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I ran away from teaching to the country to grow veggies. There are also some chooks and a pair of troublesome goats who were so much trouble they had to go! My simple green life isn't always as simple or as green as I'd like...but I keep trying!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

His 18th Spring

This is a post for those family members who wanted me to write something about Mervyn while he is still with us.

Here he is...Mervyn the suave little heart breaker.  I first met him at the Croydon Market where he sidled up to the bars of his cage, winked and said in a husky little voice, 
"G'day!  Me name's Mervyn.  Take me home".  
I had gone there to buy a dog, had never been a fan of chihuahuas, only wanted a bitch, and even had a name chosen for her...but how could I resist a pick up line like that.  It was love at first sight.

He has never suffered from 'small dog' syndrome and always behaved like a confident large dog.  He was always sociable with people and other dogs.  Even people who are ardent dog haters have loved Merv.

I was a primary school teacher and Mervyn often came with me to school council meetings inside my jumper and surprised quite a few when he popped his head out.  He would also come to school on weekends when I went in to work.  He loved the long, long corridor with its shiny lino.  I would throw the ball the full length and he would chase it and return it.  But the floor was so slippery he would end up running on the spot for a millisecond, looking all the world like a cartoon dog, before he managed enough traction to take off.  

For a while in the 1990s he had his own web site on the school server where he would answer children's  questions about dogs and other animals.  He was very popular and children often asked me how he managed to type with his paws.  It was a real mystery.

He was accomplished and manic ball fetcher and would keep it up (a) long after the thrower was sick of the activity and (b) until he was a panting exhausted wreck.  

Inside I would set him challenges, like wrapping the ball in a blanket, or hiding it under something.  He always managed to find it, unwrap it and return it, wanting more.  If I put the ball on the mantle piece above the fireplace and lay on my back with my legs stretched up there (I know it is a funny mental picture and an odd thing to do) he would take a run up and scale my legs onto the mantle piece, retrieve the ball and skid back down, looking very pleased with himself.  

Ever patient...he has never complained about the things I sometimes do to him.
He has always been very adaptable and has lived in seven different houses and won hearts in all.  He is also a survivor and had a couple of near death experiences when I had all but given up on him.  When he was about ten, he was severely savaged by a bigger dog. It was at a new house and we hadn't quite gotten around to putting up side fences.  I feel fortunate not to have seen the attack but the vet said he would have been picked up and shaken.  I have pictures of his wounds but won't post them...enough to say he looked like a frankenstein monster.  Apart from the various punctures and tears, the skin along his whole back had been pulled away from the muscle underneath. But after surgery, a stay in hospital on a drip and a long convalescence he recovered.  He wasn't quite the same, but almost.

About two years ago he had a problem with his spine that paralysed his back legs.  My usual vet prescribed steroids which just made him miserable.  He was hungry all the time and had an unquenchable thirst.  After keeping him confined for a couple of weeks there didn't seem much point in persisting.  I took him to my niece, who is also a vet, to be euthanized.  I respect her judgement, I know she will tell me how it is and she has always admired Mervyn. I knew she would be gentle with him (and me) at the end.  She had the 'green dream' injection all drawn up.  However, as she examined him I thought there had been a little improvement so we took him home again, stopped the steroids, gave him non steroidal pain killers and kept him confined.  Well... obviously he recovered.  Not completely of course, he still walks stiff legged and some days has a real wobble.  When he shakes himself, he loses his balance and often falls over.  

He wandered out the gate recently when it was left open.  We door knocked, left notes in letterboxes and at the nearby general store. He was missing overnight and again, I had little hope.  We received a phone call the next day from someone who had picked him up off the middle of the nearby main road and taken him home.  I had to drive for half an hour to get him.

At seventeen (that is over 100 in human years) he is showing all the signs of old age.  He is almost deaf, can't hear voices, but will respond to loud clapping or a bell being rung.  Although he has awful trouble deciding which direction it is coming from and will often go the wrong way.  His eyes are cloudy and I think he can only see light and dark now.  He often walks into things including blades of grass that stop him in his tracks.  He sometimes walks into a cat who then gives him a swipe and there is much yelping.  In the past he has been friendly with the cats but because he has been hit a few times lately he will bark loudly if he thinks there is one nearby.

He stands motionless as if he has forgotten why he came into the room.  He will stand with his nose close to a wall and stare.  He has regressed a little to his chihuahua roots and tries to bite you if you pick him up without warning.   His toilet habits are a bit variable so he has an enclosure in the corner of the lounge to minimize his effect.  He has an electric dog bed to keep him warm and he seems happy enough.  He eats very well, enjoys long walks around the garden and seems pleased to 'see' us.  He sleeps a lot. 


  1. WOW Mervyn and Edna have a lot in common

  2. Oh Hazel this post is just beautiful - it made me cry. Mervyn's ball skills always amazed me, particularly his ability to climb the bamboo to fetch his ball.

  3. You are right, everyone loves Merv and he loves everyone. Thanks for the very lovely post on him. Love... a niece.

  4. Oh, I forgot to mention his ever wagging tail. It doesn't wag as much any more. He was always soooo excited to see people.

  5. Thomas enjoyed your Merv story, now that he has met him he understands the dog's predicament, and "being 100 is grouse".


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