In my minds eye I can still see her. Trotting along the tramlines in front of me in the cornfield behind the house. I can feel her still warm fur when I buried my head in her coat that afternoon at the vets. Her gaze, the particular markings on her coat and her bark have all been engrained in my memory.
Breeze was born on January 16th 2011. I had planned this litter for a long time. Believing it to be Winnie’s last litter I looked around for a very special dog. A dog that would bring the unique package of temperament, trainability and good looks.I found it in Gunner.
After a lot of correspondence and mountains of paperwork between the repro centers in the US and here in Ireland and the department of Agriculture and Customs the semen landed safely in Tipperary.
Winnie came in to season a few months later and by five weeks post insemination it was obvious she was pregnant. I was ecstatic, I could hardly believe it had worked. All the time, effort and stress worrying about paperwork and whether the straws would get damaged in transit was worth it. Especially when I saw those four tiny puppies for the first time.
Just one bitch with her three brothers. One bitch was all I’d ever wanted from this litter. She was to be my little piece of Winnie and I don’t know whether it was because I knew, right from the start, that she would be staying with me or just because she was what I was looking for either way I fell for her the moment I met her.
Just like most girls who grow up with brothers Breeze was more than able to hold her own in the litter. Her brothers were a very relaxed trio and let her have her way, most of the time.She was the biggest in the litter at birth with the boys catching up once they were weaned.
The Summer arrived and Breeze was growing into a beautiful active young dog with an inquisitive mind. She was soft and gentle around Elly quite happily following her around the garden. She mixed easily with any dog that came to visit and stay, large or small. Like her mother she discovered her love of water and nothing pleased her more than wading through the waves at Julianstown beach.
In July we travelled to the annual CBRC club show . It was her first time to travel such long distances and she took it in her stride, relishing the long beach runs and country walks that are in abundant supply in the UK. On that occasion she was just short of six months , too young to compete at the show but she enjoyed the attention she got while sitting ringside.
In late August we took another trip across the water. This time to South Wales.It was a double weekend. We were to compete at a working event on the Saturday and attend the WKC championship show on the Sunday.It was a weekend that surpassed all my expectations. Breeze’s mother, Winnie and her half brother , Bertie had a phenomenol day by passing all three levels of WD, WDX and WDQ in one day. The next day Breeze made her show debut and at her very first show she won Best puppy in breed, her mother won RCC and her half brother Mossy won his first CC and BOB! It was a weekend we will treasure for a long time and never forget.
Then things took a strange turn, Breeze got sick.
She came in from the garden one evening in early September. I thought there was an odd sound coming form her throat. She didn’t seem unduly distressed, no panting or coughing. I felt along her trachea and sure enough there was a definite lump. My first thoughts were that she’d been chewing sticks, she was just at that age. I took her into the vets that evening and like me the vet could feel the lump but wasn’t particularly concerned as Breeze wasn’t showing any signs of distress. She kept her in to sedate her and have a closer look at the lump.
A couple of hours later I received a phone call from the vets with news I was not expecting. Breeze had been sedated but the swelling, whatever it was, had closed around her larynx and prevented them from getting an airway!! Thankfully, on this occasion, the vet had just spent six months working in anaesthetics at our vet college and was eventually able to pass a tube meant for a cat down past the swelling. She was given antihistamines, steroids and antibiotics and kept for observation overnight. The lump never showed up to be anything conclusive. We assumed it to be a wasp sting as she’s been eating apples in the orchard and the wasps had been particularly aggressive last Summer.
In the weeks that followed, though, a recurring pattern started to emerge. on two further occasions Breeze presented with drooling, lethargy and difficulty breathing. Diagnosis of possible poisoning to a viral infection were the only things the vet could come up with. Apart from a very slight rise in her white cell count and a low grade temperature nothing showed and after 24 hours on antibiotics each time she would bounce back and be the normal young active dog we knew and loved.
After our third vet trip with nothing conclusive we changed vets and a bronchoscopy revealed that three-quarters of her chest cavity was filled with fluid. Where it was coming from and what was causing it remains a mystery to this day. My vet’s main priority was to remove the fluid as quickly as possible. At last I felt relief as we had some sort of a diagnosis to guide us with possible treatment.
Alas it was not to be and two days later I lifted the phone to the vet to be told that Breeze had passed away. Until the final hours before her death she gave absolutely no indication as to how sick she really was.
I have grown up with dogs and loved and lost many through out my life. Just the previous February I had lost my beautiful hunting companion Ria at the age of ten years old and even though I grieved her loss I could look back on her life and know she’d had a full and happy one but Breeze’s death affected me more than any other dog I’d ever lost. I went through the full rigours of grief. Questioning myself again and again as to whether I’d done enough. Could I , should I have spotted something earlier. I was angry at the junior vet for being so dismissive. I felt that I had let Breeze down by not doing the best by her but most of all I just missed her. The hardest thing in the weeks and months that followed was moving forward as everything in the near and distant future had my plans for Breeze worked into it.
I remember going to the first show I had entered just a couple of weeks after she died. Opening up the letter with her number and name on it was one of the most difficult things I’d had to do. I wore her number that day, under Mossy’s. I remember bursting into tears when an aquaintance asked me how the puppies were doing. Poor girl didn’t know what to do, I’ve since apologised.
Time is a great healer and life has a funny way of dragging you along with it. Sometimes, rather reluctantly. Winnie came into season . Des and I then had to make one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever had to make regarding the dogs. This bitch who had given us so much in her life could we ask her one more time to produce a litter of puppies? It wasn’t that she wasn’t fit and able it was more to do with the fact that after losing two dogs in one year we were terrified of losing Winnie also. We also knew this would be her last oppurtunity to have a litter of puppies and the thoughts of letting that pass and later regretting it made our decision for us.
And so the story has come full circle. The last of the C litter puppies goes to his new home tomorrow and we have been blessed with a beautiful little girl puppy whom we’ve called ‘Uisce’ meaning water.
My memories of Breeze are still fresh and sometimes she floats across my mind so unexpectadly it makes me catch my breath. I wonder what she’d be like now. How she’d have gotten through her first Winter as a working dog and how she’d have developed as a show dog. I still miss her but my memory of her is very specific to her and I am grateful that Uisce , so far, is very different.I’m looking forward now to sharing a whole new set of adventures with her.