Friday, July 8, 2016

The Gift from Guinness

I often thought I would write for Guinness from his own point of view.  I was sure I was waiting to hear from him.  But a year has passed and it is time to put the old boy to rest.
You know, I do believe that Guinness has his own Guinness World Record as the most photographed Irish Wolfhound on the planet... and the only one to hold a 9 year old blog!

Many dog-lovers from around the world started following Guinness' big adventures.  They sent gifts from other countries, and we even had visitors from California come to meet him.  We still keep in touch with many of the friends who loved Guinness, Groucho, Maggi and Saige.

Guinness loved spending time at the farm and really enjoyed all of the animals. He looked after sick calves.   His dream was to have a pet kitty--he had a lifetime fascination with them, but he never got his wish.

The other day I got an e-mail from my next-door-neighbour from when I lived in Middleton.  Her name is Natacha and she is certainly here in the pages of this blog.

  She was wondering about a yoga class where I live now, further up the Valley.  But the last message before that was from 2013.  It said "Guinness is out on the road, Mom is running after him."  Following that was "Oh no, he has gone into the woods."  That was nothing new for Guinness.  He was such an escape artist- opening doors, jumping fences.   I always thought Main Street Middleton was going to be the death of him. It almost was.

 I feel as though Guinness almost died every day for 9 years.  His thick file at the vets office will tell you I am not too far off.  It was one catastrophe after another...that was the name of the game with Guinness. 

He would be spotted at night at Tim Hortons with his head at the drive-thru window for treats, and was seen walking the streets of Middleton like a ghost in the night.  Somehow he kept living.  Somehow...he lived to a ripe old age of 9 (ancient for an IW) and died of natural causes in his sleep by my side.  Like Maggi--he didn't suffer a wink.  I just don't know how I could write a better story than that.  I don't know how there could be a nicer ending.


One time I had a dream.  I saw Guinness at the gates of heaven.  And he was SO bright and luminous! He had a big, bright smile on his face...and his eyes were gleaming. His heart was so open, full and proud!  He had a purple robe around his back.  He looked like a Royal Guardian.  The proudest thing you have ever seen.  My bond with Guinness was so great that if you could put into words what he meant to me you would see that indeed he was a KING!  For the time he was on Earth he was keeper of my soul and I shared that with him, and I knew he knew it.  It was a very beautiful experience to share that with an animal. 



Guinness really got into his role later when Maggi came along.  She was blind and he knew something was kind of different about her.  He knew he had to be her lead. He looked out for her in his own way.  Because of this, he refused a leash.  He thought it was insulting and he was above this sort of thing. He was very human-like in his quality that way.

 He had his own mind about how things ought to be.  He knew all the routes and all the walks.  He knew where Gramps lived and worked out his own agenda for longer walks.  He would always try and turn the next corner acting as though we were just going to go this way and there was no choice.    We also had to walk in a loop, he would not retrace his steps, so I was always trying to shorten the loop and what fights we had.   He would walk around the whole world if he could.

At camp he dug a hole  from which to rest and survey.  We called it his pit.  He worked this pit for 8 years.  It was situated between the camp, the truck, and the road so he could see all the goings-on.  Everyone that came to camp would fall or roll their ankle on the pit, but no one had the heart to fill in his pit... so he got his way.


  He never wanted to leave camp.  I would start packing up.  He was just so bad and would run away into the woods.  Maggi, playing innocent (but also wanting to stay) would walk around in circles stupid-like, waiting to hear the outcome.  It was always such drama with him and he was just such a character. 


Guinness loved to walk the grain mill loop.  There was a gate and I would park on that road a little ways down before the loop started.  When the walk was over and we reached the gate, Guinness would never walk to the truck.  I would get so mad because he just stood there refusing to come home.  He weight 170 pounds so there was little I could do. He just stood there like a stubborn ass as I loaded Maggi in the truck  and drove back to the gate.  He pushed his luck with everything.  Gosh I miss him!  The saucy fool.

Looking back at my life these last ten years is a trip down memory lane.  I am glad I kept record of these stories and adventures!   It all seems so innocent.  Time does pass.  The years go by, and there are tears and smiles at the miracle of it all.   And now I am coming to the end of my story, because everything does indeed make a loop.  Life comes full circle when you least expect it. 

And so it just so happens that yesterday, I decided to walk that loop with my brother's dog, Clyde. And who do you think  I  finally hear from-- Guinness!  I had finished the loop and I looked back.   I had forgotten about all the years of Guinness just standing at that gate.  As clear as could be- I felt his spirit there.   In my heart he was standing their smiling...and knowing.  I noticed the  smell in the air and heard the wind in the trees.  Everything was green and lush and the day was lazy and light.  Sometimes in life you get those rare glimpses when there is eternal peace held in the space of just one moment.  Boy did I smile.  Guinness was walking that loop...and he was going around again, and again...and again.

til we meet again, my Boy, my Guinny. Thank you for it all...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Night Time Story for Nephews. Mark of the Clearing.

