The Getting of Cino

Monday 13th January 2014

We have driven to a small town not far from Oberon to collect our puppy. This is a good sign I think, as we lived for 20 plus happy years in Oberon Crescent in Gordon, Sydney. I cried this morning, wondering if it is too soon since Moet’s death for us to have another dog, searching my soul anxiously for answers to the question “Will I love her?”. Gerald looked me in the eyes and chastised me, reminding me of the ten or more animals we have had over 45 years of marriage, and asking was there any lack of love there? Were they not all (with one memorable exception!) polite, well behaved, loyal and loving companions?? I feel very nervous as we drive there. We have her ‘puppy cot’ in the back seat – it is a pet freight crate, with mesh sides and top, the Porsche of pet crates, bought on line for $60. We have placed inside two leopard skin cushions, a lambskin, a bag full of toys, bowls, bottled water, blankets. I think we have everything ……

Our beautiful golden retriever, Moet, (known globally as The Truly Amazing Miraculous Mo Mo Dog), died in April 2013, at thirteen years old. We actually ‘sent her to the Rainbow Bridge’, as she lay in our arms in our lounge room. She never closed her eyes as she died, I believe she was looking straight at my Mom and Dad, who were expecting her. You see, she was given 4 months to live in 2008, diagnosed with cancer throughout her body. A few challenging months later, my father lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, and died - our family was devastated.  Six months later, my mother, unable to live without her lifelong love and dancing partner, left to join my Dad.  My whole world collapsed.   I wondered how I would get up each day as grief and sorrow engulfed me. Moet’s love and companionship were ever present, and she pranced on regardless.  Unbelievably, all trace of cancer had disappeared. Even our scientific, practical vet, not inclined to flights of fancy, could find no explanation – said jokingly “It’s a miracle!” I like to think that when my folks got up there they said to God, “Look God, you can’t take her dog. PLEASE don’t take her dog! She lost both os us in six months. Can you consider leaving Moet on earth for a few more years to help her through these tough times?” And He did. She remained behind to help to heal my broken heart, to put my world back into some semblance of emotional order, and was as always, a constant companion to me, a source of love and comfort and fun and joy for another four years. That dog blessed our lives.

Nevertheless, our hearts were broken and the hole she left in our lives was enormous. I cried every day and at night, I cried myself to sleep for months. Walking on the beach, which had been Moet and my daily routine, was so painful, as locals kept asking “Where is Moet?” – and I would hate myself for feeling jealous of other owners with their dogs and puppies, running and playing with their owners, whilst I walked alone and in tears, without my best friend.

I looked up all the rescue sites, and after some weeks, spoke to trainers and vets and doggie loving friends, telling them we would be looking for a dog to rescue. We met two, by chance. We met one lovely boy the week before leaving for Africa, his name was Diesel, a mutt of a dog, who I could have loved, he fitted into my arms perfectly, and laid his head on my shoulder as if he had been there forever. He trusted me. Gerald saw my eyes, and spoke the common sense he always does, “We are going to Africa next week. It’s not fair to the dog!” I cried as I released him back.

So Diesel went on to find a new home with a man who adored him. And we went to Africa, for our 66 Days in Africa Adventure. There we were surrounded by animals of a complete different sort, elephants, leopard, lion, buffalo, hippo, warthog, rhino, monkey, cheetah, crocodile, hyena and many more. I fell in love with them all and the land of our birth once again, learned again the value of listening and observing life keenly, I was inspired by all that I saw, the people we met, the experiences we had every day in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia. We stayed with old friends, Marian and Mike Cooney, and I met their old cantankerous and very dignified rescue dog, Mr. Nu Nu (short for ’Nuisance’ – named by previous owners, who clearly were not much enamoured with dear Mr. Nu). I felt my heart soften somewhat, and began to entertain the thought that perhaps it was time, that we could have another doggie.

