Friday, August 2, 2013

Mattie and Skipper Once Again

Last week, I set the post below to go out and for some reason, it went onto my blog but didn't generate an email to my followers. This normally wouldn't matter to me, but this blog was and is important to me because it's about Mattie, the foxhound who passed away just a couple of weeks ago.

So here it is again...

Last Friday, I mentioned that my foxhound Mattie had passed away of old age. I'd like to tell you about her and her twin brother Skipper. But I'll have to begin with the dogs I had before them.

Years ago, I had an Old English Mastiff named Charmer and an Australian Shepherd we named Buddy because we adopted him to be a friend to Charmer. Both were rescue dogs and they were inseparable. When Charmer passed away of old age, Buddy was inconsolable. He refused to eat and he sat for hours on end staring down the long driveway where he'd last seen us load Charmer into the car and drive him off to the vet. He grieved so strongly that I was concerned that he would also pass away.

So one day, we put a bright red bandana on Buddy and we made a trip to the Richmond (VA) SPCA. And Buddy helped us pick out not one new companion for him--but two. We selected the foxhounds from a litter of five which the volunteers had named "the Butters". Skipper was originally "Peanut Butter" and Mattie was originally "Apple Butter"; their siblings were Nutter Butter, Lemon Butter and Almond Butter.

They were five months old and Buddy, who from this point on would be Uncle Buddy, was twelve years old. He was fabulous with them. One day I was sitting at my desk when out of the corner of my eye, I saw Buddy leading the two pups through the house in a line. Curious, I watched Buddy walk into the bathroom and drink out of the toilet bowl, and then nudge Skipper toward it. Mattie was so apprehensive that it took Buddy getting behind her and pushing her with his nose into the bathroom, where she discovered that big white bowl held the best water. He then walked them to the other two bathrooms, where they repeated the exercise.

We lived in Virginia then and our back yard was over an acre. Skipper and Mattie used to race around the back yard at a hundred miles an hour, with Uncle Buddy barking the whole time. There was the day when I brought home some mulch in bags and left them on the side of the house. When the Twins discovered it, they barked furiously, ran away, then raced back and barked some more, as if the giant bags were going to come after them.

Uncle Buddy had bad knees which at that time were not repairable and one cold winter, he passed away. The next spring, we moved to North Carolina and the Twins had a new home. Instead of living in the country, they were now in town with a wrought iron fence they could see through. They loved watching people walk or jog around the neighborhood and until Skipper's health prevented it, I used to walk them around the neighborhood. Having two large dogs pulling on the leashes, checking each culvert for signs of fox or cats, was better than lifting weights.

Then one day, Skipper became paralyzed from the neck down with an FCE (fibrocartilaginous embolism). We brought him two hours away to NC State's world-renowned Veterinary Hospital and within the week, he was transferred to the Animal Rehabilitation and Wellness Institute, where he learned how to stand and walk again. During that time, I drove each day to see him. When I came home, as long as Mattie could smell her brother on my clothes, she was okay. I'd spend the evenings with her, telling her that Skipper would be home soon.

When he came home, Mattie was ecstatic. She wanted to play but quickly learned that Skipper was weak and still needed help to walk. He grew stronger and Mattie always watched over him to make sure he was okay. (Shown below: Skipper coming home from the hospital. The shaved areas on his back were done at the hospital.)

We eventually adopted Simone, a collie, and Mattie became the Matriarch. When we adopted Eddie the Jack Russell, she became known as Mama Mattie. She helped with housebreaking and she showed them the ropes the same way that Buddy had shown her.

Simone was emaciated and there was a time in which we didn't think she'd make it, which was why we fostered her through the Robeson County Humane Society, fell in love with her, and adopted her. I wanted her to learn how to go in and out of the doggie doors so she would have a freedom she'd never experienced before. But she acted like we were trying to stuff her into a tiny box. So I asked Mattie to teach her. Mattie would jump through the doggie door, bark on the other side, and then jump back through and nudge Simone. Very quickly, Simone was learning that it was okay to go through it and it opened up a whole new world for her.

When I wanted Simone to know she would come to my office upstairs any time she wanted, I tried to get her to walk up the stairs. She was terrified of them. So I again asked Mattie to teach her. Mattie ran up the stairs, barked at the top, ran back down, and nudged Simone. I went on to my office and heard Mattie up and down, up and down, barking. About ten minutes later, there was Simone, coming into the office.

Skipper passed away about two years ago, not from the FCE but from his stomach twisting. By that time, we had Simone and Eddie and we soon added Lucy, another Jack Russell mix who is also a rescue. (We don't buy any dogs; we always rescue them.) Mattie was fabulous with them all. Below is a video of Mattie and Simone playing with Eddie. Skipper was too infirmed to play so he was standing beside me as I filmed.

Simone, especially, missed her terribly in the days after she passed. I spoke to her a couple of times, mentioning Mattie's name, and letting her know that she was with Skipper now. She seems to understand.

In my mind's eye, I see Mattie and Skipper the way they were when they were younger, racing around the yard at breakneck speed, leaping off the deck onto the ground below, ensuring our yard was free of birds and squirrels. And all the time, Uncle Buddy is barking his head off at them and Charmer is still chasing the Frisbee he loved.