Jade came to us on 5th March 2004, just over a week after we had lost our previous dog Boysie. Becky and I had both spotted her seperately on the Mutts-in-Distress website, so when we went to see her, it was almost a done deal... so much that Becky said to Pat (who runs the rescue centre), "if we don't take that dog home today... I don't know my husband"... and so the partnership was born.
Boysie had never been a dog to socialise, so one of the first things we started to do was to talk to the other dogs and their owners... Jade did not get on with all of the dogs we met.... but mostly she tolerated them, and sometimes they even learned to get on. There were a couple of notable exceptions, but I soon learnt to keep an eye out, and where possible we avoided conflict.
As Jade was only a year (or so) old when we adopted her, she was very active and keen to walk. So much so, that what had been classified as a long walk for Boysie soon became "normal" for Jade. The daily routine typically consisted of a couple of miles before work, a mile and a half at lunchtime and then two or three more in the evening... with more at weekends. On Sunday mornings, we started to go for longer walks, firstly down by the River Stort, and later on the River Lee and New River, typically I drove to where we had finished last week... and we walked another couple of miles.
It was on these walks that Jade's love of water was discovered, she was in and out of the water when the river bank (and the lead and the length of my arm permitted). A minor mishap saw her plunge into the water near a lock gate (which is really deep) - there was no problem though as she was on the lead but it did give us a new command.... "too deep"... which was the warning not to go into deep water. Typically she liked to see the bottom of whatever she was getting into - be it a puddle, a stream, a pond or the river.
Another "water" thing she often did, in the summer especially, was to dunk in the pond, but not shake.... the first time she did this... I'd forgotten what she had done... and about 30 minutes later, she shook... and I was covered in now warm, smelling of "dog" water... Most of the future occurances, I remembered, and learnt to step well back !!
Jade was an obedient dog... but she had to be told to do something... asking nicely got you nowhere! This meant that whilst walking, she typically stayed on lead (albeit a long lead), and this resulted in another two "Jade Special" commands - "tree" and "armpit".
We also attended obedience training classes, and whilst mostly she was good, there was an amount of frustration as she showed her stubborn side. This was the first indication we had of "the dilemmas of owning an all black German Shepherd" - to explain... the majority of black shepherd bitches that I've met are just a little bit psycho.... lovely dogs... but a little crazy!! On the other hand, the majority of black males are huge, gentle giants...
The basic obedience never really captured Jade's attention... she could do it... it just wasn't exciting, so it was interesting to see her transformed when send away, retrieve and scent work were introduced. Send away worked... provided treats were provided, and she liked retrieving the dumbbell... although giving it back wasn't a strong point... which kind of echoed the scent work.... she successfully picked out the right cloth out of twelve... but prefered to pick it out and then kill it... rather than bringing it back. Good job it wasn't a competition.
With Boysie having been sick most of his life, we never wanted to leave him in kennels "just in case". So, with Jade being young, and having come from the kennels we decided that we wanted to take holidays, so she was sent back to see Aunty Pat on a regular basis. They always reported that she'd been good... although I felt guilty every time I left her. To say she was pleased to see us when we collected her would be an understatement! We had to hide behind the desk so that the person who had fetched her from her kennel didn't get pulled over.
She always "played up" when going into the kennels - until she'd turned the corner and thought I couldn't see her... little did she know I could see her on the CCTV strutting her stuff and announcing her arrival. She was always glad to come home and I hope that both of us benefited from the short time apart.
Typically whilst on a walk, Jade would remain on the long lead, except for certain specific areas - the pond, and the field behind Tesco, as well as the occasional walk down by the River Stort. Unfortunately, Jade didn't realise when she was onto a good thing... and gradually she began to abuse the trust that was being shown her. Initially, it was a quick run and hide in a forest... being away for ten to twenty minutes... of course... it felt like much longer, and typically I was able to find her a couple of minutes after I'd phoned Becky to tell her Jade was lost. One notable story was the time she started to swim after a family of ducks (mother, father and about six ducklings) - she got totally played by the mother duck... who feigned injury, whilst father took the babies to safety... Jade thought she could catch the mother... who miraculously recovered in time to get away... and repeat... nature is an amazing thing.
There were a few "big" escapes down by the River Stort, most of these involved chasing wildlife... firstly into a wooded area... then across a meadow and onto the railway track (thank goodness for having a loud voice and for Jade listening to me that time)... and another chase into the trees from Pishiobury Park... an escape into someone's garden (and being unable to get back through the fence - so that I have to go back to the road and rescue her from chasing the ducks in their pond!!)... an escape out of Pishiobury Park into the local streets and finally, a minor excursion into the gardens of Beckingham Palace, fortunately she came back out the way she went in.
