Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Doggy December - Day 3 - Tessie's descent

As yesterday's post hopefully showed you, LC and I loved our little blue heeler Tess.

She had the ability to be very enthusiastic about crap Christmas gifts.....

.....unofficially helped the Crows win their first AFL Grand Final in 1997 .......

and was most interested in meeting the fourth member of our family, young Sapphire in 1999.

She was a very intelligent dog and soon worked out that the baby was not number four in the household but number three. As such, Tess understood that the baby was something to be revered and guarded very carefully.

My nine months of maternity leave saw we three females walk the 4km around our neighbourhood each morning with me pushing Sapphire in her pram and Tess's lead being wound around my left hand as it gripped the handle. I'm still not sure who out of the three of us looked forward to it the most.

"Arrf Arrf Arrf!" Tess would bark angrily at any passerby who wanted a closer look at the smiling baby or to pat the proud little dog on her silky black ears.
"I'm so sorry," I'd smile ruefully, "Our dog's got pretty protective since the baby arrived."

In Tess's mind, her world was only complete when all three of her cherished humans were home together. No visitors, no unscheduled interruptions, no unnecessary bathtimes in cold weather. Just her rightful spot in front of the sputtery old gas heater with her nose gradually crusting up and turning white in the deliciousness of a Melbourne winter and her pack in the house with her.

Dinner party guests and droppers in were told to "Stand still - yep, that's right - and let Tess sniff you. No, DON'T OFFER HER YOUR HAND, that trick doesn't work with her; she'll just snap it off. Keep your arms folded; let her have her sniff and when she wags her tail, you can relax."

Naturally, this made dinner party kick-offs a somewhat tense affair for a lot of our guests. Tess would eventually wag her little furry stump, lick everyone in a clear and final 'Yep, you'll do' acceptance and trot off to her basket. We humans would adjourn to the kitchen and start eating, drinking and chatting.

We did lose a few nice pieces of crockery and glassware when Tess would sometimes mischieviously slink in ninja-style (a rather delicate feat when you possess clicky nails and have to traverse polished floorboards), sit under the table and - I'm sure she timed it perfectly - shove her snout up someone's trouser leg or straight into their crotch, causing them to squeal in fright and drop whatever they were holding onto the floor.

On another occasion she was rebuffed from licking Fiona, a regular houseguest, on the face as she tried to sit on the sofa and have a coffee with me, but Tess being Tess meant that she could bide her time. Early the next morning, as Fiona was still deeply in Zzz land, our furry friend crept into the spare room, saw her peacefully sleeping quarry and slurped her across her open mouth. The scream that emanated from two doors up the hall nearly shattered my eardrums and was a reminder to Fiona that an open door is an invitation to a rude awakening at 5am.

Unfortunately, Tess' guardian-like tendencies were increasing, despite stern wards, rewards, positive reinforcement, reassurances.

The side gate was left open one hot summer evening and she dashed out and bit a young guy on the leg. LC heard the commotion and ran out to grab Tess, apologise profusely to the now-bleeding man and offer some medical assistance. I hid in our semi-outdoor toilet, too nervous to go out there but desperately trying to listen in.
"Nah, she'sssh right mate, I've gotta get 'ome before the party endssssh" he slurred.
"But you're bleeding," said LC, clearly concerned.
"Jusssht a scratch, I can't feel nothin."

For several days we waited. For a council summons. A lawyer. The patched up man; angry and sober. Nothing came. "We must NEVER leave the gate open," we vowed.

Twelve months later we had moved back to Adelaide and LC made sure that the gates were secure and absolutely able to keep Tess contained. The sniffing-of-guests routine was strictly enforced and after a lot of advice and discussion, a soft-elastic muzzle was purchased for events that had kids attending.

Sapphire was almost two. Her friend Lana, was not quite three, sitting on a director's chair, placidly eating a sausage with sauce in bread. Tess had been tied up to the tree in the centre of the garden, near the table with a clear view of the action, enjoying a big juicy bone. We then untied her and put the muzzle on so that she could wander around, safely sniff everyone and feel secure again.

"That's good Lana, sit still just like that. All Tess wants to do is sniff you. Once she's sniffed you, it will be OK".

One second later Tess lunged hard for her face, generating a loud, hard 'SMACK' sound. Lana fell backwards, shocked and crying, and ended up with a tiny cut on her lip due to the force of impact. But if Tess hadn't have had the muzzle on.... Lana's parents were trying hard to reassure us that everything was OK, but that night as we lay in bed together, LC and I knew the decision we had to make.


Anonymous said...

Hi - I'm a long time lurker...but just had to comment on your post today.
We too had a well loved blue heeler, and had to make the same decision after she had snapped at our 2yr old daughter. She only left a light mark - this time.

I clearly remember sitting in the lounge looking at each other - knowing what should be said, what had to be done - but neither of us had the will to verbalize it.
We both understood without words.

It was a tough day, so I understand how you must of been feeling!


River said...

I had having to make the hard decisions like that. I had to have one of my doga put won after he attacked me.

River said...

Gosh my typing is all off today....

Pam said...

Hi Kath! De-lurking to say that Blue Heelers can be a bit nippy can't they...but oh dear, what will happen to Tess. I can imagine your concern with this incident. I must return to see what happens.What your wrote about your sleeping house-guests open mouth being slurped was very funny.We had a Flemish Giant rabbit that took a flying leap at my husband's snoring mouth from the foot of the bed one evening.I had to lean on a tree-trunk right down in the backyard for support I was laughing so hard. I could see my husband applying antiseptic to his lip in the bathroom shouting angrily at me,"I can STILL hear you!".

Baino said...

I read the other post first. Silly. That's the problem with heelers. They're bread to nip cattle and sheep, it's entrenched in their genes.

I know of a couple who have met the same fate. My nephew was badly bitten on the face when he was little by a neighbour's cattle dog. They didn't put the dog down then but eventually, it had to be done. Very sad because it was fine with it's own family, just hated everybody else.