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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Goodbye, good dog

I’ve never been much of a dog person, but Jan and Tom have dogs.  By extension, I do, too.  They can be as underfoot and as unseen as a cat to be tripped over.  “I don’t have eyes in my feet!”  Smarter cats seem to scoot away; every dog I’ve known hovered in the door, the aisle, right in front of you, waiting for something with big eyes.  Even Angus.

When we moved here Jan and Tom had Poppy II,  a Yorkie.  The first Poppy was brave, stalwart, occasionally swashbuckling, charming, a travelling man who may turn up in my vacation stories.  Poppy II was a sweet, loveable little fellow.  He was mom’s shadow and bud.  I’m sure the both of them are sitting together this minute in a flowery wing chair.

Jan thought a whole lot about the next dog.  She is partial to terriers, but wanted one less fragile than a five pound Yorkie.  After considerable research she narrowed her field to West Highlands or Cairns.   She spent an afternoon observing several to chose among at the breeders and came home with Angus, a Cairn Terrier.

He was such a sturdy, handsome little Scotsman he needed the name.  A most interesting character, he  stole hearts at the first “Ha-rroouu.”  He expected biscuits from the jar in the studio and further expected everyone in the studio to understand that sitting on his hind end and smiling should translate into a biscuit.  He ran up the stairs to retrieve his ball, ran it down and ran back up when someone threw the ball up for him again.  He accosted people with the ball in his mouth; that meant throw it up the stairs.

A customer came to buy a loom, but sent his wife to look at the loom while he sat on the sofa and chatted with Angus in Gaelic.  He said the wee bairn was fluent.  I’m sure he was.  The man must have known; he was wearing a kilt.

Interestingly, Angus had separation anxiety.  Terriers run, the ageless wisdom says.  Not Angie.  He wouldn’t let the people he lived with out of his sight.  He knew his yard and never left it.  He was the kind of dog who should be your first dog.  He led Jan to look for another Cairn to keep him company, and a couple of years later she found Fiona, a brindle to Angie’s wheaten.

What a little charmer.   She didn’t learn rules on one go.  Or two or three.  Our back door still leaks air where she ate the corner.  The first time we left her out of the kennel with no one home we returned to find several little fabric Christmas angel decorations gone from a table and shredded on the floor.  Except the one Angus spit out, intact, one paw in the air, head cocked.  “I tried to stop her, really.  I saved this one.  She’s just a kid.  Don’t be mad.”  It was sodden; he’d carried it for hours.

Both of them lived for Tom to come home.  They followed him indoors and out all weekend.  Nights when Tom relaxed in his chair  both were in his lap until he woke up and pushed them off.  They would go sit on a stair.  The minute he fell asleep, back they went.  They could hear him fall asleep, I swear.  Twenty minutes later, “Get down.  Get down.  What did I tell you last time!”  Two little dogs reappear on the stair, waiting, waiting…..

Fiona took the ball and changed the stair game so that she caught it at the top of the steps and pushed it over the edge to go back down.  Outdoors she ran like the wind to catch the ball on the fly.  The ball couldn’t land where she couldn’t find it, bring it back and drop it in your lap to be thrown again.  Angus watched over her proudly.  Given her druthers, Fiona would have been an alpha dog.   But Angus was the big guy and Fiona didn’t leave the yard, either.  She did live to chase her ball and always knew where it was kept, on the mantle, when she’d run enough.  Fiona came with a heart valve problem that the vet kept under control with a couple of drugs daily.  She took her pills every morning, small price to pay to keep chasing the ball.  We took it away sooner and sooner and one day her heart just quit and she left us in a minute, she just quit running.

Angus was devastated.  He quit eating.  He laid on their bed and watched the door for her to come in.  We all cried.  We found the Col. Potter Cairn Rescue site and filled out adoption papers for a new Cairn.  Jan wasn’t ready for another brindle yet, so we came home with a ten year old wheaten, lighter than Angus.  Euba is a puppy mill mama rescue, about ten years old.   Lived in a wire cage and made babies.  Her ears have been chewed off by puppies.  After producing, I calculate, up to fifty thousand dollars worth of puppy mill puppies she was getting old, but still being auctioned off to the next rung down of puppy mills.  Col. Potter bought her, assessed her and then put her up for adoption.

Euba is Euba.  As it should be.  She’s as entitled as any dog to a good life, and finally has a good home to be herself.  Herself is the now generation.  She exudes me, me, me from every fiber.  Angus looked at her and sighed.  He did get up to eat again, but new protocols confused him.  Fiona’s only alpha manifestation was food.  Food was constantly on the floor but they seldom ate until evening, and then Fiona ate first, or else.  Angus just stood back, bemused, until she was done.

 Ain’t so with Euba.  Her manners are improved, fifteen months later, but there’s no food on the floor, there are two regular mealtimes.  Her bowl is empty in a flash while Angus is still saying grace.  She’s learned she can’t shove him out, but meal time is a slow go with Angus taking a bite, looking quizzically at the quivering, anxious dog they brought home, taking another bite.  He truly cannot comprehend her rudeness.  It has now evolved to her willing him to Hurry Up, so we can have a biscuit.  He’s still happy to get a biscuit.

Angus settled into a grandfatherly amusement with Euba.  He’s a few years older than she, pretty arthritic, and I can appreciate that he walks while she runs.  Pretty much my speed, too.  Like Fiona, she listened to Angus and doesn’t leave the yard.  Like Angus and Fiona, she follows Tom around.  She’s a nice little dog.

Early on this summer Angus developed a cough.  Took a couple of trips to the vet to find he has a tumor growing in his chest, pushing stuff around.  Jan and Tom decided he needed a last, good summer and our vet is happy to keep Angus pain free and enjoying the grass and sky.  But he’s older by the hour now.  Last weekend Jan and Tom were both in Sandusky, closing up Quilting with Machines.  I fed the dogs their dinner; Angus didn’t eat (except the biscuit!).   He flopped on his bed, but couldn’t get comfortable.  He wanted out.  He flopped in the grass and couldn’t get up.  He’s only a twenty pound dog, probably less now, but I can’t lift him.  I got his blanket under his middle and used it for a sling to walk him back.  He laid on his bed and cried.  I sat on the floor and cried with him.  I called Jan to come home, please!  They were already on the way and drove like the wind.  Angus was four hours past his pain meds (but no one had mentioned them to me.  I can dish a mighty fine pill, just ask Fiona).  Tom wrapped the dose in cheese (as good as a biscuit) and helped Angus to bed.

Angus was climbing the stairs again by Monday, so there was no trip to the vet.  But last night Tom admitted Angie is “just going through the motions.”  Only eating biscuits, I might add.  I was going to take a picture of him, but realized the dear old fellow looked shabby enough in pictures I took over the summer.  Mom will like Angus.  He really is her kind of dog.  Fiona will be happy, too.  But I think Euba will be happiest of all.  Until we call Col. Potter.


  1. Such a heartbreaker. Poor wee baby. But what a wonderful life he has had.

  2. Heaven is full of dogs. And dog people. What a wonderful, happy place it must be!

  3. Cara and I really loved Angus..This is hard!!!