AND THEN, THEY ARE GONE

It’s a good day for looking back. When I wrote this in 2015, it was five years since Tinker and Griffin, our two PBGV (French rabbit hounds) had died. Since then, Bonnie who was a young dog then is gone, as is Divot, Gibbs, Bishop, Tegra, Amber, and Pagan. Most of them from cancer and old age.

Divot with Kaity and Garry at River Bend

I don’t have a picture I could find of Tegra. Owen probably has some non-digital pictures.

Griffin

Yesterday, we took Duke to the vet and realized he is already five. I kept thinking he was still a puppy and realizing he was already five made me shiver. They grow old so fast. Years later, I miss them all. I never stop missing them and I still cry when I think of them. I’m better at coping with the loss of the humans in my world than my pets.


Can you set a price on love? Can you set a number to it? Can you calculate it by the cost of veterinary care? Squeaky toys? Greenies?  Dog food? Grooming?

96-TinkerAtHomeHPCR-1

Tinker Belle was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen, usually called PBGVs or Petites. They are a medium-sized, shaggy rabbit hound from the Vendée region of France.

PBGVs are not the dog for everyone. Smart, sometime scarily. Natural clowns who will do almost anything to make you laugh. Noisy, nosy, and into everything.

Tinker Belle was special. From the day I brought her home, she wasn’t like any other puppy. Incredibly smart. As a rule, hounds are intelligent, but she was something else.

Housebreaking? We showed her the doggy door. She was henceforth housebroken. She could open any door, any gate and close them behind her. She would open jars of peanut butter without leaving a fang mark to note her passing. All you’d find was a perfectly clean empty jar that had previously been an unopened, brand new jar.

She was sensitive. Probably a born therapy dog, she knew who was in pain, who was sick. She knew where you hurt. The only dog who would never step on a healing incision, but would cuddle close to you, look at you with her dark, soft eyes and tell you everything would be fine.

She never hurt a living thing, not human or anything else … except for small varmints she hunted in the yard. She was, after all, a hound. A hunter, born to track, point and carry prey back to a master.

She was the smartest of our dogs, the smartest dog ever. Not just a little bit smarter than normal. A huge amount smarter. When you looked into Tinker’s eyes, it wasn’t like looking into the eyes of a dog. She was a human in a dog suit.

She knew. We called her Tinker The Thinker because she planned. Remembered. She held grudges. Nonetheless, she was at the bottom of the pack hierarchy.

We thought it was her own choice. She had no interest in leadership. Too much responsibility maybe? But the other dogs knew her value. When they needed her, other dogs would tap into her expertise in gate opening, package disassembly, cabinet burglary, trash can raiding, and other canine criminality.

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Throughout her life, she housebroke each new puppy. A couple of hours with Tinker, and the job was done. It was remarkable. Almost spooky. She then mothered them until they betrayed her by growing up and playing with other dogs.

When Griffin, our big male Petite Basset Griffon Vendeen came to live with us a few months after Tinker, they became The Couple. inseparable, deeply in love. They ate together, played together, slept together, sang together. When about a year later, we briefly had a little Norwich Terrier pup and Griffin (what a dog) abandoned Tinker to go slobbering after Sally.

Tinker’s sensitive heart broke. She became depressed, would not play with humans or dogs. For the next decade, Tinker wouldn’t even look at Griffin. She apparently blamed us, too, her humans for having brought another girl into the house. In retribution for our crimes, Tinker began a Reign of Terror.

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Tinker took to destroying everything she could get her fangs. She was three years old when the destruction began.

She’d done a modest amount of puppy chewing, but nothing extraordinary. She was more thief than chewer. She would steal stuff and hide it. Shoes, toys, towels, stuffed animals. After Griffin betrayed her with that stupid little bitch — Sally was indeed the polar opposite of Tinker being the dumbest dog I’ve ever known and ill-tempered to boot — Tinker was no longer a playful thief. She was out to get us.

Tinker as a pup

Nothing was safe. She had a particular passion for destroying expensive electronic devices. Cell phones, remote controls, portable DVD players, computers. If she could get a fang to them, she killed them.

She would do enormous damage in under a minute. We couldn’t leave the room unless we put everything where Tinker couldn’t get it. She struck quickly. When we went to bed for the night, every item had to be locked away. If she couldn’t get to an electronic item, she ate the sofa, the rocking chair, the coffee table, a lot of books, many DVDs.

For dessert, shoes were yummy. I didn’t own shoes without tooth marks. We called them “Tinkerized.” We had a grading system from 10 – Utterly destroyed, to 1 – Only shows if you look closely. Most of my shoes fell into the 2 to 3 range and since she tended to start at the heel, I figured most folks wouldn’t notice.

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During one memorable intermission, Tinker dismembered the remotes. She pulled off the backs, tore out the batteries (but did not eat them), then ripped out the innards — in under two minutes.

She didn’t waste time. If she had leisure, she’d also tear out keys and mangle cases, but if time was limited, she went straight to the guts of the thing. She was good.

For her entire life, we lived under siege. If you didn’t want it Tinkerized, you couldn’t leave it exposed, not for a minute.

For the last year of her life, after we brought Bonnie home, Tinker became a real dog again. With Bonnie, Tinker ran around. Played tag. Joined the chorus when the pack pointed their muzzles at the sky and sang.

Hounds have beautiful voices and Tinker’s was the best.

Three years ago, Tinker died of cancer. She had shown no symptoms except a slight slowing down. One day, she collapsed. A couple of weeks later, Griffin had a stroke and died too. They were exactly the same age and I don’t believe for a minute that their nearly simultaneous passing was a coincidence.

