Diedjie 20150713 - 20151213

In loving memory of Diedjie.

December 17,  2015.

There’s a song with a line, ”In every life a little rain must fall” and just now it is pouring in mine.

Sunday the 13th of December 2015 was the last day in which I had the privilege of having Diedjie (known to one and all as Deedee) our latest German shepherd bitch at my side. She was euthanized by the vet and took her last breath at 11:30 due to terminal cancer. This was 9 days previous to us being able to celebrate her having been in our family for exactly 11 years.

She came to us a result of the exact same situation with her predecessor, Holly. I had scoured the country looking for Holly’s successor and been to look at dogs that somehow did not feel right. I had toyed with the idea that after so many German Shepherds it might be time to try a change but in the end I chickened out.  After looking at other breeds I finally concentrated on German shepherds and found a kennel only  45 minutes’ drive away in Seglora. Kennel Schloss Mossbach had a 5 month old bitch with whom I connected immediately.

Deedee was an exchange puppy from Kennel Mittilandet as payment for Schloss Mossbachs Cosmos having been the sire for the litter. Originally Mossbach had intended to use Deedee for breeding but circumstances changed and they put her up for sale.

Because of our family circumstances we could not have a puppy but could take a young dog. After the usual formalities of the health inspection and paperwork, we collected Deedee on the 22nd of December 2004. Having prepared my mind for a completely new dog with new habits Deedees first act that amazed us was that she fit straight into the family routines as though she had been born to it. She understood all commands and kept close to me at all times. Naturally this behaviour started a process of endearment that continued throughout her whole life. For a few months I had her at work with me but soon she was able to be on her own (with our cats) for a few hours in the morning and a short while in the afternoon. I start work early and am usually back home by about 3pm and my wife starts at 8 in the morning, goes home for lunch at midday to 1pm. Thus Deedee was alone from about 7:45 to 12:00 and from 12:45 to 15:00.

Early in April of 2005 we had our first spring day when the temperature went above +10°C and I walked her after work in bright sunshine on one of the forest paths near our house. The conditions were so inviting that I lay down in the grass in a small glade with my head propped on a soft clump of grass to soak up the suns warmth. Although I had not meant to doze off I woke up about 15 minutes later feeling very hot on the right hand side and seemingly deaf in the right ear. Despite being loose and able to do what she wanted, Deedee had lain down right up against me and put her nose in my ear, hence the heat on my right side and the deafness. It was there and then that I realized that this dog both loved me and trusted me and our bond has only grown over the years that followed. We had all sorts of adventures together and she accompanied me on the elk hunt and when I walked through the forest she was at my heels and so close that sometimes my heels caught her under the chin.

One day we took a very long walk, from Ulricehamn along the lakeside to Marbäck on a cycle track and path which used to be the old railway line. We came to spot where I saw a bright colour in the ditch and it turned out to be a ball that someone had dropped. We sort of looked at each other and some instinct made me say to her “Fetch the ball!” and my jaw dropped as she did exactly that.

On several occasions when walking with her loose in the forest I waited for an opportunity when she would be far enough away from me to practice calling her to me. However, the practice was not often achieved because before I could issue an order she came running to my side.

She loved a tug of war and I had several rope toys that we used for this purpose. She also loved ball games. It seems that I had unknowingly spoken the names of the toys enough times for her to know what they were. This was illustrated when we took a fun course at the local dog club in which one could try all sorts of activities to see what the dog had the most aptitude for. This involved obedience, tracking, seeking both people and objects. In the latter, a group of people mark out a square of countryside 50 x 50metres. Everyone walks criss-cross over the square to make it hard for the dog to track anyone. Then two objects are shown to the dog after which the dog is taken aside so it cannot see where these objects are subsequently hidden within the square. This done the dog owner gets the dog to sit on the left hand side at the edge of the square and the command "Seek” is given. The object is to eventually, after much training, get the dog to run into the square and, nose to the ground, seek out the objects by criss-crossing the marked area.

Deedee sat at my side and I gave the command “Seek the ball”. To everyone’s surprise and my delight, she ran into the area and after just a few seconds sniffing about, located the ball, came running back and dropped it at my feet. I then said “Seek the rope” and again she was off, found the rope came dashing back and dropped it at my feet. Even the course leader was amazed. No dog had done it so right the first time. This was promptly proven when no other dog on the course managed it and some just ran off and were hard to catch.

Deedee always had a warm relationship with our cats and when one of them had kittens there was no problem. Deedee lay next to the cats’ bed and when the kittens became more mobile she let them climb all over her. Deedee and our male cat Torsten loved each other; they would lie together under the coffee table at my feet.

All working type dogs that are bred and to be used for work, competitions or breeding are required to have their hips and elbows x-rayed and also have their mentality charted. The object of this is to exclude dogs that are unsuitable from either a physical or mental point of view from competing or breeding. All serious breeders conform to these requirements and thus it was that we also saw to it that Deedee was x-rayed and tested for her mental characteristics. I became so interested in this subject that I enrolled on a training course and studied dog psychology and I soon began to participate in these tests and I am currently responsible for the arranging and executing of these tests at our local dog club in Ulricehamn. However, Deedee’s characteristics were so ideal for her breed that we decided to let her have a litter or two if the right sire could be found.

