Walk with me – A tribute to Tina
I would like to thank God for our precious four legged friend who walked with me (literally) for 11 years.
In 2005 my eyesight deteriorated quite significantly and I decided to stop teaching to reduce the stress on my eyes … and my brain! I looked into (ha ha) getting a guide dog, but after and interview with the SA Guide dog Association, I realised that I was too sighted for a guide dog, but too blind to be safe out on my own. At that stage I was running a few kms per day (I can see better when I move fast as the central blind spots are covered). I longed to have a dog that I could train to assist me, but I had no experience. At that stage we had no pets in our household as it was an unnecessary expense and, after spending time in various countries where people were starving, we could not bring ourselves to spend money on a pet.
Anyway, I decided to pray about it. I was even specific in my prayers, I was praying for a black, short-haired female cross breed with some Labrador or sheepdog. I knew that a bigger miracle was needed for God to get this one past my caring, but not particularly dog-loving husband.
One day I was asked if I didn’t want a puppy. She was the last of the litter to find a home and she fitted my description exactly. We met the little black bundle without the children (too much pressure) and, as cute as she was, we decided against the ‘unnecessary’ expense. I was heart sore, but sensed that she was for us. The next morning my husband Andre called me and said, “I think we should get the dog”. I asked what changed his mind and he quoted from a scripture in Proverbs 10 v 3 some expanded version with commentary) “… a righteous man shall not go hungry, nor his children, nor his manservants…….nor his cattle, nor his domestic animals”. That was the miracle and so the timid, soft eyed, smiley puppy (she looked a bit like toothless in ‘How to train your dragon’) joined our family.
I started training her at 4 months old and the local dog trainer helped me to get her to walk next to me instead of at my heel. I needed her to bump into my leg if there was a hole or obstacle in the pathway. She learned the normal. ‘Sit’, ‘lie down’, ‘turn left’, ‘turn right’, ‘stand’ and, her most difficult command, ‘stay!’. She loved to learn and so perked up for words like ‘lead’, ‘brush’, ‘ball‘ and ‘dish’ and loved to hear the command ‘fetch’ before any of these. Her favourite word by far, was ‘walkies’. She carefully inspected what kind of footwear I was putting on and my trainers definitely led to expectancy in her body language – the ears pricked up, mouth smiling with an I-think-she-is-taking-me-for-a-walk-but-I-am-not-sure-if- I-can-be-that- excited” look. She even learned to spell: W-A-L-K!
The words ‘bath’, ‘ears’ ‘and the sound of us sniffing the air caused her to disappear to the furthest corner of the house. As she loved to swim, I think the negative connotation of water for bath was her association with our gasps of disgust when she had rolled in poop!! Yucky!
As a forced pedestrian I taught her to walk with me on my left side, stop and sit at intersections and wait for my command to walk. Initially she was terrified of the traffic. On her first pavement walk she sat down firmly on her tail every time a truck went past. It was more like taking her for a drag and scuttle….. with a lot of encouragement and coaxing to overcome her fear. Eventually she loved the outings wherever they were.
I tried to teach her to wait whilst I popped into the shop, but she used to whine for me like a tortured baby until I came back to her. Admittedly she was not perfectly obedient, especially when she was off the lead on the command, ‘go sniff’.
Somehow her ‘walkie’ clock was set to 4.45pm daily and I knew the time by the tick-tick of her claws on the tiles as she came looking for me each day. On our walks I learned to read her body language so that I could know if the moving blob was a person or another animal or an inanimate object like a tree. (Once I failed at this and I ended up greeting a recently placed rubbish bin!) I felt safe walking alone or running in the green belt areas. I let her off the lead to go at her own pace somewhere near me as I knew that the command ,’stand’ would cause her to stop in her tracks and wait for me to re-attach her lead. Her company was wholly reassuring and I loved our talks with God and the talks with many interesting people we met on the way. In her last year she was satisfied with a short walk around the block where the local doggy friends got to bark at her at the same time every day whilst she looked straight ahead in the ‘I am pretending not to see you’ game that would humour her and irritate them intensely !
Tina was the family’s very own emotion barometer. She could sense tension in the room and would go and sit in the corner and look away. When someone was crying she would come and put her head heavily on your leg, look up into your face and wag her tail with an “I’m so sorry” indicator. Sometimes I would look at her to know how I was feeling! When I had breast cancer she would not come to me when I called. I knew that there was something wrong, but never imagined that it was with me!
We had to put her down last week and I am so sad, but very grateful. She was like a member of the family and each of us learned something about love from her. Even her new feline sister is now looking for someone to tease.
It is the little routines and habits that catch me off guard and sting my eyes. Yesterday I accidentally dropped a little food on the floor. I pointed to it and called, ‘Tinks’….. The house was so quiet. In the mornings I miss her singing yawn that sounded like a whale ‘hello’ and I automatically wait for the dancing claws at quarter to five.
So long my Tinky Tinks.
Thanks for walking with me.