The changing of the guard


Meet “Rosie”, the newest member of our family.

But before you can read about Rosie, you need to finish the story about Daisy.

I wrote a post a few months ago about “Daisy”, our 10-year-old black Labrador (“The sock mathematician”) and in the final paragraphs I noted that Daisy was coughing and gagging. We thought it was kennel cough.

Unfortunately the vet blood tests that I wrote about getting done showed that there was something more sinister going on in there, and subsequent x-rays the next day showed that fluid was flooding around her lungs. Daisy was still happy and cheerful but she was experiencing regular fits of gagging and coughing, and her energy levels were lowering. Daisy looked great; she was in perfect shape for a Labrador, and appeared to be in good health, but unfortunately she had advanced Lymphoma, and sadly her time was up.

The vet drained the reservoirs of fluid around her lungs and pumped her full of cortisone, which gave her a comfortable and pain-free 24 hour reprieve and allowed her to come home for a final night. I can only describe this gift as grateful torture. Looking at her and watching the clock tick down and knowing that we ultimately held her fate in our hands was indeed torture, but the love and attention that our family reciprocated both with Daisy and among ourselves was truly beautiful and we will be eternally grateful for that brief window in time.

Daisy hardly coughed at all during those 24 hours. She never complained or showed any pain. The kids slept on the floor with her during the night. Daisy would happily play with us for a few minutes at a time, but then would have to rest. In the morning it was like any other day from the previous 10 years. She barked at people walking down the street past our house as she always did (they chatted and children patted her over the fence). She barked as normal on her final day because, although sick, she was still on the payroll and had a job to do. An hour before we had to leave to go to the vet for the final time, Daisy gave me that “Let’s go to the park” look. I wasn’t expecting her to have the energy, but it was there. So the family (And Mitch from up the road, who also grew up with Daisy and is a part of our family anyway) all went to the park and enjoyed the sunny morning air. Daisy loved it, and on the way back to the house, a group of neighbors who chatting in the street got to say goodbye.

We were faced with the choice of putting her to sleep while she was still relatively comfortable and still very happy, or watch Daisy endure the pain and suffering that was definitely going to occur soon. In the end, we did the best thing for her. The vet was great, and the procedure was instantaneous and pain-free. She just put her head down and went to sleep. We all held her and let her go.

As a family, we all sobbed for a week.

For the days that followed, the silence in the house was deafening. We kept finding people in our house that didn’t know were there, as our four-legged alarm system was no longer active. Friends would suddenly appear in the kitchen and scare the living daylight out of us. Being able to walk to the back shed and not having to look for Daisy deposits made me sad. There was a massive void in our house. Walking in the gate after work to a silent, empty yard was devastating.

The house was filled with bunches of Daisies from friends and neighbors, because she belonged to everyone. Canine friends, “Molly”, and “Topsy”, kept searching the house when they visited but could not find their playmate. A few days after Daisy was gone, we moved emotionally from waves of sadness to that of gratitude. We were so lucky to have her for all of those 10 years, albeit a shorter than expected duration. We even feel a bit guilty that we got to have her instead of someone else, although we did happily share her with everyone we knew. Within a week of Daisy’s passing, it was clear to all of us at home that is was unsatisfactory to live without the constant unconditional love and companionship of a Labrador.

So we went back to well and got another one.

“Rosie” (we stuck with the flower theme) is a bouncy, endlessly energetic, 12 week old purebred female black lab, just like Daisy was, and she is the most beautiful creature we have ever seen. We wondered if it was wrong to try to replace perfection with the same breed, gender, and coloring, in case the comparison led to disappointment, but in the end we realised that we were not replacing Daisy, but honoring her and continuing her legacy.

Rosie is asleep with her head resting on my foot as I am writing this. I’m trying to stay still so she doesn’t fall off.

When she first arrived at home, after a very long car journey, we filled up Daisy’s large water bowl so Rosie could have a drink, as she looked a little hot. Instead of lapping at the edge of the bowl, she just climbed into the bowl and had a swim (pictured). Then she posed for photos. That was it for us; game, set, match.

That moment signaled the change.

Rosie has been with us for a month now and we have all fallen completely in love with her. We have said goodbye to our garden and anything that can be chewed, and I am thoroughly enjoying having to navigate the backyard minefield again. We laugh at the trails of toilet paper that we find unraveled down our hallway, and we walk wide-legged and in slow movements around the kitchen as Rosie buzzes around our legs and attaches herself to our shoe laces. She clamps her razor sharp little needles to anything loose and expensive. It takes us an extra 1o minutes just to leave the house because there is so much going on under our feet. We are now remembering and reliving what puppy training is all about and find ourselves respectfully reminiscing about things that Daisy did in her youth that were long forgotten. The memories have all come flooding back. Rosie is digging out old toys in the garden that we haven’t seen for years. We bought her one of those rubber “Kong” toys that you stuff food into to keep them occupied, but before we could give it to her, she had found an identical, weathered one, in the garden that had been buried a long time ago. Should we give her the new one or re-use the old one? We kept both.

At last we can now face walking to the park at the bottom of our street again. I had found myself standing on the footpath, gazing down toward the park the end of the street, but immediately dismissing any exercise. Now I look forward to it again.

We were worried that getting a new puppy was not such a good idea so soon after Daisy had passed away, but the best way to heal love, is with love. They will never be the same dogs, but they will be equally as rewarding in their unconditional love and companionship. And there is something about the constant noise and activity that they bring with them. I’ll never complain about barking again.

So thankyou forever Daisy, and welcome now Rosie … and that, folks, completes the changing of the guard.

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2 Responses to The changing of the guard

  1. Andrew Rutter says:

    Beautifully written Nolesy. We got Lenny (now 16 months) as a pre-emptive measure given Buster is 15yo. Not looking forward to the day we have to say goodbye to the old fella, but having the new pup will soften the blow. xx Ruttsy


    • Nolsie says:

      Smart move, when I was growing up we did the same with our dogs, and it will give Buster a spark and help break in Lenny. You’ll fall apart when Buster goes, we all did with Daisy, but as you say, it will soften the blow having Lenny because you won’t be left in a silent vacuum! Speaking of a vacuum, just over 60 days until the season starts, bring it on. Cheers Nolsie


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