Monday, March 23, 2015

Lovely Lara

This beauty is our latest (canine) visitor. I imagine she was named for Lara Croft, since probably no one in her circles at the time would have thought of Dr Zhivago, but in fact she is much more beautiful than Angelina Jolie or even than Julie Christie.

Lara is eleven, though you wouldn't know it. She spent the first year of her life hungry and abused before being rescued by her former owner, the brother-in-law of Tom's brother-in-law P, ( hope that's not too complicated). She then spent some ten years loved and busy in their family, first with growing-up children and plenty of coming and going, and then later as a companion to P's sister during her final illness, with a short but terribly sad period of loneliness and anxiety at the end of this. The husband then being obliged to continue working abroad, and nobody else in a position to have her, P and D, Tom's sister, felt they had to step in and took her on just five months ago.

It is clearly a match made in heaven; D said they took her on initially out of love for the sister, but very quickly knew they were keeping her out of love for Lara herself. D in particular had been hankering for a dog for some time, but, having both been in the wars themselves with health problems and other worries of one kind and another, they're determined to make the most of their time for themselves, cutting loose for three months or so each winter and travelling around France and Spain in their camper van, not minding the out-of-season quiet, reading, knitting, moseying and resting, researching and finding the next simple but comfortable pitch, so they worried that a dog would be a tie and a responsibility. Lara being all chipped, vaccinated and passported, though, they bravely set out this year with her on board, calling in here on the way back as usual, and so we could sort out the final vet's appointment for their return.

They've done very well, I think. D said that this time away she hadn't missed her grandchildren at all now she'd got Lara, which as far as we're concerned is very much a step in the right direction. Lara herself hadn't been used to travelling much in her former life, and is rather excitable about it. She's enjoyed sniffing her way around Spain and France, but still suffers from a certain amount of separation anxiety,

Where is he? He shouldn't be out there without me...
so leaving her alone in the camper van while they go elsewhere isn't an option. Like all Alsatians (we still call them that, can't get used to saying German shepherd), she is rather protective of territory, and also a little uncertain how to behave with other dogs, she's amiably disposed but hasn't had much socialising with them, and other dogs, and their owners, do tend to be nervous of Alsatians. But she has come such a long way in a short time, is alert and curious and responsive yet discreet and gracious and very sweet. She greeted me with a gentle nose-to-nose as soon as we met, and agreed to join Tom on the sofa the first evening,

lying for a while with her head on his lap before hopping down to be closer to her folks. Yet this was only at his invitation, she's clearly a dog who prefers to have and understand boundaries and doesn't take liberties, who will lie calm but attentive under the table for hours, will sometimes take a tidbit courteously but isn't at all greedy, who pulls a bit on the lead but off it will rarely stray far, except when another dog comes into view.

Her sight and hearing are good, her hips only slightly arthritic; her vet is very positive about her condition for her age, (as was our Emmy), and her hopes for a good few years to come. With his encouragement - contrary to the proverb it's never too late for a fit and active old dog to be taught - they're going to take her to some training classes, so she can learn better how to walk nicely and be with other dogs and they can learn how they can best help her to adjust and get along. We wish them all many more happy years together.

Tom's sister, typically tender-hearted and worried about giving pain, was concerned that we might find it distressing having her around after losing Mol, but once they saw how much we enjoyed her company, there was the same kind of teasing as we had from G and A about how we were clearly yearning for another dog. However, as we pointed out on both occasions, it would be very difficult if we'd had our own dog, especially one like Mol, to welcome such lovely canine visitors so easily, so it's one of those things we will enjoy and take advantage of while our current dogless state lasts.


The Crow said...

What a beauty she is, Lucy! Nice of you to share her visit. Really love the look on Tom's face - was looking for yellow feathers at the corner of his mouth. :)

marja-leena said...

A touching and lovely story of love between dog and humans! How great for you and Tom that you have the joy of these canine visitors.

Ellena said...

I want to whisper into her big ears and tell her how lucky she is to visit with Lucy and Tom.

Zhoen said...

Old dogs certainly can be taught new tricks, especially one as obviously intelligent and thoughtful as Lara.

Good for you, taking your time, waiting for the right dog who needs you, to come along.

Catalyst said...

That is a beautiful dog. I love her big fluffy tail showing in that third photo. And she looks so wise.

Roderick Robinson said...

Better to stay with Alsatian. When I was new to blogging I used to read others' profiles, just in case they turned out to be secret readers of The Daily Mail (US equivalent: membership of the NRA). One blogger, reflecting on the departure of his offspring, said his household was now reduced to himself, his wife and a German shepherd. I pointed out the ambiguity of this statement, only just restraining myself from speculation about what a German shepherd would look like, given that I can't ever remember seeing any sheep in Germany and that the phrase might be code for who-knew-what kind of perversion. He took it well and we are (I think) still friends.

Look I've no complaint about your canine rhapsodies except that I must object to your erection of straw men (or - in this fortuitous instance - of straw dogs. Ha-ha-ha.) Never mind whether Lara is superior in looks to Julie Christie (a comparison surely made with your eyes firmly closed, even so) but it's not oranges vs. oranges. You're in a gender muckment, with Sapphism just around the corner. In such a comparison homo sapiens was always going to come off worst even it was nigglingly correct. To make things fair you should have cited James Mason, Helmut Schmidt and/or that French tennis player of yesteryear whose name escapes me. Or for that matter, the poet Rilke, though poets often do turn out to look rather ragged round the edges.

