Thursday 9 July 2009

The Dog Days of My Life: #10 - Dominie

Dominie at 5 months

We travelled from Berkshire to Devon to meet Dominie. She was sixteen weeks old and had gone to a friend of the breeder but was returned when her new owner became too ill to cope with her. As we arrived at Joan Atkinson's home in deepest Devon we were greeted with deep barks from two dogs and a large puppy. We thought the puppy could not be the one we had come to see as she was so big but we were wrong. She and her parents came bowling into the room and fell on us for cuddles. They were true ambassadors for the Dalmatian breed and were big, splendid dogs. We drove home with our new large black-spotted puppy, Bethan keeping her company in the back of the car.
If a dog could be said to be disgusted Cariadd was just that. She reacted to Dominie as Whisky had to Biddy so many years before. There was no unpleasantness – Cariadd simply tried to ignore her. In fact, if she had really not wanted anything to do with her she could have moved away from her but she allowed Dominie to lie close to her and chew her collar – which was still round her neck – every day. She had a number of collars while Dominie was growing up but would not play with her. I'm sure if she had been a Jack Russell-sized dog matters would have been rather different – Cariadd was always under the misapprehension that she was very small and she preferred the company of little dogs. Though Cariadd wouldn't play with her she didn't mind Dominie chewing her logs!

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.


  1. Its a really LOVELY post :)
    Fantastic words a nice story,
    and your dogs are all BEAUTY'S !!
    I love all pictures they are puurfect :)

    Kareltje =^.^=
    Anya :)

  2. Thank you Kareltje and Anya for your kind words.


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