Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Juno: Queen of the Heavens.

My beautiful girl died on Thursday 19 July. 
In June she was diagnosed with an inoperable mass on her liver, even had an operation been possible I wouldn't have put her through it, not at 15. She stabilized and had several good weeks and some fantastic days but on Tuesday night without warning she was sick, Wednesday she half heartedly ate her breakfast and later was sick again.  High dose pain killers seemed to work and Wednesday evening she ate her tea and happily pottered around the garden but by Thursday morning it was obvious that she was in great pain and struggling.  Katie put her to sleep at lunch time.

Juno was independent, stubborn, loyal, loving, fiercely intelligent and beautiful.
Juno at three, wet from water retrieval work

 If I said to all three "Jump off that cliff" (not that you ever would). Hebe would dash to the edge and hurl herself over perhaps even with a "geronimo". Maia would trot to the edge look at the drop, look back at me and ask, "Are you sure?" and then step over the edge. Juno would walk to the edge look over and then say "You've got to be kidding, are you stupid? I'm not doing that" and back away.

I found her almost by accident. I was in the vet's with her predecessor Bracken having a heart check and ear clean out when a man came in with a lamb that was having an allergic reaction to something.  He left a card on the reception desk, I memorized the phone number and rang them when I got home, they were quite surprised to have an enquiry so quickly. The puppies were not quite two weeks old and had just opened their eyes but I was welcome to visit.  I went and was inspected by mum Rosie who then showed me her pups, six small black furry bundles.  I met dad Jack and talked for ages to breeder Ian about colour genetics, (Rosie was a chocolate show stock girl, Jack was a wiry jet black worker), how working stock was getting very lightweight, breeding for looks and temperament and then I met two year old Jess, a pup from their first litter who looked so like Bracken at a similar age I was sold. But Ian wouldn't let me put down a deposit there and then, he insisted I go away and think about - responsible breeder.  I went back a week later with my £25 deposit (I found the receipt the other night), I would have the pick and could collect her at eight weeks old.  Even on the way home she showed her character, sitting on my lap watching out of the window and inspecting the car, Maia snuggled in and wanted to be cuddled, Hebe wanted cuddling but also to look out of the window.
Juno learnt quickly, eventually knowing all her toys by name and would fetch each in turn, but if she didn't want to do something would skip off with a cock of the head, a glance over her shoulder and a twitch of the tail meaning you had to work harder to make the task or command all that bit more appealing so that next time she would do as asked.  She was a good worker but never took kindly to being 'handled' whilst retrieving and would go conveniently deaf to calls and whistles; it was only when she was struggling that she would look up and say "well, where is it then? give me a clue" before dashing off in the right direction to retrieve whatever was lost.
Bracken taught her to carry her lead and many people would comment on the dog trotting calmly at heal 'taking herself for a walk', waiting at the roadside for permission to cross and looking up and gently nudging my hand for permission to dash off after a good scent or just to get the bounce out of her legs.
Juno taught herself how to open the shower door and would step in asking for the itchiness from her grass allergy to be washed away from her tum and for her feet to be cleaned. She taught me to make sure the bathroom door was firmly closed otherwise I got black fur stuck to my legs and feet whilst my soggy labrador knocked over the shampoo bottle saying "what about me?".
Like all labradors she was incredibly patient especially with puppies - but not children, those were to be studiously ignored or avoided by a swift exit.  She brought up two other labradors, Maia and Hebe, and a wolfhound, Cara, the labs pulled her face and ears and Cara knocked her over in her enthusiasm.  I promised her no more puppies, this was one promise I had to break when we got Finnegan but she handed off training duties to Maia who took it all in her stride and even today she's the only one Finnegan really listens to.  Eventually when Finn became too big and boisterous and she got a bit fragile Juno moved from the dog house into the main house and had over a year of being pampered, the grand Duchess.
Boss, I really think my tennis ball tugger would look good next to those baubles.
She loved presents and adored Christmas, she had one Christmas as an only dog and helped us with the decorations and eventually the presents, watching us unwrap, waiting patiently until finally we got to hers then she ripped the paper off and hurtled about the house in great glee as only an over excited two year old lab can!  But for all her obvious enjoyment of unwrapping presents she never helped herself to the ones under the tree even when she knew (could smell) they were for her. We even left her with the tree and all its presents overnight this last year, nothing was touched.
ST makes a good chin rest and anti-snore device!
As a puppy she snored quite prodigiously so much so I took her to the vet for a check up to be told "you've just got a noisy puppy".  In the evenings we started lifting her chin to allow us to hear the television above her snores.  For all she was a noisy sleeper she didn't bark very often, it had to be something very important that made her bark, but she would grumble and grunt to be let out (or in), at tea time or simply to get your attention.  For all that she was loving and loyal she never liked to be smothered and would wriggle out of your grasp to sit just out of reach with a indignant expression on her face, the steady pressure of a resting head or leaning on your leg was more likely although head rubs and ear ruffling on her terms were fine but every morning I got a hug and even a head but reminder if I wasn't quite fast enough about it or was busy elsewhere.  Sometimes she would head stand, turning herself upside down as she slid down your legs asking for her tummy to be tickled and her chest stroked.
A typical greedy labrador she would eat everything you put in front her, she never stole off tables or tops but if it hit the floor it was fair game unless you could bellow "leave" faster than she could get her teeth around it. She loved fruit and would carefully pick tomatoes from the vine, strawberries and raspberries from the plant and nearly killed herself by eating several pounds of plums direct from the tree (after jumping the yard fence to get there) and blocking her gut with the stones. She also had a strange fondness for compost and soil plus all those unmentionable, green and smelly long dead things you find on a walk but it all seemed to generate a cast iron gut and she rarely had an upset stomach. The only thing she never liked was chicory which she would take from your hand bite and then forcibly spit out with such a look of disgust, everything else was edible even if not always entirely palatable.  When she started on her herb smoothies (which solved her skin problems and grass allergies) she soon got into the routine and if we were lingering over lunch or dinner would place a paw on your knee to remind you and then curl the foot so the claws dig in, if a paw didn't work (ie we carried on talking) a heavy chin would replace the paw with increasing downward pressure until your toes were tingling and finally she got her smoothie. We now have dry floors, Juno never lapped water she chewed it, bending her elbows so that she could lower her chin into the water dish or tipping the bucket to one side so that the water was at the right angle.  After drinking her fill she would walk away with a mouth full of water which she then allowed to drooble out across the floor, she could get from the water dish across the kitchen, through the hall and into the sitting room before the dripping finished and then she'd sit there with a sodden chin and water still dribbling down her neck to puddle on the carpet.  There's a large stain on the office kitchen carpet where she looked up from the bucket and streamed all over the floor.
A gold medal for reaching the grand age of 15
She was the first dog I actually chose, I found the litter and picked her.  We had 15 fantastic years together.

Now my queen of the heavens has crossed the Styx and I paid Charon's fee with my tears.

1 comment:

001mum said...

I shall post here too. Quite by happenstance I found your blog-can't remember what I was looking for but it wasn't black labs. I dream of having my very own black lab and finding him the way you found Juno. You are so lucky. and I am so sorry for your loss. If I could find the "dog of my heart" today,NOW, this very minute! I would have heaven on earth!-I must do this soon because if he lived to be 15,I would be 71 years old. can't see myself managing a labbie's ah.... um.... enthusiasm in my 60's.lol My 4th foster truly is the "dog of my heart" but I can't have him as he is meant for bigger things than hanging around grassy fields and city sidewalks. I wish a black "puppy breath" lab with a full round warm tummy and not-quite seeing eyes would fall from the sky into my lap -right now!