Behind the little white housey there is a path.

At that path there is a little set of stairs and a wooded clearing. And do you see, the old dead tree standing off to the left? Look at the very top.  See anything?

 Well that is a SQUIRRELL and he runs all the goings-on in this little clearing!  His name is MARK.   He has a big Mark on him, and not much fur left.  No other animal lives in that clearing.  Only Mark-and he has the battle scars to prove it.

He is hiding now, but if you look close, you may spot him!
You see, he is after these delicious butternuts!  He eats ALL the butternuts and now he is a fat, tattered squirrell.

Can you see all the butternuts Mark has eaten?  They are all over the floor of the clearing.  Can you count them up?

There is a little bowl of granola for Mark.  But JUST little speckles.  It is nice to be friendly, but after ALL the butternuts, he does not need to eat!

But we must be good neighbours!  And Mark likes little treats.  So he says, a little granola now and then is good.  "Forget me NOT" chatters Mark from his stump! 

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Maggi Miracle

It has been 6 months that I lost Maggi and only now do I feel I can talk about my wolfhound years without bursting into a puddle of tears. I can smile now, but I wasn't sure it would happen.  It does.   So much has changed in that short time. I almost feel as though I have woken up in a whole new life.  There are no wolfhounds anymore, but perhaps someday there will be.  And so now it is time to write the final chapters of this time I shared with Saige, Maggi and Guinness in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. I begin my end with the one and only Maggi.

I will never forget  the 16 hour hell storm we had driven through from Quebec to Nova Scotia.  It was the worst storm of the winter.  The temperature was an astounding minus 40 with wind chills that stuck your eyes together if you blinked. The roads were closed and snow covered.  By the time we hit Nova Scotia visibility and road conditions had us driving at 40 km per hour the final 4 hours.

        Regardless of the storm raging outside, Maggi was calm and happy.  I cooed and cuddled her in the back seat and the bond was immediate.   It was as though she knew she was going home. I could tell from these special hours what an extraordinary and kind-hearted hound I had on board with me!  We loved each other DEEPLY and she was exceptionally responsive to my affections.  It was a powerful feeling.   This was not Maggi's first time driving for days in a storm.  From what I know, her beginnings were the stuff of horror movies, and her first 4 years  were spent on the end of a 10 foot chain.  Maggi was blind, used for breeding at a horrific puppy mill.  She had literally travelled from coast to coast in her re-homing efforts.  She had covered more ground in Canada than I had.  Stories started pouring in from people she encountered on her journey.  Total strangers involved in her rescue (including the Saskatoon SPCA and the IW Rescue Coalition of Canada) and everyone in between began e-mailing tales of this tenacious blind Irish Wolfhound that they had known.  It seemed everyone had been touched by  this beautiful, brave girl who refused to be overlooked.

After a few days of settling in, learning the rules and getting to know her new brother Guinness, we decided to load Maggi into the car again for a walk down to a trail we often used.  Maggi crouched down and trembled.  It took effort to convince her to get back in the car.  She thought she was home.  She couldn't face more driving. She did not understand and she did not want to leave. Things were so good now.  She had a full belly, and  a warm safe house full of love.  It was heart breaking.  Big progress was made when 3 minutes later she was out free-styling in the snow with Guinness.  That first time with Maggi -to and from the house for a walk- was a big step.  Now she understood the car would never take her away from her home.  Slowly she developed a sense of security and Maggi blossomed into the dog she always wanted to be.

What a joy to watch her express her freedom.  Just like the snow, our worries of a blind dog soon melted away too.  Maggi had a sixth sense about her, along with trust in my voice.  She learned the ins and outs of her favorite trails and memorized her route.  This allowed her to walk, run and explore at her leisure.  No special leashes or harnesses were required.  Just trust, and a set of eyes to guide her.  It was marvelous to witness, I was just so proud of her and proud also to see the life I could give her.

I do not know if it is because she knew starvation, was blind, or if she was just a chow hound--but my, Maggi LOVED to eat.  I wondered sometimes if she would ever be satisfied!  Her search for food was relentless.  We lived on a beef farm so it was actually cheaper and healthier to feed them grass fed, lean beef.  Since I could no longer free feed them (Maggi would just eat everything in sight) meal time became a production and I loved it just as much as them.  I would come home from work, get my doggy kisses and cuddles, then the feast prep would begin!   I would  cook up the beef as they waited hanging onto my every word.  "Yum! How about some rice and cranberries with that today!  Oh, and I see there is some left-over carrots and peas.  My won't that taste good in our supper".  It was wonderful.  The pleasure of seeing their enthusiasm and vigour at mealtime was a highlight of my day. Often as I fed her, I would  speak softly to Maggi and tell her to eat slow and enjoy.  Maggi responded favourably to the  routine and positively thrived. 

