PENNY & THEO
My children had all left home. My husband and I were together but I felt lonely. We had had pets, both cats and dogs, but they had always been the domain of the children. I wanted a dog of my own.
My husband knew a corgi owner in Provincetown. He described the dogs as beautiful, energetic, and smiley dogs. We investigated this breed and learned they were herding dogs originally from Wales. The size of our dog was important. We didn't want a huge dog like we had for our kids, but we wanted a athletic dog for my favorite pass time, long walks. I also preferred a beautiful coat of fur to brush and pet. We started out with one beautiful, female corgi named Penny.
My husband and I had no idea how much we had to learn about the corgi breed. In the beginning managing Penny was difficult. As a puppy, Penny, our first corgi was super energetic, barked lots and loudly, and ran to greet and say hello to everyone. She was purchased from a pet store where she had been in a cage for 12 weeks. This breed requires frequent and daily exercise which she didn't receive; she was quite wild at first. Penny was a beautiful, tri-color corgi, but she was damaged by her long confinement. She was a single dog for the first two years and she got a lot of attention and mellowed. Like people, she had childhood wounds that were healed somewhat through love and attention. She adapted and calmed slowly.
She also benefited from her brother dog, Theo, who joined us a few years later. Like most beings, we need friends; the two dogs became inseparable. Theo had come from a reputable family breeder near San Francisco. He was loved, allowed exercise, and had brother dogs to play with; he accepted Penny and she accepted him. I fell deeply in love with them as my daily companions.
Caring for them included 2 long walks daily, with frequent hair brushing to manage shedding. Corgis have multiple layers of fur developed originally due to living in the cold damp climate of Wales. Corgis had been used as working dogs. They herded large animals like cattle, lived outdoors, and were not pets. Corgis developed heavy multilayered coats for protection from the large animals they herded and to withstand the damp climate.
Feeding corgis is easy, because they love to eat, but their weight requires monitoring. Anatomically, corgis have a long body with short sturdy legs. Their back legs handle most of their fast take off skill to herd as working dogs. They did not know they are no longer workers and lived their lives, as if they had a full work life, enthusiastically running and herding us. As corgis age, the back legs weaken. Keeping weight down, helps to preserve their back legs.
In addition to the herding, corgis used nipping on feet and ankles to persuade any individual to be positioned where the corgis believed they belonged. We got used to barking and biting while they followed their instincts to herd whoever was around. Not everyone loved the corgis, but my husband and I did!
We had wonderful years walking in all types of weather and locations on beautiful Cape Cod. They swam in local ponds, frolicked in town bogs, and enjoyed trails in the town forest. Our time was wonderful, and I have memories in my heart; the value and enjoyment received caring for our pets was also priceless, as was the constant love and attention, the hugs and petting, and the presence of two great listeners. There were dog feats of delight and humor, companionship, and willingness to be with me and participate in my exercise while being a witness to pure joy.
The last phase of pet ownership is the most difficult. As we all know, age advances for everyone, and our pets age also. They slow down and sleep more, have medical problems, and may have changes in eating and personality. As owners, we are aware of these things and in my case, I relied on keen observation to discover changes in their health or behaviors.
Penny lost the use of her back legs around 12 years old and we supported her for a while with medication and then a doggie wheelchair. Toward her last days, I could see her trying so hard to please me trying to use her wheelchair and walk. I felt she was trying to console me. We finally decided to end her life with the vet. She appeared exhausted and ready to rest. It was very hard...
Theo had become diabetic about 3 years ago, and we had quite a difficult time with his feeding, insulin doses, and injections. I cooked his special food, and kept in touch with our vet, to control his diabetes. We had periods of time where things went well, but the diabetes would change again and we would have to reset doses and schedules many times. We had a great vet resource who saved Theo for us when he had a serious episode of dehydration; we got more time. His last challenge came when he seriously began losing the use of his back legs; he was very frustrated with not being able to walk. The medicine helped for a while, but in the end, the combination of fluctuating insulin doses, difficulty feeding the dog, the heat complicating dehydration, and the loss of mobility caused his death. We tried to stay with him and let him pass with us, but he stopped all intake except occasional water, became erratic, and suffered seizures, so we brought him to the vet to let him go.
As I look around my house and yard after letting go of Theo, I see towels for accidents, little water bowls all around, treats, brushes, calming pills, obstacle management, leashes that both he and Penny shared, and his tufts of fur all around the kitchen and the yard. I loved his beautiful golden and white fur I stroked so many times. Penny's fur was thick and coarser than Theo's, but they were both heaven to pet. I must stay in gratitude and joy for what I had. My dogs were the children that didn't grow up and remained with us. They revealed a deeper understanding of love and time which I hadn't comprehended before.
Longevity is possible for this breed and we had 14 years with Penny and 15 and one-half years with Theo. They have both traveled the Rainbow Bridge now. I miss and still love them and I like to think we will be together always. Now I want to celebrate them by telling my friends about them and share my experience as a dog owner. It has been a gift of receiving love and companionship with the dogs. The privilege of living with these generous and loyal sentient beings enriched our life.
I am both sad for losing them and happy for having had them. I am hopeful that I can remember these lessons I received:
give love without reservation
many things are learned over time through trial and error; be patient
learning requires committed time to acquire; don't give up
we all need a friend for companionship and help
be kind with changes to self and others through aging, illness or unknowns
There are many ways to grow in life; having pets is one and may be for you.