by Peter Lambert Hartley
(Alfold (Cranleigh), Surrey, UK)
Ellie-May (Erinmoor Juno) – Memorial 19 January 1999 – 21st August 2013
It has taken me a whole year to be able to write this. It is so hard to tell about the loss of a wonderful, loving, caring friend for whom I had to take the dreadful decision to "put to sleep," when she really didn't "want to go."
She would have hung on, suffering, just to be with me and with her niece, Tally (Ironlake Mystic by Erinmoor), Daughter of Ellie-May's Brother, Max (Erinmoor Jupiter).
Nothing pleased Ellie-May more than having her head stroked, or else simply going out in the car (later, a Jeep) for a ride, possibly a walk.
I remember "birthing" Ellie-May, just 5 minutes after her Brother Max, by the front door of the lovely house that my (now late) wife Maura and I called "Home."
Ellie-May's mother, Tara (Erinmoor Pax), was finally persuaded to get into the whelping box, and when I came back to clean the blood from the carpet, it was immaculate.
Sally, our first dog together, and great-grandmother to Ellie-May (and handicapped at her back legs), had cleaned up everything. We really had a tremendous loving dog family!
Having been raised with a dog around since a baby (but I had the advantage of a soft bed to sleep in!), I think sometimes that I am almost a "Dr Doolittle" when it comes to dogs.
Ellie-May didn't have the easiest of times. Tara (Ellie-May's mother) was the dominant bitch, and Max was a "pushy" dog, so Ellie-May had to derive her own means of getting attention.
This she did, by going up to other people (not me), pushing her nose in between their legs, and suddenly jerking her nose up! That certainly got attention! It was hard to teach her not to do that, when it was so effective.
In my case, if I had a hand hanging down by my side, I would suddenly realise that Ellie-May had "sneaked under" and I was stroking her lovely, silky head. So much for the "expert" allegations that dogs don't like their heads stroked, because of "invasion of personal space"!
It was wonderful, for the sake of my late wife, to qualify Tara, Max and Ellie-May for Cruft's 2000. Max took Best Puppy of Breed, and despite his "pushiness," he was very fond of Ellie-May and invented games for her, letting her "throw him to the ground," and running down the lawn together, with a cotton rope "tugger" between them.
(Max added an extra bit, by stopping suddenly and "bumping" Ellie-May with his backside – that cost him the Award at Cruft's the following year, when he couldn't stand properly because of a back injury – but at least my Vet put me onto a Chiropractor who did good work on me as well as Max!)
Unfortunately, Max and Ellie-May had a "dalliance." I managed to get it sorted, but after that, there was only one "husband" for Ellie-May – her brother, Max.
She was loyal, and no other male dog interested her. (Curiously, in Roman mythology, Jupiter and Juno are sometimes referred to as brother and sister – or husband and wife!)
As a hunting dog, Ellie-May preferred to "back the point" of Tara. I was on a favourite shoot when there was a sublime moment. Tara pointed a pheasant, and Ellie-May backed the point, so I told Tara to "Get in" and the pheasant flew back over me. One clean shot, and then Max brought me my pheasant. That's family teamwork!
When I had to retire Tara because of age and injury, poor Ellie-May didn't know what to do, because Max was an independent worker. However, later when Tally arrived and started developing her natural hunting and pointing and retrieving instincts, Ellie-May had found a new dog whose point she could back.
I have such happy memories of my dogs, and for that, I am blessed. Losing Max to a heart attack (result of a prior unsuspected lungworm attack) was devastating, but he passed away in my arms. So, then there were two.
Tally was the fit, active youngster, and Ellie-May was the aging aunt, but Ellie-May kept Tally in check. Although growing (selectively) deaf, and developing poor eyesight, Ellie-May loved being part of the family.
If I fell asleep, watching television after an evening meal, Ellie-May would tap my knee in time, to request their supper. In the morning, when it was time for me to get up, Ellie-May would "scratch" the bedroom door.
Tally left all this to her aunt, but I suspected that in time, she would do the same – and she has. (Tally learnt companionship, loving and hunting from her dad, and looking after the household from her aunt.)
Ellie-May took guardianship of the house and car very seriously. Her bark was very distinctive. Sadly, as she aged rapidly towards the end, her rear leg muscles started to let her down.
On the last day, whilst resting, when the front doorbell rang, Ellie-May jumped up, and ran down the hall, barking. Then she collapsed from the effort. I couldn't let that continue, despite all our mutual love – but it was a dreadfully hard decision to take.
(I had learnt a terrible lesson with the great grandmother, Sally - Thaxmead Bustling Moorhen of Erinmoor – who had injured her spine; also with Tara, who had similar damage, both through jumping too high and thus compacting and gradually injuring the spine over time.)
Aged 14 years, 7 months and 2 days – Ellie-May (who didn't want to "go" - she wanted to look after the household) finally took "the deep sleep" at 14 minutes (and 2 seconds) after 7pm, lying across the grave of her brother/husband Max.
And now, she is at rest, besides "her" Max, in the garden. Poor Tally occasionally looks through the grille of the dog box, hoping to see Ellie-May. There is no doubt that Tally misses her aunt. I just hope that our planned-for mating produces the loving companions Tally wants and needs.
Dearest Ellie-May – I love you, and miss you so dreadfully. I hope that you are happy, now, with the family. I look forward to being with you, when my time comes.
Your Ever-Loving (Human) "Dad," Peter