Almost 15 years ago, we had been dog-less for several months (after the death of Tristan, who was crazy, I need a bit of breathing space). Then that summer, YA and both decided it was time.  We debated and debated about whether to get an Irish Setter or a Samoyed, although we both wanted to try for rescue dogs.  There were two rescue organizations that had good reputations, one was Play it Again Sammies in Wisconsin and Save our Setters in Tennessee; we filled out the paperwork (miles of it) with both and said we would see who came up first, a Sammy or a Setter.

Rhiannon was about a year old and had actually been found in Alabama. After a few weeks of posted notices, no one had claimed her so she went to the rescue organization in Tennessee. Even though I was technically waiting to be approved, when I saw her photo on the SOS site, I called them and after a couple more phone calls, they agreed that we might be a good fit for her.  A volunteer drove her from Tennessee to Chicago and then another volunteer from Madison, drove to Chicago to get her.  Then YA and I drove to Madison on a Saturday morning to pick her up.  Except for that photo online, sight unseen.

The volunteer didn’t want us to come to her house so we met in the parking lot behind a steak house on Highway 94. I felt a little like somebody was going to show up wearing a big overcoat, whip open the coat and say “pssst, you wanna buy a watch?  Or an Irish Setter?”  My first words on seeing her were “Oh, she’s so little.”  In fact, over the years, many folks have assumed she is not a setter because of her size.

But that little body held a huge Irish Setter mentality. All toys were hers; she didn’t destroy them or even play with them much, but they were hers.  She would pick up a toy or lay down near one and none of the other dogs (or cats)  were allowed to have it.  All food was hers; over the years we had to move the trash totally out of the kitchen onto the back porch and also to lock the organic recycling.  She could open ANY trash container, including our current one that opens with a motion detector.  Food left on the counter was completely hers – just a month ago, she ate half a recipe of ginger cookie dough while it was waiting to be set on cookie sheets.  All dog beds were hers.  For the last few years, there have been two dog beds in my room, a red one and a blue one, same make and model.  If Gwen or Nimue laid on one of the beds, Rhiannon would get up and move over to the taken bed, shoving the inhabitant out.  Once she laid right on top of Nimue before the kitty could get out of the way.

And stubborn. Oh my stubborn.  Despite having passed two dog training classes, “come” was optional in her world, as well as “stay”.  Only if it suited her.  We have a dog gate to keep her out of the kitty box, a dog gate to keep her upstairs at night, dog gate to keep her in the breakfast room during parties (she once took a cookie right out of the hand of a toddler.)  And although every single treat I ever gave her over the years was accompanied by a stern “gentle”, she never mastered the art.  Grabbing was her thing.

After 15 great years, filled with treats, walks and lots of spoiling, Rhiannon has gone onto that big dog park in the great beyond. She’d been struggling for a month or so and really went downhill the last couple of weeks.  My feeling has always been that I don’t spoil my animals for years to let them suffer at the end; over the weekend it was clear that she had finished her journey and it was time for me to let her go.  All of her “queen-of-the-world” attitude aside, I will miss her gentle eyes and beautiful red fur.

Any good animal stories to cheer me up today?

46 thoughts on “Rhianny-Boo”

  1. So sorry to hear about Rhiannon. I know how hard it is to let a dog (or cat) go and how hard it is to know when the time has come because dogs can be so stoic.

    Our first golden retriever, Teddy, came to us from a local breeder. He had really good bloodlines and the breeder encouraged us to show him. We tried that once and he came in third out of three. He was pretty enough but just so laid back and goofy it was clear that he wasn’t cut out for show. Still, there was something ineffable about him. Whenever his name was mentioned, people would respond, “Oh, Teddy!”. Even the breeder, who had many goldens and who would board Teddy when we went on vacation, seemed to have a special soft spot for Teddy. Around the neighborhood, where we would walk him, everybody knew Teddy, even if they didn’t know us except as Teddy’s owners. We felt like the parents of a celebrity. Our kids used to complain that Teddy was more famous than they were.

