The main reason we decided to get another dog was to have a companion for Oliver. It broke our hearts to see how much he missed his little buddy, Simon. For weeks on end he sat patiently by the patio doors, the last place he saw Simon, watching and waiting for his friend to come home. I’ll never forget how he jumped up, beyond excited, when we arrived home with this new puppy, so similar in size and colour to Simon. One quick sniff brought Ollie the bad news that this was an interloper, not his precious Simon, and he turned his back on Sweetie intent on ignoring her forever. Luckily for us all, that didn’t turn out to be the case.
When we bought Sweetie in the spring of 1997, there were two puppies left in the litter. The male was called Bratsie and the female Sweetie. It readily became apparent that Bratsie lived up to his name and we had no intention of ever getting another mischievous male. Sweetie was just that—sweet, if a little timid and quiet. She snuggled up close to me on the car ride home and by time we arrived, she’d bonded, becoming my girl. It touches me deeply, to this day, how much that little dog loved me. Totally loyal and devoted, she was my constant shadow for over fifteen years.
One of Sweetie’s most endearing mannerisms was the way she tilted her head to the side when we spoke to her, as though she was trying to understand what we were saying. It was just about the cutest thing ever. The huge amount of white dog hair she left on everything was far less endearing. It was downright annoying, but not her fault and we did the best to clear away what we could and learned to ignore the rest.
It didn’t take Sweetie long to win Oliver over and he tolerantly put up with her jumping all over him. They especially enjoyed vigorous games of tug-of-war with an old sock, Oliver’s favourite game ever. They didn’t quite achieve that close bond Oliver and Simon had, but they were good and loyal friends for the rest of Oliver’s days.
We soon discovered that Sweetie had several unnatural fears, one of flashing lights and another of small black objects, such as TV remotes. We’re talking an absolute terror of flashing lights and an only slightly less fear of all that’s black. It made us wonder if a flashlight had fallen on her or something like that, and the fear had imprinted on her.
Sweetie never got over this irrational fear so we did our best not to subject her to anything that might frighten her. For some strange reason, she seemed to think she should be in the shot when pictures were taken, especially ones of the boys, but the camera was a problem. It was black and it flashed. That’s why so often in pictures she has an uncomfortable or fearful expression on her face.
One of Sweetie’s favourite positions:
Sweetie was not only the matriarch to all dogs who entered our house, she also felt the need to boss the children, letting them know with a sharp bark and a pretend nip at their heels that there was to be no running in her house. On the flipside, she took it upon herself to carefully guard the little ones from any perceived harm. She also quickly discovered that kids were a good source of snacks and you could always find her close by whenever food was involved.
Over the years we had to cope with numerous of Sweetie’s eccentricities, but the worst by far was the way she chewed on her feet when she felt nervous or insecure. So often I’d find one of her poor little paws or lower legs licked/chewed raw and bleeding. A week or two of wearing a cone while the wound healed seemed to sort her out and months or, if we were lucky, years would go by before she’d do it again. In her final year, it became an almost constant problem, and I wondered if it was her way of dealing with her pain.
Health problems plagued Sweetie for a number of years. After having her teeth cleaned when she was about ten, she developed a cough that wouldn’t clear up. X-rays revealed a lung inflammation. A daily dose of prednisone kept it under control, for the most part, but the condition was chronic and she had to take that horrible steroid for the rest of her life. This resulted in numerous bad side effects including excessive appetite, weight gain, and perhaps the worst of all, a heightening of her already nervous temperament. Often she’d pace and pace, panting as she went, unable to settle and relax. It upset me so much to see her this way, especially once her aging body became crippled with arthritis making it difficult and painful to get around.
No matter the pain in her later years, Sweetie never complained. She stoically went through her days, sleeping more and more, scrounging for snacks while awake, and following me around on stiff and tottering legs. In the end, she was nearly deaf and going blind, having to wear a cone so often only added to her problems and I reluctantly accepted it was time to say goodbye to my very special little girl.
I chronicled my feelings when we had to put Sweetie down this past May and you can read that blog post here:
One of my favourite shots of Sweetie:
Her last photo: