We lost our matriarch dog, Heidi, last week. She was at least 13 years old, and was probably closer to 14 or 15. About a month ago she suddenly started getting skinny and slowing down. She was still a happy dog, smiling and thumping her tail at you when you spoke to her, lying on her back to get a belly rub. So I don't think she was in any pain or distress, even up to her last hour. I miss her and had a good cry when she died, but it isn't as hard as it was when my Scout died.
We got Heidi in 2001. Thomas and the kids had stopped by a house in the country to buy some fresh corn. They had several dogs, and one of them was Heidi. She took a shine to Eler Beth, 5 years old at the time, following her around and running and playing. They offered her to Thomas, and he called me to see what I thought. Well, I didn't really want a dog. I really, really didn't. We'd moved into our house the year before, and I hadn't planned for a dog. But I couldn't say no. They came home and got me, and we went back to see the dog. The previous owners had called her Smilie, but I immediately knew she was a "Heidi," and I fell in love with her.
They told us she was a year old -- I put her at closer to two years, based on her teeth -- and that she'd been spayed. When I took her to get her shots I didn't asked if she'd actually been spayed -- I should have. lol A year later she presented us with eight beagle-mixed puppies. We loved them, though. They were adorable, and we ended up keeping two of them: Bruin, Eler Beth's dog, and Taxi, for Andrew. Needless to say, Ms. Heidi-Ma'am was spayed as soon as we could have that arranged, and we found good homes for the other six pups.
Three months before this, Eler Beth's dog Fanci (yes, another dog had been added to the family, and that's a whole other story!) had four pups, full-blooded Fox Terriers. So when Heidi's pups were born, we had 13 dogs/puppies on the place. And we ended up keeping two of those as well: Little Bit, for Eler Beth, and my own dear Scout.
Fanci's pups, especially Scout, loved Heidi. He would follow her around, try to get her to play with him, and sleep snuggled up to her. She was a good Momma-dog to her pups, and when Fanci died a few years ago, she became the Momma-dog. She had a beautiful Beagle voice, and she assigned to herself watch-dog duties and took them very seriously. She wasn't afraid of any other dog, no matter how much bigger than her it happened to be. She respected the cats we've had over the years and put up with Eler Beth's pet possum, although she looked a little disgusted about it, but she never, ever got used to the rabbits. And I wouldn't have expected her to, bless her old Beagle heart. Anytime Eler Beth had the rabbits out in the yard, either loose or on their leashes, the dogs were put up in their kennels, and Heidi would lower her head, stand very still, and just watch them intently.
She was a good, sweet old girl, and we'll miss her. Little Bit is now the oldest dog on the place, being three months older than Bruin and Taxi, and years older than Bryant. She always did want to be the alpha dog, and I guess she has her chance now. But she has some mighty big paw prints to fill!