Heidi came to Blue Haven (my home) in March of 2012. I had no idea I was getting a puppy! I’d just returned home about two weeks before from a trip to Belize. I’d always entertained the idea of getting a second dog but hadn’t made any active plans.
I learned she was for sale on March 16th and was asked if I would come and photograph her. When I saw her, I was immediately drawn to her. I expressed my interest in purchasing her and brought her home the next day, St. Patrick’s Day, at the age of ten weeks.
Heidi was very easy to housebreak and train. She was the first puppy in her KPT (Kindergarten Puppy Training) class to get her S.T.A.R. puppy certificate. On the last day of KPT class, the instructor suggested I do the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test with her. Several dogs were coming to be tested, so I thought, why not! It would be fun. I never expected her to pass at the age of five months, but she did. She performed confidently and eagerly along with the older dogs that were being evaluated.
When Heidi turned 14 months, she passed her therapy dog test. She then started doing therapy dog work at the local public library and in school classrooms. As a therapy dog she is very interactive with the kids. She is one of those dogs that will snuggle close and put her head on a child’s lap. I haven’t observed in her the degree of intuitive work that Hannah did, but Heidi is much loved by her kids and teachers. She definitely brightens-up the classroom when she walks in with her tail wagging furiously.
Heidi is a very biddable dog. She is “usually” quick to respond unless she decides to manipulate me for extra treats. (“I’m NOT coming unless you have a tasty treat!”) But mostly, she is very eager to comply. She is a wonderful off-leash hiking dog because she doesn’t wander far and comes when she is called. The only drawback is her inclination to eat disgusting stuff she finds – a typical Labrador trait.
One of the most amazing things about her is that she is a self-motivated service dog. I never trained her, but this seems to be where her intuition kicks in – with me! Hannah would never bark when someone came to the door, no matter how hard we tried to teach her. Obviously, most dogs DO bark when they hear a knock, but Heidi barks and sometimes will come to get me. If she needs to go out to toilet, she will come and get me wherever I am in the house and gives me “the look.” Heidi also figured out how to get my attention if I’m sleeping; she will nudge me or bump the bed to wake me.
Probably the most amazing story occurred in the middle of the night not too long ago when I was suddenly awakened by my bed being bumped. My dogs sleep in my bedroom at night, but on their own beds. The bumping was persistent, so I finally turned on the light to find Heidi in a high degree of stress. She was panting and running to the bedroom door, so I quickly got up. She RAN downstairs to the front door, and I let her out where she had an explosive bowel movement. I was amazed that she knew how to awaken me and that she made the supreme effort to not relieve herself in my bedroom.
After Hannah died, Heidi suddenly became the only dog in the house. It definitely affected her. The stress caused her to have gastric upset for a month afterwards. She would look for Hannah. She had never, in her life, been the only dog; she and Hannah were bonded deeply.
Heidi turned eight on January 8th, so I told her she was getting a puppy for her birthday. Actually, I never get another dog for the dog I currently have. A puppy is always welcomed into my home for me because I love a canine presence; in my book, there’s something special about having two dogs.
Leia arrived on January 10th, and Heidi wasn’t sure what to make of her at first. Heidi immediately set strong boundaries in the house and was a bit more lenient in the yard. As the days pass, I see that Heidi is accepting Leia more and more but also maintaining firm canine rules.
Just this morning Leia grabbed the sleeve of my jacket, and I was unable to get her to release. Heidi ran up to us and disciplined Leia so that she released her hold on my jacket. I was amazed that Heidi had the intuition that she needed to intercede.
I am looking forward to the day when Leia is ready to take walks with Heidi and me. The yard is getting just a little too small.
In retrospect, I have a whole new appreciation for Heidi. When Hannah was alive, the dynamics were different. When Heidi became the only dog, it only reaffirmed how special she is. And now that she is a “teacher” to Leia, she is also teaching me. This is the beauty of having animals. They are our greatest teachers. We need to be less quick to react to canine behavior with human emotions and LISTEN to them. When we take the time to listen and understand, we become better as humans.
Henry Beston’s famous quote hangs on a wall in my home, and it is a daily reminder of my responsibility as a custodian of my animals.
“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”
― Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod