The world has lost a truly gentle creature.
FlyGirl’s life with us ended yesterday. She spent last Sunday comforting UCSC students during finals week, Wednesday having children learn to read by reading to her at the library, and, as always, teaching Trill how to greet the world with curiosity and a smile. But this Sunday, she went into the hospital because she had no energy and was feeling poorly. By Monday, her liver had failed and by Tuesday was no longer making clotting factors or glucose. She left us peacefully with me right by her side.
FlyGirl and I met when a friend, who knows I rescue Border Collies, saw her in a shelter. She had been taken from a puppy mill where she had spent the first 2 years of her life in a 3’x5′ cage with her mother and never let out. A foster home took her over from there and she spent 6 months with them – never being trained or worked with. After 6 months, they gave her to the shelter and she was listed as “not housebroken, and not good with cats, dogs, or children”. As my friend said “Who would want a dog like that?” Me? hah! Anyone who can’t housebreak a Border Collie in 6 months just hasn’t been trying!
When I saw her first, she was sitting in a corner of our waiting room shivering, scared, and wide-eyed. She took one look at me and ran to my side and sat on my foot. I’ll never forget our immediate bonding. So we started our adventure.
My other dog, Acepromazine, took to her right away. He’d helped with many fosters but didn’t really care for the job. “Young whippersnappers” was his opinion of those we took in, trained, and adopted out to wonderful new homes. This little redhead stole his heart. I spayed her, trained her, and found a new home for her. They were to pick her up on Tuesday. That weekend was one of the most heartbreaking I’d spent. Ace allowed her to cuddle, sleep with her head on his haunches, and they went everywhere together – a formally unseen phenomenon!
After much soul-searching and discussion with friends, I decided that I would keep her. The receptionists reassured me that they would be fine with another dog under their feet and the office cat enjoyed sleeping with her. (“Not good with cats or dogs” HAH!) I called her new home, apologized profusely, and said she was no longer up for adoption. It was my first foster I’d ever kept.
We trained and played and ran and laughed. She made me laugh daily with her fun loving spirit. She loved my cats, trusted Ace for everything, never had an accident in the house, and loved Frisbee! Over the years, she worked on learning to herd sheep, how to have fun on a leash, and learning commands so she could get a Frisbee thrown or a tasty treat. She was a gentle, fun-loving soul who got enjoyment out of the simplest things – like toilet paper!
Border Collies can have real issues with their eyes so when I found out her lenses had fallen back into her eyes, it was surgery time. That was a rough time for her but she was cared for so well by Dr. Smith and Dr. Gratzek. She had to learn where the steps were and how to navigate in this now fuzzy world. She could only see 4″ in front of her. After she was completely healed, Dr. Gratzek suggested that we fit her for contacts. And it worked!! I would back her into my lap, put them both in, and off she’d run with good vision again! Magic. What a good dog! She wore them whenever we went for a hike so she wouldn’t walk off a cliff or into a hole. And she just went with it. No fuss, no complaining, just adapting to the situation she’d been given.
Looking cool in her Doggles before she got contacts.
Since she couldn’t play frisbee or fetch well anymore, I decided her lovely personality would fit well with a therapy dog. Of course, despite my nervousness, she passed her test first time and we started visiting people. Here’s some of her work.
Comforting a healing friend gently
Helping nervous people at the hospital
Helping children learn to read at “Tales to Tails”
Bringing smiles at UCSC “Pause for Paws”
Listening to children at SCC Animal Shelter Camp
Comforting a child at Camp Kesem
She had a wonderful talent for making me laugh. But what I consider her real skill, her true gift to the world, was her ability to cuddle up to people and convince them they really mattered to her. She would snuggle in and gaze at them lovingly as if they were the only thing in her mind. I must admit, it made me a little jealous every time it happened. And it happened every time she met a friend or stranger!
Teaching Trill how to enjoy new friends
FlyGirl remains in my heart as an example of overcoming your past, facing the world with a smile, and trying your best to comfort others.
Sniffing the wind