Mollie: Loss and Memory

I took a long time to write this post. I couldn’t get the tone right, and I’m still not sure if I have.

The usual expression when we lose a pet is to make some vague allusion to the Rainbow Bridge. This makes me uncomfortable, just as it does when people mention God in relation to death. I’m an athiest and my heart belongs to science. I don’t believe in an afterlife. I appreciate the sentiment, especially from friends, but it doesn’t comfort me, or make the loss any easier to bear.

I marvel instead at the unprompted connections my brain will make; a dog barking, and for a second some unconscious process prompts me to look up, because it’s Mollie. Or we’re coming back from an evening walk in the dark, and at the bottom of the hill where I put the leads on, Mollie is waiting for me. Or I glance over my shoulder and I see her padding down to us. I like that, it makes me happy. I am far more comforted by knowing that my eyes see a shadow and my brain finds something to fill it, and the ‘it’ is Mol. I am pleased that of all the tiny electrical connections my brain has sourced, it’s the connections with Mollie that seems right for that situation and that endure.

Mollie thinks there is nothing better in life than thisI do miss her, a lot. Oddly enough, it’s the feel of her I remember most, especially the way her fur over her shoulder curled softly around your fingers. You could sink your hands right in and scritch her with the fur tickling the back of your hands. I miss the feel of her forehead against mine when she hugged, the heavy solidity of her broad face pressed against skin. Feelings very unique to Mollie. People talk about smell and emotion, but it’s non-specific touch that I recall with clarity, apparently.

Odd Little Muffins

Both the younger dogs are still settling into their post-Mollie lives. Dylan is not his usual self. We’ve had a bout of sulking brought on Thursday evening, when we took Kim and Rio to Rally and Dylan got left home alone for two hours. He’s taken a few days to come around from that.

Rio feels a bit soft, but she has since her season finished. I don’t know where her edge has gone, but gone it has. I’m hoping that it’s just a case of settling hormones. Everyone told me that spaying before a first season made for soft dogs — I know this isn’t true, look at Kim! — but this is not what I signed up for. It could also be a reaction to the stress of Mollie being gone and Dylan being an ass, but Rio usually reacts to stress by becoming more loud and sassy. I’ve never seen her quiet down as a reaction. I hope her bounce comes back soon, I miss sassy Rio.

All the dogs are also getting fitter again, including Lady Jane herself. She goes walking with the youngsters in a morning now, and she berates them loudly at every opportunity. Dyl is also walking to the next village and back three times a week, about 3.5miles. I send him on his own He walks with my dad, and Rio goes on Sundays too.

Kim, Rio, and I have our first Rally trial in a few weeks, we still have a lot of training to do. Rio works well but has a tendency to get distracted, and our left turns/pivots are shaky at best. She also keeps obsessively offering a down instead of a sit on finishes, which we need to work on. It’s cute, but not good! I think she’ll qualify, barring any major distractions/disasters, and it would be fun to put a Rally title on her. It will depend on if there are any more trials in this area, and if they clash with agility or not!

Kim is just incredibly awkward, she does not see the point to obedience and she likes to tell everyone loudly about it in between exercises. When she’s working, she’s quiet, unless she feels we’re going too slowly. Then we get told. She also has the most crooked sits in existence, and so whilst she can do pivots, they’re not pretty. The best way I can think to describe them is to imagine a clock; dog and handler should be facing 12 and pivot to 3 or 9 together. With Kim, I am usually facing 12 and Kim is facing 3, so when I pivot left, I end up facing 9 and Kim is then facing 12. Technically she’s done the 90d left pivot, but we’re still not facing the same way. We are working on this! I don’t think she’ll qualify, but it will be fun.

Change

We’re beginning to settle into routines that don’t involve Mol. The big changes seem quite natural, it’s the little things that remind us of her; Rio laying in the doorway where Mollie usually laid, not having to shove her off the sofa when you sit down, not hearing her bark first when you come home.

