Doggy Ghost Stories
I was just reading Darcie’s blog at thedishbydarcie.com and it got me thinking about my own special doggie loss and its sequelae.
Frenzy was an Australian shepherd that I shepherded into this world with the able assistance of her mother Luna. From the earliest days in the litter box she stood out – she had incredibly violet eyes that would bore into you. She was also very cute and very funny; even in a world of funny Aussie puppies she stood out. So it was written that I would fall in love with her – who ever can resist a young’un who makes you laugh? Certainly not me!
As she matured she and I bonded closely. She was special: bright, small and agile, a very clever and talented dog. She was also quite creative and, I’m afraid, quite spoiled. At agility trials she caught people’s eye for her beauty and her individuality. I was still quite the novice in agility, not especially knowledgeable about dog behavior, and she taught me a lot about both! I can see now that she was obviously shook up by the different agility trial venues. One incident occurred at a huge indoor trial in New York where she suddenly saw the demon judge in the ring when she arrived at the table. She barked and barked, and finally sat. Next obstacle was the A-frame, and she hit the peak and barked and barked, and stayed there. Who could blame her? The judge was a one-armed man dressed in black. We slunk out of the ring, me embarrassed, her horrified. In those days I could be embarrassed by what happened in the ring. That’s changed, too.
She’d frequently be running a course happily – fast and focused – and reach the end of the dogwalk, or the end of a line of jumps, and just lose focus, stare seemingly into space, and I was clueless as to what had happened, just said it was, well, “just Frenzy,” that she was whacky.
She was very typically Aussie: bright, willing to work, and opinionated. She wasn’t usually much of a barker, but when she had something to say to me she never held back. If I made what she considered a handling error – and she was much better at understanding who was responsible for 99.9% of the errors out there than I was – she would stop and bark at me, or if that error happened on entering the weave poles, if I called her out of the poles and redirected her back into them, she’d frequently give me a good nip on the arm, belly – even once on the forehead, right between the eyes. Those were times I left the ring as quickly as I could after our run, hoping the judge wouldn’t see the blood streaming down my arm/face. Little brat. She corrected me more severely than I ever corrected her!
Frenzy’s life was cut short at age 7 when she apparently chased a critter onto the highway near our home and was struck dead by a car. I’ve lost many dogs before and some since, and none hit me as hard as her death. Part of it, of course, was the suddenness of it, and the horror of finding her lying at the side of the road. Most of it was the loss of a very special soul and the emptiness that her absence left me with.
Soon afterward I casually mentioned to a friend who is involved in Aussie rescue that I could be interested in a puppy, if one were to come available in several months. No hurry; I wanted time to heal my wounds a bit. Within a week I saw photos of a lovely litter of puppies, and one of a little scalawag puppy in Georgia. That scalawag puppy had been born in a shelter in North Carolina. Conditions at the shelter were such that she and her brother were the only two of the litter that didn’t freeze to death. Mom and the two pups were taken by Aussie rescue to Georgia and soon put in a foster home. The photo I saw in my email captured me: there was something about her… Genie joined us at the end of December; Frenzy had died in October.
We’re pretty sure she channels Frenzy. I miss Frenzy every day, and though it’s now bittersweet instead of pure pain, I still cry when I think about her, but I never have dreamed about her – I have no stories of feeling her with me as I walk about, no sensation of her being nearby while I’m asleep. I don’t need to: Genie is here.
Now, Genie is different than Frenzy. Sometimes I think Genie is here to punish me for something I did or didn’t do for Frenzy (just kidding, but if you knew Genie like I know Genie…). It could just be that I’ve spoiled her even more than I spoiled Frenzy. She’s more opinionated, more sensitive to locations (loses it frequently at agility trials), barks a lot, demands that I give her the cookie RIGHT NOW! – acts like Frenzy multiplied by 10. Genie is sweet, loves to cuddle, is very devoted to me, so she does have some saving graces. Good thing, that! She’s even a good agility demo dog.
Genie is special: bright, small and agile, a very clever and talented dog. She is also quite creative and, I’m afraid, quite spoiled. At agility trials, after she has entertained the crowd for upwards of a minute, this comment is often heard: “She’s SO cute!” I don’t get embarrassed with her – my friend Karen runs her and if there’s any embarrassment it’s hers; but she actually volunteers to run Genie. Not because I won’t but because I can’t – these days – I’m pretty lame, waiting for a knee replacement this winter. Next year I can be embarrassed – or not – by her. It’s guaranteed I’ll be entertained.
So there are ways to get past a loss of such magnitude: laughter is key, raising a bad puppy to become a bad adult dog (bad in the good sense, of course), seeing the characteristics of the lost one emerge in the replacement. Understand that the word replacement is used advisedly. There is no replacing Frenzy, and there will be no replacing Genie. In addition to being Genie, she brings Frenzy to life for me every day.