So on our return, my search for a doggie to adopt intensified. I trawled through websites, rescue doggy magazines, and emailed friends. I met the delightful Charmaine and Peter, recommended by our vet, doggie trainers, with their own kennels in Berry about to open, and they introduced us to a 6 month old border collie, who was so robust and so handsome and so energetic, I nearly lost both arms walking him on the beach. I knew he was too much for us. Be realistical, Sandra, I reminded myself, you are 64 and Gerald is 66. A dog is a 15 year commitment, by that time you will be 80 years old, and unable to handle a high energy, large dog. I remembered how the last three days of Moet’s life had been difficult with carrying her out to the toilet with slings, and lifting her into the car for vet’s visits. I knew this would only get harder as we got older, and so I reluctantly, but practically, said no.

I knew I could not visit the RSPCA, some of you will say that is weak, but I knew I would want to take home half the dogs there. I continued to visit sites, and spoke to many people. I began to get clear about what we truly wanted, and came to understand that what we wanted was a doggie who was safe and easy with children, as Moet was, as we have lots of children visiting and hope to be grandparents one day. I wanted a dog whose temperament we could trust, whose nature was dependable and sound, a dog like Moet was with children, gentle, kind, patient, and loving. And as much as my heart ached for the rescue dogs, and I heard so many stories of poor animals who had been so abused and mistreated, who were still frightened and sometimes unpredictable, and I knew we had to get a puppy.

On week, Gerald and I met the same dog, independently and on different days, in Berry – both of us coming home and saying “I met a gorgeous dog today!” I showed Gerald the photo I had taken, and it was of the same dog he had met.  We asked for the breeders name. Our financial director came to visit, and spoke of his two dogs, golden mutts. They were bred by the same vet who bred the dog we had seen in Berry.  And finally one of my yoga mates spoke of her doggie – and yes, it came from the same breeder. We got online and checked out Kate’s Family Pets in O’Connell, NSW. There was a waiting list a mile long, and by now our hearts and our home were ready for a doggie, and a long waiting list was daunting. We found other reputable breeders, and put our names, and deposits, on six different waiting lists.

Five days after my birthday in November, I got an email from Kate, a litter of four pups had just been born. I called her immediately and my eyes filled with tears when she told me we were the first to call, and yes, we could have the only little girl in the litter. Gerald, disbelieving, took the phone from me, and said “So just to be clear, IS SHE OURS?” Yes, she was.

We printed out photos of her and hung them about the house. When she was two weeks old, we drove five hours to O’Connell and stayed overnight in a motel, dreaming about her, and met her the next day.  She weighed 250g and was not much bigger than Gerald’s glasses. She could not walk or see, she mewled and snuffled. We held her in our arms, Gerald’s eyes wet with tears, and my heart and mind went ballistic, shall we, can we, should we, how can we? I know the foolishness of what I am about to say, but I felt I was betraying the great love I felt for Moet, and left feeling confused and emotional. Ambivalent even, to this beautiful little creature we had just met.

The tiny Baby Cino, two weeks old and safe with her Dad

The tiny Baby Cino, two weeks old and safe with her Dad

Two nights later back home in Shoalhaven Heads, I awoke from a vivid dream, I was crying, but not from sadness. Moet, (who since her death, has visited me several times, woofing beside my bed, coming on walks, and twice I have felt her hot breath panting on my cheek) was in the front garden with me, which is a garden we seldom use. She looked as healthy as she had in her youth, and stood looking at me, her red tongue panting lazily, her big shining black eyes boring into mine. Then she turned and started to walk away. I called her back, saying "Don’t go Moet, its OK darling, come back!" She stopped, obedient, as always, and looked back at me, then turned and kept walking. I called louder this time, "Moet! don’t go!!! come back Mo Mo!"  She stopped once more, looked over her shoulder, and then walked away into a heavy mist and I could not see her anymore. And I felt some gentle release in my heart, some blessing if you like, that she had stayed with me, had been looking over me, and she knew it was OK to leave me now, her job here with me was done, she had kept her promise, but now there was another little soul coming to share life with us. I felt so grateful to her for this parting gift, so typical of her generosity and grace in life.

