Gilly

Sep. 1st, 2008 08:28 pm
stonebender: (exu)
[personal profile] stonebender
I first laid eyes on Gilly on the Internet. My service dog, Klipper, had died several months earlier. We hadn't actually decided we would have another dog. I knew I wouldn't want another service dog. It's a lot of work having a service dog much more than having a regular pet dog. I felt that I was constantly on a publicity tour with Klipper and my first service dog, Isaiah. Always feeling obligated to answer all the questions and be cheerful because I was in some small way representing the whole concept of service animals and Canine Companions for Independence (CCI, where I got both service dogs) in particular.

[personal profile] loracs and I had discussed generally what kind of dog we wanted. Neither of us wanted a small dog. [personal profile] loracs pretty adamantly wanted a short-haired dog. After two Golden Retrievers, she was tired of dealing with all the hair. (Little did we know that a short-haired dog doesn't solve this problem. It just results in lots of short hairs rather than lots of long hair :-) I pretty adamantly didn't want a Poodle. We had talked about getting a Doberman Pincher. In the early days of service dogs CCI tried many different breeds to see which ones were best. I think they pretty much only use Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Standard Poodles now, but then there were training German Shepherds, Belgian Sheepdogs, smooth coat Collie's and they even tried a few Doberman Pinchers. I was very impressed with the one Dobie being trained while I was getting my first service dog. I loved how they looked and how smart and precise that Doberman was. The breed met [personal profile] loracs criteria. So as I often do, I casually started looking at animal shelters and rescues to see what was available.

I discovered that there were breed-specific rescue organizations and I even found a Doberman Pinscher Rescue headquartered near Sacramento. They had pictures of the dogs available and two pictures caught my eye. They were both of "Sheila" a Doberman with uncropped ears and a docked tail. She was black and tan and one of the pictures had her catching a basketball in between her forepaws. The other picture was her sitting in a now very familiar cocked head pose. Looking a bit like the old RCA Victor dog.

I sent the pictures to [personal profile] loracs, not because I was suggesting we adopt Sheila (at least that's what I told myself). I just thought they were cute pictures. I also happened to fill out the rescue organization's adoption papers. Which I would have to fill out if I wanted a dog from them anyway. If I decided against getting a dog from there, no harm, no foul. I hadn't realized what I was in for filling out the form. It wasn't your average name rank and serial number. It literally took me hours to complete. I sent it off to see if I would get approved and pretty soon got a response from them. I will confess here that I did lie about one thing on the survey. It asked whether I had a fenced in yard. From reading the website it became pretty clear to me that if I didn't have a fenced in yard there was no chance of me getting a dog from them. We had just moved into our house and were definitely planning on fencing in the backyard, but we hadn't done anything to accomplish that yet. I thought that we would just take our dog out on a leash like I did with both of my service dogs. No need for them to go out to the back unsupervised.

As I remember it, I did eventually tell them that we didn't have a fence. They asked how we would deal with toileting the dog. I told them I would take her out on a leash. Somehow, they didn't expect that response. I explained that when I had my first service dog we lived on the third floor of an apartment building in downtown Oakland. Every morning [personal profile] loracs took Isaiah for her morning constitutional. Every evening I took her out before I went to bed. Of course we took him out several times during the day as well. We eventually convinced them that we could handle a dog without a fenced in backyard. They still made us promise to get a fence as soon as possible.

We went out to Sacramento to see Sheila and the other dogs at Doberman rescue. The organization was the house of the woman who was ran it. She turned out to be a remarkable woman doing so much work for Doberman rescue while struggling with breast cancer (we didn't find that out until later). Upon arriving the woman went right to her backyard to get Sheila. After my experience with their intake form and my interactions with them subsequently, I had expected interviews and blood tests. Perhaps a short quiz on the care and feeding of Doberman Pinchers. I never expected to bring a dog home on my first visit. She brought Sheila out and after a few minutes of saying hello to her. The rescue operator wanted to know if we were taking her home today. [personal profile] loracs and I both kind of harrumphed around a little. Surprised we were being asked. So that's how we met our Gilly (once known as Sheila).

We changed her name partly because we didn't really like it and partly because a good friend of ours mother was dying and her name was Sheila. It didn't feel right to use that name. Besides, of all the dogs I've had in my life I have had very few opportunities to name a dog.

My first dog, was named by committee, the committee of my family. We came up with the completely original name of Princess for her. My next dog came with his name, Duke. Then there were two service dogs who of course already had names. CCI did suggest we name our service dogs with another name, but that never felt right to me at the time. I did have one service dog temporarily that didn't work out for me. We only had him for a few months. He was also a Golden Retriever, but he was very very blonde in color. I took to making the joke that he was my California blonde dog. Now he had a perfectly good name, but we thought it would be very confusing to folks. You see his name was Guide. See the problem? Guy's dog Guide, no way. So we started calling him Cal short for California since he was my California blonde dog. However as I said, Cal never really worked out. He was a country dog and we dumped him right into downtown Oakland. He never quite coped. So anyway our only attempt at changing a dog's name didn't really get completed.

