Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dinah



Dinah was the epitome of a family dog.

We worked together every day and she was a shadow within my shadow each step of the way.

The only time she left her place at my heels was to follow my daughter; she took the job as companion, playmate and guardian of what was most precious to me with the grave intensity that was her way.

At night, after a long hard day, she spent her evenings dozing with my husband in the recliner, with her head in his hand while he methodically scratched her ears.

Her relationship was unique to each of us, and of her own design, because Dinah was not a dog who took kindly to being told what to do.

She did things as she saw fit, lucky for us, she also had an unflagging loyalty and the deep rooted sense of duty that goes hand in hand with devotion. Dinah had lived with us for many years before I realized I never actually trained her to do anything. I could not take credit for my well behaved little dog. She would see a gap and fill it, meet a friend and keep them, and was polite to everyone else, while making it clear they weren't members of her inner circle. She came because she was interested in what I had to say, heeled because that was the spot she chose for travel, and accepted my guidance as long as it was practical.

I rarely had to find her, if she was gone, she was busy, and never felt a moment's remorse when I tracked her down. At best, she might run to me and then back to the hole she was working, inviting me to help dig the varmint out, normally, she would pull her head from the ground, her white muzzle and paws covered with dirt, and look at me with clear annoyance. Obedience wasn't in her vocabulary, she was a good dog because she chose to be.

Dinah made an art form of totally dissing those beneath her yet still left them desperately vying for her attention, a talent I always envied.

She was a Jack Russell Corgi mix, a small, stout dog. She carried twenty pounds of hard muscle on her sturdy frame. She looked like a tiny Corgi, with maybe an extra inch or so of leg, a rounder face, shorter back and larger eye. In her prime she could leap from a stand still and look you in the eye. "Every Corgi's fantasy," was how our vet described the springs in her legs.

She got me over, forever and a day, my unfounded prejudice against small dogs. The thought of a sixty pound Dinah was a terrifying one.

She developed her hunting skills on her own, mousing in the barn and basement, then moving on to ground squirrels, water rats and the occasional prairie dog. It wasn't uncommon to see Dinah and a few  barn cats waiting patiently around a mouse hole.

It wasn't until we paired her with Charlie, out Rat Terrier, that she became a master. Between the two of them they became murdering machines. Dinah would wait by a burrow or hidey hole deep in the scrub oak, and Charlie would drive the hapless rabbit or squirrel into her waiting jaws.

She would lie quiet next to a pallet loaded with grain bags while Charlie dug and barked on the other side, so still, the panicked mice would bolt right across her paws to their doom.

She knew to lie upwind of a prairie dog colony while Charlie barked and played the fool for the chattering group. The sentinels would shriek the alarm and they would all pop up and down, cursing and taunting Charlie.  On a good day she could take two or three before they ever knew she was behind them. Prairie dogs aren't the sharpest tool in the shed, my dog team could wipe out a small colony in a matter of days.

Pigeons were controlled during nesting season, they would haunt the barns as the peeps of the fledglings grew stronger. Dinah and Charlie rarely missed first flight day and the pigeon casualties were always high.

My dog were a valuable vermin control team, it made them welcome every where we worked.

Dinah traveled the show circuit with us. She slept curled next to Clare on the road and never grew tired of travel.
She never wandered and would wait patiently at the gate while we competed. She comforted the kidlette while she learned the art of sportsmanship and kept me company while I waited for my midnight go. She was content to sleep with us in the nest built into the nose of our trailer, but happiest when we smuggled her into a motel.

Nothing made Dinah happier than the words, "Let's go to the horse show!"

She was my child's closest friend. Raising your kid at the barn is a fantastic gift, but it can be lonely. The kidlette and Dinah made forts, climbed trees (I'm serious), played horses and a crazy version of Agility. Dinah would perform like a circus monkey for my daughter, because it was part of the game. They swam together at friends pools, rode crammed together in the saddle and spooned for naps in the sun.

When Dinah was 10-years-old, she suddenly, without warning, retired from being a barn dog. One morning, she simply didn't want to leave the house. She hung her head and half crouched instead of doing her happy dog dance at the door. I let her stay home and the performance was repeated the next day, and then the next.

A trip to the vet found nothing wrong. For whatever reason, Dinah had retired. Less than a year later, my own illness forced me to follow her.

