Tempest’s Ariel Miranda: A fine and sweet (strong-willed and often mischievous) dog

posted in: Dogs, Serendipity | 24

On December 20, 1994, a friend's husband, who dealt in real estate, was walking through a field in Greeley, Colorado, with another developer when he came across three puppies nearly frozen together in a hole in the ground. It gets mighty cold in Greeley in the winter. The wind blows hard there. He pulled the pups out of the ground, wrapped them up, and took them to a nearby vet, who recommended getting warm milk into their stomachs and said that if they made it through the night they would probably survive. The vet estimated that they were seven weeks old.

The next day, with three puppies still breathing regularly, their tummies round with milk, our friend called the people in her address book with "soft-headed hearted" checked next to their names and had them come look at the black-and-white imps tottering around on the newspaper-covered floor of her kitchen.

All three found homes. The female went with us. My then-thirteen-year-old daughter (who is now twenty-eight) named her Ariel Miranda, because she was a mischievous spirit and had been rescued from a tempest. (The name also turned out to be appropriate as its homophone aerial, capturing her tendency to leap away from the ground.)

At the time, we had Heather (Aslan's Mountain Heather), a lovely blue merle Australian shepherd who had retired to our household following a career producing show-quality puppies. We usually adopt adult dogs, because they need us more than puppies do,
but Bekah had been doing obedience training with Heather, who really
already knew the ropes, and wanted to work with a dog who didn't know
anything: to train from the ground up.

Both Heather and Ariel had half-white noses, white chests, and white patches on the backs of their necks. People thought Ariel was Heather's daughter. Heather did serve as Ariel's canine elder, presenting us with a model of patience and boundary-setting.

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Heather (age 9) and Ariel (age 2), 1996

When Ariel was tiny, her little legs had a hard time keeping up with Heather's and our strides and she would scramble all-out behind us, until my daughter would pick her up and carry her for a bit. She wasn't much more than a double handful. Until relatively recently, however, for most of her life she took the lead on our walks and adventures.

Despite her unknown parentage, she looked enough like a Border collie to qualify for ILP listing with the American Kennel Club. In addition to the superficial qualities, she strongly displayed the Border collie's intelligence and herding instincts (along with ears and a coat that suggested some spaniel influence . . . which became more pronounced as she aged). When we applied for the listing, we also established the kennel name "Tempest," which seemed appropriate because any dogs we might register in the future would also almost certainly be rescues. So she officially became Tempest's Ariel Miranda.

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Ariel (age 2), 1996

The ILP number meant she and my daughter could not only train in obedience and agility but could enter trials and prove what they had accomplished . . . if Ari felt like it. Both of us trained with Ari: my daughter when she was home from school, and me during the school year. My daughter was the one who took her into the ring while I watched from a position that gave me the ability to see Ariel without distracting her as she worked. Sometimes I didn't get to watch because Ari was very sharp at scoping out her environment; I had to go hide behind a post and not peek out.

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Ariel (age 7), 2001

Because of her arthritis, which began showing up early, it took Ariel a long time to earn her novice obedience title, the CD (Companion Dog). A dog who limps at a trial is excused and not allowed to continue that day [thanks for the clarification, Julie! we need to train another dog and get our terms right; I've fixed the rest of this paragraph] disqualified (DQ'd), no matter what the reason for the limping or how much the dog would like to "play"—generally a very good rule that was put in place to keep dogs from competing when they're not sound enough to. It takes three qualifying scores under different judges to earn the title. Not being allowed to participate in an event can mean months of waiting for the next opportunity to come around. Sometimes we'd register her and then just go watch, because we knew she'd be excused. Sometimes she'd falter just a bit on the way into the ring and the judge would order her out.

She acquired her CGC paper more easily: this Canine Good Citizen evaluation requires dogs to have fundamental, significant self-control skills around humans and other dogs. I think all dogs and their owners would be well-served by going through this program. It would do a lot to improve everyone's life.

We thought Ariel might still be working on novice obedience as a senior dog (ten years and older), but she got her title before then.

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Ariel (age 7), 2001

The green ribbon means she qualified for this round and it counts toward her title. The yellow ribbon means she was one of the top-performing dogs in her group; this was her third-place day. On another day, she earned a red (second place), and on the final leg, the one that earned her the title, she got a blue (first place).

We didn't
continue her obedience competition after the novice level, because
jumping (which she LOVED) was required and the jump heights were beyond
what was safe for her. We let her train a bit longer in obedience and
agility, planning her workouts to include low jumps and carefully
angled approaches—although she was perfectly capable of sabotaging our plans and barreling up and over an A-frame or a teeter-totter at what we considered an unwise speed, or might swerve off and bound through another dog's jumping set-up, possibly messing up a knee upon landing.