Moet taught me so much about life, about myself, and about people. She also taught so many, many children that it is safe to love and cuddle and play with a dog, and she taught them about gentleness and kindness in themselves.  Just in the last month of her life, we had had six small children here, delighting in her, children who overcame their fears and fell in love with her. She entertained so many elderly people in two nursing homes, especially Clelland Lodge, where my Dad spent the last three months of his life, where she slept under his bed most days. I saw that elderly people are so lonely without someone to touch – they do not have children nor animals to love, and Moet would sit patiently and be patted, and after a few minutes, would respectfully move on to the next person, to share the love! Their faces always lit up, and many cried with her gentle, quiet approach. She taught everyone who met her about grace and dignity and kindness and respect. Hence she was called The Truly Amazing Miraculous Mo Mo Dog, for the many miracles she caused and the miraculous lifespan she created for herself.

Cino weighed 2.5kgs when we picked her up, a golden fluff ball. She is a half a mini poodle, a quarter Labrador, and a quarter Lagotto (an Italian working dog, they hunt for truffles).

This is the message I sent to Kate, a vet, also her breeder, yesterday:

(Like cappucinno)

Thank you for breeding such a beautiful wee soul, and for allowing us to have her in our lives. What a lovely soul she is!

She is settling in so well, and she has stolen our hearts. She was incredibly calm in the car on the way home, I sat in the back with her in her crate, and whilst she whimpered, she settled for much of the nearly 5 hour journey. We were so afraid to take her out for a wee, and when we stopped at a place where we thought no other doggies would have been, the sound of the trucks hurtling past and the cars were terrifying – to her, and to me. Once home, she was somewhat stressed, unable to sleep, and running frenetically after Gerald or I, crying pitifully if she could not see us for a minute. Our hearts broke, such big changes for such a little girl, such separation anxiety.  She never slept.

She screamed blue murder for two nights. The first night, Gerald (after saying “We will not respond to her cries, we will not reward undesirable behaviour” – he went to her, and made up his bed on the sofa alongside of her, where he spent the night. So much for ‘tough love’ in this house. I slept with her the next two nights, and Gerald did last night. But yesterday, I took her out to the front yard and put her tiny paws in the river – and she started to swim whilst I held her! She has found her way around the house, and we have had to stop her going under the house, which is cool and dark, and a big attraction. But today she is so much more relaxed, we have taken her down for her ‘first walk’ on the beach, the waves and the wind, and she ‘rode a wave’ without a trace of fear, with water swirling about her, of course, we kept a vigilant eye on her. She has met lots of people, including two little girls today, aged 2 and 4, who tuckered her out. They were the only thing I have seen her get ‘scared’ of …. tail between legs, crouching down …. but by the end of two hours, with them screaming and demanding and crying, she was calm and placid, lying under the table, and willing to be held and cuddled. This was a deliberate introduction on my part, as we want her to get to know little children and I have several more lined up to meet her! She met the garbage truck, Gerald’s work cutting concrete, the vacuum cleaner, the car, the garbage disposal unit in the kitchen, the roller door in the garage, and the motorised window blinds.

She is clearly an intelligent little dog and has already mastered “come” and “sit” and is now learning how to “beg”. Amazing! She is DEFINITELY highly sensory attuned with SMELL – she can chase balls, drag towels, kill toys, and even sexually hump a toy cat – but if she SMELLS something …. she is off! She is then digging and digging, will want to eat dried dead lizards and insects … and I will take her to the other end of the garden – but then, that little creature will dash BACK to that exact same digging hole …!  That must be the truffle hunter in her?

She does not like sunshine or heat – and we have had hot weather here as elsewhere in Australia, and it is uncomfortable for all of us. But she will actively avoid the sun, step into the shadows, find a place under the bushes and flowers. That was something I noticed immediately. On the other hand, she loves water! Gerald watering the garden and she is running under and about the spray, absolutely loving it, looking like a drowned rat. And the ocean today, as I said, she was so calm with – amazing for such a young dog.

Our vet gave her a thorough examination. Her bottom teeth are not through, which was a concern for Gerald, and the vet to some degree, we will watch that. She was only doing tiny drops for wees, which I attributed to her being too busy and so curious about everything else …. but also licking her vagina, so she may have a UTI, which we are watching. They were very impressed your “Operators Manual” . Very. Gerald has relented and is willing to allow her to sleep in her “cot” in our bedroom tonight, as my hip cannot take another night on the couch!

