Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ceilidh's gone

Our Boston Terrier, Ceilidh, the bravest soul I've ever known, died yesterday.

Ceilidh was young for a Boston - only 10. As the vet who'd taken care of her since she was five weeks old said, "It was a hard 10." I think she was tired of trying so hard and needed to rest.

Ceilidh's brain was wired wrong. One of my best friends from college, experienced in the travails of autistic and ADHD children, liked Ceilidh best of all of our dogs. She recognized her for the "special needs" being that she was.

And because so very few knew her for the dog she really was - I'm going to indulge myself and my sister and write her biography here. Because we think this special little girl should be remembered.

We know the right way to buy a purebred dog. We knew we wanted a Boston Terrier, so we contacted the local Boston Terrier Club. We attended a couple of shows, talked to breeders and waited for their litters to be born. Both of the litters "missed" - there were no puppies. In the meantime, we'd lost another dog and our house was echoingly empty.

I did something stupid. I read the classified ads

in the newspaper and called a backyard breeder who was advertising puppies. I went to see the four-week old puppies and fell in love. Which is why you should never, ever do what I did.

The "breeder" called us a week later and told us that the puppies' mother had stopped nursing them and they were leaving for the summer. Come get your puppy. So we did.

Ceilidh was adorable.

That’s a regular old maple leaf she’s carrying. She was tiny.

At this stage, there was no hint of anything abnormal about her. Puppies at five weeks old eat, sleep, poop and pee. She did all of that very well. She adored Razzmatazz, our blind Brussels Griffon boy. And he, who never tolerated any other dog getting too close, allowed her to cuddle against him, walk with him, nuzzle in his fur. Ceilidh always loved the feel of other fur. Perhaps because she was fur-challenged herself (more on that later).

We took her to our dog club picnic a few weeks after we brought her home. She spent the whole time trying to cuddle our friend’s Border Collie, because he was soft. Luckily Chaser was a very sweet BC. He couldn’t quite figure out what that thing underneath him was, but it didn’t bother him.

We lost Razz when Ceilidh was just a few months old. And none of our other dogs took his place in Ceilidh’s life.

We started noticing how different she was when we started serious obedience training.

I would take Ceilidh to the local train station every morning to acclimate her to crowds, noise, people, etc. And every morning she was so excited to see everyone and everything, she couldn’t stand still. Not for a second. She was a happy flibbertigibbet – always dancing on her hind feet.

In Obedience class, our friend and instructor told us that heeling should be done with all four paws on the ground. We knew that, of course – it was the same friend who owned Chaser. So we dared her to try it herself. Ceilidh went all the way around the ring, in perfect heel position, on her hind legs.

In those early years Ceilidh attacked life with zest. She ran into every new situation – eager to meet new people and dogs. Her uncurbable exuberance was too much for most. People don’t want dogs constantly demanding attention but unable to stand still to receive it.. And dogs were put off. More often than not, her constant, hectic motion was met with growling and snapping.

We noticed when she was about 10 months old that Ceilidh had many bald patches – as if her fur just disappeared. She was diagnosed with an immune disorder and so began the weekly, medicated baths that continued the rest of her life.

Ceilidh’s hyperactivity made it difficult to have company, or to take her anywhere. We tried agility – she was incredibly athletic, long-legged and muscular. She excelled at the obstacles (jumping, climbing, weaving), but the excitement of being in class was incredibly stressful. And it was hard to explain to your classmates that Ceilidh just wanted to rub herself in their dog’s fur when she went dashing off after them.

It turned out that, hard as I tried, I wasn’t Ceilidh’s person. She made it pretty clear that Fran, my sister, was her special person. It was an adjustment – the dog that I’d counted on being “mine” simply wasn’t. And Fran probably sighed and said “fine, then.” And Ceilidh was hers.

Being Ceilidh’s person meant having guardianship of her beloved latex soccer ball. It had to be the smallest one – the one that got too gooey to hang onto when she wanted to play tug. And she had to play with it every day, or she wouldn’t settle down. We had to train her to “drop it” – and even then she would grab her ball time and again to get it in just the right spot. We learned not to reach in until she’d backed off – very few people could beat her to her toy. After “drop it” we had to teach her “leave it” and “bring it closer.” Ceilidh was also rather obsessive/compulsive.

So like a ritual in our house, Ceilidh had a special kitchen timer. When the timer came out, it was time to play ball. When time was up and the timer beeped, it was time for the ball to go away. It took months of training to teach her, but she accepted it and enjoyed her playtime. Then she would get a drink of water, go outside, settle for the evening. No part of the ritual could be shortened or omitted.

Ceilidh had two speeds – full and off. She was a will-o-the-wisp, never lighting in a single spot for long, and never amenable to petting or cuddling. The only time Ceilidh could accept stroking or petting was when she was asleep. The vet once advised us to massage a certain spot “when she was relaxing and sitting on your lap.” She never did that. She never even sat next to either one of us. In some ways, Ceilidh was more feline.