After the two hounds were gone, the pack did not sing for half a year. One day, mourning ended and they started to sing again.

Great Griffin
Griffin, who broke her heart

What was Tinker’s true cost? We paid $700 for her as a pup. She caused thousands of dollars of damage to electronics, furniture, shoes, books, DVDs, videotapes, dolls, stuffies — who knows what else?

She paid us back and more. When I was ill, Tinker never left my side. When I was back from surgery, missing another piece of me and in pain, Tinker was there, never placing a paw where it would hurt me. How much is that worth? What is the true cost of a lifetime love from a dear friend?



Categories: Anecdote, Animals, dogs, Gallery, Pets, Photography

Tags: , , , , ,

25 replies

  1. Somewhere, I have a picture go Tegra, who befriended me by inviting me to a game of “toss-the-giant-truck-tire,” He was much better at it than I.., but he seemed grateful that I would even try. If I find it I’ll send it to you.

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  2. I found that a dog’s love is beyond any price but they can be a costly ‘hobby’…. and worth every dime, cent, Rappen, farthing!

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  3. It is the hardest thing with pets that their lives are so short compared to ours.

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    • And the time goes do FAST. I think we are too old to get any more dogs. I just want the Duke to stay healthy as long as he can and hope for the best.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been coming to the same conclusion that maybe I won’t get another dog after Cindy. Teddy is 8 and Toby is 10. They are little dogs and will be around for a while I think. Naomi talks about getting another dog after them but I am worried that if we get a puppy in five or ten years it may outlive us. Cross that bridge when we come to it I suppose.

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  4. You wrote: “Sally was indeed the polar opposite of Tinker being the dumbest dog I’ve ever known and ill-tempered to boot”

    So Griffin broke her heart by chasing after a truly dumb girl? Well you know how guys are, we sometimes have a thing for the floozies and the “bitches”. It’s obvious it’s got nothing to do with brains, and everything to do with.., well.., you know. With Griffin, it might just have been a “grass-is-greener” kinda thing? I have to feel he may have realized his mistake too late to do anything about it. Ahhh well! RIP my friend.

    Now Duke, or “Bernie” as I liked to call him, is my kinda dog. You don’t own a “Duke” type. He chooses to live with you.., be your friend. It’s his way, or the highway. You guys met his requirements, and the accomodations are good.

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  5. Aw, our dogs do become such a part of our lives. I also miss everyone one of mine. I even miss the gerbils, the hamster, the guinea pig and the fish. It’s comforting that that most of your pets (and mine) died of old age and when they died from something else, it certainly wasn’t caused by owner neglect. We love and care for our pets until the very last moment. (PS my Puppy Cody is 8 and already showing signs of slowing down a bit, as I also did when I entered late middle age. She will be our last pet because once she goes, I will be too old to care for anything other than myself.)

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    • I know just what you mean. I think we are already on the old side for a young pet. Garry is 79 and I’m 74, so we have slowed down a lot. I know the reason the Duke is not well-trained is I simply can’t walk well enough to do the job. I can’t imagine a house without a dog so I need the Duke to hang around for as long as he is able. He’s not a big dog, so hopefully he’ll last a while.

      We had three dogs who died of “unknown.” One was probably Lyme, but by the time we knew, it was too late to do anything about it. Divot and Bonnie were both simply OLD. There was nothing wrong with them except they were 90 dog years old and Bonnie was suffering from serious doggie dementia. And Gibbs who died of something one afternoon while sleeping on the sofa. That caught us all by surprise, though the vet thinks it was a tumor near his heart and weren’t we lucky to have avoided that terrible final year when you know you ought to deal with it, but you don’t want to. You just want your pet to be with you a little while longer.

      We have learned the hard way to steel ourselves and not wait until it gets really ugly, but boy is that painful.

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  6. OMG. Can’t believe that a dog could do that to a remote. In under 2 minutes was exaggeration, right?

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    • No, it wasn’t. She was FAST. And she seemed to know exactly how to dismantle them. For all of her 13 years, we couldn’t leave ANYTHING out. We literally had to lock everything away before we went to bed and woe to us if we forgot something. She was remarkable and I swear she planned her strategies. I’ve never had another dog like her, though the Duke is pretty close. It took us several years to feel it was safe to leave remotes anywhere other than a locked drawer. I still have those remotes in case I need a book cover!

      Like

  7. WHAT GREAT DOGS YOU HAVE HAD IN YOUR FAMILY! WHEN I WAS TEN AND ELEVEN YEARS OLD, WE LIVED ON A RANCH WHERE WE ALL HAD 11 DOGS AT ONE TIME, ALL DIFFERENT BREEDS, AND THEY ALL GOT ALONG AS A PACK TO GO HUNTING IN THE MOUNTAINS OR BE WITH US AROUND OUR HOMES. I HAD TWO OF THEM, A SCOTTIE AND A MUTT.

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    • I realized the other day that Duke is the first non-breed dog I’ve ever personally owned. I always had breed dogs, usually adopted from show homes when they were no longer being shown and it was time for them to have their own home. So he is the first dog who is a puzzle. I don’t know what weight he should be and when asked what he is, I really have no idea except for knowing that there’s some kind of Asian breed in there somewhere. If you shave him down, he looks like a bull terrier and I think there’s probably some Boston Terrier in there, too. But otherwise? NO idea.

      I always like breed dogs because I knew what I was getting. I knew how big they would be and how much fur they would have. But Duke is kind of wonderful too.

      The most dogs we had was five. Now, just one. We would have gotten another dog, but Duke is a bit of a bully with other dogs — unless they are a lot bigger than he is and I can’t manage anything that big. He is VERY happy as the only dog.

      Like

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