One tip: Raise all well-beloved porcelain a further meter above sea-level. One sweep of Lara's tail could... Ah, there I go, being far too practical. And practicality isn't the essence of this post.

Avus said...

Ahh, Lucy. As you know I am a German Shepherd fan (it is me to whom Roderick Robinson refers in the above post and yes, we are still friends!)

We have had three and lost our latest, Rex, in June last year, I ache for another, but my recent stroke means that such a beautiful, large dog is now inadvisable.

But your sensitive post stirred me to start looking at dog rescue centres once more, but for one a little smaller perhaps, collie or beagle maybe?

Lucy said...

Thank you!

Crow - took us a moment to remember about the cat and the canary! He did feel very pleased and quite honoured by her company.

ML - the story has turned out so well for everyone, we're very happy for them and happy to meet Lara.

Ellena - her ears really are amazing, so big and upstanding! They were lovely and soft and she didn't mind having them stroked.

Zhoen - she is very bright, and clearly learning new words and patterns, we told her our names, pointing to each other as we said them, and you could see her processing the information. We love dog company, and miss many things about having a dog in general, and Molly in particular, but we have many plans afoot, which we must realise now we are free, with the time, health and money to do so.

Catalyst - she does have a very knowing look, and is very clever. The tail is handsome, but held with great restraint!

Robbie - Emmy our vet seemed to think there was some British discomfort about attributing the epithet 'German' to things, great Danes are also called 'dogues allemands' in French. Not quite sure of her logic there but still. I suppose Rotweiler has rather negative connotations but no one worries too much about dachshunds. Your comment has led me off on various researches, trying to remember what Helmut Schmidt looked like - he's still alive it seems and at 96 is Germany's oldest ever former chancellor - and German sheep breeds. I seemed to remember there were some handsome chocolate brown ones because there's a lady in Brittany I know on Ravelry who spins their fleeces, but they turned out to be the Dutch zwartbles breed. But there are others, eg the Alpines Steinschaf, the Bentheimer Landschaf, the Coburger Fuchsschaf, and not forgetting the Pomeranian coarsewool, so evidently German shepherds had enough to keep them busy and to necessitate dogs to help. As to Julie Christie (who wasn't in Straw Dogs, that was Susan George, JC was Don't Look Now) I find her very beautiful, but as to Sapphism, I can admire without desire, in fact I do quite a bit. James Mason, who I seem to remember was a shared fondness with VR, did not, as far as I know, ever take on the part of any character called Lara. Butfrom my earliest years, it always seemed to me that the embodiment of the line of true beauty was always to be found in a fine dog, any appreciation of the human variety (including James Mason's, which was as much in the voice as anything) came later, and that perception has never entirely left me.

Lara has indeed a fine tail, but we observed that though she carries it well, and is able to communicate joy through bounding about like a gazelle on occasion, she is restrained in her tail wagging, none of your Labrador's clouting the valuables. A rather serious dog in her manner.

Lucy said...

Avus - I thought it might be you RR was talking about! Though Lara is a great dog for these two, who are just into their seventies, and they have done a wonderful thing by taking her on, it's not without some problems, I suppose. However good shape she's in, she will inevitably break their hearts a bit sooner rather than later. She was well loved before but perhaps not walked a lot, is strong and needs a firm hand, Tom's sister, not used to the extending lead, had a bad cord-burn from grabbing it in the wrong place when Lara pulled suddenly after something. And yet she's also done them a power of good in terms of their own health and spirits, you can see it, and I'm sure you the benefits for you could outweigh the worry. Could you not make a firm arrangement with your family as to who might care for the dog if you were no longer able to?

I'm not sure about beagles, they can be terrible runaways, I gather, though you might be just the man to take one on. Collies, the border kind anyway, are often nutjobs, but again, with your experience and training you might be the person to help one.

I often think perhaps some kind of smallish collie/spaniel combo, with nice pricky ears - no more long droopy infection-prone ears again ever - might be the sort of thing for us, but who knows? As Zhoen says, the right one will come along at the right time, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Lucy, re the hound pulling hard. I always used a 'Halti' over Bryn's snout. This worked very much like a gentle leader. The lead attached to a small ring under the dog's chin. It was loose over the nose but wrapped around behind his ears as well. He had plenty of room for panting and barking. ( A Halti is NOT a muzzle)I never had a problem with him pulling from the first day I used it. It took three short walks for him to get used to it. Everyone that used it with him thought it miraculous! It was!

Best info I could find with vid.


Lucy said...

Hello HHB, lovely to see you! I remember about the Halti, it was Roger Mugford who invented it wasn't it? I did mention it to them, but I've sent them a link to this post and will forward the one you've left too. The only thing that I wondered about was our friends here who had one on their Australian shepherd, and although it did mean walks especially with the pushchair, child etc, were more manageable, it never looked comfortable, the dog's tongue used to protrude, but perhaps they didn't have it adjusted properly.

You write about Bryn in the past tense, is he no longer with you?

Soize said...

Elle est très belle, je pense qu'elle a du apprécier son séjour chez vous ;-)
Elle n'a visiblement pas l'air malheureuse !

Lucy said...

Bonjour Soize, Elle est superbe, elle nous a honoré par sa visite!