Saturday, July 14, 2007

Thinking about Rosie

Rosie, our companion

Everything we read warned against it: they are too active and have too much energy. They are farm dogs and shouldn’t be confined in a house and yard. Yet the desire to train a border collie and have it as a companion was too powerful to set aside.

We found the farm as the ad had directed. We drove in the yard and two black and white smiling faces greeted us. Within the first two steps out of the car a tennis ball was dropped at my feet. The ensuing game of pitch and catch with parents of the litter we had come to see won me over that quickly.

There were ten pups in Misty’s litter. Most were black and white, some merle, and two were liver and white. We were quickly told that the only two that remained unspoken for were a merle male and a liver and white female. We were partial to the female. We planned to have her spayed, so the liver and white would have to do. The owner’s kids told us about each of the six-week-old pups. Ours, if we took it, was the largest in the litter and had been named Tank because of her size.

We zeroed in on the big pup looking for the bonding trait that we had read about and sure enough as we held her and talked to her she focused her interest and attention on us as if to give her approval. We both felt a strange glow as the pup worked her magical charm.

We had to wait two more weeks for the final shots and a bit longer for the pups to nurse Misty. That gave us some time to think of a name for our new family member. We also had time to read and think about what we had signed up for. The gnawing realization of the difficulties and problems that might go with adopting a border collie for a house pet began to set in.

Aleene thought of it first. We should call her Rosie. It spoke to her color and to the fact that just two miles from the breeder’s farm was Rosie’s Diner a retro fifties place just off the 101 exit of U.S. 131 north of Grand Rapids. I was not impressed at first. It did have the characteristic of a first letter consonant, which was supposed to be easier for dogs to recognize their names. Little did I know then that she would have an entire vocabulary of words that we had to be careful using around her. Rosebud, Rose Blossom, something, anything other than Rose or Rosie; I acquiesced. I got used to it quickly and it fit not only her color and location, but her personality.

I have discussed training dogs with others and I read a lot about the theories, but in retrospect training Rosie was a piece of cake. The secret was to spend time with her and quickly let her know what my limits were. The only bad habit we had to work on was chasing cars, but she got over that quickly. I am convinced that the only limit to what she would do was my ability to make her understand my wishes. In the final analysis, if I worked at it with her she would master it. Probably her greatest trick was to go outside on snowy days and pull the newspaper out of the box and bring it in the house.

She quickly became a charmer…just as her parents had done to us when we first ventured onto the farm that July day in 1993 she would do to visitors to our house. First, the toys come out, then the ball dropped at your feet and finally the “eye” that ever-present stare at the object she is interested in. People loved her instantly.

She became a good watch dog for Aleene when I traveled during those first years. She took her place next to the bed and would creep around the house if she heard an unfamiliar noise while I was gone. She would give a low growl if the noise persisted, but she never barked…unless asked.

She spent five years in the country on a big lot with a swimming pool. She loved to swim, but her fur was not good for the filtering system so that activity was limited. She frequently swam at Lake Arrowhead when we visited Jeff. It was the hours of Frisbee that gave her the most satisfaction. The kriz, as I called it in her presence, trumped the tennis ball every time if there was a choice. We played catch in every state west of the Mississippi during our traveling years. It was a tension releaser at the rest areas on those long hot journeys. The kriz was her pacifier.

We moved her to town where she got very comfortable with squirrel chasing around the yard. She never caught one, but she would run them up a tree or off the property. When we moved to the condo she was even more limited, but adapted well to the two stories and would spend time in the same room with either of us just waiting for a chance for a walk around the golf course or down the road.

We introduced her to camping when she was ten and she did remarkably well traveling south and west and north. She developed a hang up about eating or drinking while the motor home was rolling, so we would have to stop just to get her to drink sometimes. She panted most of the time we moved. Aleene and I think all that travel shortened her life due to the stress and panting during that last year. But she never let us down. She spoke with her eyes and her tail and her pretty coat caught the attention of many strangers who would compliment her about her fine looks.

Alas, the end came too soon. We were not ready for her to get so sick so fast. In order to treat the complicated kidney disorder the docs had to sedate her, put her in a cage and drip IVs into those furry legs. When we finally got back from Michigan with our truck load of goods she was in the hospital with less than a 20 percent chance to survive. I remember those eyes as she looked up and saw me as she lay in the cage. Deep under the morphine she must have known it was us because she started to pant…that mark of her uneasiness as if to say, “Look what they are doing to me. Are you going to allow someone to confine me like this?” Then she put her tired head down. We were given wise counsel. It was time to let her go.

We had to decide what to do with the remains before they would put her down. If she were to be cremated they had to make an appointment so timing was everything. But while I think cremation is an ok thing, in fact that is my personal choice because I can’t be laid to rest just anywhere, but ashes can be spread anywhere even on water. We found just the place for Rosie. Halfway up Chehalem Mountain, just out of town a friend’s father owns 20 acres of farmland and with its spectacular view of the valley below. She could watch the world go by from there. And so it was to be.

It has been over a year now and we went past her spot last week as we showed Jan and Gary around our beautiful piece of heaven here in the valley. That is what reminded me to write this piece as I promised I would over a year ago.

We have not forgotten Rosie. No, we think about her often. Most of the time, the context of our discussion is that we are free to travel now and leave the house for long periods. And while I am still picking her hair out of the Jeep interior and one or two wooly blankets that came in touch with her, we still miss her. We say there will never be another dog in our lives. But who knows? I do know there will never be another that measures up to Rosie.

No comments: