The German Pointer
R.I.P. Tessa January 2004 — February 22, 2017 You are greatly missed.
Tessa came to us originally as a foster dog in early 2009.
She had originally been purchased at a pet store in 2004 by a former neighbour. She was only 6 weeks old and not really housebroken. She made a mistake in the house and was kicked down the stairs to the basement by her new owner.
Fortunately another one of our neighbours heard about this incident and immediately went to get the puppy from the abuser, and told her in no uncertain terms she was not getting the pup back. The pup was plunged into a chaotic house full of 4 dogs and 4 adults. She was in mayhem, but at least she was being cared for by loving people.
We came into the picture because around this time we had an elderly and unwell dog who was suffering from Cushings Disease and some joint issues.
Our neighbour who rescued Tessa felt that we should adopt Tessa to keep Moka company. We were not sure that he would take kindly to a very bouncy puppy, so we declined at that time. Moka hung on for several years and passed in late 2008. We agreed to foster several different sets of dogs, and then in mid 2009 our neighbours’ husband had a stroke and she asked us to foster two of the 4 dogs. One was Tessa and one was Finn.
Tessa was mostly a German Short Haired Pointer and Finn is a Border Collie.
They were both extremely hyper in somewhat different ways. Tessa would nervously shadow us everywhere. Finn would run around the dining room table non-stop. Tessa by now was a 5 year old dog. She was also horribly overweight. She weighed 80 Lbs where she should have weighed 65! Bruce would take the two of them for long walks in the park. Finn hardly noticed the walk, Tessa was puffing and blowing like a steam engine halfway through the walk and would have to stop for a rest.
Eventually Tessa got used to the walks and as she did, she began to lose weight. Unfortunately she was left with a big fold of loose belly skin, which I often joked needed a tummy tuck. Finn never seemed to get tired. He loved walking and especially loved running.
We had to train Tessa out of some rather annoying habits. She had been allowed to sleep on beds and couches at her previous home, and was used to stealing things from wastepaper baskets, purses and off tables and kitchen counters. Nothing was safe if left out. We had to make sure everything was locked in cupboards above nose level.
Her habit of sneaking food along with being given too many table scraps is probably why she got so fat!
Eventually things calmed down at our neighbours’ place, and Finn went back. We decided to adopt Tessa. She showed no inclination to return to her owner, in fact she would head straight back to our house if she was left there for any time. She would go in, say hello to them and go right back to the door and wait for us to reclaim her.
While Tessa was with us she gave us years of great amusement, companionship and fierce, enduring love.
She couldn’t stand for either one of us to be out of her sight. She developed a strange high pitched trilling sound that was a cross between a dove call and a sheep bleating. We could be only a few feet away and within view and this sound would happen. When we returned to her side, she would greet us as if we had been away to the Himalayas, even though the separation had only been three feet and us in her view the whole time.
If we had to leave her in the car for a few minutes, she would stick her face out of the window and make the horrible trilling sounds, really loudly, leading people to believe she was being tormented.
Going out was difficult. Tessa could not be left alone. If left, she would always manage to get into some kind of trouble, usually of the destructive kind. Even if we found a friend or neighbour who could watch her, she would fret. When we got back she was all over us like a dirty shirt. We tried taking her with us when possible. This would partially work, but again, if she was unable to see both of us, she would freak out.
She was so clingy that she absolutely reminded me of that Police song “Every Breath You Take” (which I call the stalker song). She probably helped Sting write that song.
This separation anxiety remained an issue for Tessa right up til the end. When it was necessary to keep her on one level of the house for her own safety, she would fret because we were elsewhere. I took my iPad to where she was and watched videos with her to keep her company. Then she was calm.
Early on in our relationship with Tessa we found out about the Precious Tail thing. Often we would load her and Finn into the car and take them to one of the leash-free parks for a run. Even though she and Finn were good friends, if he jostled her and even just lightly touched her tail she would let out the most horrific snarl you have ever heard. Rrrrrrruarrrr, She would say, with all teeth showing. She wouldn’t bite, just the terrible threatening snarl. We knew the snarl was all show, but it tended to upset other dog owners. And yet, when Gandalf wacked at her tail, or grabbed at the tip, she didn’t seem to notice or care.
