A Dog Called Grani

It’s the 20th of April 07 and I’ve just come back from the vets. I sat out on the grass with a 16 yr old dog in the sunshine as we said our last goodbyes. She was still bright and alert but her body had just had enough and had given up on her. What a way to go though, lying in the sunshine in the arms of someone who, for almost 4 yrs, had grown to love her like one of her own. Someone who remembers so clearly the day she came into her life.
It was June/July 03 and I’d only been working at Freshfields Animal rescue since the beginning of April that year. I turned up at work on a lovely sunny Monday morning to find the Kennels full to bursting, yet again, of unwanted working sheepdogs/collies. Anyone who knows me knows that they are not my favourite breed, and knows my reason for feeling this way is simple. Briefly in many cases I feel they do not make good pets. As a dog trainer and a person who is involved in rescue I’ve seen far too many of these intelligent dogs unable to adjust to a “pet” dog life. The situation with the collies had got so desperate at Freshfields over the weekend that Lesley had put one of the dogs in the caravan. And that, was “her.” I was told that her temperament was awful with other dogs and to exercise her alone. Having finished the kennels I got her out of the caravan and I clearly remember thinking, “what the hell is that?”
No, our Grani was not your average looking collie. She was a short-coated blue merle bitch with 2 blue eyes, and I thought at the time anyway, a rather hard expression. Dew claws stuck out terribly on her hind legs and there where obvious arthritic lumps on her joints, particularly her elbows and hocks. She stood out at the elbows, almost like a bulldog and ran everywhere, never walked. What the hell would we call this peculiar creature who was almost emaciated and surely didn’t have a hope in hell of a new home. “After all” I remember thinking, “with all the nice looking collies here, who would want that?” I think someone suggested we call her Merle or Mabel but somehow it didn’t sound right. You know when the name just doesn’t fit the dog. Over the following week she was referred to as Granny Grump in the Caravan. Grani it was to be!!!!
Within no time Grani was in season and “slapper” was one word I would use to describe her, this was the only time that she forgot just how much she really hated other dogs. If it moves, bonk it…..and that included me….no fun for me I assure you, though certain other members of staff thought it was hilarious!! Shortly after this I carted her over to the vets to be spayed, they thought she was too old and frail and the operation was not carried out. I would be the object of Grani’s lust many times over the next 4 yrs, well at least somebody loved me!
Around this time Nebo kennels was closed down and another “unhomeable” collie’s life was hanging in the balance. Tara had been re-homed several times but was unpredictable and was sent back to Nebo. At the time of their closure another rescue centre offered her a place, but due to her temperament they decided to have her destroyed. When Lesley was informed she made immediate plans to bring her to Freshfields and Tara became part of our family, and my other closest of friends. Through the caravan window Grani took one look at the glamorous B/W long coated collie and decided her mission in life was now to kill Tara…and no I’m not joking. I’m sure her hatred for Tara was her incentive to keep going for so long.
Grani’s physical condition improved beyond recognition, though the arthritis in her joints caused her to have a very strange gait. The vet reckoned that some of her joints where completely seized and on further investigation it was obvious that she had had a serious back injury at sometime in her life, this also contributed to her “individual” gait. Luckily Metacam had amazing results for her and her quality of life was excellent.
Grani stayed in the caravan for some months but had to be moved out when the hole she chewed through the aluminium was big enough for her to get her head through. Before anyone gets worried, no she didn’t hate her caravan, far from it, if the door was open she more often than not sat inside.(I think giving us all a false sense of security) The chewing was just sheer temper and frustration when Tara was out in the yard and she couldn’t get to her. When the caravan was scrapped she was moved into the Kennel kitchen unit……..And Guess what? She moved in next door to Tara!!! No, not the cleverest of moves, but luckily there was a brick wall between them!
Over the years Grani had become my shadow, following me from the cattery block to the kitten unit and waiting patiently outside the doors for me. I even gave her a job, it was her duty to make sure the cat bowls got a “pre-wash” before they went into the kennel/kitchen to be washed. A job she completed to perfection, though we did argue about the tins she regularly pulled out of the bins and scattered along the cattery floor.
I seriously thought about bringing her home to live with me. But with her aggressive nature it simply would never have worked within my “pack”. When there was room in the car she came with me on vet trips, just for a change of scenery really. We occasionally went A.W.O.L and had a little walk, it was our secret, but I reckon “management” knew about it really!!!
Recently the geriatric hooligan started on another mission. If she could eat through the kitchen door from the outside inwards she could then get to Tara, and then only the mesh would separate them, a minor detail. After all on a couple of occasions when the door hadn’t been closed properly she’d got hold of Tara’s nose through the mesh and refused point blank to let go. Old, worn teeth can still hold on for dear life, believe me. The hole in the door is now big enough for a man’s fist to fit through I would say.
Our choice of name for her turned quite a few heads over the years. Many a time we had to explain the situation to visitors When they heard a member of staff ask if Grani could be shut in the kennel, or why it was not a real problem that Grani had ripped the bin bags and was licking the cat food tins.
Today I am so sad, I’m going to miss my vocal work-mate so much. Freshfields I doubt will ever be the same for me without her. I wish I’d known her longer, I wish I’d seen the young dog and got to know why a 12+ year old, emaciated collie was walking through Llanllyfni in the Summer of 2003? I have no doubt the young Grani would have been absolutely everything I dislike in a collie all rolled into one, but my God, I wish I’d had the opportunity to find out, what a dog she must have been! My life has been touched by her, I feel privileged to have been at her beck and call over the last 4 yrs; privileged to have been her friend. I’m sitting here now listening to my darling George singing the lyrics of a haunting ballad, one he wrote in grief after the death of his partner. The tears flow, the lyrics of “You Have Been Loved.” are so apt, We’ll never know what happened to Grani in those early years but one thing is for sure, over these last four years she has known and given great love, yeah, for sure “She has been loved.”