It was love at first sight.
Arriving at the breeder’s home in Christchurch, my friend Jan got out of the Jeep to open the high wrought iron gates. A pack of six or seven Dobermans appeared on the other side of the gates and stood silently, watching, waiting. I bravely stuck my head out of the Jeep window and called to Jan, who stood alone and unprotected, “They must be friendly… I’m sure they must be friendly.”
The pack waited, unmoving, as Jan opened the gates, I drove through, then she closed the gates again. As we drove up the long driveway the dogs ran and played on the lawn beside us, then veered off to play what looked like a game of soccer. I soon realised their ‘ball’ was in fact a small puppy which they would run after then bowl over, his little legs sprawling as they leapt about him with joy.
I parked the Jeep and got out, nodding hello to the man who approached. “Hi, I’m Jo”, I said. Looking towards the playing dogs, I asked, “Is that my pup?”
“Yes, that’s Badge”, he answered.
The pup saw me approaching and he ran closer, diving between my feet for protection from the chasing dogs. Scooping him up, I held him close as the Dobermans circled us before they went running off, looking for a new game to play.
I gazed down at the small pup lying in my arms. With his enormous paws and flapping great ears he was simply gorgeous. “Hello Badge”, I grinned. “I’m here to take you home.”
Badge had originally been sold to people in the North Island, but when the breeders learnt the pup was destined to be a guard dog they cancelled the sale. When I called to say I was looking for a male black and tan puppy they said, “We have one ready now. Would you like him?”
After having my home inspected to make sure I was a suitable and responsible owner, I then drove six hours to Christchurch to collect him. And we haven’t been apart since.
I often call Badge ‘the perfect pup’ and he is. Even as a puppy he never chewed the furniture or his bedding, he has never stolen food, dug holes in the garden or rolled in anything he shouldn’t. Nor does he sit on the furniture… though he’s got me so well trained that in the evenings I just about always sit on the floor with him.
Did I mention how smart he is? One day fetching sticks in the Arrow River, with the river in full flood, he found the force of the water had carried him over to the other side of the river. I called to him and he jumped into the river to swim back, only to find himself being swept way downriver past me. Within minutes he ran back up the track, the stick still clamped in his mouth. Taking it, I threw the stick back into the river and he bounded in after it. Carried again to the other side, he climbed out, shook himself vigorously, then turned and ran way upstream, twisting through the trees and bushes. “Hey”, I called. “Where are you going? Come back!”
Without pausing he jumped back into the rushing water where the strong current swept him downriver, directly to where I was waiting. Climbing out, he shook himself, his whole body wriggling with his delight.
Badge is a huge asset to Falling Leaves. He loves having guests stay and as soon as he hears them arrive he is waiting at the door, full of eager anticipation. And in return he is simply adored by the guests. He has walked and run with guests down along the Cardrona River and has patiently allowed himself to be patted and fussed over for hours. Many guests have commented that Badge is spoilt. “No he isn’t”, I say. “He isn’t spoilt, he’s merely indulged.”
But it makes me smile when later the guests carefully tuck Badge’s blanket around him when he becomes uncovered. He has a knack of winning the hearts of everyone.
His only imperfection is his health. Before he had turned one Badge had an operation for a degenerating bone in his elbow. Then before he was two he had a major operation on his spine for Wobbler’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder which afflicts some large breed dogs.
Wobblers is caused by a narrowing or malformation of the spinal cervical (neck) vertebrae which causes pressure on the spinal cord. It can cause a ‘wobbly’ gait, lack of co-ordination, falling over and intense pain. In severe cases it can cause paralysis.
And now, after two years of blooming health, signs of Wobbler’s Syndrome have returned. Last week Badge collapsed and couldn’t regain his feet. When he finally struggled up he staggered around as if drunk. He is now on complete house rest, only permitted outside on a leash.
Week after next I shall take Badge to the specialist vets in Christchurch for a full diagnosis with MRI and surgery, if needed.
All I want for my perfect pup is a long, pain-free life. I shall keep you posted…
Well the MRI report isn’t the best.
But I am pleased to report that Badge is loving life and he remains pain free. This weekend he spent two hours running around the garden with his much loved sister, Bella. It was their first time together since his collapse a month ago and they both revelled in their play.
And the next time someone comments that Badge is spoilt, I shall just smile. “Yes he is,” I will say. “And he deserves it.”
Update April 2010
Despite his handicaps, Badge remains the perfect pup and his remarkable laid-back personality continues to charm all he meets. Our walks are now much shorter and less frequent but he still bounds around as if a puppy, thanks to his daily steroids.
Sadly his beloved sister Bella came to the end of her life and she is now buried in our garden where the two dogs spent hours in happy play. A eucalyptus tree is planted to honour her memory. Sleep well Bella.
Badge 8 Nov 2005 – 7 April 2011
Badge passed away peacefully April 7th 2011. Wrapped in his sleeping bag with his favourite toys, he is now resting in the garden next to his sister Bella, a ghost gum planted over him.
Thank you Badge. You were a most exceptional companion and you will never be forgotten.