Monday, January 24, 2011

Thelma




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.

Thelma
Sept. 6, 2000  - Jan. 24,  2011

17 comments:

Aylisha said...

Oohh....what a wonderful post and tribute to Thelma. So sad, but so well shared! HUGS!

Funder said...

Oh, dammit, nothing makes me bawl like goodbye dog posts. I'm so sorry for your loss, Jonni. You did right by her though.

Susan said...

Great write up, Jonni. Thelma was such a pretty dog. Sigh. Hugs.
Susan

Tammy said...

"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."

I made it this far... and reading this sentence broke my heart...

A beautiful tribute to a wonderful friend. Peace to you, Jonni. God speed, Thelma.

AareneX said...

All people should be so lucky, as to have such a good dog.

All dogs should be so lucky, to have such good people.

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

She looks like a lovely dog. Hugs.

Cheyenne said...

What can I say? wonderful dog, and a really moving post. I am sad for your loss.

Horses Are Our Lives said...

what a beautiful story. Thelma was loved. And by the photos, she loved her life with you, and the kitties. Hugs to you. Yes, when we love our pets, and they are part of our family, it is hard to say goodbye.

Tammy in TX said...

What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful dog. You did her a great honor in writing this. And yes, I teared up at the end. Hugs.

Endurance Granny said...

I'm sorry for your loss. Dogs are such a gift, so unconditionally loving. My old one is lying on the couch, but I think of what is coming almost daily.

Hugs.

~E.G.

Merri said...

awww, rest in peace Thelma. You too.
- The Equestrian Vagabond

Horses Are Our Lives said...

I'm missing your blogs, but read your posts on facebook! I can't wait until we're into riding season too!
I left you a "Stylish Award" on my blog! I enjoy reading your stories on your blog!

Karen C. said...

I accidentally ran across your blog and just read Thelma's story. Wow, what a wonderful dog, and how lucky for all of you to have each other. I am so sorry for your loss, but also so happy that you had the foresight to bring the vet to the truck...HER truck. :-)

Dom said...

She was beautiful. I am so sorry for your loss.

Mikey said...

Oh gosh, I am so sorry for your loss. I've been following your adventures for a year or two now and I remember your stories about her. I have a soft spot for those Catahoulas. They are exceptionally strong, loyal, amazing creatures. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful dog. She was most certainly a special dog.
Thank you for your comment about the bull. I still feel heartsick about it, we're pretty sure a semi hit him (had to be, a car would have been totaled) and the police have no report of anything happening.
Love your adventures and the miles you and Hank go. You two are a great pair together and even though I don't always comment, I love to read about your rides.

Unknown said...

We are very sorry for your loss. But also glad that Thelma is no longer in pain. My wife and I have had to leave 2 dogs at the vet. for the end, in our 29 years together.
What got me to your blog was me doing an image search on google for Fawn Colored Catahoula's.
When I saw the picture of Thelma as a pup, I thought that it was a picture posted by the rescue we got Prudence from (our Fawn Catahoula), she is almost an identical to Thelma.
So I clicked on it and just had to read your story.
Thank you for sharing. I wish all dogs had such loving owners. It seems rare these days to find the ones that know these are living souls not just an animal to own.
Peace be with you and yours.

Michael& Jeannette

Cindy D. said...

I am 2 years behind but that is a wonderful story