Ari was going to work her body and mind whether we approved of her methods or not. We just
needed to stay flexible and try not to be left in her dust. So we went for hikes.

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Ariel (age 7), 2001

And we let her chase balls: she was very picky about which ball, and would search the whole dog park until she found EXACTLY the right one. When we figured this out, we took to hiding the "approved" ball in a spot where we could find it easily, so she would not have to work so hard locating it again the next time we got to the park.

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Ariel (age 8), 2002

By the time she was 9, we had tried all sorts of normal latches, bars, and other fasteners to foil her efforts to get out of the back yard, with its 6-foot fence, whenever she chose. We finally discovered what would work:

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Ariel (age 9), 2003

It seemed a bit drastic, but we ended up installing a cattle gate on the outside of the regular gates, and used both ties and latches to secure it. This gate is rated for 3500 pounds of cow-power. It did keep our 50-pound dog legally confined. FINALLY. She had never gone far, and never gotten in trouble we heard about. Sometimes we wouldn't even know she'd been out until a neighbor would remark, "I saw your dog taking herself for a walk the other day. . . ."

Ariel even had a brief career as a product tester for a noted dog-toy manufacturer, except that she could destroy almost anything they sent her so quickly the results weren't meaningful for most dogs. She was off the charts for "aggressive chewer," although once she passed puppyhood she always chewed appropriate items.

Even after she'd lost much of the strength in her back legs, she was always looking for something to engage her attention and energies.

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Tussah (about 12, as far as we know), me, my daughter, and Ariel (age 14.75), summer 2009

She was willing to travel. . . .

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Ariel (age 13.75) and Tussah, summer 2008

Especially if she could do new and interesting things along the way.

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Both: Ariel (age 13.75), summer 2008

She loved running toward us (one of her favorite games was "Ari, COME!," racing back and forth between me and my daughter), and she loved snow.

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Ariel (age 8), 2002

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Ariel (age 15), November 13, 2009

_______

Ariel:

  • took me places I'd never have gone without her
  • gave me many lessons in consistency and teamwork and my own ingenuity
  • taught me to relax and find joy where I would otherwise certainly have missed it

. . . and she wasn't even "my" dog . . . she was my daughter's. . . .

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Ariel (age 7) and me, enjoying a summer day, 2001—some people think I never slow down

She was not a perfect dog or a paragon of virtue. She had those escape tendencies. She would eat almost anything, and could inflict a too-eager nip on the fingers giving her a treat. She was allergic to many foods. But she'd agree completely with the quote from Charles Lamb that's on my tea bag this morning: "A laugh is worth a hundred groans in any market."

I hope that with my allotment of time and energy I do a fraction as well as Ariel did with hers.

___

Tempest's Ariel Miranda, CD, CGC

November 1 (?), 1994 – November 22, 2009

a strong-willed companion

a life well lived; a being well loved

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____

Special thanks to Julie Yamane at the Canine Learning Center and to Jennifer Hendrickson and Chris Babiarz at Animal Answers, for helping us get off on the right foot (sometimes literally) and forge a strong working partnership with this spirited creature; to Dr. Julie Gamble, for providing Ariel with a lifetime of excellent vet care (we followed Julie from clinic to clinic all over town until she finally got her own practice); to Jill Reynolds, Deanna Rogers and Connie Fredman, for a combination of quality-of-life care and advice that made a huge difference over the past two years; to Doggon' Wheels, especially Mel, for making possible the joyful final movement of Ariel's symphony; and to Kris Paige and, by phone, Dr. Debbie Sunken for evaluation and wise counsel on a Sunday afternoon during Ariel's last few hours with us. And to Tussah, for being Ariel's buddy for half a dozen years.

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24 Responses

  1. What a wonderful euology! Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

    In Ariel’s defense…she was never DQ’d from a competition because she never attacked or attempted to attack a person or another dog. She would never have CONSIDERED such a thing! (If you’re DQ’d once, the dog is banned for life.) But, being excused felt almost as bad at the time. I’m SO glad Bekka perservered.

    With much love, and fond thoughts of Ariel and of all of you and Tussah too,
    Julie

  2. Okay, thanks for the clarification! Shows what I don’t know {grin}. Which is a lot. B. felt AWFUL about being excused. I’m proud of her for keeping on, too.

  3. She sounds like an absolutely wonderful dog. My condolences on losing her, but so grateful for her that she found the perfect home–good thing that friend of your husband’s took that walk when he did!

  4. I comfort myself with poems and quotations. My Bouncer is 13, and I’m loving him as hard as I can while I still have him.

    Hugs to you…

    A Heterodoxy
    by Lord Dunsany

    I dreamed one night I came
    Somehow to Heaven, and there
    Transfigured shapes like flame
    Moved effortless in air.