    The first year of his life, Teddy never barked. We think he didn’t realize he could. When one day he spontaneously barked, it startled him. Then he experimented with a few little barks. After that, he barked with a particular joy, as if he considered it a special trick he had discovered.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Wish I had known Teddy. Thanks for telling his story; I’ve always thought that I was a bad person because I know all the names of the dogs in the neighborhood but I don’t know any of their owners names.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. In my early teens I had a dog (also a golden retriever) who spent enough time in the town’s park that people came to think of him as a park amenity. His picture was in the newspaper, with the correct name, although the photographer had no idea he was our dog. I met a kid once who threatened me when I said Danny was our dog. “Everybody knows Danny is the park dog,” he yelled, “and if you say he’s yours I’m gonna whup you.”

      Dogs were not confined in the Fifties. Danny became the park dog when we moved to a home overlooking that park. He’d mosey down to the tennis court or picnic tables whenever he felt the need for company or maybe a few hot dogs.

      Like Bill’s Teddy, Danny had a special sense of himself. Toward the end of his life, he still carried himself with friendly dignity. A Lake Minnetonka homeowner called my dad early one morning to say Danny was at his home, eating from the garbage can. My dad apologized. “Oh no!” said the man. “I don’t mind! I just wanted you to know where he is. That Danny . . . he’s such a gentleman!”

      Liked by 7 people

    3. One day, Teddy came into the house with a funny look on his face. His lips were pressed shut and he kept turning away from us. When we persuaded him finally to open his mouth, a baby bunny hopped out.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Of our three golden retrievers, Teddy was the only one that really treasured his toys— mostly stuffed animals. Whenever someone would come to the door, Teddy would rush to grab a toy or a shoe with which to greet them. Teddy’s favorite toy was a stuffed bear that had originally been a child’s backpack. He carried it around and slept with it and by the end of his life had worn it down to a nubbin. Almost thirty years later, we still have that fragment of cloth and, along with a picture of Teddy, put it somewhere on our Christmas tree every year. That’s how much of a gift we remember Teddy to have been.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. I think Teddy and Rhiannon must’ve been spirit siblings. Rhiannon love to greet you with a stuffed toy. But she loved to meet and greet with anything so if she couldn’t find a toy fast enough she would pick up anything she could find. She greeted me more than once with a piece of paper she had found on the floor and once a toilet paper tube that must’ve fallen out of recycling at some point.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Brandy, my springer, did exactly the same thing, greeting guests by waving some precious object. We had new friends coming over one evening. I cleared the floor of all objects except a sizable cardboard triangle on which I lettered “Welcome Roger and Anna!” When the bell rang, Brandy grabbed the greeting and strutted about just as I’d hoped she would. It was fun!

          Liked by 3 people

        3. If I had been a different sort of fellow, I could have made Brandy’s greeting dance even more memorable. Like cleaning up the room and leaving some intimate garment on the floor. But I was never that sort of guy.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. hardest thing ever vs.
    you know its coming but its never the right time.

