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Sadie, A Good Friend

May 17, 2013

I have just lost a good friend. Last Friday, my little collie, Sadie had to be put down. I always said that when anything happened to Sadie I wouldn’t grieve because she had been such a difficult dog. Hmm, I must keep reminding myself of that.

She arrived in 2004 having been in the pound at Montgomery three times and  put up for rehoming at seven months of age. I had misgivings when I saw her. She was all wrong as the sort of ‘standard’ collie, very small and her head was not the nice boxy head of the border collie. Her colour, too, was not what I would have chosen – a tricolour merle. Nonetheless my son and I chose her and back home to the farm she came.

We weren’t quite ready for what happened next – she bounded into the kitchen and jumped straight on the kitchen table!  She had no concept of food from a dog’s bowl, preferring to go for the steak and kidney pie which I was getting out of the oven. Slumping in the chair in the sitting room after dinner she charged in and sat on my head – what had we got?

The next day was worse. Obviously she couldn’t run loose until she had got to know us so we shut her in the garage between walks. Unfortunately a friend arrived and opened the garage door. Out flew Sadie, straight up the drive, across a very busy main road followed by myself and the friend. Sadie was racing over fields in a wide circle, approaching us and then flying off again to do another circuit. Eventually she raced back across the main road in the direction of home. Catching her was impossible and she wouldn’t come when she was called. And so it continued for twelve months. She was an escapologist par excellence, jumping through windows to go off on one of her adventures through the woods and fields. Hours we spent trying to catch her and it was all to no avail.

We were at our wits end. I took her to dog training classes which were held in a room so there was no escape but she simply did her own thing. She watched the dog in front, copied it and improved not a jot. After two and a half times around the course it was suggested we didn’t go back.

A psychologist was called in. A farmer friend had a more practical solution – ‘Just have her put down, Jane, it won’t hurt.’ It was tempting. Treats, walking off in the opposite direction, nothing worked. Had I got the only autistic dog in the world? We tried a  psychologist who  put her on a long rope, called her back to him and declared there was no problem with the dog. Three quarters of an hour and £95 to find out that I was the one who needed a psychologist. May be I did but how was I to stop Sadie running off at every opportunity?

After many hours waiting behind trees for her to pass and grabbing her as she went by I really had had enough. After a particularly late night waiting for her, I sat down  to try and work out why the ‘flight,’ syndrome. I began to wonder if she was terrified of the human voice. Even ‘good girl,’ would not encourage her to come. Perhaps, just perhaps, the previous owners had lured her to them saying encouraging things and then frightened her to death. So the next time I caught Sadie I quietly put the lead on her, said nothing and walked her home. And that was it, it was as simple as that. Within two hours she was going in and out of the house by the door rather than the window as though it was a trick she had just found out, truly amazing.

Sadie became my husband’s dog and was a brilliant sheepdog. There was never a time when she didn’t do the job she was asked to do. She had her own unique style of doing things – very fast and furious and the sheep were very surprised one day when she walked on their backs. She only did that once, so perhaps that surprised Sadie as much as the sheep. Then two weeks after this photo was taken, in 2005, Sadie’s master died suddenly. She went off looking for him, following the route they regularly took together and was picked up as she stood in the middle of a main road. It must have felt as though she had just got the security she needed and it had all gone.

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I had to decide whether to give Sadie away and perhaps selfishly I chose to keep her. I had a farm to run now as well as my preserves business  and I needed Sadie. She acquired a friend in the shape of my daughter’s dog, Evie, a very calm springer spaniel and I worked hard to keep the farm going. Sadly that came to an end in 2007 when the farm had to be sold. On the last morning I put the dogs on leads as we left the farm. I couldn’t bear the thought of Sadie scampering off as she usually did over fields that no longer were hers.

Moving to a house on an estate had its good points. The dogs had never  had walks before and I just walked mile after mile each day until gradually the house began to feel like home. Sadie was hard to tire out and was as mad as ever. I caught hold of her one day as she was half way through a bedroom window. She still loved to lie on tables as you can see below and she got into so many scrapes that every day was an adventure for her. Children adored her and her temperament was wonderful. She really hadn’t got a nasty streak in her but she wasn’t easy.

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On returning from a few days away just recently I asked the dog sitter how Sadie had behaved and was told that her behaviour had been exemplary. I knew then that there was something wrong. Sadie’s behaviour was rarely normal let alone exemplary. I wrote this piece about a week in 2010 which was a typical week in Sadie’s life. I don’t like humanising animals but she just made you do that. These events were real and there were many, many more.

