired dachshund, so now as an adult dog, he is quite a bit bigger than Stanley and gloompfs along like a big ole bear.  And that’s how he came to acquire his nickname, Bear.

About two years after Oscar’s arrival I had another call from Devoted to Dachshund Rescue (D2DR) asking if I would foster a male black and tan smooth, whose family were going through a divorce and could not keep him.  At nine years old Simon had only known one family, however within minutes of him coming to us, it was if we were that family.  His owner dropped him off and he didn’t look back. Simon seemed to love being with his new brothers, so the decision to keep him was made and Simon became part of our family.

A year later I had another call. Would I foster again?  Yes, of course, however Eddie was different. Whatever had happened to him was beyond tragic. You really have to wonder what possesses someone to subject a defenceless, sentient being to such cruelty.

Eddie, as we chose to later name him had been found in an industrial waste bin wrapped in wire. Extremely emaciated and terrified, he was allegedly taken to a pound where he stayed for 6 weeks before D2DR was called. On getting the call they drove 3 hours to retrieve him, and then called me.

When I first saw him I melted. The fear is his beautiful amber eyes was absolute. Ribs and spine protruded through his rich, copper coloured coat and on closer inspection, he had a severe overbite.IMG_3925

I knew that in time, his physical issues could be mended,  yet his emotional trauma was another story and would obviously take time to heal. His fear of people was deep seeded, but interestingly, just as Stanley made me his person, it was my son Max that became Eddie’s.

Two years on, Eddie still has an intense fear of strangers and also being outside of his comfort zone: his home.  Going for walks is not his thing, nor is being anywhere that involves mixing with people other than his own.  He is content to be at home, with his family.

So now I have a house full of Sausages: and what a house it is…

sausages1#
Simon,   Oscar,   Stanley,   & Eddie

 

 

life

A bittersweet arrival…


As the aircraft descended through a haze of pollution, my first glimpses of Udaipur came into view.  White stucco – like buildings dotted the landscape, and the lakes synonymous with the city, sparkled in the early morning light.

Purchasing a pre-paid taxi ticket inside the clean, modern airport, I exited to find drivers waiting to be called to take the fare: a site contrary to what I’d expected. In a very orderly manner, one fellow (who may have been the supervisor) took my ticket then gestured to one of the many drivers.  My designated driver nodded respectfully, took my case and motioned for me to follow.

On the 40 minute drive to Animal Aid, the India I had expected presented itself. Horns blared, cows mooched and people jostled with cars, bikes and truck for the same piece of space on roads and paths. It was manic, yet not frightening or confronting. It was India.

After passing through the small city, winding roads that carved through small hills deposited us at the gates of Animal Aid, where a cacophony of animal voices alerted me to the fact we had indeed arrived.

Dogs, donkeys, goats and cows all milled about, some oblivious to my arrival, whilst others inquisitive: sniffing, smooching and seemingly quite interested in finding out just who I was.

A little later in the day, after being warmly welcomed by the family, I wandered around the shelter meeting the many animals whose lives have been transformed by Animal Aid.

Helping to feed a group of calves, I felt a gentle but firm nudge on my left thigh.  Expecting to see one of the numerous donkeys who were milling about, I was surprised to find at my side Buff, a baby water buffalo.  Roughly the same size as a small cow, Buff was determined to have my attention and let it be known by continually nudging my arm whenever I stopped scratching behind his ear.

Who would have thought after leaving Australia feeling excited and also a little sad at the thought of leaving my beloved family that 48 hours later I would be making friends with a water buffalo?

Afterward as we sat in the garden drinking chilled Pinot Grigio and dining on a delicious lentil curry at twilight serenaded by the sounds of animals, I felt content.

Similar to my departure, my arrival was bittersweet.  I do feel content and happy, yet also wish I could share this contentment with my best friends: Stanley, Oscar, Simon & Eddie.

Yes, a bittersweet arrival indeed….