The river escapes were worrying as they were so far from home, but they were short compared with some of the escapes at home... they are too many to list, but the "memorable" ones include, Boxing Day, where she "lost" her flourescent jacket... whilst I searched all around for three hours and eventually found her in the forest about 100 yards from where I lost her... startled by a deer the otherside of a hedgerow, pursuing it across the field and into the next forest... running between forests and ending up in the pond chasing the ducks at dusk... a number of escapes off the field and into the fishing pond (displeasing the fishermen)... and "the big one"... November 9th 2006... playing nicely on the field at the edge of dusk... when three young deer took a short cut across the field, I've never seen them on this field before or since, and Jade chased them into the forest. I searched for about four hours with no luck, having called my boss to book the next day off work to look for my dog's body. I was exhausted, which was the only reason I was able to sleep, and the next morning at about 06:30 I was awoken by barking... and we were re-united... it turns out that one of our neighbours had seen her outside the house... and when he tried to grab her she barked.. Even worse, our next door neighbour reported later that he'd seen her outside at 04:30 but "didn't want to disturb us" !!! Bloody idiot...
At times I thought I was being harsh keeping her on lead for all of our walks, but re-reading the above I think Jade had more than her fair share of "second chances" !! It is not like she lacked mileage after all.
Enough of the bad stories... this is supposed to be a celebration... but they had to be mentioned... When Jade was a little over four years old, we visited a local agility club, "Epping Green Agility Club", and whilst neither of us were brilliant "out of the box", it was the start of Jade growing up...
Initially, Jade was very excited each time we went to agility, so much so that she was too hyper to stay in control... so we started to explore the local areas for an hour or so before class to take the edge off her enthusiasm!!
This helped, and with Jade (and I) being a little tired, we weren't the fastest around the obstacles... but there was some control. My favourite memories of our early days were; running up the seesaw without waiting for it to tilt, and falling out of the air like a Tom & Jerry cartoon; Jade loved the "A" frame, but a little too much... as she often went up and down it a few too many times!
As Jade seemed to enjoy agility, we started attending twice a week... so not only did we get more practice... we also experienced different trainers - everyone has their own methods and some worked better for us than others. After a while we were "promoted" to the top class... We were soon brought down to earth when we entered the club competition and were eliminated in every class - it turns out that inviting the family gave Jade an excuse to show off on the "A" frame... we did however come away with a "Judges Special" rosette - "special needs" perhaps!
We continued to attend training, and gradually improved... in 2008 we left the family at home, and everything was going well until I knocked over a jump... so despite Jade going clear, we were again eliminated! However, it was not all bad, and the next course saw the judge put in a tricky tunnel and a lot of dogs were eliminated for going in the wrong entrance... I spotted this, and stood in front of the wrong entrance... and whilst we didn't go clear... we were actually fast enough to be classified second and win a trophy. We avoided elimination in all of the other rounds... but made a few mistakes and were too slow resulting in places just outside of the rosettes.
In 2009, we attended a training day - a full day concentrating on small subsets of equipment, as well as an external competition near Eastbourne. We visited my Mum, and she and her dog Barney came along to watch us get eliminated.. it was a lot different running outside... on different equipment... and it took so long before we were allowed to run... The club competition was again an improvement... no trophies.... but a few placing rosettes and three clear rounds...
2010 was the club's 25th Anniversary, and a big show was planned... by this time we had gone back to just once a week... but this didn't affect Jade, and we came away with rosettes in all but two events we entered. No first place, but two seconds and a third, and some lovely trophies.
The competition in 2011 was less than a month before Jade died, and in the weeks leading up to it, Jade would occasionally stop following a jump and cough. She still seemed OK apart from this, so we attended the competition as planned, but she wasn't able to complete the courses... so we retired... she then happily went for a long walk around before coming back and snaffling a few sausages from the buffet.
Throughout her life Jade made a lot of friends, both canine and human, there are too many to give them all a namecheck, but some deserve a special mention;
Jade made friends with a number of neighbours, who regularly fed her biscuits, Peggy and Bill, Sheila, Frank and June, all live in a row, and each time we walked past, Jade would look hopefully at the windows, or stare at the "magic door" waiting for it to open... the number of times that worked for her was amazing - thanks to you all for being Jade's friends.
The number of doggie friends are way to many to name, but a few of the special ones;
Jade was on lead all of the time these days, but still managed to have enough freedom to chase wildlife - most of the time she wasn't able to catch them due to having a human anchor attached... Notable exceptions were a young rabbit who wasn't quick enough, and a squirrel that got cornered in a forest. One of the scary incidents happened at the pond, Jade was swimming as normal, whilst the local swan family came over and started hissing as normal... This time, the father got too close, in shallow water and if I had not been so quick to pull Jade back, I suspect there might have been another death... The Queen really should keep her wildlife under more control...
Jade was rarely ill throughout her life... she visited the vet for innoculations, to be spayed, and early on in her life with us when we discovered she was allergic to nickel (which meant that all her collars etc had to have brass fixings).