SADIE’S DIARY

Sunday July 17th

Went for a walk around the lake this morning. I took my usual detour through the car park to see if there was any food there. I have had some close shaves I can tell you. Anyway, I was really surprised to see so many people there. Times must be tough if people are going on foraging expeditions in car parks. I am not very pleased about the competition. I run very fast as I see some chip paper in the corner of the car park. Unfortunately these people get in my way. I don’t think they are heading for the food but you can’t be too sure. So I take a direct line which  takes me straight through this man’s legs. As soon as I have done this I realise I know him, it’s Eric. So I stop to apologise for nearly knocking him over. Unfortunately he moves backwards and steps on my foot so I move off in search of the chips. I look back and Eric has put his hand on a car and the driver shuts the car door with Eric’s fingers in it. Blood is dripping from his hand. That will teach him to keep his legs closer together next time.

Monday July 18th

Our evening walk took us round the lake again. I would like a bit more variety but I think my mistress has been a bit busy lately. There is a nice little pavilion where the teenagers meet to have a fag, drink from cans and swear a lot. But they are not a bad bunch and often the food is good. Today it is particularly good. There is a takeaway box and some chicken pieces and chips. It is on a bench and I slide the box onto the floor and then take out the chicken. It is so good. Then I hear one of the lads say to my mistress “Excuse me your dog has just stolen my food.” In my defence I would like to say that I was there, at the party, so to speak and it is rude not to share, so I was just pointing out the etiquette. Anyway, we move on and the kids don’t seem to bother too much – I think they had finished really and were just after some fag money.

Saturday July 24th

I have spent the morning helping my mistress tidy the garden. I am a great help, digging holes to put plants in (she doesn’t always approve of where I put the holes), pruning back excessive growth. I have made enormous changes in the garden and sometimes I don’t think I am appreciated. In my opinion my mistress has what they call “a short fuse” far too often. She needs to relax more and leave me to do more of the work. Anyway I had enormous fun chasing this frog through the undergrowth. The garden looked a lot less overgrown when I had finished, sort of flatter. My mistress shouted at me for chasing the frog “frogs do a lot of good in the garden, I don’t want you killing it,” she says. Now I know that is wrong, no good can come from a creature which is so odd to look at and which leaps about in that peculiar way. So I ignore what my mistress has said and when she isn’t looking I just carry on.

I am in it deep now. On our walk we go via  a friend’s  house. After a long stay in the garden (the friend won’t let me into the house). I have the call that we could go (“HERE SADIE” is not a sound I like to hear. I don’t like to feel I am at anyone’s beck and call)). Anyway, I charge into the house and am promptly sick on the carpet. How did that make me feel? A lot better, I can tell you. How did that make them feel? The owners of the white, new carpet, were angry but my mistress took me home quickly and she was very sad.

Monday 26th July

I had an interesting day testing out toys for a local company. At least I think that was what I was doing. I received this parcel in the post which was a very large duck. It was great but sadly the duck is no more. I took it for a walk, shook it a few times and put two rather large gashes in its side and the duck does not look as well as when it arrived. It’s not going to be long before its legs drops off. There is no doubt these toys should be better made so if you are looking for a dog to test out your toys, for a small fee of chews, I am available.

———–

Which parts of Sadie’s life will I remember most? Was it seeing the sheep flock tightly before she moved them at a breakneck speed,  the sadness of leaving the farm – just me and the two dogs,  Sadie trying to take a fish off an angler’s line just before he could get to it, the wonderful long walks we shared or the crazy things she did. Someone said to me the other day ‘Do you think she wasn’t wired quite right?’ Very possibly, she was a dog like no other I have ever had or known. In 2008 a friend and I  backpacked and walked part of the Coast to Coast walk. When we reached Black Sail Youth Hostel  the weather was too bad for us to continue that day. Cold and wet Carole and I  went inside for a cup of tea leaving her dog and my two outside. Suddenly a man came in in a panic to say that there is a dog on the roof. Together we reply, ‘Don’t worry,  that’ll be Sadie, she’ll be fine.’ And, of course, she was.

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6 Comments
  1. So sad for you Jane. She was a very special dog and she leaves lots of special memories that you will probably laugh and cry about for years to come. That’s what pets do to us. They come into our lives for a short time and leave us devastated when they depart but hopefully there will be others with their own little characters that will take away the hurt.

  2. Loved the story. Condolances on your losses. Glad for your account. Thanks for sharing this special girl.

  3. Gerri permalink

    So sorry for you loss Jane. Pat Price could not have said it better. This could be a book, You write very well.

  4. david permalink

    just fantastic,sad and real. The diary is delightful.

  5. supernova permalink

    Hi Jane, I’m very sorry for the loss of a family member. My regards, James.

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