    i was 16 in my tan vw van and declared that i was getting my dog. i went to the humane society in minneapolis and in st paul. i went to people who had dogs in the paper the search was on week 2 or 3 and the right dog had not shown itself.
    i wanted a biggish dog. i looked at shepard’s and goldens and setters all in puppy form. cute little fur balls but not quite right. then at the humane society on 50th north in minneapolis there was a puppy with exactly the right eyes and attitude and waggle and when you are dealing with mutts the visualized end is a conjured up inference, lab basset sounded like a lab. i judged how big the puppies would grow to by the size of their feet forgetting that bassets have clown feet. so a year or so after i picked up dylan at the humane society we were traveling in that vw van out to pick up jackson blanchard murphy the third in salt lake city camping and traveling only by back roads. seeing norh dakota by driving the back roads was boring but we picked up a cat in our campsite in a field of tumbleweeds and jack rabbits on the second or third night and named it m&m after the markings on its sable forhead. sue beese was my true love and my brother was along at age 14 and we pulled into jacksons front yard after 2 1/2 weeks of traveling the back roads through the plains, the back country and all the scenic options the big old rand mcnalley offered us along the way. through national parks and national forests, state parks and forests and it all became a blurr. siskiou, was lost among all the other state and national wonders and i have no idea if it is in wyoming utah montana or where but it was beautiful. logan utah is where the water rushes so hard through the beautiful rugged roadside woods that it pushes he water up hill over the rocky contours of the most beautiful ditches i have ever seen. the weather was perfect and the van had a roof that cranked open to let the natural ventilation be complete.
    me and sue up front. paul and dylan in back, we pulled into salt lake city on a saturday afternoon about 5 and there was jacks dad sitting on a folding lawn chair in their front yard reading the newspaper. we opened the doors, went in the house to say hi to jack and laughed and stretched and explained in the pre cell phone era why we took 2 1/2 weeks to get there after we called and said we were on our way. he expected us much earlier. jacks dad came down and said “hey does that dog of yours know how to find his way back?”
    we went out and stood in the front yard looked right and looked left, called out and jumped in the van and went for a dog looking loop around the neighborhood. jack drove and i sat up on the roof with the sky roof rolled open and called out in a sing song call, dylannn dylannn. it was saturday night and in saltlake city people dont drive to church they walk to the one on the corner. there were 3 or 4 mormans every block and i was calling as we drove and when we pulled up alongside i would ask have you seen a dog about this long and this tall. black looks like a lab but with long ears short legs big feet and a tail that sticks straight up in the air? nope they’d say. well if you do please call the police and let them know and we’ll come get him. ok will do.. good luck finding him.
    ill bet we asked 200 people before it got dark, all out for a stroll on the way to or from church and nice as could be. i was freaking a little bit trying to get my message out quick and move on to call until we found him. i think we found one person who saw him about an hour ago heading that a way and we headed off calling and leaving the message as we went. somebody told us about a radio show in salt lake called dog gone. it was a public service thing for people who lost their dogs. we called it and the police and the pound and the humane society and the newspaper and kept driving from sun up til sundown for a day then another then another and every day someone had seen him and we kept on circling the blocks calling and asking and finally on day 5 of the search we got a call someone had him in their back yard and would keep him until we got there. we zipped over there and when he spotted us he was so excited he ran literally around in circles, around and around and around jumping and barking in delight and running so hard in his joy his legs would come out from under him on the corners of his circle and when he connected in my arms it was licking and slobbering and crying and joy. we jumped in the vw and headed back to jacks to grab our stuff and jack wanted to show us a little of salt lake and how beautiful the canyons and mountains were, we spent another day ther and then headed off to glacier, banff,jasper vancouver on our way to l.a all on the back roads with me and sue beese, brother paul, jackson blanchard murphy the third , m&m and dylan, with the windows down the roof rolled open the 8 track tapes playing songs of the beatles bob dylan, jessie winchester, joni mitchel and however many tunes would fit in two shoenboxes of 8tracks between the seats up front.
    the weather remained perfect the whole summer. i was gone 9 or 10 weeks getting back just in time to start school and get back into solid life of a citizen of responsible behavior that would sneak away when ever he could to see nature in a minnesota way but that summer with the friends and critters and camping in the most wonderful campsites in the world was special.
    dylan was with me for 16 years and as his body gave out and he struggled to get up into and then out of his big easy chair he’d let me know how much he enjoyed our time together,
    dogs are special, really really special.

    sorry for the hole they leave vs

    its one that doesnt go away for a while.


    Liked by 5 people

  3. Our two terriers were goofballs and very naughty. We will have another in the next few years after I retire. I want to be home to train it.

