Introducing Tessie

March 15, 2012


Well, it has been just over a year since I last posted here, and in fact, this week marked the one year anniversary of our adoption of Tessie from Atlantic Region Central Border Collie Rescue in Richmond, Virginia.  Here’s a link to their organization: 

We took some time to mourn the loss of our girls – after Gracie’s year-long battle with renal failure, we committed ourselves to enjoying what was left of our time with Sofie the Chow Mix.  Eventually, you realize that the company of a dog is essential to your well-being.  Once we realized we had come to that point, we knew it was time.

And it’s hard to believe our pack has been together a year already.  Tessie is a great dog, a hug bag.  Gracie was a border collie, of course, but Tessie is proof that even though the genetic material is pretty much the same, what you end up with can vary widely.

Gracie was driven by the natural working instinct of the breed,  so that she was always there with a ball to play fetch.  And Sofie, our loving chow mix – she was motivated by pure canine-ness, very protective and watchful, but very much a companion dog.   It’s funny to think how Tessie has personality traits that combine both of these – but in a way that make her her own dog. 

Tessie came from a difficult environment, we suspect maybe even an abusive situation at a puppy mill in southwest Virginia.  But I was pleasantly surprised when I went outside yesterday, in the morning, after I let Tessie out into the backyard first thing.  When I got to where I could see her down in the yard, she had grabbed a stick and tossed it into the air…that’s new behavior.  Tessie is finally coming into her own, settling in with us, so that now she’s inventing games.  It’s a heartwarming thought.

If you’re thinking of getting a dog, Mary and I encourage you to think rescue first.  In the US and other countries, there are plenty of breed specific organizations like ARCBCR; there are others like Lost Dog and Cat Rescue (; or maybe best of all, you can find a good, worthy dog at your local shelter.


Remembering Lady Valentine

February 14, 2011

I had a funny thought this morning about a name that rings the bells of memory – a little off track from what you might expect on a Valentines Day morning.  Of course, the name “Lady” is in the papers and on the web everywhere this morning after the Grammy’s (Lady GaGa and Lady Antebellum), but that’s not the topic of the post either. 

See, the name Lady Valentine was Gracie the border collie’s name when our relatives and in-laws first adopted her.  Now that the kitchen remodel is in its final stages, we’re going to be moving forward with finding a new rescue dog.  So we’ll start out with a mention of Gracie and Sofie this morning, our forever canine valentines.

Here they are at the beach with us in North Carolina back in the spring of 2001.

A few months ago we had encountered a guy with his border collie at the Luray Triathlon.  We saw those recognizable behaviors that we missed in the four-year old, and agreed that it was just about time to start looking.  Meanwhile, we enjoyed each new encounter with our friends’ dogs.

Last month Mary and I decided to put in applications with the rescue organizations that work here in Northern Virginia – Blue Ridge Border Collie Rescue, Bimmer’s Border Collie Rescue, Atlantic Region Border Collie Rescue, and also Glen Highland Farms in upstate New York.  They’re all easy Google finds if you are interested in checking them out.  Also of note, there is a Bimmer’s dog here in the neighborhood; and I love checking out the Glen Highland Farms site – both to look at the available dogs and also for the other information they keep up on the site about the breed.

Then you have this television feature that has been on recently about the border collie who has been taught 1,100 words, nouns and verbs, and can react appropriately when given a command or phrase.  It’s all reminding me of some company I miss.  Gracie and I had a word game we used to play too – that’s what we were doing in the second photo here.  I would whisper something and she would react – usually the panting would stop, the tongue fold back and the mouth would close, and the border collie eyes would flash.

After the applications went out, each of the organizations got back to us telling us they’d be happy to work with us – that was a relief, since we’d heard that one of the rescue organizations (not listed here for obvious reasons) had turned down a friend’s request…this friend has owned border collies for 30 years, and even has had the current dog out to the farms for sheep herding training and outings!  “Your situation isn’t right for border collie ownership” our friend was told.

The next step after applications is to get a house visit, and we have that scheduled.  But to my surprise, we also got a note last night about a dog that’s available.  So this thing could be moving along a little faster than we thought.  We’ll keep you posted.

The Girls

June 30, 2010

While this blog is about Gracie’s canine renal failure, earlier this month, we lost Gracie’s sister Sofie, our chow mix that we rescued as a stray after finding her on a street corner in Washington, DC.  Sofie took on a lot of responsibility during Gracie’s illness – they are shown here on the front porch a few minutes before we took Gracie to another vet appointment.  Faithful Sofie looks like she is watching over her sick sister.

So for the moment we are…dogless.  But just the thought of these two girls bring up so many fond memories of our more than fourteen years together.  They were a treasure.

Popular Canine Renal Failure Search Terms

June 18, 2010


I am sorry about the condition you and your pet are experiencing that led to your search and that brings you here.  This is a running list of some of the search terms that have been used to find this site.

If you are finding this blog from a search, please take a look at the “about” page for details of what is here.  This is a journal of our experience taking care of Gracie the border collie during the final phase of her fight with canine renal failure. 

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February 27, 2010

Gracie, ready with a ball, as always

Gracie, ready with a ball, as always

(Originally posted to Hawksbill Cabin September 25, 2009, by Jim)  Readers of the blog already know this, but Mary, Sofie and I lost our beloved friend Gracie a few weeks ago. Gracie, the Border Collie we adopted from relatives in 1995, suffered canine renal failure for about two years, entering the final stage in approximately January of this year.