I’m rambling as memories and thoughts come to the fore. That’s okay. I doubt anyone but Fran will read this all the way through. And she’ll be smiling and nodding. And weeping, just a bit.

Because of her personality, very few people actually got to know Ceilidh. Those that did know she was truly sweet – she wanted only to kiss you. Again and again and again. And again. Her “registered name” – the one the American Kennel Club knew about – was Sugar Sweet Party Attitude. Be careful what you name your dogs.

About three years ago Ceilidh was diagnosed with a couple of serious heart conditions. One involved the valves, the other caused her heart to skip beats. For long moments, like it just didn’t remember it had a job. We kept it under control with medication, but over time, her wiring seemed to deteriorate. She became very sensitive to the weather – changes in barometric pressure resulted in her not eating, sometimes for more than a day. We always had trouble keeping her weight up – she used so many calories. Thunderstorms were terrifying. Any loud noise was scary. Her attitude became more fear than joy – it was probably the first sign that her time with us was shortening. Of course, we didn’t know it then. The signs are always clearer when they’re behind you.

Ceilidh was the bravest girl in the world – not because she wasn’t afraid. Because she was frightened, and charged on anyway, just because we asked her to. In her own way, she loved us as fiercely as we loved her.

So our beautiful, small, smiling girl is gone. I’d like to, but I don’t really believe in the Rainbow Bridge, where our dogs wait for us to join them. I’d like to think that a healthy Razzmatazz, with his sight back, is once again taking care of the little, fragile, sweet Boston puppy. So, for now, I’ll pretend I do. - Hope


KarenTX said...

I did read it all the way through and I am so sorry for your loss. Bless her heart, maybe now she has no fear. I, too, had one of those different wired dogs, my little Tootsie, a Rat Terrier. She was the friendliest little bitty thing, until she reached about 5 or so. Then she became frightened of almost everything. Have no clue why. Only people she liked was me, my grown kids and my neighbor. Loved to go riding in the car, but hated getting to wherever we were going. She graced me sometimes with curling up beside me on the couch, but if I called her to come, she'd just look at me and go the other way. I lost her this past February with kidney failure at age 8. Too soon. What I wouldn't give for one more "Tootsie look." My heart goes out to you both.

Pam and Cabot said...

That was a beautiful tribute to your special girl. I've lost 2 boys this past year (Rott'n Ben and Frenchie Jerry) and it helped me, tremendously, to write out the story of their lives. Helped me to remember all the good times, and not so much about the end of their lives.....

May you rest in peace, little Ceilidh. And, if there is a Rainbow Bridge, I'm sure my boys would be delighted to have you snuggle up to their warm fur.

Carlene said...

I don't know if I can read the whole post yet. I'm so sorry.

Johann The Dog said...

Oh you two...I am so sorry for your loss. What a great tribute; and am sure that little Ceilidh is happy and content where she is now; and that she must be so grateful for the love you shared with her over the years. Hugs to you, big, big, hugs...

agent99 said...

I read it all the way thru, and I am so sorry that she's gone. What a wonderful life you gave her! I'm a blog lurker, We found you thru Brutus' blog, and in Skokie.
I wish I'd been able to meet her, thank you for sharing her story.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I just travelled a lifetime with your story, Hope. Ceilidh sounds like a truly amazing dog that live life fully and wiht no regrets. My heart goes out to both you and Fran.

Andrea and her Frenchie crew

Hope said...

Thank you so much - all of you. It's easier knowing that you're there - lessening the pain by sharing it with us. Thank you for your generosity and for recognizing how special our little Ceilidh-girl was.

Beth said...

I read it all the way through too, Hope. I remember Ceilidh from agility class and she was so full of joy. What a beautiful tribute you have written to her. I am so sorry for your loss and my heart goes out to you and Fran. I'd like to pretend with you that she's rubbing on Razz and that Griffy is watching them.

Lgelb said...

Hope and Fran,
I'm so sorry for your loss.

Andi said...

"I’d like to, but I don’t really believe in the Rainbow Bridge, where our dogs wait for us to join them. I’d like to think that a healthy Razzmatazz, with his sight back, is once again taking care of the little, fragile, sweet Boston puppy. So, for now, I’ll pretend I do."

Hope and Fran, I do believe that they are waiting for us. It is with great comfort that I think of Sonny spending time with my dad. She was an amazing little girl and so lucky to have had the 2 of you!!!

I will go get a tissue now - lots of sympathy and love, Andi

Fran said...

Thank you, everyone. It's been 2 weeks and while it still hurts, I can talk about Ceilidh without instantly breaking down (most of the time). It helps knowing that others understand what we're going through.