Friday, January 20, 2012
A New Leash on Life
by Donna Matern
Shortly before he died, my husband Lee picked out a sweet little Cardigan Welsh Corgi pup for me, in hopes that she would bring me comfort and companionship. Terra has turned out to be all of that and more. She was a star in dog obedience and agility classes, and a fine companion on hikes, working in the yard, riding in the car to visit grandchildren, snoozing by the fire at night: all the attributes we love in our pet dogs.
So it was with a little trepidation that I decided to co-raise a Guide Dog puppy named Visa this past October. After all, Terra is now over 14 years old. I wondered if the new pup would just be too hard on her. I pictured rough play, feeding time issues, fights over toys, competition for my attention, etc. What I didn’t count on at all was this: little old Terra has an entirely new leash on life!
She has been remarkably healthy for most of her life, but in the past year Terra has definitely slowed down. Before Visa arrived on the scene, it was all Terra could do to accompany me down our country lane to the mailbox. She’d make several stops along the way, and on cold mornings she hopped with her two back feet as one, as if it hurt to do a normal trot. Her eyes are clouded with cataracts and her hearing is just about gone. Despite all of these age-related issues, though, Terra never fails go greet me at the door with a wagging tail and happy dance. How could I inflict a squirming mass of Lab puppy on my dear old girl?
At first, Terra tried to ignore the pup, but as anyone knows about Labs, they are not to be denied. So Terra did a little play-fighting, fake-biting, and twirling around for a few minutes, then retired to a neutral corner. Visa wasn’t having any of that. Soon Terra figured out that she could use her doggie-door to make a hasty retreat outside, while Visa stood at the sliding door, baffled by the sudden disappearance of her playmate.
Sparring between the two dogs lessened, while at the same time I often found them just hanging out together, trailing around the yard as a pair, lapping water together, walking down to the mailbox with me in tandem. I left Terra home when I took the pup on longer walks, but then after an experimental outing, I realized that Terra was up to the greater distances, and seemed to relish them. She resumed her old habit of “FRAPping” around the house; “Frantic Rapid Activity Periods”) daring Visa to catch her.
My property is a graveyard for 14 years’ worth of Terra’s treasures: mummified gophers and moles, lizards, snakeskins, parings from the horses’ feet, bones, decayed food from the compost bin, etc. Visa’s arrival here has prompted Terra to resurrect many of these items and basically display them to the pup, but only when Visa is in her crate or on a tie-down. The poor puppy does somersaults and cartwheels at the end of her tie-down, while Terra nuzzles her prized possessions in tantalizing proximity to Visa,but juuuust out of reach.
This morning I was working with Visa on the basketball court, away from all distractions like leaves, sticks and grass. What I didn’t count on was Terra, parading back and forth behind the fence, with an entire ancient, petrified squirrel carcass in her mouth.
My fears that a Lab puppy would be the end of my old corgi have certainly disappeared. Now I’m worried that the old timer is just a little too much for the baby!