Sunday, June 27, 2010

Two quiet, old, easy-care dogs

It’s strange how losing two little shelties in a short space of time can change ones life so completely. My days have been hectic for so many years, with paid work, volunteering, fostering, and caring for special needs dogs. Now, with just two quiet, old, easy-care dogs and few responsibilities, the sun shining and the flowers blooming and a cold beer in the hand, the old song comes to mind: “Summer time....and the livin' is ea-sy....”

As I wandered along the beach near the RV park the other evening, I found myself envying a family gathered around a campfire singing songs and softly strumming guitars. I used to camp every chance I got – sometimes with a dog, sometimes without, often with friends or family but often alone. I camped with my parents when I was a child, I camped with friends in tents or out in the open beneath the stars, I camped in tiny rustic alpine lean-tos on backpacking trails high in the mountains, and I camped (though I would hardly call it that) in a fully equipped trailer on my own little piece of recreational property in the Fraser Canyon. Whether in a tent, under the stars, in a rustic lean-to or a fancy trailer, camping has always been part of my life. Lazy days fishing or reading or hiking, evenings around the campfire, any spare time I had was spent doing these things I loved.

That is, until I began volunteering at sanctuaries and shelters and taking on senior and special needs animals of my own.

Working full time for pay while also volunteering 15-40 hours a week at a multi-species sanctuary for senior and special needs animals left no time for camping. From there I moved on to fostering animals – up to 18 at a time – pigs, alpacas and palliative dogs on my own property, while also assisting with rescue transports, homechecks and the occasional day at Hearts on Noses potbellied pig sanctuary. Post-retirement I moved on (both figuratively and literally) with my four adopted senior/ special needs dogs, and with various volunteer obligations as well life was pretty full.

Then the volunteer project I was most heavily involved with reached completion, and my two most needy dogs died the very next week, and suddenly the life of chaos amid structure, of uncertainty amid predictability, of going flat out for as many hours a day as I could while still caring for my deaf, visually impaired and cognitively confused shelties, was over.

As I wandered down by the RV park, and reminisced about my days of hiking and fishing and my nights singing and play guitar around the fire, it occurred to me.... I could actually do those things again. With only two quiet, old, easy-care dogs and few responsibilities, I could take off on a whim and go camping. Tenting doesn’t much appeal to me anymore, but my van is big enough for two dogs and me to sleep in, and I still have my campstove and axe and other basic necessities of camp life.

Or I could load up the dogs and visit my sister in Penticton or my friend of over fifty years in Vernon. I’m sure both would welcome me, with just two quiet, old, easy-care dogs.

Even without leaving home, the livin’ is easy with only two old dogs.

I now get up late for the first time in over forty years – and even then, it is my needs, not my dogs’, which drive me from the bed. Sadie and Charley have bladder control far greater than mine – they can go from nine at night until nine the next morning and still have to be coaxed outside to go pee.

I make very few plans for the day. If the errands and chores get done, great; if not, there is always tomorrow. I putter around the house or yard, take the dogs for a stroll on the beach or a short hike on some shady trail in the municipal forest. I snooze, or write, or chat with a friend, or confer with a neighbour about the blackberry brambles that are climbing over my fence.

I still volunteer at a couple of places, but schedules are flexible and the big fundraising events are over for the summer. I can go out whenever I want – the dogs don’t mind. As long as they have had their walk, they are quite content to sleep on the couch or the bed while I take off for who-knows-where. And when I am home, they continue to sleep – large black furry couch potatoes who demand nothing more of me than some food, fresh water, a few pats, and a soft bed.

Who you callin' a Couch Potato? I'm a Rug Spud!

An' this aint no comfy couch beneath me!

Well, okay, I'm a Sofabed Potato.

Or maybe just a

[Aside from Allie: "Don't you DARE post dat picture! Don't you DARE!!! I'll be kicked outta the 'Cats Rule, Dogs Drool' Club if anyone seez me sleepin' wiv the enemy!!!]

It is a slow and easy life. And for now, at least, I think I like it that way. It offers.....possibilities. Many possibilities. I shall have to think about that when I next look at Chester, the eleven year old pitbull cross on the Bully Buddies website, or Casey, the ten year old yellow lab whose owners told the Maple Ridge SPCA they didn’t want him anymore, or Conroy, a ten year old boxer whose family dropped him off at a boarding facility and never returned, or any of the other dozens of senior dogs being temporarily cared for by rescue organizations and shelters in British Columbia. They all need a home. And I could provide one. But for now, it’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy.....with two quiet, old, easy-care dogs.




dp said...

We're in a similar situation here, dog-wise at least. Two losses over the course of a month, and two easy dogs left. Both are fully trained, capable of being left alone in the house for hours at a time, no danger to strangers, etc. etc. I think it will be nice for a while, but it feels too quiet.

EvenSong said...

I think you should enjoy your "freedom" for awhile, while the weather is so nice.
As I try to rein back my horse operation, I wonder what in the world I will do without fully 20 or so feet to trim, and 5 or 6 manes and tails to untangle, and 2 or 3 youngsters to contain. (Not to mention 13 acres of grass and fence and irrigation lines to maintain.) And then I think, by golly, I could just go for rides and enjoy the mountains!
There will be plenty of time next fall, as the weather starts curtailing spontaneous adventures, to take on more responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

I can offer you one elderly, bladder-challenged, highly demanding, half-bald but very sweet little pomeranian to liven things up at your house! Just kidding... we wouldn't part with her for the world. However, I can tell you from first-hand experience that pound-for-pound she requires way more maintenance and attention than about a dozen laid-back collie types. Something to consider when you're planning your next adoption. ;-D

In the mean time,enjoy some respite. You have certainly earned it!

Deb S. & crew

Karen said...

I could ship you 26 might-be-roosters to occupy your time! The hatchery assures me they will get their brown feathers in due course...I hope so!!!

Anonymous said...

From your friend of 50 years in Vernon, that camping trip sure sounds good - how about a visit up here and a camping trip to the Kootenays in our cars?? I would love to see you (and the two easy-going dogs)! Bev B.

Black Jack's Carol said...

I read this post this morning, and it has stayed with me all day. I'm picturing you camping with your family and realizing that was an experience completely missing from my early life. I really hope you load up the dogs and go for it! My reasons are partly selfish. I'lI get to vicariously share in the experience through your wonderful posts and photos:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jean,

Would you like my very active cat to liven your life? I'm kidding!

I'm skipping camping this year. The children are older, and finally my husband can camp with our son, and I can relax. Probably not, but I'll find something to do.


shihtzustaff said...

We have lost 4 since October. Some seniors and some not. I guess that is what happens when you take in seniors and palliative animals. It is so very hard when they go. Their losses are felt keenly and the atmosphere changes a lot. My strategy is to focus on those who are with us. Love them and celebrate them every single day.