Dominie had not learnt to coordinate her limbs and fell into our garden pond at least once a day for a couple of weeks after we brought her home. Out walking with her the thunderous sound of her huge paws pounding the forest floor was quite remarkable. If the ground didn't quite shake it certainly reverberated. Over time as she developed and regularly ran with Barry she became a graceful and powerful athlete.
Dominie has never been a brave dog; she is easily spooked by things or events seen or imagined. A log where one has never been before on a familiar path or a Forest Ranger's vehicle are quite enough to make her stand stock still and stare very hard. On some occasions she has refused point blank to travel further along a path she doesn't like the look of. It's an odd feeling when this happens and makes me wonder about extra-sensory perception but as the other dogs are happy to proceed I think there is little to justify such an interpretation. Most of our walks pass through forest land adjacent to the large grounds of a well-known high security psychiatric hospital (formerly known as a Criminal Lunatic Asylum) and it would be easy but wrong (probably) to suggest that occasionally Dominie senses malevolence.
When she was two years old we thought she would appreciate a playful companion as Cariadd was still steadfastly refusing to play with her. They ran and swam, ate and slept together but playtime was not on Cariadd's agenda, at least not with another dog. She played with us! We began the search and tracked down a litter in Devon which had one liver-spotted puppy. Coincidentally his mother was Dominie's half-sister. Gareth named him Buddy and Bethan decided she would like to train him for the show ring. When we took Buddy indoors, his beautiful green eyes glowing, the expression on Dominie's face was one of love at first sight. Dominie had been spayed but we had always thought she would have been a wonderful mother and so she proved. In fact she was much more indulgent than his own dam would have been, allowing him to chew her neck raw and any other part he fancied. She played so gently with him. Cariadd maintained her dignified position as top dog, grumbling at the two youngsters if they became too boisterous around her. Dominie mothering Buddy who was learning to cope with a soft lead
Many people who have not met Dominie before are a little afraid because she looks very stern with her black eye make-up and big ears but they soon realise that she is as soft as butter and incredibly friendly. She loves to meet and greet humans and dogs alike and those she knows she hails with a gorgeous warbling chirrup. These days she is handicapped by hind legs that don't work properly so requires wheels to help her along on our walks. Dominie stops for a sniff
She needs a helping hand on the slopes
Yo ho heave-ho!
It is sad to see this once tremendous athlete so physically reduced but her spirit is strong and she is alert and interested in everything in her domain. She is most insistent that she will accompany us when we go out with the dogs and wants to be in the midst of events indoors. Thus when we are in the kitchen being domestic she whines and squeaks until we help her off her bed and follow her stuttering progress. The legs work for a little while and then she collapses gracefully, content that she has company and there's always the chance of a titbit or two. She remains at the head of the hierarchy. She is fifteen years old now and we know that soon she will be travelling on. She has given us so much joy and laughter and if ever a dog could be said to be kind, then that is the correct description for our gentle old girl.