    All silent were the Blest,
    Calmly their haloes shone,
    When through them all there pressed
    One spirit whirling on.

    He like a comet seemed,
    But wild and glad and free,
    And all through Heaven, I dreamed,
    Rushed madly up to me.

    Back from his haloed head
    A flaming tail streamed far,
    This way and that it sped
    And waved from star to star.

    And, as I saw it shot
    Like searchlights through the sky,
    I knew my dog had got
    To Heaven as well as I.
    ===
    Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives.

    John Galsworthy

  5. My heart goes out to you two. And thank you for a wonderful capsule of your charming dog’s life.

  6. This is a wonderful story. Thank you so much for the tales and the photos. I particularly love the travel shot of the two fur-babies.

    I ache for you. Having lost a 17 yr old pet once, I remember how I would start missing him as I turned onto my street every day after work. Not the driveway, not the front door. Sooner. He was good company.

    What a gift you all had in time together. Be gentle with yourself as you adjust to a quieter new life without your beloved.

  7. Great sympathy for your great loss of companion,family member, trusted faithful friend.

  8. It was my great honor to comfort Ariel in her last few hours. She was the sentinel at the top of your stairs, the laughter when she managed to open an “unopenable” cabinet, and the through-the-eyelashes look when she wasn’t sure she approved of whatever. May your heart gradually heal, knowing full well that she’s searching the angels for just the right one to send you.

  9. Thanks so much for the thoughts and poem and support. I’m one of those people who toughs through things, and I am finding your comments help a lot as Tussah and I are here, adjusting to the absence of Ms. Ariel Fuzzy Face. And looking for a new “life as usual,” since the previous “life as usual” broke yesterday.

  10. A beautiful spirit… you’ll meet again in joy.

  11. Oh, Deb! My heart goes out to you and Bekah. Thanks for sharing Ari with us all in this post, and thanks for being in that soft-hearted list. Richard and I are thinking of you and Bekah–ant Ari and Tussah, and holding you all in our hearts.

  12. Came across a quote recently – Do not cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.

    So sorry for your loss. It’s hard.

  13. Awww… I’m sorry that your dog has passed. This is always hard. Thanks so much for sharing her wonderful story. I certainly enjoyed your post of a few weeks back, showing her in her go cart. My thoughts are with you now.

    Rosemary

  14. Thank you for celebrating Ariel’s joyous life with us. My heart goes out to you as you begin to reconfigure life without her presence. Much love from my furry household to yours. This is such a hard thing to deal with; I still miss my Lucy dog, but celebrate the two furry companions who joined me after she was gone. Five years on, I am sad to say I know how hard it is to lose such a faithful canine friend.

  15. Hugs to you and Bekka for making a tough decision. The sounds of only one dog in the house takes time to adjust to.

  16. A beautiful story and a great reminder of how much a dog can give. I loved what you had to say about going places and doing things you would never have done if it hadn’t been for Ari…
    May you, Bekah, and Tussah find comfort in each other.

  17. Deb, What a beautiful and fitting eulogy for someone so special. I am so very sorry for your loss. There were parts of your story that reminded me of our Abbey – a Chesapeake Bay Retriever/Border Collie/ Ausie mix found and adopted as a 6 week old from the Canyon City, CO shelter. We also had to go to extremes to keep her in our fenced in backyard. We lost Abbey to cancer when she was 12 1/2. Like Ari she will never be forgotten.

    My heart is with you,

    Lindy (currently in AZ)

  18. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Thank you for sharing Ariel with us.
    I find this quote comforting at such times:
    “We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached.
    Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way.
    We cherish memory as the only certain immortality,
    never fully understanding the necessary plan.”

    Irving Townsend.

  19. I’m sorry for your loss, but so happy for the life you lived together.

  20. < !DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">
    We lost Heather at 12 to adenocarcinoma, which often affects dogs that were not spayed early–which, as a breeding dog, of course she was not. So sorry you lost Abbey! Twelve years is a long time (as is 15), but longer is better with the really good pups. . . .

  21. So sorry about Ariel. But she looks like she had a fun life and those shots of her in her scooter on the snow? Priceless!

  22. What a lovely life she had after such a bad start. Thank you for sharing her with us, now and earlier.

  23. I never met Ariel but her story definitely touches my heart. I’ll give my little rescued BCs a hug in her memory, as soon as my eyes dry up.

    Thank you for sharing her story. I’m so glad you found each other.

  24. So sorry to read of your Ariel’s passing. They sneak into our lives and our hearts and certainly don’t let go. Hope you are able to read your post now and again to know what a wonderful time you had together.
    Take care.

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