    We are currently entertained by our long haired Tortie cat, who is also a goofball. She twirls around after her tail like a dervish as fast as she can, first one direction, then the other direction. Her curiosity is alarming.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Her tail, I will add, is very long and luxuriously full and fuzzy. She races and chases through the house, going skittery skittery across the laminate floor, leaping on the dining room table and hurling herself at the glass windows on the French patio doors to try to get the birds and snowflakes flying around outside. I wouldn’t dream of letting her outside, as she is clumsy and impulsive and would surely get hurt through misadventure.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. No cute or heartwarming stories to tell, just fond memories of my first cat, MIdnight, who we got when I was about 6 yrs old. I came up with his name. Wasn’t rocket science or a brilliant literary inspiration. He was all black except for a white patch on his throat. But I considered him to be mine more than anyone else’s in the family. I think he liked me most too. We put him out at night as was usual back in the 60s and he got into fights with the other neighborhood toms. So he was tough if not the best fighter–he got injured badly enough one time to need a trip to the vet.

    But he was a lover too, and always gentle if you didn’t antagonize him. I was totally amazed one day when I picked him up to give him my usual hug and he put his paws around my neck and reciprocated. From that day on, we hugged each other. He’d purr and relax completely. Gotta say that if everyone had a calm dog or cat to hug or pet or have sit on their laps, the world would be a peaceful place.


    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 3 people

  5. RIse and Grieve Baboons,

    We learned a lot about the life cycle of the tape worm about 15 years ago when our very naughty rat terrier, Coco, got out one night and launched herself down the path to the swampy area in the local park to go rabbit hunting. My son who lived with us at the time, took a flashlight and went out Coco-hunting. He found her near the path, covered in blood, and with a distended tummy. Her rabbit-hunting foray was very, very successful. She was swooning with joy and pride and self-satisfaction. No one can tell me dogs don’t have emotions.

    6 weeks later she had a tapeworm. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. We learned that the eggs of said worm are held in the gut of the flea that lived on the rabbit that the dog ingested. And then the worm blossoms within the canine gut. It was disgusting and we loved her anyway.

    Did I mention that she was a Very Naughty Girl?

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Aw, VS… sorry you had to go through this.

    Our Humphrey, I’m pretty sure I’ve told you all we call him a “Delicate Flower”… he’s 100 lbs and just a sweet heart. But he won’t look you in the eyes, he’s bashful. Pushy, but bashful.
    Our three dogs, they’re all so passive aggressive for attention. He’s just the biggest so he just push his way in and lean against you and the others can’t get close. And Allie, the little rat terrior, 25 lbs but she’s the queen and don’t you forget it. She’ll take the other dogs down to get in your face. And then she just trembles she’s so, what, excited?? Nervous? We know she stress eats.

    This guy, he’s one of my favorites lately; he’s so gentle with the cows and they’re so friendly.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. So sorry, vs. No matter the rationale, or how well prepared we are to say goodbye, that final one is hard. Dwell in the love and joy you have shared all these years. I trust you’ll have her fur on stuff for a while yet as a tangible reminder.

    Our Bess was rescued from the Humane Society facility by Como Park in August of 1980. She was a full grown, but relatively young airedale terrier mix. The tag on her cage said she was named Bandit, and she sported a red bandana around her neck. It was love at first sight, and after completing some paperwork and paying a fee of some sort, she was ours.

    The ride home was not a happy one. Bandit retched several times in the back seat, and despite several stops along the way, it was evident that Bandit did not enjoy riding in a car. Once home, she was fine, and immediately accepted our two cats as part of the household. She was so sweet we decided that Bandit was a misnomer, so we renamed her Bess.

    The retching in the car continued, so on the advice of our vet, who hypothesized that Bess had unhappy associations with cars, we started taking her on very short drives, stopping every half a block or so to pet her or get out and play. Soon she was a trooper and enjoyed riding in the car for hours on end. We took her everywhere.

