Monday, January 24, 2011


We met her and said "hello" the first time a little over 10 years ago when she was just 5 weeks old, and she was in the bed of a pick up with her brothers and sisters at a local tractor auction. We said our final goodbye to her today, in the bed of our pickup, at the vet office.

When we moved here, we wanted a dog to keep an eye on the property, keep coyotes away, and be a guard dog if needed. But we also wanted one to be nice to the kitties. My husband had always wanted a Catahoula. They are a hog hunting dog, and those he had known were very smart. So when we went to the fairgrounds that day, and saw the sign saying "Catahoulas for sale", we just had to go take a peek.  As we watched the pups, one stood out. Not because of her color, as she was actually sort of bland as compared to her merle colored siblings, but because she was very sure of her self. She move the others out of the way to go get some food, but did not fuss or whine when picked up to be looked over. Something about her made us decide she was the one to bring home.
She quickly grew, and grew, and grew. Standards for a female Catahoula are 60 to 65 pounds. By the time Thelma stopped, she weighed in at 80 pounds.

She was a hard headed, stubborn pup, which we had been warned about the breed.  But she learned her duties very quickly. At 10 months old some wild pigs came on the property, and she took off after them and had one cornered. When it made a break for it, she grabbed it, and flipped it, but it got away.

She instantly took to the cats, and adored them. Thelma never met a cat she did not like, even though new ones were not keen on her until she kept wagging her tail, going up to the slowly, and showing them she was their friend.

Once they figured out she liked them, They in turn, liked her.  Peanut, who came with the house, had feared dogs from the previous owners, but quickly figured out Thelma was a great place to keep warm.

I hope at least some of her "kitty love" has rubbed off on young Mardi. But I don't think it will ever be like what Thelma had with the cats. We would watch her whine at stray cats when she was in the back of the truck at the feed store. Not to chase them, but I think she wanted to go met them.

 She stayed fit and active. Between doing those doggy things, like patrolling the property all night for things that should not be there, she loved to go out when we took the 4 wheeler, and race it back across the pasture. 80 pounds of muscle. My husband saw her one day take across the pasture for a coyote who was chasing a fawn, barrel in to it, knock it down, and come up shaking it by a front leg.  Did I mention she HATED coyotes? Smelling them on the wind would make her sit and growl, sniffing in the direction the scent came from.

In 2009, when I started traveling to so many rides around the country, Thelma found her place in the back seat, heading to the rides with me. She was getting older, and leaving her home was not a good option, as my hubby was often away for work.  As soon as I would start to pack the truck and trailer, she would lay down near the truck, and not let me out of her sight. She wanted to make sure she got to go too. A good traveler, she would sleep in the back seat, occasionally standing up, letting me know she needed a potty break.

She always camped well, and only barked if another dog entered HER area. She was easy to travel with, and if I went to a ride without her, I'd find myself glancing in the backseat, to see what she was doing.  2009 was a pretty special year for her, and part of the memories from my travels, was having her along.  Thelma had never really liked me, like she liked my husband. No doubt she was HIS dog.  She tolerated me. I think because I was the one who was in charge of her training, and he was in charge of feeding her cookies.  But, she respected me.  
In late 2009, we knew we had better get another puppy, for Thelma to train. She was starting to have some minor health issues and was not gonna be around forever, and getting a pup, we hoped it would learn from Thelma about protecting the cats, and to hate coyotes. So, we found a Catahoula mix at a rescue, and she came home.  Even as Thelma was becoming a senior, she was very tolerant of Mardi, who had excessive energy. In fact, we saw Thelma act a bit younger, and the bouncing Mardi seemed mentally, and physically good for Thelma. But, through 2010, we could tell Thelma was starting to feel the effects of age, and a few more health issues creeping up.   Where she was always first to bark at the sight of a coyote in the distance across a pasture, now she would just sit and stare, but allow Mardi to bark and take care of things. I swear I would see a look of pride as Thelma sat there, very dignified, with a look of  "I taught her everything she knows".  We had watched Mardi grow and learn, and slowly take over the duties of the property. And, we were starting to see Thelma show more and more discomfort.  Her health was slowly declining, as expected for her age, and size.