Maggi's food obsession could only be compared to her capacity for love.  If friends were visiting she would make the rounds with big smiles and wags for everyone.  That definitely set her apart as  Guinness was such  a  mamma's boy.   Maggi made time for everyone!   And--Maggi liked to be made of.  So I made a lot of her.   The attention and love really brought out her big personality.  Her confidence in herself was delightful to witness.  She was quite please with herself as well.  She enjoyed little tricks and had a silly sense of humour.   She liked to engage people in little games and affections.  Everyone who met her simply fell in love with this sweet, blind girl who beat the odds.

with Calyton

sister Christa

with gramps

Maggi was very clever.  She would often line up Guinness to do her dirty work.  When it came to stealing treats or begging for more food,  Maggi was always behind the trick and could be found waiting and listening on the side-lines for the outcome.

 When it was time to leave camp, Guinness would run away and get in trouble. Maggi would walk in circles playing stupid, but knowing full well it was time to go home.  Her favorite game was "Where's Maggi?" She would stomp her feet while I moved in closer with a sneaky voice.  I would say "WHHHHHere's MAGGI?"  She would wait for the "Maggi", no matter how long the "Whhhhere" , and pounce and jump when I finally said it.  Her mouth would open in a big smile, tongue wagging happily everywhere as if to say " Well here I am!  Maggi right here silly!"

   If she wanted something badly, like a walk- or just attention- she would press her head into my belly and shake it violently as if to convey her excitement level about something!  The more she wanted something, the more vigorous her head shaking became.  My,  she made me laugh.

I never took one day with Maggi for granted  She lifted me up, took me away from my own problems.  Everyone always said how lucky Maggi was to have me, but it was I who was given the GIFT,  She gave a whole new meaning to the term "Splorin Wolfie" indeed.  Maggi, who lived in darkness, brought light. 

I was never quite sure of Maggi's age.  There were different stories.  Regardless, the reality of all wolfies is that they are a short lived breed.  It is never an easy fact to face but I did the only thing I knew that would help.  I just prayed.  Everyday.  "Yes I know they do not live long but please don't let them suffer.  Take them from me if you must, but take them peacefully".  Years of daily prayer and directed intention worked.  On Mother's Day I pulled into the yard.  Maggi had died, her heart had stopped and her tongue sprawled out of her mouth.  Clayton was frantic on the phone with the vet.  At the sound of my car pulling in, Maggi's heart started  and she sprung too life running over to me as if nothing happened at all, as she had done hundreds of times before. 

We drove Maggi to the vet.  The vet said she was tachy cardiac and her little revival was a small miracle.    The vet let us down easy, but told us to take her home and enjoy her for the weekend, borrowed time.

We brought Maggi home and didn't make of her beyond the normal love and cuddles she got every day.  She rested peacefully and playfully in her bed, smiling contently.  At 2 AM I was awoken by a familiar "THUMP THUMP THUMP".  Maggi's tail on the wall had been my wake up call for the past 4 years.  "THUMP THUMP THUMP", I heard again.  Maggi must need to pee I thought, getting out of bed.  I went to the door but Maggi stood by her food dish grinning up at me.  "THUMP THUMP THUMP" boomed her tail loudly once again.  I could not resist a laugh.  Right to the end Maggi was thinking of that bottomless gut of hers.    There was a little bacon grease on the counter that I melted over a small bowl of kibble.    I placed her bowl in her little eating table and watched her enthusiastically gobble up what would be her last meal.  Maggi looked up from her empty dish.  "THUMP THUMP THUMP".  I laughed again, walked her to her bed ands gave hugs and kisses. She plopped down with a huge sigh and drifted contently off to sleep.  She woke me again at 6 in the morning for her pee.  I waited for her on the front landing wondering if the stairs would stress her heart.  I was right, and she collapsed into my arms.  She tried to get up and I spoke softly to her. " Just stay right there, Mags," I said.  "You just stay with Mamma and close your eyes go to sleep.  Mamma here to love you."  I patted her sweet soft face and kissed her.  She let go her breath and, in my arms, transitioned smoothly to her next adventure.  She didn't suffer even a wink.  She just let out a sigh and went.  I held her for a long time. I thanked God for the peace.

I went outside with Guinness.  I was Maggi's eyes for so long it changed the way I saw things.   .  Always on the look out for obstacle, scanning for bumps to steer her away, and guiding her  towards me.  I shook my senses as it hit me.  I hadn't realized how differently I had viewed the world.  Something deep inside me shifted.   A feeling of deep- rooted inadequacy spun out of me from some dark corner of my heart.  She took it right out of me, in that moment, and I felt it leave.  It was replaced by something I can only describe as pure joy. Maggi, the blind girl with a heart  of gold and eyes that could not see,  it was her final gift to me,and in that moment I had learned... and I saw.