I liked the idea of calling Sheila, Gillis (after a television character Dobie Gillis). The name Gillis lasted about 2 seconds. Gilly was a very silly dog and Gilly just sort of became her name, our silly Gilly girl. Now, pretty soon after we were given Gilly. Carol had a bit of a medical emergency which made her unable to help us train Gilly. We had gone to a few beginning obedience classes and Gilly's past owner had done a lot of work to teach her basic commands. She knew how to sit, lie down, stay pretty well when we got her. We did manage to teach her wait which is a CCI command that means don't pass this threshold. So if she was in the bedroom and we wanted to keep her there for a while we would say wait and theoretically she wouldn't go through the doorway into the front room. We taught her to come here pretty well. She was a very energetic dog especially when she first met someone. We never managed to get her to settle down much with new people. We often told people that Gilly was a lot of dog to meet at first. It was sometimes difficult to get people to believe that Gilly was a pretty mellow dog after 15 or 20 minutes.

We never got her to walk very well on leash. I couldn't teach her and Carol wasn't up to it for several months after her medical emergency. I always felt a bit guilty about that. We could have taken her for so many more walks, if she would have walked on a leash. We only had one time that we seriously considered giving Gilly back to the rescue organization. Early on Gilly started getting very aggressive when [personal profile] loracs was putting me to bed. We found out from a trainer that Gilly pretty much thought of me as her "bitch". She felt she was top dog over me. After a lot of agonizing the behavior problem turned out to be a pretty simple fix. I needed to dominate Gilly. The trainer suggested that whenever Gilly settled on a place on the floor that I should go over and make her move from that space. After a couple of days of this Gilly just relaxed. She never showed another bit of aggression to people. We did have a little trouble with her and other dogs that got better as she got older.

I was always impressed by how Gilly won people over. My morning attendant was pretty scared of her at first. I was really worried about losing a good attendant, but after a while Gilly got to her. Stacey came to sneeking Gilly tuna or even some bacon. Lots of friends who were luke warm about dogs generally and were nervous around big dogs like Gilly got to liking her, some even loved her almost as much as I did.

I never got quite as much joy out of just watching a dog as I did with Gilly. She was the perfect physical comedian. Everything was a potential toy to her especially if they were spherical. She really loved basketballs and don't tell me dogs aren't tool users. Gilly had a very specific ritual in regards to basketballs. Once she was given one, she would busily go about popping it as soon as possible. Sometimes she could do it immediately, and sometimes it took longer. She would always work on the ball until it was deflated. Then she would work the ball into a bowl shape. Creating her perfect tug-of-war toy. She would run around with her tug-of-war toy until she convinced somebody to grab the other end. She would play with that ball until she started pulling pieces off of it and we were forced to take it away. We didn't want her to choke on the pieces.

She got so excited when she saw people she knew. Her little nub of a tail would go a mile a minute. She ran around like she just couldn't contain her excitement at seeing you. I loved that when my lap tray was taken off my wheelchair, how she had to jump up on me. Like she'd waited all day for the opportunity to lick my face. Then she'd follow me into the bedroom as [personal profile] loracs wheeled me in on my lift. She just had to be on the bed before I got there. She enjoyed watching the world go by from our bedroom window. She hated the Chows next door.

I'll miss her pushing her head into my shoulder (which we called her head-butt) as she laid down next to me in our goodnight ritual. I'll miss her looking at me with her head tilted, as if to say, "what in the world are you talking about?" I'll miss her doing everything she could to be in the middle. I'll miss my baby girl.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-02 05:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baratron.livejournal.com
I enjoyed reading this post. I want to have a dog someday, but our current lifestyles do not support one at the moment.

Also, I'm curious about the service dogs you used to have. I know what Guide Dogs and Hearing Dogs do, and that there exist dogs who look after people with epilepsy, predicting seizures by change in the person's smell etc. What do service dogs do to help people with mobility impairments?

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-02 06:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stonebender.livejournal.com
My service dogs were trained to pick up stuff off the floor and give them to me. They also helped turning on and off lights. They pushed elevator buttons for me. They were also taught to go and get items that I used a lot. They both had a backpack to carry my stuff. This was helpful because the dog could position himself so I could easily reach the backpack. Much easier than trying to reach around to the back of my wheelchair. (Of course this was when I had a lot more use of my hands.) Some of the dogs were also taught to pull a person in a wheelchair up short inclines or quite a ways on flat ground. This helps folks who can use a manual wheelchair but don't have the stamina to go long distances.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-04 04:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baratron.livejournal.com
Ah! Thank you. I'd got as far as being "trained to pick up stuff off the floor and give it to you", but I hadn't thought of some of those other things. I'm rather impressed by the light switches. Wow, training to pull a person in a manual wheelchair? That's like having your own personal husky!

