Alan and I said goodbye to our beloved 14 year old Australian Cattle Dog, Sydney, on Monday morning. We knew the time was close, but as he was peaceful and not in pain, we allowed nature to take its course and he passed at home.
Sydney came to us in 2000 as a six week old puppy. Even though we purchased him from a so-called breeder, we always considered that we rescued him from illness and possible death. After we brought him home and took him to the vet for shots and a check up, he was found to have worms so badly that they could have killed him if he hadn’t been treated. And in all likelihood, based on where he came from, he probably wouldn’t have been.
We named him Sydney because we got him right after the Sydney Olympics. Olympics, Australian Cattle Dog…just seemed like the right fit.
Cattle dogs are known for their intelligence, and Sydney was no exception. He was bright and he learned quickly. They only thing we had a hard time training out of him was his penchant for biting ankles and calves when we (or our guests) left the house. We lost a least one dog sitter that way.
Sydney love to play catch. He was really good at catching the ball, and could play for hours (if we could last that long).
Sydney was never a cuddly dog, but he was very social. He had routines that he remembered and loved. He used to like to squeeze under our legs when we sat on the couch, and “bridge boy” was born. We’d say it, he’d do it, and vice versa. On the walk, we’d tickle his tummy a little, and he’d get excited and jump around. We’d say “Bronco Billy,” and soon we didn’t have to tickle, he would just love to leap around playfully with the verbal cue.
In 2005, when Sydney was only five years old, he began to have problems with this eyes. It was diagnosed as a luxated lens, where the lens actually becomes dislocated and falls forward and can cause blindness and glaucoma. He had surgery to have both lenses removed (once a dog has it in one eye, it is almost 100% that they will have it in the other). For a while, he could still see, but his near-vision was not good. That meant we had to say goodbye to ball catching, though he sure gave it a try.
About a year later we noticed that he seemed to be bumping into things more often. Sure enough, over time he had gone completely blind. He was so smart though, and knew the house so well that this was not much of a problem for him. Most people watching him wouldn’t have realized that he couldn’t see. On walks, he stayed even closer than before, but had no problem. He even seemed to remember where the curbs were on our regular route!
While Sydney would run with us when he was younger, he was just as happy walking. He was always well behaved, though, following his Heeler instincts, and never running off, even when we were in the trails near our home.
One of my all time favorite pictures. When we adopted Sydney, Morena, who was bereft over the loss of our precious Lulu (as were we), adopted him too. He was her baby, and I just love this shot of him resting his head on her.
Over the last few years, Sydney seemed to have a few aches and pains (don’t we all!), but nothing major. He was still active and happy, enjoyed his walks, and was still a little grumpy when he bumped into one of the dogs that he couldn’t see.
Then, he started losing weight, and while he was still eating, it wasn’t much. Though we knew that this probably heading toward the end for him, we were still hopeful, trying different foods that he might like. During this time though, he still loved to go on walks and get around the house. Until the last few days, he still got up to eat, drink, and he would use the doggy door when he had to go out.
We hated leaving him last weekend, but we trusted our dog sitter to take care of him, and to let us know if anything happened. She did call once, to let us know that he wasn’t eating, but was able to take a little water.
When we got home on Sunday, Sydney had obviously deteriorated. While he had taken water if I held it for him the day we left, now he showed no interest. He seemed to be semiconscious at times, but mostly he lay on the cool tile and slept. Before bed, Alan cleaned him up and moved him to a soft rug. In the morning, Alan told him that it was time. That we would let him go and he could join Morena and Sassy, so he wouldn’t be lonely.
Before I left for work, Alan encouraged me to pet Syd, and to say goodbye. As I did, I noticed that his breathing was erratic with long pauses between breaths. He’d had his first accident since he was a puppy, so I knew the time was very close. As I got into my car, I told Alan to call me if Sydney passed. At first he didn’t want to, knowing I’d be at work, but I insisted. I was only a few blocks from my house when my phone rang. Sydney died almost as soon as Alan had got back in the house.
Today has been rough. I made it through work and a doctor’s appointment, but just didn’t feel right. Alan too, just felt off all day. I was pleased that my son David called to see how we were doing after he saw Alan’s post on Facebook. I knew I raised him right!
The rest of the pack has been pretty sensitive too, especially the older dogs. Penny and Goldie each took a moment to check him out and say their goodbyes, and everyone (well, with the exception of Johnny) has been a little subdued.
I’m having a hard time wrapping up this post. My mind wanders. So, I’ll just finish it and say: Goodbye Sydney. You were our special boy.