    At the time husband had his shop on the third floor of an old building on 1st Ave North in a building now long gone. Bess would go to work with him every day, and soon was the favorite of most of the other occupants of the building. Hans would take her for walks along the river where she could run free, and occasionally she’d take off. More than once we had to retrieve her from the dog pound, and once she was captured by a young couple on Hwy 280. We began to realize we shouldn’t have renamed her. (I also began to wonder about husband. Why didn’t he learn to not let her run off leash?)

    Husband and his fellow shop owners in the 1st Ave building often spent their lunch break on the flat roof of the building. On one such occasion, Bess, with no warning, suddenly bolted and jumped over the two foot brick wall around the circumference of the roof, in pursuit of who knows what. She landed on the roof of an adjacent building, a drop of about twenty feet. Her injuries were so substantial that our own vet referred her to the U of M School of Veterinary Medicine where they patched her back together. It took months, and loads of money we didn’t have, to restore her to some semblance of normalcy.

    I can still picture Bess sitting on the roof of husband’s Chevy Nova, parked under a tree in front of our house in the middle of a snow storm, her gaze transfixed on a squirrel in the tree. Husband had to physically lift her down, she refused to budge on her own. Stubborn as hell, that dog.

    When Monschka, our calico cat, presented us with five kittens, Bess promptly adopted the role of aunt and caretaker. She’d lie in her bed and allow the kittens to climb all over her, they’d snuggle right up to her and they’d all sleep together. She’d lick them and keep them clean, and Monschka trusted her completely.

    Bess died peacefully in her sleep in front of our fireplace on the morning of December 23rd, 1990. She had been failing for some time, but didn’t appear to be in pain, so we hesitated to have her euthanized. She was a one-of-a-kind dog, she is still vivid in our memories.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. My first Irish setter was also terrible in the car. No retching but a lot of drooling and panting. So for close to a year every couple of days I put it in the car drive a block and a half to the park (which of course we normally walked to.) And it took about a year before she decided that maybe being in the car was OK.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Those brown and black terriers are my favorite. I would love to get an Airedale. Husband says it has to be a dog he can easily pick up, and one that can’t just eat things off the counter so easily. That leaves me with Welshies and Lakelands.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That would definitely rule out an airedale. It reminds me of two other Bess stories. Once some friends of ours dog-sat Bess in their home on Nicollet Island. We had warned them that Bess could and would get to anything edible on a counter, so be careful. Over the weekend the woman of the house decided to bake some brownies. She put a whole sheet pan of them on the top of the fridge to cool. Bess somehow managed to get up on the counter from where she could reach the brownies, and helped herself to about half of them.

      On another occasion I had bought several one-pound fruitcakes from the Collin Street Bakery in Texas. They remained in the unopened shipping cardboard box on our front porch for over a week awaiting Christmas when I would be giving them away as gifts. One night we made the mistake of going to the movies. When we returned we found the box shredded and the fruitcakes gone.

      And then there was the time when she ate all of her heart worm pills at once (also while in the care of a house- and dog-sitter). No amount of castor oil worked to get her to throw up. It didn’t seem to phase her at all. Bess was incorrigible and hell bent on self-destruction.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Teddy as a puppy ate a pair of panty hose, which of course can be very dangerous. Fortunately, he followed them with a bar of soap and threw the whole mess up.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. My first Irish setter had a cast iron stomach. The number of things she ate over the years was legend. She ate a whole bag of Hershey kisses once that I thought would kill her but no reaction. In fact I was a little concerned that maybe I had been mistaken that there hasn’t been any kisses in the bag but then I found the evidence in the backyard over the next few days. She only ever threw up stuff once that I can recall …when she ate 22 Ukrainian egg ornaments

          Liked by 3 people

  9. I’m so sorry, VS – thanks for giving us an idea of what she was like! I feel like I know her…

    We’ve been lucky in that our cats were able do just die relatively easily. But I accompanied my friend A. a year ago when she had to take her beloved “Little Boy” to be put down. I could still cry thinking about it.

    I can’t think of any good pet stories of my own, so I’ll offer this, which you’ve probably all seen before:

    Liked by 2 people

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