As my writing career progressed, I spent more time on the computer. Dinah made a bed under my chair and became my official chair troll. She has been under my chair as I wrote for the last six years.

I write this today with the understanding that Dinah was with me through the best years of my life. Not the easiest, not the smoothest, in many ways, the most painful, but still the best.

I am so grateful to have shared these years with her. Although there is a bittersweet emptiness under my chair, I still can feel her steady trot at my heels, her shadow within my shadow. We had a great run, Dinah and I.







22 comments:

Wyndermere said...

What a wonderful tribute. You really have a gift with words.

Sarah W. Kinninger said...

I am so sorry Mugwump. So very sorry. It is so rare to have a dog like that and when you get one, you have won the lottery.

My Jack was just like the Dinah you wrote about - horse show loving, varmint hunting master, never trained but perfect in every way. Lost him last year. The hole left by that loss is bigger than I ever imagined it would be.

Knowing you had a dog like that makes me very happy for you; the pain of losing such a treasure, an animal that some how resembles us in some way, that pain is priceless. No one should ever lose a dog like that, they should live forever. But having had one is a gift and I know with my Jack, the pain is the reminder that what we had was completely undeserved.

Antonia Wood said...

I have a chair troll of my own, and the day I sit here and she isn't there, is going to hurt so much.

Anonymous said...

Such a good girl!!!!

susie said...

I hate it when a good pet dies. I wish they could live with us forever and never go away. I'm so sorry your Dinah had to leave you.

Anonymous said...

So sorry for your loss. I had a wonderful Corgi companion myself and I still miss him five year later.

bassgirl said...

I love this story that you posted about Dinah last year. I hope it brings a smile as you recall the event.

http://mugwumpchronicles.blogspot.com/2013/07/squirrel.html

--Bassgirl

Anonymous said...

When we loose them, they take a piece of our hearts with them.
We will be reunited with them..in the life to come. When we are all made whole and perfect again, never to be parted.

Heather said...

I think that, part of what makes the great ones great is that they are effortless. We always love the troubled child that we have to work hard with, but the ones that just git 'er dun on their own terms are the ones that we always remember for their greatness and dependability.

You gave Dinah the best life she could possibly have and I'm sure she left knowing that she was loved and that she had a place in the world, which is all a dog ever really wants.

My deepest sympathies for your loss.

-Heather

mugwump said...

Bassgirl- That made my day. Thanks.

Cindy D. said...

I'm really at a loss for words. To say "Sorry for your loss" feels like a worn out cliche' to me. However, I am sorry that your companion is gone. Wyndermere was right, it was a wonderful tribute you wrote, and I for one appreciate that you shared it with us. I also remember and love the squirrel story.

I have always said that if I was ever going to own a small dog, I would chose a corgi, there is just something about them...

mugwump said...

She looked like a Corgi....but the JRT shone through in who she was.

Heidi the Hick said...

Thank you for sharing her story with us.

She'll always be your dog. Never forgotten. The good ones stay with us forever.

Please give the kidlette our condolences too.

Helen said...

Now trying not to show I'm in tears at work...

[Quote]
When Dinah was 10-years-old, she suddenly, without warning, retired from being a barn dog. One morning, she simply didn't want to leave the house. She hung her head and half crouched instead of doing her happy dog dance at the door. I let her stay home and the performance was repeated the next day, and then the next.

A trip to the vet found nothing wrong. For whatever reason, Dinah had retired. Less than a year later, my own illness forced me to follow her.
[End quote]

That made me think that perhaps Dinah picked up on your PD symptoms before the humans did, and appointed herself chair troll for that reason?

GreyDrakkon said...

I also thought of the squirrel story when reading this, Dinah was a clever thing, wasn't she?

Anonymous said...

That was a beautiful tribute. I also thought of her lying under the table waiting for the hapless house squirrel. My condolences.

Anonymous said...

I had my own chair troll/varmint killer, who left this earth in November, 2012. Although I have other dogs, she was special. I am so sorry you lost yours. Blessings.

Clancy said...

Ah, you've made me cry, remembering all the ones who've left a hole in my world when it was their time to pass. Thank you for sharing the stories of her.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

I lost my corgi a few years ago. Nothing like them. What a sweet loving memorial.

Bif said...

So sorry you lost her, so grateful you shared her with us :)

Bif said...

So sorry you lost her, so grateful you shared her with us :)

Jamie Yucuis said...

So sorry for you loss.

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