Over this past weekend, Thelma pretty much stopped showing interest in food. Besides other issues, her lack of any appetite was a turning point in quality of life.  Sunday we spent a lot of time with her, and could tell she was ready to go.  Even my husband did not generate a tail wag from her.  So, this morning we backed up the truck to the porch, and Thelma jumped in the back.  One of her favorite things was riding in the back of the truck.  We had taken photos of her in the past (included), as I always loved the image of her in the mirror, ears in the breeze, and usually a doggy smile on her face.. So she got one more ride, and stood again with the wind in her ears.   While making the decision is always tough as to when is the right time to let them go, I guess it is normal to have some sort of doubt, when you see the animal show a bit of brief improvement. But we knew that letting things wait, even a couple days was not for the dog, but for 'us'. And that was not fair to her. Why let her deteriorate even more, and maybe start to suffer to a different level.  So seeing her have that last bit of joy, in a ride in the truck made me feel both happy for her, and sad, that it would be the last time I'd get to see that image in the truck mirror.

At the vet, we did not have to take her inside the office. They came out to the truck for us.  I've been in the vet when an owner had to bring in their animal for that final trip, and the emotions of the owners are what get to me the most. The pain they feel for their loss. I have felt that loss myself many times before, and will in the future. Anyone who has an animal will one day have to say goodbye, that last time.  While we had both spent some time with her alone that morning, telling her secrets and sharing thoughts only she would hear,  this was the final chance to tell her she was loved, and what a good girl she was, and that she taught Mardi well, and the kitties will be safe.  And if possible, I just did not want it to be inside the vet office, when she was most comfortable right now, in the back of HER truck.  I had paid for the service before the vet came out, so we could just leave when it was done.

We got her home, and let Mardi come over to see her. I had discussed this with some friends, and felt it might be easier for Mardi to actually see Thelma, sniff her, and realize she did not just disappear.  Mardi really looked up to Thelma, and was still looking towards her for approval and doggy advice. But after she checked her out, she trotted off, and has seemed OK all evening. I never underestimate how much the animals feel and know about such things.

I had a friend tell me once that after one loses an older animal, the will often feel a sense of relief, or maybe a feeling of stress release. We are not always aware that we have concerns or worry about them. But deep inside, we do worry something will happen to them while we might not be home, or they will have something happen to cause them to suffer until we can get to them. This happens with old horses too. I have had horses I worried about, and when I lost him, felt that odd release of stress that I no longer had to worry about him. And, we had that with Thelma.  Every morning I was a little apprehensive about checking her dog house until I saw her up and moving.  But tonight, while I am still feeling sad from the loss, it is MY loss I feel. She is no longer in any pain or discomfort, and for that, I am relieved.

Sept. 6, 2000  - Jan. 24,  2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Four month break

I guess I got sort of bored with the blog, and needed a break for awhile.  We finished out our Fall ride season, and in the end, Hank earned his National Championship again. We had gone to Kansas for a ride, so I was not waiting for the very last ride of the season to depend on him getting a 1st or 2nd we needed for that National Championship.  The Kansas ride was one I had not been to before, and I enjoyed getting to another new location.

 Also, the vet was Dr. Weil, who would also be vetting that last ride of the year. Dr. Weil is the vet that Hank always seemed to try doing something totally goofy at least once, getting Did Not Complete on an obstacle. But, he was good in Kansas for the most part, we earned our 2nd place, and we got to relax at the final ride.

The last ride of the year was at Lake Carl Blackwell in Oklahoma. Hubby went along too, and got to do some riding, and we stayed an extra day and rode on our own after the ride.  Hank was a really good boy all weekend, and did everything I asked, and had great metabolics.

 And, when he does well, I usually do well with horsemanship.  In the end, we both had PERFECT score cards, and won a special Silver belt buckle for the highest combined score of the ride.  I was pretty shocked, but really excited that we had finally done so well with Dr. Weil. Maybe Hank decided entertaining him was not as much fun as before. ;-)

Then, our first ride of the 2010 ride season was in December, and Hank again won his class, and Sweepstakes for the ride (highest score of the division) . So, since we have not had any other rides yet, Hank is leading the nation in points. lol

Our ride season picks back up again in March. I have no set goals, except to try to get another National Championship again if possible. But if the fuel prices continue to rise, we may have to replan how many rides we do, and pick ones that are most favorite.

So, that is the very quick, and somewhat boring recap of whats happened since September.  I actually came on for a post that I have to do,  that is one I am not really looking forward to, but have things bouncing around in my brain, and I need to write them down. Figured I better do a quick catch up first though.