“If you eliminate smoking and gambling, you will be amazed to find that almost all an Englishman’s pleasures can be, and mostly are, shared by his dog.”
— George Bernard Shaw
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OK, so Gosling isn’t English, but I thought the diptych was a nice example of the sense of this quotation.
We received very sad news last night: My parents-in-law’s dear springer spaniel, Aoive, passed away. She was only 8 years old. Aoive has suffered from seizures for her whole life, and for the past two days, she was trapped in an unending, all-day seizure cycle. It was a horrific way to go, but my father-in-law and the vet agreed that putting her down was the best and most merciful option. I am thinking of them all today, especially of my mother-in-law, Windy, who had a very close and affectionate relationship with Aoive. That dog loved no one else quite like she loved Windy. I hope she is stalking birds to her heart’s content in heaven. Rest in peace, Aoive dog.
No, I didn’t get a dog for Christmas. But I did get to spend a lot of time with dogs, namely Aoive, Dublin, and Dally, whom I’ve mentioned before.
Aoive, my in-law’s English springer spaniel, has suddenly mellowed out in her old age. I say “suddenly,” I guess, because I haven’t seen her in a long time and her calmness surprised me. She is now 8 and her muzzle is graying and her eyes are drooping. It makes her look sad and stately–but the girl still knows how to have a good time. We took a long walk together over the holiday and even ended up running toward the end. She was eager and happy and, as always, very snuggly in the living room.
Later in the week, we traveled to my family’s town and spent most of our week with the borrowed dogs Dublin and Dally. Even though my father is as dog crazy as I am, my parents don’t have a dog of their own (due to my mother’s influence and protectiveness of her heart of pine floors). My father’s surrogate dog is Dublin, who adores him. My sister Grace was dog-sitting Dally, the neighbor’s gorgeous (and regrettably plump) 10-month-old Golden retriever, who is an absolute doll.
More photos below!
We also got to see the 3-year-old Marley, my cousin’s handsome and well-mannered chocolate lab. (Marley is the puppy featured with me on my “About” page.) It made me really happy to see such a trim and healthy lab; so often, labs are unmannerly blimps. But Matt, my cousin, is a very conscientious owner and has trained Marley very well. He’s a delightful boy.
OK, that’s all for now! Back to catching up on life…
We had a peaceful and very pleasant Thanksgiving with our families this year. Along with all of the food and family time, I also got to spend some quality time with Dublin, my family’s surrogate dog, and Aoive, my husband’s family’s dog.
Dublin is our neighbor’s chocolate lab mix, whom my father has practically adopted as his own. Dublin’s family was out of town for the weekend, so we were watching her. She spent most of her time at our house throughout the weekend, and so I got plenty of time with her.
I woke up early on Thanksgiving morning and took her for an hour-long walk/run through the local university campus. We chased squirrels and tromped through the woods and had such a peaceful, happy hour together. For all of her muscular energy, Dublin is very good at moderating her strength to the person who is walking her. I’ve seen her walk slowly and calmly next to her young charges, ages 6 and 10, without pulling at all. With me, she walks a little more briskly, but it’s never uncomfortable. I think this quite a skill for a young dog to have.
On Friday morning, my mom and I took her on another long walk through town and she was a great companion on the walk. (She did exhibit some gastrointestinal distress, however, which was clearly the result of all of us being too indulgent with her on Thanksgiving.) She politely greeted a shimmering pair of West Highland white terriers on our way back. Their human was apparently impressed with how calmly his dogs were when they met Dublin. That’s generally Dublin’s effect on humans and dogs, I think: She just chills them out.
Later on Friday, we went to visit my wonderful in-laws and there had a reunion with the beautiful Aoive. I hadn’t seen Aoive in quite a while, and I was startled by how much gray she had accumulated along her muzzle and face. She is about 8.5 years old now, but you’d never guess it. Her coat is still the softest and most velvety coat I’ve ever felt and her energy is seemingly boundless.
That to say, she was on her best behavior for all of us over the weekend. When she’s in the house and can’t be next to Windy, my mother-in-law, she stays tethered to an armchair. If Windy is out of sight, Aoive instantly gets anxious. I’ve never seen a dog more attached to one person than Aoive is to Windy. But this extreme attachment seemed quite moderated this weekend.
On Saturday morning, all of us took her on a 2.5-mile walk around the local reservoir. It was a gorgeous, warm, and sunny day, and I think we all had a marvelous time. Aoive even got to wade along the creeks and banks. She was taunted by a flotilla of Canada geese and agitated by their serene movements just a few feet from her snout. But the prospect of having to actually swim in the reservoir was enough to keep her just frantically pacing back and forth along the bank.
Big lessons learned: I’m thankful to have dogs in my life. Even though I don’t have one of my own yet, I’m thankful for the ones that I get to encounter when we visit family. They bring a lot of light and joy into all of our lives.
Happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone! I’ll be out of commission for the rest of the week and am looking forward to spending some quality time with Dublin & Co. and Aoive. Hope your weekend is peaceful and bright. See you Monday.
When I first visited the home of my (then) future-in-laws, I was delighted to learn that they had a dog. Aoive (pronounced “ava” instead of its Gaelic spelling, “ee-fa”) bounded up to me when I walked in the door; I was very happy to meet this gorgeous, silky English springer spaniel. She’s now six or seven years old, but it’s hard to believe. I think if I had just met her I would have guessed that she had just turned three. This dog has a LOT of spunk.
Sometimes too much spunk. Guion has a love-hate relationship with Aoive, which commonly borders on “hate” because of her neurotic tendencies. Deep down, she’s very sweet, but mostly, she’s pretty weird. She’s often anxious and rarely still. She is very “hands-y,” in which she must always have her paws on some part of your body. She may suffer from pica, to a small degree, because she likes to eat non-nutritive things like toilet paper and dish rags. Aoive is the only dog I’ve ever met who is entirely uninterested in other dogs; she avoids them completely. Like many springers, Aoive also suffers from seizures and takes a daily medication to prevent the attacks.
Guion’s mom, Windy, wonders if some of Aoive’s issues may stem from the fact that she was taken away from her mother too early. Mike and Windy adopted Aoive when she was a bit older, so they don’t know her complete puppy history, but I think this is a pretty good guess. Conscientious springer breeders may often keep puppies with their mothers longer than the standard recommendation of eight weeks for this reason. Puppies who are weaned or removed from their mothers too young tend to develop behavioral problems later.
Comparatively, though, I don’t think Aoive has any problems that can’t be actively managed. Mike and Windy have done a great job with her and clearly lavish a lot of love and affection on her. Even though her neediness can occasionally be annoying, she’s only expressing her natural breed tendencies. I read somewhere that springers were bred to be in constant motion 10 to 12 hours a day! I love spending time with Aoive and look forward to visiting her in Southern Pines again soon. We’ll take a nice, long walk next time we do.