Dylan isn’t coping terribly well with Mol not being here. He has been very pushy around the house and on walks, and he’s also been snarky with Rio a few times. He could just be reacting to the stress of a new routine. Or he could be trying to fit himself into the household with Mollie. Mol and Dyl were very close, he relied on her a lot for cues.

We didn’t get to train agility this week due to the weather, although Rio and I have been doing some extra weave homework at the park. I think perhaps doing some agility will help Dylan, and we have Ribble coming up so really do need the practise.

A Short Passage of Time

Life without Mollie can never possibly be the same as life with her. How could it? Everything is very quiet and unforgiving. Kim has nobody to snark at any more. (Kim doesn’t care at all, and I am grateful for that in so many ways.)

Mol never did anything at less than 100%, and I guess that includes getting ill. She was only really properly sick and sad for a few days, in the middle of it all. The rest of time she was just a quieter version of her normal self, but still able to do what she wanted to do. She first saw the vet the day after Boxing Day, and six weeks later she is gone.

She had surgery to remove the tumour on her spleen. She lost a lot of weight over the six weeks, and she lost a lot of fluids during the surgery, and she never really came around from the anesthetic. The chances were always slim, at her age, that she would be able to recover, and even if she did, she was unlikely to have had much time left anyway. She liked it at the vets, and she wasn’t a dog to be afraid of being left alone. She drifted away in her sleep at some point during the night.

I am so thankful for all the amazing people who have spared a thought for her in the weeks before, and the few days after. It means a lot to all of us. I’m sorry if I’ve not replied to messages, but I have read everything.

Group Photos

Group photos are hard, and not just because getting everyone sat facing the right direction is always tough. I have very white dogs and very black dogs, and so getting the white balance is hard, and the height differences is always a challenge.

Kim, Rio, Dylan, Mollie

It started so well, and we moved on, and then I realised nobody was in focus. Photoshop improved things, but I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so we tried again …

Group 2

Out of focus and Kim hates everyone.

Bored Now

Kim is bored now.

3 out of 4 ...

In focus, all dogs looking at the camera attentively … shame there’s one missing!

SQUIRREL

Think we have a few problem areas here, starting with Rio’s “SQUIRREL!” impression, and Kim’s “bitch, please …” face.

Group 1

Mollie is slightly out of focus, and Rio isn’t really looking the right way, but this might be the best we can do!

January

MollieMollie hasn’t been very well, which has been why I’ve already broken my annual resolution of blogging more often. She started acting a little bit off just before Christmas, and by the day after Boxing Day we were worried enough to take her to the vets. She feels very ribby and skinny, but when we weighed her, she’s actually gained over 2kg. She was very dull, and has a weird cough that sounds a little like Kennel Cough but isn’t, as well as an upset digestive system. She also refused to eat, which isn’t entirely out of sorts for Mollie, but she’s never done it for this long.

It’s been a worrying few weeks, including multiple vet trips and blood tests, and worrying comments like “tumour”. Her bloods weren’t helpful; her kidneys aren’t operating at maximum efficiency, but she’s 13, so that’s not entirely surprising. Other than that, everything is in the range it should be, so no clues from that direction. The next option is xrays, probably.

She’s a puzzle, as always, but this week has seen a huge improvement. Her eyes are bright and she’s been tugging with Rio, and she’s cleaned her plate three times in the past two days. We don’t know why she’s improving, but right now we’ll take what we can get.

2012 Review

20 Weeks

I didn’t have any goals for 2012, but it was an interesting year. It was not a subtle year, or a kind year, or a gentle year. I want a lot of things for 2013, but I hope they all come about in a softer way.

Rio 10 Months

I still don’t feel comfortable setting goals with Dylan, he lives up to his name and we just have to play it by ear. I want him to be as happy and confident in competition as he is in training, but I know that this might be an impossible task. I think I need to continue trying to be more aware of when he is mentally struggling. I also need to learn how to accept that knowledge, to recover and move on from the frustration and disappointment it often carries.

