Thursday, July 31, 2008
The day we’ve been dreading finally came yesterday; we had to euthanize Mel. He did chores with us as usual on Tuesday morning, went out and prowled around a bit at Tuesday lunch, but then by dinner couldn’t get himself up, and even when we took him outside he wasn’t strong enough to hold himself up. Up until then, he hadn’t been ready to go, but when he couldn’t do what he needed to do to keep himself clean, he wanted out. So, I called the vet yesterday morning since he wasn’t any better, and we took him for his last ride late yesterday afternoon, then came home and watched a beautiful sunset as we buried him where he can watch all the sunsets, just like he liked to do on the hill at our house in Canadice. There’s now a brown spot in the pasture, but as soon as the dirt packs down a little, we’ll reseed, and we’ll always have our memories of Mel.
I don’t think Mel ever realized he was a dog. His breeder sold most of her puppies as show dogs, but since we were clear that we only wanted a pet, she sold us Mel at a pet price because he’d become ill when he was five days old, was taken in the house to be cared for, and his mother never wanted him back. So, as far as he was concerned he was raised as a human and he probably would not have adjusted to show dog life, but living with us he managed to train us as much as we trained him, and he was always very clear about what he was thinking. We actually figured it was Fate that made us get him, because when our previous borzoi, Bonnie, died, I called to tell the breeder even though we were thinking of getting a rescue greyhound rather than another borzoi. However, his breeder told us that she had a bitch due to whelp that night, and she’d hold a puppy for us if we wanted one. We talked about it for all of about five seconds, and then figured it was fate and said we’d love a puppy.
He did so many funny things. When he was about a year and half old, he killed his first raccoon. He ran up to it, grabbed it by the neck and started to shake it, and then backed up and looked completely astonished when the raccoon started to fight back. However, he mostly just got mad when the raccoon scratched at him, so he gave a good quick snap and that was the end of the raccoon. And, Mel had learned that he could kill a fairly large animal in a heartbeat. He and Nock became a champion groundhog hunting team. When the ground hogs would venture into the Invisible Fence area, Nock would keep them from going to ground and chase them out if they did, and Mel would swoop by, chomp and shake the groundhog, and then he and Nock would have a great time running around with it and playing with it. Mel’s kills as our fond memories probably sounds a little heartless, but when you have horses, you don’t want groundhogs around, because they’re always digging new burrows where a horse could break a leg. The only time I ever stopped Nock and Mel’s fun was one morning when I was trying to ride, and Mel was prancing around with the groundhog, slinging it back and forth first over one shoulder and then the other, and the horse was terrified. I don’t think the horse knew what the strange animal that seemed to have a disconnected head even was. So, I got the horse to go close enough to Mel that he dropped the groundhog, and then herded Mel back towards the house. Mel didn’t come back up to the field, but Nock did, and I didn’t think too much of it until I was done riding and went back with a shovel to toss the groundhog carcass out of the Invisible Fence. I couldn’t find the carcass. Finally, I looked at Nock, who was reclining in a sunspot, very happy and VERY fat. I think she ate the whole groundhog. Fortunately she was okay, and she and Mel continued to keep the property clear of groundhogs until we sold it.
We also used to stand and watch Mel and Nock catching mice in our ditch jump. Mel, always being the boss, would send Nock into the ditch to find the mice. She’d get one, and jump out of the ditch with the mouse and a clump of dried grass in her mouth. Mel would grab Nock by the shoulders, give her a little shake, just enough to make her drop the mouse, and then when the mouse and grass clump fell on the ground and the mouse ran out, Mel would snatch up the mouse and swallow it.
He also used his swoop and grab tactic early one October morning…like 4:30am early…when Nock crawled into a fox burrow under the barn and killed the fox. I used a 3-prong rake to gaff the fox out of the hole, with Nock attached. I finally got Nock off the fox, and was trying to carry it, still on the rake, so I could toss it outside of the Invisible Fence until I could bury it. Just as I was getting to the line, Mel swooped by, grabbed the fox off the rake, and took off up into the jump field. I had to find the fox and get it out of the yard before I went to work, so I spent a half hour walking around a field in the dark trying to find where Mel dropped it, with Mel prancing along behind me, swinging his tail in circles, being absolutely no help at all.
Mel was also a champion at making me late for work. He always picked the days Tom and I had to be out early to do something like getting skunked, and then I swear he would laugh at us as we tried to keep away from him when all he wanted to do was rub his head on our clothes. And then there was the morning when he rolled in deer poop, and had to be hosed off so he could stay in the house for the day. So, I was out in the driveway trying to hose him on a rather chilly morning, and he was up on his hind legs batting at me with his paws. I was shouting something to the effect of “If you hit me again, I’ll clock you, you bastard” when I saw my neighbor at the end of our driveway out of the corner of my eye. She was coming over to make sure everything was all right, wondering exactly what bastard I was yelling at for hitting me.
Our Canadice neighbor Sheryl and I can still get ourselves laughing hysterically over what we term The Strawberry Shortcake incident. I made a huge strawberry shortcake and covered it with whipped cream. We left it sitting on the kitchen counter while we went into the dining room with plates and forks. We walked back out into the kitchen, and Mel was reaching his head up on the counter and licking the whipped cream off the side of the cake. Sheryl and I both yelled at him, and he gave us a look and then went and put his head under a dishtowel on the back of one of the kitchen chairs. We could very clearly hear him thinking “Damn, I’ve been busted. But they won’t see me here.”
I could probably bore everyone to tears telling all of our Mel stories, but in the end, we just have to be thankful that Mel was Mel. He wasn’t always easy, but he was always fun, or at least interesting. When I took him to an introductory obedience class, the trainer came over to talk to me to see why I was there with Mel since I’d already taken his class with a couple of other dogs. He knew I had no trouble giving the dogs their basic training, so I told him that Mel desperately needed to be socialized, and that he was very dominant and difficult at times. The trainer started to say “Come on, you know what you’re doing…” when he looked down and there was Mel, peeing on his leg. He stopped in mid-sentence, said “Maybe you do have your hands full,” and walked away. That was Mel.
Finally, we have to thank Mel for making us get the Jack Russells. When we first got Mel, he was the only one in the pack under ten years old. We knew we’d want a dog or two to replace one of the oldsters eventually, but we didn’t know what we wanted. At the time, we were doing a lot of horse competitions, and we’d take Mel with us. As we’d walk around the show grounds, where everybody is attached to a dog, Mel would stick his nose in the air and walk by all the other dogs – except the Jack Russells. His best buddy was our friends Del and Vicky’s Jack Russell Fiver, and he seemed to know Fiver’s breed, because he loved all Jack Russells. The final straw that made us call Russell Rescue was the evening we watched the movie Michael on the VCR, and Mel sat and watched the entire movie, running around to the back of the TV to see where the Jack Russell went every time it went off the screen. That next week we had our application in, and we had Louie within a month. Unfortunately, Mel didn’t think Louie was the Jack Russell he wanted, and they always had a little bit of a competition going over the attention of their people, but when we got Nock, Mel was happy.
Mel lived in three different houses with us, and was the bridge between our first dog pack and the second, and in the little bit more than a year we’ve been here, we also had Mel to transition us into what will probably be the third pack with the Ruckus Twins. We also think he helped us on our drive through Mexico, since everybody reacted to him – they were either scared and stayed away, which apparently kept the bad guys away, or they were fascinated with him and wanted to pet him and talk about him, so even though we spoke very little Spanish on our drive through Mexico, Mel made us communicate with people which made the trip that much more fun.
We’re really going to miss him.