In 2009, it was agreed that our son, Christopher could have a Border Collie, so the search began.
It soon became apparent that there would be a wait, so put our name down with two breeders. Unexpectedly, the wait was not so long, one of the breeders had a puppy, in a new litter, that was not traditionally marked, and therefore not quite as desirable to others. We went for a visit and it was decided that we would return in six weeks time to bring our little Duchess home to join our family.
At the same time we had started a search for a ragdoll cat, surprisingly our new family members arrived at our home within a week or so of each other. The blue ragdoll was named Banjo, after the famous Australian poet, Banjo Patterson.
But this story is about our Duchess. While she was not the prettiest when she was born, it was soon evident that she was growing into a beautiful dog, not only in appearance, but also in nature. Her kennel was placed outside Christopher’s bedroom window, and as soon as she was able, Duchess would spend her time on top of the kennel rather than in it, that way she was able to be nearer to her Christopher! A very strong bond was forming.
While she was beautiful, in her juvenile years she was also very naughty! We soon got to know and see our neighbours much more. She loved to dig, and quite enjoyed tunneling her way under the fence line bordering our property! Often our neighbours would find her before we realized she had even gone! The holes were filled up, but she was relentless! After trying many ways to thwart her efforts, it was decided that we would purchase two trailer loads of rocks and strategically place them along the fence line – problem solved.
But the digging did not stop there… Our Duchess loved vegetables! The vegetable garden would be another of her targets, back then we had raised beds, so up she’d go and help herself to whatever was on offer, often digging the carrots. One occasion I had gone down to collect some vegetables for our dinner. I had been picking and digging and piling up what I needed, then when my back was turned, she must have decided that they were for her dinner, and had commenced devouring them! Clearly we needed to keep her out of the vegetable garden. It was decided that the only way here was to erect a fence.
For all her digging, she was the most gentle creature, when she was brought inside, she always looked to go out after a while, maybe it was the doings of Banjo. Duchess knew that while she was inside, she had to be calm and remain in a certain area… However, Banjo had other ideas, and would race at her and take a dive before landing atop of her. They would play together, and while she never hurt the cat, the cat was known to cause her to yelp on occasion, gosh she really did put up with so much from Banjo!
Now and then she would become a little overactive, but that would mainly be when Christopher joined in the merriment!
Oh how she loved things that flew in the sky… She chased all manner of birds, and if a helicopter or plane flew over the house, she would get so excited doing circles and circles and running as if she were going to catch it! While she didn’t catch the helicopters or aeroplanes, the occasional pigeon met its demise, not quite fast enough to escape!
After Christopher moved out, Duchess remained at home with us, as where he lived was not suitable for pets. A new bond began to form between Duchess and my husband Gary – Duchess became his shadow, but she never forgot her Christopher, and oh how she loved it when Christopher visited.
When we decided to relocate to the country, Duchess came with us, and because of council regulations, we had to adopt her from Christopher, as we had to be listed as her owners!
The day that we arrived we locked her in the pool yard while we unloaded – we didn’t want to loose her the day we arrived – new town, strange surrounds and so on, so we locked her in the pool yard. She seemed quite happy, but then I looked up and it was obvious that she had decided that she should be the first to take a dip in the pool – she wasn’t doing laps though, she was doing circuits. I called out to Gary and he soon caught up with her and guided her to the steps so that she could easily make her way out. This wasn’t her only dip!
She certainly enjoyed the water, our pool, a dam, the beach…
She soon settled into her new, much larger yard, and when we established our vegetable garden, the fencing issue began again. We had set up a hip-high fence with apples and pears espaliered along it – this was not enough to keep her out. I put in thin garden stakes which she managed to break, making her way in over the beds demolishing anything in her way. One day I even noticed a stake that must have frustrated her greatly, as it had teeth marks on it, obviously a little frustrated at my efforts to exclude her from the patch. Finally we had to get wire netting, so not one fence, this time there were two to keep her out!!!
Unfortunately the resident family of blue tongue lizards appeared to be toys to her and one by one they met their demise. This upset us, but what could we do…
Both Duchess and Banjo enjoyed a little travelling with us, mainly to my mother’s home, five hours drive from where we live. On one occasion we were greeted by the neighbours sheep that had ventured into the garden… I wasn’t quite sure how this would end up… But with the sheep back on their side of the fence, calm was restored.
Three years ago we nearly lost our Duchess to a severe case of pancreatitis, she was in hospital on a drip for several days, but recovered. A very strict diet had to be introduced to keep her healthy. Special low-fat vet food and some brown rice and chicken breast was all that she would be able to eat, and no treats, no marrow bones, etc. Oh those beautiful brown eyes when she would watch you eat out on the terrace on a warm sunny day. But she recovered and we wanted her to be with us for many more years.
As she got older, she developed incontinence (the result of the breeders insisting she be de-sexed at to early an age), and then arthritis set in, so treatments for both were introduced. Then she started to loose weight.
During her life, Duchess continued to be a wonderful companion to both Gary and I, she would be in the garage with Gary while he worked on another woodwork project, kept her distance as he chopped wood for our winter fires, followed and watched as he worked on yet another irrigation system or problem.
If she heard me coming to the back door, she would appear and watch as I put on my boots, gathered my basket, and then would follow me as I headed to the garden, where if I was in the larger yard, she would sit so close, that if I was using a shovel, hoe or the like, I was worried that I might hurt her and would shush her away. She loved to pull weeds out of the growing pile and keep an eye on my every move. If I was in the veggie garden, however, she would wait outside the gate, and everytime would dig a hole! I’m sure that was to let me know her displeasure of having been separated by the double fence now in place…
She never forgot her Christopher though and when he visited there was great joy. I know that Christopher took great joy in introducing his son, our beautiful grandson, Cooper to Duchess, and I think next time they visit, it will seem very different without her here.
Recently, when we returned home from our two-day Christmas break, it was clear that something was not right, she had lost more weight and appeared to have lost her sight, unable to see where she was going, a fall off the terrace, and going in places she would not normally go. An appointment was made for her to visit the vet, we prepared ourselves for the worst, then talked ourselves out of what we might have to face, as she still seemed so happy, tail up in the air, eating well, etc.
The day came and we again quickly discussed “what if?”.
The news was not good. Our beautiful Duchess now had diabetes, would require insulin injections twice a day and was also blind. This, in addition to all of her existing health issues and the underlying pancreatitis meant that her quality of life had seriously diminished. It was with heavy heart that we called Christopher and explained. He gave us his blessing and the appointment made.
She went to sleep quickly and peacefully and returned home to her garden. The rose “Guardian Angel” has been planted atop of her resting place and Gary made a cross which he caringly put in place.
A post was placed on social media to advise our family and friends of her sad passing, and it soon became apparent that Duchess had touched the lives of many of our family and friends – the beautiful messages that came our way were a testament to that.
Enjoying time with visitors, although in the last picture, I am sure she happy that she is not sitting where Philippe is!
We miss our beautiful Duchess greatly, her eager eyes first thing in the morning and at 4pm in the afternoon as she waited for Gary to bring her, her food
; walking out the door and expecting her to appear, returning home for work and missing her excitement; her companionship as we work outside, not being able to voice the words “hello beautiful lady” as I was greeted by her…
So now I walk past her grave and chat with her, (yes, I do still say “Hello beautiful lady”),I love that when I work in her garden, we are still together, and so look forward to turning her patch into one of the most beautiful places in our yard.
In the words of Christopher …
RIP Duchess 😥 ❤
You were the most incredible dog.
Go chase pigeons in heaven buddy!
Until next time…