Mary took on the primary care giver role for Gracie as the disease progressed.  She compiled a series of previous entries on the disease (they’ve also been published here on the WordPress blog in a digest format); since Gracie passed away she put together her records from the last three months, July to September, 2009.  On the Hawksbill Cabin blog you can follow the story by clicking on the “canine renal” label in the index in the right hand column.

Even as I am consolidating and editing these posts in October 2009, it is still hard, and perhaps too early, to look back at these events for us (note: re-posting this here, four months later, it’s still hard).  We definitely still feel the emptiness of loss.  But we wanted to publish these notes on the blog and elsewhere for other owners who may be just receiving the diagnosis.  I hope that in some way these posts will help prepare those owners for what’s ahead and the decisions that will need to be made along the way during the course of the disease.

For my part, I thought I might have more to add after reading Mary’s eloquent posts, and preparing them for the blog. It’s still too early for that, like it is for Mary and Sofie, although I find that now, sometimes my thoughts are turning to fond memories:

  •  Playing soccer with Gracie on the hillside near the grade school in Adams Morgan, or at several of the other parks there in the District.
  • The fun times we had when we first moved to Alexandria, when Sofie and Gracie would play up at the Masonic Memorial.
  • A special cove that both dogs liked at Great Falls, their anticipation picking up as soon as they got on the trail to it.  During the summer, they would lie down in the shallow water to cool off.
  • Our vacations in the Outer Banks and later at the Hawksbill Cabin, where the girls delighted in exploring the outdoors with us, an alternative to our urban environments – the city wasn’t a bad place for dogs, just necessarily constrained because of the confined populations.

Our vet sent a condolence card after Gracie died. As a near final note, her words:

“Gracie was truly a special patient and I will share your loss. Her tenacity to forge ahead and live life to the fullest was admired by all. Your dedication to her these past nine months has been dearly recognized. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of her life all these years. My thoughts are with you, Fondly, Donna.”

Thanks to everyone for the kinds thoughts and comforting words. We lost a good friend in Gracie.

12/27/1994 – 9/7/2009.   

Labor Day 2009

February 22, 2010

Monday, September 7 (originally posted by Mary to the Hawksbill Cabin blog)

After our visit to the vet last Thursday, Gracie seemed to perk up a bit, finding a tennis ball under a table in the sun room and bringing it to me for some play. Months ago, we modified the game to one where she lays down and I roll the ball to her, which she then traps between her front legs and bites soundly to stop.

She seems so happy during these moments, recalling perhaps the more rigorous games of fetch we played in her younger days up on the hill at the Masonic Temple here in Alexandria, or, later, the “stairmaster” game when she would stand or lay at the top of the stairs and I would toss the ball up to her, which she would catch, then roll back down the steps to me to start the game all over again. However, this burst of energy and interest is short-lived and she grows weaker.

We are out at the cabin in the Shenandoah for the Labor Day weekend. On Saturday, she had enough strength to walk with Jim around the house, sniffing and enjoying being with him as she explored some of her favorite bushes and trees. During the night from Sunday to Monday, Gracie woke me up and I took her outside to pee. She sniffs in the dark for awhile then returns to me but has a difficult time walking over the black drain pipe leading from the downspout that crosses the back path. I also help her up the step to the side porch and into the house. She wags her tail as I pat her now boney back.

As I clean up the kitchen this morning, Jim has Gracie outside and later tries to give her the semi-weekly dose of calcitriol.  She is suddenly drastically weaker and can no longer lift her head and can’t seem to swallow.  She can no longer stand-up.  We’re not sure if she’s had a stroke or not.  She’s conscious and continent but we realize that the time has come to end Gracie’s fight against the disease that has taken her strength and dignity.

We return to Alexandria and take Gracie to the vet, which we have called ahead of time. Jim carries our girl into a pleasant green-painted room with some comfortable chairs and plants and an examination table covered with towels.

After a brief consultation, the vet agrees that to continue Gracie’s life in this way would be cruel and we begin the process that we have been dreading for so long. We have a chance to hold and kiss her before they administer the sedative and she is unconscious when the last medication is given. She leaves us quickly and peacefully, a gentle, loving companion to the end. She was three months short of her 15th birthday.

Quick Post before a Road Trip

February 18, 2010

Gracie’s status (originally posted by Jim, September 5, 2009)

Not to be too much of a downer today, but since I am going to be off-line for a few days, thought I would give a quick update this morning.  We’ve had another setback, a complete food boycott on Thursday. Plus, she was visibly weak from not eating. These are typical symptoms of end stage Canine Renal Failure.

Off to the vet for a consultation. We’re told that finally, the effects of the disease are piling up, getting quite strong, and the nausea and other symptoms may be just overpowering her.

It’s most important that we continue to get her to eat. Mary has been so diligent about this – trying something new and different almost every day. We are having success with freshly cooked hamburger right now, and the vets gave us some food that is used to help get dogs back on track after major surgery – very much like chopped liver, with a strong smell and overwhelming deliciousness for canines. To our surprise, during this visit’s weigh-in, Gracie had gained back 2 pounds!

The advice from the vet was to keep an eye on things, and recognize that there is not a lot left that can be done. Quality of life is the key now, and with a chronic disease, the one benefit you do get is to spend that much more time with your pet.

It’s day to day now, and we are a little more flexible with the meds understanding where we are with this – sometimes she’ll take them and sometimes not.  Of course, a visit to the vet was enough to give us a rally. When we got home, she ate very well – and she brought a tennis ball to Mary for a toss.