Showing posts with label pets. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pets. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Remembering Gretta


Today’s blog was to have been about waymarking, but life got in the way.  Or, more specifically, the death of my very faithful companion, Gretta, our Schnauzer.  We rescued her from a shelter almost five years ago when we found out that people don’t want to adopt ‘old dogs.’  She was ten at that time, somewhat fragile, a bit set in her ways, but a blusterous sweetheart.

Gretta would follow me everywhere.  If I would slip out of the room while she was sleeping, she would find me and scold me for it - loudly.  I started writing this blog in February.  There has not been a day since that Gretta was not on her pillow under my desk or under the window, acting as my ‘blogging editor in chief.’  Even if she was ill, she was always there, watching, listening, and expecting, in her Schnauzer way, for me to do my best.   Often offering up reproachful barks when I didn’t take enough time outside with her, or worked on through her quitting time. 

Gretta and I had a daily schedule. If my schedule had to change for some reason, Gretta would keep to our original routine.  (So very German.)  If she woke before me, she’d let me know it was time for breakfast with a sharp bark – next to the bed! When breakfast was over, Gretta would walk to the study door, turn and look at me, and then march in to her pillow where she would rule (and sleep) until lunch.  After lunch, she’d station herself under my desk, waking around 3:30 or 4 for our afternoon snack – white cheddar cheese nips, her favorite, - outside in the swing, if the weather was nice.  Then it was back to writing until 5:00 when Gretta decreed it to be the end of the workday and time for dinner.  This was done by standing by my chair and demanding I stop with a very loud BARK! However, I saw 6:00 as quitting time, so usually it was my husband, Brian, who would round her up so I could complete my thoughts.

Once her meal was finished, Gretta would lay under the dining room table while we ate, totally content, unless her arch nemesis, our big cat Harry, walked through (which he did every night, on cue.)  Then she was up, charging after him, clearing the room of cat interlopers - for the moment.  

Gretta could never understand why we insisted on having cats, (sub-creatures to a Schnauzer.) That was not according to Gretta’s rules, and Gretta had a lot of rules which she would share often and freely with everyone; the cats, the outside dogs, any possum, skunk or raccoon that got too close to the fence, even Brian and I took our fair share of ‘Schnauzer scoldings.’  We often joked that Gretta had been a third grade teacher in another life, someone with a BIG attitude, who knew she was right, and who were you to question that?!

We had never had a Schnauzer before Gretta.  I am here to tell you, Schnauzers are not quiet, meek dogs!  They grump and sigh and complain when you’re not doing what they want.    To have a Schnauzer is to have a manager – per se.  A Schnauzer is an independent, courageous, intelligent,  loyal and loving friend all wrapped up in a sleek haired bundle of attitude, bark, and mischief.

Our dog groomer once told me that Schnauzers ‘talk to their owners.’  We later decided that it should be said that Schnauzers ‘scold and protest and grumble’ to their owners.   (Sometimes, I think, just to hear themselves.)  Schnauzers have enough attitude they could rule the world, if only they were organized.

Gretta and Walter
We had Gretta almost five years.  During that time she regained strength in her hips and could walk and actually run-hop.  She learned how to play, and how to get us to ‘behave.’  She seemed to be aging backwards – getting stronger and healthier each year.  Then she had her first stroke early last year.  She lost the ability to walk.  Brian taught her again how to go up and down the stairs.  Before the stroke she had always remained somewhat aloof, she was now totally our dog.  She fought her way back on top, at times acting more like a young dog than one now in her teens. 

Gretta just never gave up!  If there was an obstacle in her path, she’d just go around it, or bull through it.  Every night, she seemed to think this would be the night she’d catch that cat.  One thing Gretta taught me during those five short years - it’s all about attitude.  If you’re sure you can – then you can.  There’s no question about it!

Now, my study feels empty.  My very dear friend is gone.  There are no barks to urge me on, no demands that I take a few minutes to ‘pet Gretta,’ no happy hoppy runs to the kitchen for dinner, just an empty pillow and a break in my heart.

Tonight, Brian and I will light a fire and sit in the swing that was Gretta’s favorite, the one she is now buried behind.  We’ll toast to her life and remember all of those good times we had together, her playfulness, her independent spirit, and her unquestionable love and courage to the end.  We will miss you Gretta, my loyal and loving blogging buddy!

~  Joy

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Devoted Pets and the Cemeteries They Inhabit - Part 1

This past Sunday, May 1st marked the beginning of National Pet Week.  As a pet owner and dog-lover, I am always touched by the cemeteries with pets buried near their owners.  And the stories of their devotion, even after death.  Today I’ll share two of the cemetery legends I’ve come across.

John Heinl & Stiffy Green, Highland Lawn Cemetery, Terre Haute, Indiana

Highland Lawn Cemetery

Highland Lawn Cemetery, located in Terre Haute, Indiana, is known as the burial place for many famous people, including politicians Eugene Debs, Daniel Voorhees and inventor Theodore Hudnut.  But ask a local about Highland Lawn and they will tell you the story of Stiffy Green.