Also I am sorry for not realising that your post relates to a recent loss. I knew it was mourning a non-human member of your family, but not that Gilly died recently. May you be comforted.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-05 02:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stonebender.livejournal.com
Also I am sorry for not realising that your post relates to a recent loss. I knew it was mourning a non-human member of your family, but not that Gilly died recently. May you be comforted.

[personal profile] loracs pointed out to me that I didn't actually say she died. Thanks for your good wishes.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 11:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] serenejournal.livejournal.com
Such a sweet Gillygirl. *sighhh*

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 11:56 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 11:22 am (UTC)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] redbird
I'm sorry you've lost her, but glad you had her so long. She was a good dog.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 11:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stonebender.livejournal.com
She really was and thank you.

*hugs*

Date: 2008-09-03 01:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tracytreefrog.livejournal.com
No I hadn't seen it. She will be missed by many she was a sweet silly Gilly Girl!

Re: *hugs*

Date: 2008-09-03 11:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stonebender.livejournal.com
Yep, thanks. I hope you're coping.

Re: *hugs*

Date: 2008-09-04 05:28 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 01:25 pm (UTC)
snippy: Lego me holding book (Default)
From: [personal profile] snippy
What a great tribute; it shows your love and appreciation. I'm sorry for your loss.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 11:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stonebender.livejournal.com
Thank you. Sorry I missed you while you were out here.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-05 04:18 pm (UTC)
snippy: Lego me holding book (Default)
From: [personal profile] snippy
No problem. Turns out we had a big enough crowd that it wasn't really practical to talk to everybody.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 01:28 pm (UTC)
ext_3386: (Default)
From: [identity profile] vito-excalibur.livejournal.com
No, I hadn't seen this. Reading sporadically lately. And I'm really glad you pointed it out.

These sorts of stories are why I will have a dog someday. Dogs are the best. But it sounds like Gilly was the best of the best.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-04 12:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stonebender.livejournal.com
I drop in and out of reading LJ myself. So I don't really worry when individuals don't respond to a post, but when hardly anyone commented I wondered.

Yes, she really was a special dog and yes dogs are the greatest (no offense to cats, but being allergic I have understandable biases). I hope you get to a place where you can have a dog Soon.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 02:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clawfoot.livejournal.com
I'm glad you pointed this out, otherwise I would have missed a great piece of writing on a wonderful, beautiful dog.

I'm so sorry for your loss, but I'm so glad you had as many wonderful years with her as you did. Pets are such a treasure, even if it hurts like a sonofabitch when they leave us.

You were good to her, and she was good to you. That's the best kind of life a dog can ask for.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-04 12:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stonebender.livejournal.com
Thanks, I hope we were good to her. Having the responsibility of deciding how she left this life, makes one (at least this one) second guess all over the place.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 02:33 pm (UTC)
lcohen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lcohen
no--i hadn't seen it. i'm so sorry for your loss--i remember meeting her--she was such a sweetheart.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-04 12:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stonebender.livejournal.com
Thank you.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 02:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ljgeoff.livejournal.com
I'm also one who missed it the first time. Thanks for pointing back at it -- it's lovely.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-04 12:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stonebender.livejournal.com
Thank you.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 04:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] waywardcats.livejournal.com
I'm so sorry Guy. I have been offline for a while and did not see this excellent post.

She was a wonderful, silly Gilly. I will always remember with fondness the hours I spent playing tug-a-war with her and her basketball. My hands were always sore after a visit.

Hugs to you and all who care about the Gilly girl.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-04 12:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stonebender.livejournal.com
Sorry I didn't tell you directly I just wasn't up to it.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 07:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leback.livejournal.com
I'm so very, very sorry. :-(

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-04 12:15 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 08:28 pm (UTC)
firecat: red panda looking happy (Default)
From: [personal profile] firecat
I only hung out with Gilly a few times, but I loved her and will miss her. I know you'll all miss her more. I'm very sorry for your loss.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-03 09:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dawnd.livejournal.com
Ah, damn. No, I missed that post, Guy. I am truly sorry for your loss. Big (hugs) and best wishes in your time of mourning.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-04 12:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stonebender.livejournal.com
Thank you.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-05 03:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] epi-lj.livejournal.com
*hugs, if wanted*

I'm really sorry for your loss. You write wonderfully of her here, and I know that you brought her a lot of love, which was returned.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-09-05 04:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stonebender.livejournal.com
Thanks, hugs are usually wanted from friends.

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