Play

For Rio, I’d like her to be happy and confident when she starts competing. I don’t want to pile expectations on her, especially during this first year. That’s as much as I’ll say, because otherwise I’m sure I’ll say something to jinx her or inadvertantly add a bit more pressure. I just want to have fun, and since that’s Rio’s outlook on life as well, I don’t think we’ll go far wrong.

The old ladies are sadly ever older. Kim is always chipper, she likes sleeping and lounging and barking (always always barking). Her body maybe isn’t what it was but it can still do everything she wants it to, and her mind is as sharp as it ever was. Mollie isn’t feeling well right now, which is worrying for all of us, and I will blog about that when I know more.

Onwards to 2013.

Mollie + Rally

I sort of forgot to post and say that in a moment of madness, I started taking Mollie to Rally classes. My original plan was to take Rio, but I’m still waiting for her to come into season (as well as now worrying in case she had a silent heat or something to confuse me) and I didn’t really want to have to miss four classes of the six week class. Classes in a hall aren’t Dylan’s kind of thing and Kim hates heelwork, so Mollie was the final choice.

We have our third class tomorrow and it’s going really well. Mol is really enjoying her trips out and she’s actually good at it! Her heelwork is nice, and we need to work a bit on changing positions (Sit-Down-Stand) as she’s got old creaky bones and it takes her a while to shift.

I have to admit I didn’t expect Rally to be something I particularly liked. I just thought it would be nice for Mollie, and I definitely thought it would be a bit boring and maybe a bit little-old-ladies with Border Collies they can’t control, sort of thing. I’m still not sure about the ladies and their wild Border Collies, I haven’t come across any just yet but nobody has been able to promise me they aren’t lurking, but I can say it’s not boring. The exercises have been fun to teach and it has been really nice to start as a newbie again in something. And Mollie is having a lovely time!

I’m crazy enough to be entering Mollie in a trial in February anyway, and I’m even contemplating entering Dylan as well.

Time Flies

Where has the time gone since my last blog post?!

I am very happy to report Rio’s target training is now rolling along at a good pace. I took it back to basics and we did some shaping, and she’s now double-front-paw hitting from any position. I’m not comfortable asking her for wall-turns, I don’t think I know what I’m doing enough for that, so we did some sofa-turns instead. She’s ready for the chute now, I think, which means I actually have to finish the chute. Hmm …

We did some simple circle work last week at agility and Rio decided this was boring. As in, after two repetitions (once each way), as soon as I took her lead off she went and did the whole circle and then said right, what’s next? So I’m upping the difficulty this week, she’ll have to work for a living.

Dylan seems back to his normal self, bit of a podge but I think that’s because I’m walking them in a morning now and I always have a pocketful of treats. He’s up to 20.75kg, little fatman! He’s back at agility too since we have a competition this weekend, first one since the end of September! I’m looking forward to it, fingers crossed for some challenging courses.

The older ladies are doing well. I feel as though I don’t write about them often enough, but they are just cruising through life in their own equally special ways. Mollie is always doing her own thing, she is starting Rally class soon so that should keep her happily entertained! And to be reunited with her old frenemy Bryn, just like in the old days … !

Kim remains very noisy and has a tiny lump on her chest which worries me; I wish I could say it’s a minor worry, but actually it’s more of a “I’m going to burst into tears and be crippled by fear at any given moment” sort of worry. I love this dog, and I love her more now she’s old and slightly daft. This week I am greatly appreciating the time when she gets up after a good deep sleep, all creaky bones and warm squidgy muscles, and she does her slinky stretches and I scritch behind her ears to tell her how awesome she is. And then she usually goes and fetches her Monkey and kills it, and there are tufts of slowly disintegrating soft toy everywhere, constantly, because we do this routine three or four times a day at least. How on earth can I want her to stay anything but perfectly healthy?