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?