The first litter was sired and handled by the kennel from where we had obtained Deedee and our involvement was constrained to visiting her when the pups were about 6 weeks old. The second litter was all our doing. Deedee was born at kennel Mittilandet and I had already been in contact with Marina Lundin who owned and ran the kennel. She advised me to contact Kennel Atila who were currently holding a suitable male, Eros von Frankengold, a dog from Germany who was a working champion and was being kept in Sweden for 6 months prior to being sold to New Zealand. He became the father of a litter of 7 who were born in our “old” bedroom on January 31st 2009. The last of our children had moved out and so we moved into the largest bedroom leaving our previous one in need of redecoration. In this room I laid plastic on the floor and then covered this with newspapers. I also built a whelping box. In this Deedee had her 2nd litter and I assisted and supported during most of that night.

Deedee was the ideal mother and took great care of her pups, not all visitors were welcome during the first 4 weeks but all our closest family were welcomed into the whelping box. Although I grew up with dogs and have had dogs pretty much all my life, been foster home to dogs for the Swedish state dog school, done numerous obedience, and other dog activity courses, I had never previously been involved in any breeding. The experience was most rewarding though quite hard work. In the end we kept one of the pups, a male called Akko and he is our current source of solace now that Deedee is no longer able to be with us.

Deedees mothering and fostering skills were put to use by our eldest daughter who had bought a Kelpie, Border collie cross who was unruly around other dogs. He was about 5 months old when she brought him to us with a request for us to let Deedee put him in his place and correct his behaviour. It was quite fascinating to watch. It was as if she knew what the problem was and how to go about fixing it. She approached Angus and he snarled a bit when she invaded his space and before he could react she had him by the scruff of his neck without hurting him and only let go when he surrendered.

Once he had relaxed she released him and wandered off to sniff round the garden but soon returned. Again he showed his teeth and was given the exact same treatment. It was only on the 4th or 5th approach that he no longer reacted when she got close and so she let him be and the problem was solved.

There are so many instances where it seemed that Deedee instinctively knew what to do that I could write a whole book but suffice it to say that to us she seemed head and shoulders above any of our previous dogs.

As Deedee approached her 8th birthday (July 13th) we noticed that she was beginning to show signs of stiffness after having lain in her bed, especially if she had become very wet on a walk not long before. This was also accompanied by a strange swing in her right front leg movement for the first few steps. This almost disappeared after the first few yards. The vet looked at it and confirmed the onset of arthritis. The days of long walks were over for her part and we settled into a new routine where we took her and Akko on shorter walks on alternate days and only let her play ball in the garden on the other days whilst Akko had a really long walk on Deedees’ rest days. The other notable change was that Deedee no longer went up and down our stairs, an obvious sign that it was painful for her. Our new routine was adhered to over the last years of her life.

In 2010, my job circumstances changed and I had to start commuting 80 miles daily but was compensated by being able to work from home one day a week where I could, via VPN, log on to the company network. On these days, and also whenever I was at home otherwise, it was pretty much Deedees habit to lay at my feet wherever I was and whatever I was doing. This made it very easy for me to quite frequently bend down and stroke her, fondle her velvet ears and our eyes would meet and I would tell her she was a real sweetie. From the way she looked back at me and from her body language I could feel her love for me emanating from her whole being. Already then I began dreading the day when I would no longer have her at my side and knew from previous experience that her loss would affect me deeply. According to our vet the average age of German shepherds is 8 or 9 years. If true then all our previous ones had lived long lives as all of them got to about 12 to 13 years. The exception was my fathers who had to be put down at 9 years old for the same reasons, mammary gland tumours.

And so I now both mourn the loss but also celebrate the fact I had the extraordinary good fortune to share a part of my life with this wonderful dog who loved me pretty much on sight and who I also loved so much. Deedees legacy is now borne by Akko whose presence makes it all bearable and he is so especially dear to me naturally because of his own personality but also from knowing that he is directly descended from Deedee and from the fact that I saw him being born in our own house.

I am not religious, in fact quite the opposite and therefore the concept of heaven and hell mean nothing to me. My belief is that the creation of the universe was due to physical forces which have no will, or opinion and are oblivious to the fates of the creatures that have evolved over the millennia. These forces can heed no prayers and have no awareness of suffering, sickness, injustices, natural disasters and all the other causes of misery on this insignificant little planet. It is therefore my belief that when life ends, the black void that was before one was born, returns and all awareness of self and others is gone for all eternity. Religion is used by some as a tool to gain power over others and also by some to whom the prospect of eternal nothingness seems too frightening to contemplate. The one thing that perhaps puts me apart from many religious and often self-righteous people is that I am open to changing my mind should any kind of solid evidence present itself that proves me wrong. This kind of open mindedness is what often puts me apart from those for whom religious dogma has both blinded, deafened and brainwashed them.  Because of this belief I do not have any kind of expectation of being reunited with any forefathers or others when it comes my time to depart this world, I wish it were possible because it would be fascinating to meet my ancestors. However, if I am wrong I will also be delighted at being reunited with all the dogs I have loved and lost.

 

Harry Banfather