Saturday, April 28, 2007

Judy died

Or rather, she was put to death, which is the realistic way of saying put to sleep, but it would seem (I wasn't there: it was an emergency act) that she was pretty close to dying anyway, as she'd suffered kidney failure and hadn't eaten for days.

Judy was a fairly impulse purchase: I had been aiming to get a dog for some time, as part of rewriting my life script (read the four to six words before the parentheses as though they were in Lucida Handwriting font) and wanted a small one for the sake of the smallness of housing in Newtown, where I was living. I was working in Broadway (for some reason, there are about six blocks to the north of Broadway called 'Broadway') and she was in the Grace Brothers pet department, on Broadway; the whole of Grace Brothers on Broadway was about to close down, so that dates the moment pretty well, if only I knew when the date was (Wikipedia says 1992). I thought Judy showed interesting character by the way she was gnawing at the bars of her small cage. This should have been a warning.

I acknowledge I had no idea how to bring up a dog, having never owned one and being unaware anyway that there was a process. At the time I felt that everything was haywire shortly after Judy anyway because we were given a new boss at work, after not having one at all, and this person was a ridiculous arse with many useless demands. So Judy spent a lot of time on her own.

From the outset she was a very needy and vocal dog. Silky terriers look much sweeter than they are, in my experience. She was admittedly extremely loyal, which is delightful, but she was also likely to erupt in a fit of uncontrollable barking at any moment, which was excruciating. Worse than that, in the first ten years of her life, she was prone to fits. Early on these could come on at any time - as though she was having a vision - later they were just night time problems (a vet surmised perhaps epilepsy, but if so, she grew out of it). She would growl menacingly and it took a lot to snap out of it (after which time she was her usual happy, demanding self). This was a worry, but typically for me, I did nothing about it (I found that vets, as much as anyone, were disbelieving that such a ball of fluff could be so scarey at times; I remember that one vet wrote in some notes I read upside down over a desk that the recommendation of giving Judy bones to gnaw on was ignored because 'owner believes these make dog aggressive'). She was very particular about who she did and didn't like. For instance, she really liked my brother for some reason (I mean, he didn't care much for her); he was about the third or fourth person I introduced her to.

I lived alone when I first got Judy but when I returned to tertiary education I had to move into share houses. She came with me to Erskineville, Annandale, then to Sandy Bay (Hobart), then to Carlton and Richmond and then for reasons that escape me but for which I am very grateful, she elected to go and live with my mother, Jane. Jane and Judy were a formidable pair and the ten years that Judy lived with Jane were surely her most successful. Though she continued to lash out on occasion, a combination of the wisdom of age and some late but not too late training made a big difference to her behaviour. She was a very clever dog, and knew which side her bread was buttered on, though for the record, she had no time for bread itself, or butter, or for raw meat or water, for most of her life. She wasn't that into eating except, curiously, towards the end of her life when she appeared to have become pretty much completely blind and deaf - perhaps this opened her up to other sensory experiences. She also didn't like other dogs (who, as far as she was concerned, simply didn't exist), or children, generally, or vets. If she was walking off the lead in any street where she had either had a bad experience with a dog, or if she had to walk past the vet's, she would simply walk out into the middle of the road and continue in the same general direction but with a ten metre berth. She also didn't like baths or having her hair cut.

We knew the end was coming and in the last week or so, I am glad to say, I did get to spend some quality time with Judy, including having her sleep in my lap for short periods (she mainly just slept, in the last couple of years).

She never seemed to hold it against me that I came to own other dogs, and never accused me of farming her out to grandma like Jack Nicholson's mother did. But certainly kudos must go to Jane for taking on the heavy responsibility of Judy and her grim outlook on the world. Also, a heads up (I don't really know what that means but it's positive) to everyone who put up with Judy in various ways in various periods of their probably otherwise contented lives: too many names to list. Pics may follow.

(PS If I seem flippant, it's probably because I see Judy's life as a dream run, for her. She lived a long and interested existence getting her way most of the time and was very comfortable and content generally speaking. I was fond of Judy and we had many good times together, though a lot of those were anxious times for me because I was never sure who she was going to snarl and snap at next, i.e. every dog that sniffed her apparently interesting bottom, and she also hated people who walked funny eg a man in Newtown with one leg who said 'yes, some dogs hate the way I walk... some don't mind it though...'. Thank you for your understandingness, sir.)


Meredith said...

I related to a lot of this post, having had various animals myself over the years that have had, let's say, "special qualities". Was she named for Judy Garland? And have you buried her somewhere, or did the vet take care of that?

David said...

Meredith, sorry I took a while to respond to this. She was named for Punch's wife, though a family friend was very offended. The vet took care of her remains. After seeing Wilfred last night I wondered if we shouldn't have had a ceremony.