pet tails

Champagne Diva

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The lady and her pooch – a lifelong love. IN Noosa Magazine’s fashion editor Lesley Clough shares her tale of love for her Samoyed Sourigirl.

“My Sourigirl was a quirky diva who kept me laughing regularly. The name coming from the French verb sourire “to smile” and smile she would! So beautiful, so cheeky. We used to cruise Hastings Street in my open car, she safely ensconced on a cushion up in first class (the front passenger seat), taking it all in as the undisputed fluffy centre of attention and smiling away, showing a MOST impressive set of choppers!

 This was a friendship of 16 years, built on everyday companionship and a secret language shared between us. It was a true and firm friendship, solace in times of melancholy and sorrow, and endless fluffy cuddles! Oh to have those soft ears again to stroke would give such joy!

When starting the search for the perfect pooch I did an online survey and was matched with the German Shepherd. Although I love them their sheer size put me off so I went with choice number two, the Samoyed, named after the tribe from Northern Russia.

Originally bred to hunt, haul sledges and herd reindeer, the Samoyed is known to be a valuable companion. As a working breed with linkages back to wolves, Samoyeds can be strong-willed at times, but above all they remain friendly, gentle and devoted family dogs. They always like being around you, but not on top of you, are quite accepting of the days when you are too busy for walkies, and don’t mind a bit of lone wolf time! 

If you are wondering how a snow dog handles itself here in the subtropics, then you wouldn’t be the first person to consider this. Interestingly, as their original territory is ice cold in winter yet stinking hot and desert-like in summer, they have developed a double coat that insulates according to all seasons. They do need regular grooming with the correct brush to remove excess fur, but the upside is that they have no smell and only need to be washed once per season! 

This breed is known for their independence and confidence, it is as though they just know how gorgeous they are! My diva was a tad bossy, particularly to her fellow fur friends. Sourigirl had a best (boy) friend Tunny, who would often cop a bit of a dressing down when visiting our place. Female Samoyeds are a lot smaller than their male counterparts, so a good choice if you’re after a medium sized dog. 

Unlike people-pleasing, easily-trained breeds such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers, the Samoyed doesn’t respond as well to food or treat-based training; and as they are super smart, all training has to be super fun and stimulating or they WILL go on strike, toss their head and give you the classic sideeye as if to say, “yeah Mum I got that sitting biz the the first time, can we play chasey?!”

My Sourigirl was a quirky, contrary little diva who kept me laughing. Stubborn as could be but so so funny! Once she made her mind up there was no changing it. She was also very Zen and placid. If nothing was “happening” she was quite happy to do bugger all. But every day at the witching hour, she would run around the yard barking like mad! Perhaps a throwback to the wolf’s hunting hours of dawn and dusk. 

My beautiful Sourigirl gave me so many years of accepting, gentle and highly original companionship, every day with her was a joy.

Life and death, it is the same for us humans and our fur babies and for Sourigirl this was the case. Her long, love-filled life become slower and smaller. Daily walks became ever shorter, ‘sleepies’ ever longer. My girl was happy in her prime vantage point beside the front door on the landing. A stellar spot to watch all the comings and goings and to score a steady supply of pats and treats. If only she could talk there is no doubt that this beautiful pooch always knew where the good stuff was to be found!

Sadly, I was forced to make the toughest, most harrowing decision of my life last September when, although otherwise healthy and happy, my precious ‘fluffybum’ could no longer rise properly. Her back legs were failing and she was becoming distressed at night if she couldn’t get up to go to the toilet. 

I don’t know about you, fellow dog lovers, but I had always had a wish that my old doggie would just fall asleep one night peacefully and never wake up; a gentle, pain-free passing. A decision that would be not of my making. 

When do you know? How do you know? Believe me, you just do.

After a particularly tough night I woke to hear Souri’s frustrated cries as she struggled to get up. My best friend was on what would become her last legs and I knew I had to get my guts up and do the right thing, the toughest thing, out of pure love and respect for her, my little Blossum Possum. She deserved a dignified, painfree and gentle death at home, safe in my arms, to be laid to rest sweetly forever in our garden. 

What I completely underestimated, being by nature a perfectionist, was that by planning and doing everything in the most loving, caring and proper way, I thought I would be somewhat spared the agony of bereavement, of grief, of true mourning. I was dead wrong.

The vet was to come late afternoon. I had spent the previous night out in the garden with my little love under the stars, the moonlight glimmering through the swaying coconut palms as she, for the first and only time allowed me to spoon her, a now frail, tiny little bundle under her still-magnificent fur. I had the great privilege of telling her all my inner thoughts, my absolute love for her, memories of our wonderful times together and all the adventures we had shared. I thanked her from my whole breaking heart, my tears dampening her coat, her breath in my ear coming quietly, slowly, gently, helping me to calm myself. She understood completely, this I truly know.

I prepared the home grave, busying myself with digging a hole in our back garden. A pink sarong, an empty bottle of Ruinart champagne (saved from the day my beloved Bobby proposed), her collar and lead and a rare white rock were all placed within. I was so upset I didn’t notice my gorgeous husband Bobby had slipped away to make a cross with Souri’s name on it. 

I spent that final time just sitting with her, she as accepting and cheerful as ever. Sounds silly but I even groomed her softly so she looked beautiful for our coming goodbye, it helped so much to know she was cared for until the very moment I no longer could. I then just waited, just taking in every detail so I would never forget her utter sweetness and beauty. To me, she was perfect.

Knowing that at that moment she was with me, the next she would no longer be, an acceptance that tested me so sorely. All the logic went out the window, knowing you are doing the right thing can just be so so hard! 

The vet came, the angel that is Dr Moni. Souri’s release from this world was swift, gentle, painless and yes beautiful. For a few minutes afterward I held her, wanting to help my brain comprehend that it was done. I now wish I had taken a little more time to just be with her at that moment. She looked so peaceful, so tiny and soft, and as if she was just sleeping.

I wrapped my departed diva gently in layers of white cotton voile, carried her down the back and placed her to rest, together with her mementos. It was only when my beloved started covering her with earth that I accepted she was truly gone and I would never stroke those velvet ears again.

I think the pain of loss was heightened by not only not being blessed with human children, but also due to almost losing my husband last year. I did everything right letting my Souri go and yet it still hurts so much. 

I tell myself the pain is a blessing, a true indication of our human ability to love with all our hearts! And love with all our hearts we must! 

So dear reader, if you are lucky enough to have a fur baby in your life, don’t let one day pass by without taking the time to be with them, to cuddle, play, wrestle, or even just to tell them how you feel. You’ll be glad you did.

A beautiful Lemon Myrtle tree now flourishes where Sourigirl lies. Every time I make tea from the leaves, an arrangement from the flowers or use the leaves for cooking, I think of my little diva, and often cry, but more and more these days, I just smile.”

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