John Heinl

Terre Haute florist and businessman, John Gradl Heinl, and his bulldog, Stiffy Green, were well known in Terre Haute in the early part of the 20th century.  The two would stroll around town each day, John Heinl, pipe in hand, talking to his small companion and stopping to visit with the folks they met.  Stiffy Green, so named because of his stiff walking gait and startling greenish colored eyes, was friendly but ferociously protective of Mr. Heinl and did not allow anyone to get too close to his beloved master.

When John Heinl passed away on December 31st, 1920, Stiffy was inconsolable.  He sat by the coffin at the funeral and followed the family to the graveyard where he took up post at the mausoleum doors.  There he remained, guarding his master in death as he had guarded him in life.  Family and friends made many trips to the cemetery that winter to retrieve Stiffy and take him home, only for him to return to his master’s crypt doors. 
Heinl Mausoleum
After a few months, Stiffy refused to eat or drink.  But he continued his vigil on the mausoleum steps, regardless of the weather.  Mrs. Heinl was the one to find that Stiffy had died outside the mausoleum doors, having grieved himself to death.  In view of his unwavering love and devotion, she had him stuffed in the sitting position he had assumed for so many months on those cold mausoleum steps.   Stiffy was then placed inside the tomb, reunited at last with his master. 

Stiffy Green
But it wasn’t long before visitors began noticing that Stiffy had mysteriously moved from one side of the tomb to the other, and back.  Rumors spread that early in the morning or at twilight you could see an elderly man and his small dog walking near the Heinl crypt, the smell the rich pipe smoke in the air and a low voice talking to his devoted companion who would answer with a happy bark. 

Vigo County
Historical Society Museum
But all good things must come to an end – even in death.  Vandals would not leave the site alone, damaging doors and windows. In 1985, thugs shot out Stiffy’s right glass eye.  The family decided it was time for Stiffy to be moved and the Vigo County Historical Society Museum agreed to take him.  There, the Terre Haute Lions Club built a replica of the Heinl mausoleum. 

Today, Stiffy Green is still on guard – unless he and John are taking a pleasant evening stroll in Highland Lawn Cemetery.

Location:  Highland Lawn Cemetery, Heinl Mausoleum, Plot: Section 1, Lot 21
Vigo County Historical Society Museum – 1411 South 6th Street, Terre Haute, IN


John Gray and Greyfriars Bobby – Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh, Scotland

Greyfriars Bobby
Bobby, a Skye terrier, was the beloved and faithful companion of policeman, John “Auld Jock” Gray.  Gray lived in Edinburgh, Scotland in the mid-1800’s.  On February 15, 1858, Gray died of tuberculosis.  He was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard (church yard) in Edinburgh.  Bobby was found the next morning, guarding his master’s grave.

Greyfriars Kirkyard
According to various reports of the time, Kirkyard keeper, James Brown had to run Bobby off because the churchyard was posted “No Dogs.”    But Bobby kept coming back, night after night, to sleep on his master’s grave.  Seeing such loyalty, Brown decided to make an exception for Bobby.

Word spread throughout the community and soon town’s folk were bringing Bobby food and water, they even built a shelter for him near the grave.  But due to the high cost of a dog license, no one would claim him and take him home.  It was finally decreed that without a license, Bobby would have to be put to death as a stray.

Sir William Chambers
It was 1867 when the town council of Edinburgh met to discuss this case.  Bobby had been sleeping at the cemetery for almost ten years and had become a beloved fixture of the town.  The presiding Lord Provost of the city, Sir William Chambers, a dog-lover, arranged to pay all license fees for Bobby, indefinitely.  Bobby was then given a new collar with a brass plate, which read: 

 Greyfriars Bobby – from the Lord Provost, 1867, licensed.

Bobby died January 14, 1872 at the age of 16.  For 14 years he had loyally guarded his friend.  Now his grave lies 75 yards from his masters, just inside the gates of Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Bobby's 2-Tier Fountain

Burdett Coutts

A year after his death, Baroness Burdett Coutts had a statue of the little dog sitting atop a water fountain, with a top level for human drinking and a bottom level for pets, erected to commemorate Bobby’s life and his deep devotion to Gray, a friendship that surpassed death.  

Sign over Pub Door 
Bobby's Bar
The statue and fountain are located in front of “Bobby’s Bar,” a pub named after Scotland's most famous dog.

In 1981, The Duke of Gloucester unveiled a red granite headstone that had been placed on Bobby’s grave by the Dog Aid Society of Scotland. The inscription reads:

Greyfriars Bobby
Greyfriars Bobby
Died 14th January 1872
Aged 16 years
Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.

Bobby truly earned the designation of  “Scotland’s Most Faithful Dog.”

Location:  Greyfriars Kirkyard, Inside main gates, Edinburgh, Scotland

Friday, we'll take another look at 'Devoted Pets and the Cemeteries They Inhabit.'