She is adapting to the gradual change in diet. She eats and drinks well, and is VERY ROUTINE ORIENTED. If she does something once, she seems to repeat it … ie come in back door, go straight to water, have a drink, and have a feed. Highly motivated by food, small scraps of beef or chicken mince, and she will do as she is asked, we are following your manual and the training book you suggested. She is rewarded when she wees or poos outside, and has had a few accidents, more about us not being vigilant enough. Her facial expressions are all about what we could learn as human beings. She is either FULL ON or FULL OFF.

We had a good night last night! Went to bed at 11 pm with her in her crate alongside of me, and woke up at 1 for a wee and poo outside, again at 4 am, and then slept till 5.30 am!!!

Did I compliment you on her lung capacity? Weighing in at 2.5 kgs she can shatter glass and break the sound barrier – but thankfully, that has ceased. Also, the separation anxiety she had the first two days when she would scream the moment she could not see Gerald or me and run about frenetically after us. Now she walks outdoors and into other rooms on her own, finds her bed, and her food and water. A BRILLIANT DOG, CLEARLY!

Off to the vet as her vagina is pink and inflamed. He did comment he thought her back legs a bit ‘clicky’ but that was often common in puppies.

Oh Kate we love her! It is our 45th wedding anniversary today and we couldn’t have a more lovely gift than this little golden girl, Our Cino.

We adore her Kate. I had such reservations after losing ‘the love of our lives’ our golden Moet, the retriever, aged 13 years old, 9 months ago. I have grieved so much. I even cried the morning we came out to fetch Cino, thinking it was too early and I was in some way being ‘unfaithful’ (I know this is silly and I am a counsellor by profession) – but this tiny dog Cino has made us laugh and sing and dance and cry and send out pictures via facebook and wattsapp like the WORST possible media socialites ever.

We love her. We thank you. And we will keep you in touch with her life. Are you on Watts App? Its free! and we can send photos, movies, and audios … shall I send you an invite? We talk to family and friends all over the world this way!

I SO enjoyed your daughters. Especially – and I forget her name – the lovely, open, vulnerable one who is married to an African man. Maybe because we are African? I left your home very happy, and satisfied that you are a woman who breeds dogs for all the right reasons, and your home and family are central to your life.”

Today is Saturday 18th january 2014, 45 years ago Gerald and I were married in Chingola Zambia at the Catholic Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, by Fr. Claude Cotting. Cino is the BEST gift we could have! She slept in the bedroom, which necessiated Gerald and I sleeping on each other’s side of the bed, so her crate could fit alongside of me. This is a SERIOUS digression for Gerald, who believes dogs do NOT belong in the bedroom. We went to bed at 11pm, and she woke me at 1 am and at 4 am for a wee and poo outside, its hard not to get enrolled in her “Hey, its playtime!” routine, but merely, do the business, and get back to bed. Then we were up at 5.30 am. We took her for her second walk on the beach, she is so confident and loves the space, the sand, and trots after her Dad “just like a real dog, only smaller ….” Gerald had to chase after her, after she introduced herself to a man who clearly wasn’t interested in her (how could that BE?) – he picked her up and walked another 30 metres up the beach, put her down, whereupon she raced straight back to said unintereested male. Lagotto, yes? Or determined to woo a reluctant male perhaps?

We took her to the vet, and is now on antibiotics. She lay down on the table and fell asleep, just as Moet used to do. We must attract relaxed dogs. Then we walked with her in my arms down Queen Street, people oohing and aahing, I want her to get accustomed to the noise and bustle of people and cars and horns and hustle. She was calm, Patty at the Global Bookshop siezed her from me, and did not want to return her, as she fell asleep in her arms.

Nothing like a warm, plump puppy. Puppy breath. Her antics are better than TV. Oh, she has put on 250g in four days. If she keeps that up, she’ll be a blimp!

Sandra GroomComment