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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


So the last bits of our tree, recognizable as a tree, disappeared today. This machine is huge, noisy and fast. A tree stump over 30 inches in diameter disappeared in less than an hour. It was actually kind of cool to watch - back and forth just pulping that thing. Now we have lots and lots of mulch. It's a good thing. - Hope

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gas Explosion

We live in a quiet neighborhood. Aside from the occasional explosion. Lightning during a storm early Saturday afternoon hit a power line which hit a gas line igniting a fire. Flames shot up 25 - 30 feet in the air. Authorities evacuated those living closest to the fire. Power was shut off for those of us unlucky enough to live in a four-block radius. As dramatic as this appears, fortunately no one was hurt.

Gas company crews beginning to tear up the street after the fire was extinguished to repair the gas leak.

The poor stop sign after the fire was put out. (This is a close-up from the above picture.)

The nice electric company crews working to restore our power. The fire had been burning for four hours. Our power was restored after about five hours. Five gas company, four electric company, numerous police cars and a couple of fire trucks were on the scene all afternoon. -Fran

Friday, August 19, 2011

A good training night!

Last night was Agility Class and I think maybe, hopefully, perhaps? - Tango is starting to get the idea! No snarking, very little barking, he paid attention and pretty much did what I wanted him to do! We worked on handling jumps last night. At the start of our second set, I took my lead-out (yes, Tango stays for a lead-out!) and gave him his release word, pointing at the jump he was supposed to take - and he sat there. And sat there. I waited for him. It felt like days but was only a few seconds. Tango screwed up his courage and jumped, following my direction! And was happy doing it! He got lots of cookies! -Fran

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dynamite (T and T)

Teddy and Tango were being unbelievably cute this morning. Teddy's chomping on a Nylabone, and Tango waited his turn. Because, of course, there's only one good toy in the house. And it's the one the other guy has. - Hope

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Yesterday and today

Yesterday we had the Norway Maple tree in our backyard cut down. We were convinced of the need by the number of huge branches, narrowly missing our power lines, house, and garage that had come down during each of the storms that have blasted through our area this summer. It was a bit of a sad/relieved feeling. Relieved we won't have to worry about the tree coming down on its own. Sad because our father planted that tree more than 50 years ago and it's been a constant in our lives.
We are hoping it will have a second life - as our new kitchen cabinets. We found a local company that recycles trees into lumber. Watching them maneuver the giant logs out of our yard yesterday was a nail-biter - but the loader was amazing.

This is all that's left of the tree today. Teddy, as always, sees it-climbs it. Dax always enjoyed lying in that spot when the tree was there. Don't know what she'll do when they remove the stump.

Tango likes to dig in the wood chips and chew on them.

And he thinks its funny. He's right. - Hope

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Waiting for supper

Dax and Teddy look calm, but they're ready to spring into action as soon as their bowls start moving toward the floor! - Hope