Monday, January 3, 2011

The Dog Blog

Welcome to my dog blog. I operate Southern Ontario Border Collie Rescue from my home and dog boarding business, Roverdale.

My first post is a tribute to Molly the Collie, the dog who put me on this path.
Molly came to me in the Spring of 1996. She was a 5.5 month old Border Collie pup, who had been left with my Vet by her elderly owner. She had been given to understand that Border Collies and Shelties were the same breed and could not handle her needs and her energy. I took her home for the weekend as I hated to see her in a cage at the Vet. I lived on the Boardwalk in the Toronto Beaches neighbourhood so I envisioned long rambling walks and meeting new doggy friends, with worries no greater than making sure I had enough poop bags in my pocket. But I quickly learned that Molly had a lot of issues - she was touch-sensitive, noise sensitive, fear-aggressive, and chased everything that moved. Cars, joggers, roller bladers, she choked herself constantly flinging herself at them. I knew nothing about the breed and their herding instincts. But I was about to learn! What I saw an intense little dog that had been let down by everyone in her life up to that point.

Come Monday morning I took her back to my Vet - to ask if I could keep her.

The first two years were exhausting. We were both on such a huge learning curve. I met with her original owner. The "breeder" had only cared about the exchange of money. Molly was a basket case. She had never been walked on leash, and was not let out into the back yard because of fears she would wreck the garden. She was kept in a crate in the kitchen, and allowed out to eliminate on newspaper. For exercise the old lady bounced a ball off the fridge for her to play with. Every so often the grandchildren came by and dragged her out of her crate to "play". By the time she came to me she thought all children were spawn of the devil.
I tracked down her "breeder" and was appalled. I contacted Border Collie Rescue as I wanted to know what could be done about such people. The reply was disheartening - our weak Municipal regulations and Animal Welfare laws allow people like her to use dogs as non-stop commercial breeding machines. But I saw that there were ways that I could help the Rescue and other misunderstood dogs like Molly and I started to get involved. Initially I ensured that all the foster dogs were altered prior to adoption. I booked the foster dogs into the Municipal low cost Spay/Neuter Clinic and cared for them until they could be returned to their foster homes. My first stab at fostering a dog was highly successful - she was with me for only five days before I found her a home. "Piece of cake" I thought smugly. I was soon humbled.
In the meantime, Molly and I were a work in progress. She was a handful in obedience class. For a while I had to muzzle her due to concerns she would escalate into a fear-biter (she had torn clothes). I took her with me just about everywhere I went, which included downtown office buildings. I encouraged my clients to give her treats and instructed them on how to pet her under the chin so she would not be intimidated. She was still fear aggressive with strangers. The kid issue was my biggest concern. I contacted Dr. Pamela Reid for help with behavioural problems. She was great. She would call me to say "I'm meeting a client from 3 - 4pm, meet me afterwards and we'll work with Molly". Her initial consultation fee was high, but she gave us a lot of her time and wisdom over the next six months and never asked for another cent. She encouraged us to enroll in Flyball Classes with the team she was racing with. Everyone had been informed and did as asked, and Molly started to relax and enjoy it. We eventually joined a Flyball Team and started learning Agility. I also took her out to one of my new Rescue friend's farm and we got to learn about sheep herding.
Eventually, two more dogs joined my household; Christie, a dumped mixed breed dog, and Meg, another misunderstood Border Collie pup. I worked at training them while still fostering rescued Border Collies. I sold my Beaches apartment and bought a detached house with a yard. I started to look longingly at out of town real estate listings and explore zoning and things foreign to a life-long City Dweller, like wells and septic systems. As my focus changed, so did my employment. Eventually I gave up my Process Serving business and started a new one as a Professional Dog Walker. Four years later I found a run down property for sale zoned as a licensed dog boarding kennel. It was a reasonable commute from Toronto and promised to be more accessible once Hwy 404 was extended further north. In 2008, I bought it and started fixing it up, and Roverdale Doggie B&B was born.

Molly was my copilot through all these changes. She had overcome her bad beginnings and had transformed into an awesome little Border Collie. We were even able to create positive associations that got her past her initial dislike of children, and she became a Therapy Dog at age 8.

But the trouble with loving dogs is that you start off caring and nurturing a childlike creature, and end up being caregiver to an elderly, querulous companion, one who often as not doesn't even recognize you. I could not imagine life without Molly. But at age 12 her cataracts put a stop to even fun agility - her depth perception was affected. At age 14 she was exhibiting neurological symptoms that affected her balance. The Vet diagnosed Canine Vestibular Syndrome, and I would find her spreadeagled on the floor having attacks of vertigo. I often had to carry her outside. I didn't mind cleaning her up after accidents, and she would recover and didn't seem to be in pain. She was just quietly fading away. She went for regular Vet checkups and bloodwork came back normal each time. I was not going to let her go until she decided it was time.

That time came in October 2010, just shy of Molly's 15th birthday. At the start of the Thanksgiving weekend she stopped eating and drinking. After five days I was certain that her time had come. Then we had a late bout of mild sunny weather and she perked right up. She started eating and drinking and spent the days wandering about on the grass out front, and sleeping in sunny spots. Then the weather turned and became cloudy and cold, and the oncoming Winter made it's presence known. As it did, she died.

During that last sunny period, I wrote the tribute below to the dog who changed my life in so many ways. Molly, you will be with me in my heart, in my soul, forever.

by Luan Egan

Fall is upon us. Leaves flash crimson, then drop to nourish new life.
In the twilight of an old dog’s day, I sit beside her feeble form.
I watch her dream of balls and sheep.
I reflect on what has gone before, how lucky I was that she found me.
She changed my life.
The start of this journey, full of vibrant energy and enthusiasm.
Exploring life and new adventures, all the things we worked through, together.

Soon, too soon she will be lost to my touch, as she moves beyond my existence,
forever into the realm of dreams.
Soon, too soon I will have only my memories, to comfort me, to remind me of how special she is, what she means to me.

The time is approaching, dear friend, to say goodbye. That’ll Do, one last time.

Until we meet again in that realm of dreams, Dog of my heart,
Watch for me.

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