Once we noticed that it was always the slightest touch on the tail that got her going, we began to refer to it as The Precious tail. She evidently figured that out, and if we said “we’re going to get the Precious Tail” she would immediately utter her horrible snarl and tuck her tail under her. It became a game involving us playing tag with her and her racing from room to room, jumping on one of her beds (beds were “safe” zones) and snarling if we looked as though we were going after the tail. She definitely treated it as a game, if she wasn’t in the mood for a romp, and we said “we’re going to get the Precious Tail” she would just wag her tail and go off and do some doggy thing.
One thing she never let up on was snarling at any dog sharing the back seat of the car and touching the tail.
As she got older, she developed arthritis and it began to bother her more, she seemed to find it hard to get comfortable on any one of her many beds. She had also injured a shoulder during a particularly energetic squirrel chase, which ended in a slip and a fall.
She would paw at the bed, then stand in the middle of it and let out the patented snarl, then look at us as if to say “fix it damn it all!”. She also became more intolerant of the cats, in particular Gandalf, of whom she was particularly jealous. Gandalf didn’t help matters by walking by and sniffing at her paws, which she hated. Tessa would let out the snarl at him, then look over at me guiltily.
Another little trick Gandalf had was to lie on the end of the bed, paws hanging over the edge and reach a paw down to try for her tail.
He had much better luck with that in the kitchen, reaching through the back of the chair and wacking at the wagging tip.
Gandalf was slightly troubled by her snarling at him, but on the whole, always tried to be friends with her. Gandalf always tried to touch noses with Tess. Only once in a great while would she permit this and reciprocate. He was always so happy when this worked.
Tessa was very agile. When we took her for walks, if we passed baseball or football stands in the park, she would quite happily jump up and walk up and across the seating. I think if we had been more persistent, we could have trained her in agility work. She showed promise. We however, are lazy and unmotivated, so did not persist.
One of Tessa’s fave pursuits was chasing squirrels. I tolerate squirrels but not digging stuff up in our garden, so Tessa quickly learned that if I started swearing at some trespassing squirrel, she should give chase. She never caught one (thank goodness) but she annoyed a lot of them. They would rush off up a tree or on top of the fence and swear at us. Tess would stand glaring, at the ready for a new infraction.
Tessa liked to check around the place and ensure no invaders were present. I began to rally her with “Tess! Perimeter check!” Her ears would go up and she would charge around the area with her hair up and tail stiff, looking very officious. Luckily she was able to keep potential invaders away.
Tessa loved to come out with us on the back patio and lounge in the sun. She would lie in a sunny spot until she became too hot, then panting heavily, move into the shade. As soon as she cooled down, she would head right back in the sun.
Tessa never got out of the habit of lunging and bouncing at other dogs out walking in the park. This was both annoying and potentially dangerous in the event we ran into a really nasty dog. She seemed to feel that all other dogs were a potential threat to us and it was her job to warn them off. It was always distressing to me when she did this since the other people wouldn’t necessarily understand that she was all noise. She only somewhat reduced this behaviour the last week of her life, but she was still pulling faces.
Tessa liked to confuse us. If we were heading toward an area, she would quickly back up, crashing into our legs and thus causing a fall or near fall. She trained Gandalf to do the same thing. We will continue to have a trip hazard in her absence.
A few weeks ago Tessa began to show signs something was wrong. We took her to the vet and they ran a few basic tests and did some X-rays. Not much showed up, but the vet said that Tess was very anemic and together with her breathing being very laboured, something serious was happening. Without an Ultrasound they felt they couldn’t really come up with anything conclusive, however the vet opined that it was possible Tess was bleeding internally, and that Cancer was a strong possibility. To do the Ultrasound they would have to put her out, and at her age (13) that was risky. If it turned out to be cancer, the treatment options were limited. We thought long and hard, and decided not to go with the Ultrasound, and just to keep a close eye on her, keep her as comfortable as we could until it was time. So we did that for two weeks, and she declined every day. But then she would rally, and be all perky.
Finally, she stopped eating, refused everything, no matter how tasty, even stopped drinking. We knew it was time. And so we gave her the last gift we could, a painless release and sent her across the Rainbow Bridge.
We were able to keep her in pretty good health and nice and trim for the time she was with us. She didn’t look her age at all and still had a lot of zip and energy left until a few weeks before we had to let her go. Actually the day we took her in to take the big sleep, the doorbell went and she rushed to the front door barking angrily at the Fed Ex guy, so she had one last big chase, one last perimeter check.
March 1/17 — It has been exactly one week today since Tessa crossed the Rainbow bridge. We miss her like crazy and so does Gandalf.
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