It was therefore slightly unusual when we came back from holiday in April 2011 to be told that Jade had been off her food... she was also a little fussy when she got home... but I put that down to her having been spoiled at the kennels, and played the "tough love" card... eat what I give you... or eat nothing... With hindsight, it could have been the beginning of the end... I will explain;
On this holiday, I suffered a knee injury whilst skiing, so whilst I was still able to walk with Jade, the distances I was able to travel were reduced, Jade didn't seem too worried about this... and I put this down to her knowing that I wasn't up for it... so was being nice.... but perhaps she wasn't up for it either.
We managed to continue all of our normal activities, including agility (although slightly slower than before), and we noticed that every so often Jade would have a nasty sounding coughing fit... which would stop almost as soon as it started. There wasn't really a pattern... although it happened fairly regularly when she jumped over hurdles at agility.
As the frequency of the cough increased (to two or three times a day), we took Jade to the vet... and she was given a clean bill of health, and we were advised to come back in a month... We took this as good news, but I could tell she wasn't right, and we went back to the vet after about three weeks. They couldn't find anything wrong again, but the vet prescribed some anitbiotics in case it was kennel cough, and arranged to do a blood test.
The blood tests came back, and the vet greeted us with the "good news" that there was nothing wrong... unfortunately, Jade wasn't Jade.... so we discussed our options, and he agreed to perform an x-ray to try and get to the bottom the problem. I was dreading the results, but at the same time, I needed to know what was ailing her. When we returned to collect her, the vet explained what they had seen... basically, Jade's chest was full of fluid... and additionally, there were a number of nasty looking lumps in her body. The vet gave her a diuretic injection to reduce the fluid, and some frusemide tablets to use once the injection wore off and some steroids to control the lumps, and sent her home with us with the instructions to spoil her rotten.
Jade was quite groggy, having had to be sedated in order for the best possible x-ray to be collected, although as she came too she did spark up a little. We were managing short walks, and she seemed relatively happy... although we had to avoid hills (of any sort) as any incline was exhausting her (due to the fluid on her chest).
On the Tuesday, Becky was out at work all day, but she came home in the afternoon, Becky's Mum and brother also came round. It was stressful for us all, but saying "Goodbye" always is.
Three or four days later, we returned to the vet to check on her progress, and he wanted to try another x-ray... which we agreed to... provided it could be done without sedation as she had taken a long time to recover from the earlier one. They managed to get an image, which, taken in isolation would have been bad... but compared with the first x-ray showed that the drugs were doing their job, so we returned home to monitor again... with another "check back in 30 days" order.
So, we continued to monitor, around the house, and on our shortened walks. At least twice, I was ready to "make the call" as Jade was struggling on walks, only for Becky to come for walkies with us, and for Jade to proceed to drag us over the fields... as if she was saying; "I'm not done yet".
As the problem seem to be hills and slopes, I started to take her out for walks in the car... so we could avoid the hills... we visited the pond... and, on her last weekend, had a couple of lovely walks down by the River Stort (which was perfect as the tow path is naturally level)... we did a couple of miles on the Saturday, and as she seemed to enjoy that, we did about four or five miles on the Sunday - going from Harlow Mill to Pishiobury Park and back - both of us knew this was almost "it"... and Jade took me into a number of the places she had escaped to earlier in her life... as if to explain that I had worried needlessly about her... it certainly wasn't a quick walk... but she seemed to really enjoy it.
The next day, was mainly quiet, Jade was keen to go out... so again we went for a short spin - one notable moment, as we walked past the bench, Jade jumped up on it, like she had always done when I said "table" - but this time it was unprompted, and I'm sure she smiled at me - it was all I could do to hold back the tears. Jade had developed a minor additional problem, where she was unable to control her bladder function, so we returned to the vet for a few tablets which would help. Whilst we were out, we went for a short walk down by the river, and as she was more with it, I decided to take her to the agility club to see her friends. She didn't have a go as I didn't want to stress her out, but she seemed content to have seen her friends.
On the Tuesday, we went for short walks again, and kept her eating by supplying freshly cooked chicken breast, ice cream, and anything else that she fancied. In the evening, Jade and I just sat cuddling, and I hand fed her chicken dipped in gravy (as she wasn't keen to eat it without).
On the Wednesday, Jade and I knew the day had come, and we needed to convince Becky, so we took her out for a short walk, and this time she was able to see that things weren't getting better, and the fairest thing for Jade was to let her go. We called the vet, and they asked us to come in after the regular surgery (to avoid upsetting others who's pets were "just" sick). Jade laid down whilst we filled in the required paperwork, and then it was time. We both kneeled down with her, and hugged and kissed her and then it really was goodbye.
The house was really quiet, and just didn't feel right. The toys were tidied up, and we passed the sad news on to various friends. It didn't feel right walking without a canine companion, and having spent the previous couple of weeks mourning Jade whilst she was alive, it didn't feel quite so bad to start looking for a new friend. See Lady's webpage for more info.
After Jade had been put to sleep, her body was cremated, and the ashes were split into two parts, one part is in a small casket next to Boysie, and the other part was taken out for a walk with our new dog Lady, and we scattered the ashes in a number of Jade's favourite places; these can be all seen in the slideshow
© Malcolm Preen 2012