In the summer of 2005, my grandparents informed us that they had bought a new puppy, a Cairn Terrier, and her name was Sheena. Only a few months previously my parents had bought a new Border Terrier puppy called Daisy who was beginning to enjoy life as the sole canine occupier and senior gardening assistant of the large plot that accompanied their new house. My grandparents had had dogs all their lives, and despite my grandfather’s reservations, they decided that a new puppy was for them. Sadly, it didn’t take long for them to realise that perhaps this was one puppy too far, and they couldn’t really match the curiosity and energy bound up in this little wriggly and excitable ball of hair. So a few months later, they asked my parents if they would like to adopt Sheena, which they duly did.
I was living at my parents’ house when she arrived, and, at first, I didn’t really take to her if I’m honest. She had no interest in getting to know me or communicating with humans in general. Her focus was Daisy. She was determined to become friends with Daisy and followed everything she did. Over time, she gradually learnt how to communicate with humans, to show interest and affection, and began to grow into the dog she would become – very friendly, good with adults, children and other dogs.
I have several specific memories of Sheena. In no particular order, here are the most prominent ones:
- From an early age Sheena developed a penchant for picking up, and swallowing, stones. A favourite past-time of hers on a sunny day, would be pick up a stone, play with it in her mouth, roll on to her back, and swallow it. If she thought you were trying to get it out of her mouth she would simply swallow it more quickly. There followed a few techniques to try to distract her with other food when we spotted that she had a stone in her mouth, but these generally failed. Usually the stones would work their way through the digestive tracts and appear relocated in the garden first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Occasionally, though, they got stuck. The first signs of trouble were the lack of interest in food, followed by that haunted look of a scared animal, shaking, ears back. Occasionally we would find her cowering somewhere in the garden presumably looking for a safe place to shelter while she was feeling pained and vulnerable. Off to the vet she would go, anaesthetic in, tummy shaved, tummy opened, stone removed, tummy sewn back up, and returned back to the house for a period of convalescence. This happened four times in about as many years until Sheena must have sensed that her number would be up if it happened again, and mercifully, and quite unexpectedly, from the age of seven, she finally grew out of swallowing stones (or at least the very big ones).
- Whenever I visited my parents, both dogs, but particularly Sheena would be so excited to see me. I loved it when they went all unnecessarily wiggly and tried to clamber over me for a fuss. At all times when I was at my parents’ house, even for long periods, I always got a wiggle, a greeting, and a request to sit on my lap in the lounge every time I was with them.
- Little idiosyncrasies. She would nose-butt your leg if she wanted some attention. The way she would sprint across the hall and into the lounge. When the lounge door as ajar, she never quite had the nerve to push it open with her nose, and Daisy would take her time in wandering across the hallway to keep her waiting before then nudging the door open through which Sheena would then dash triumphantly. The way she would roll over on her back, legs akimbo, at the slightest hint of a tummy tickle. Cute!
- Observing Sheena watching Daisy play with her ball. Daisy was obsessed with her ball and would happily play throw and fetch all day until she dropped. Sheena never quite understood the game, but she recognised the importance of the ball to Daisy. Occasionally Sheena would run after the ball if it landed close by, and pick it up. She didn’t really know what to do with it when she had it, and Daisy’s look of disapproval was almost palpable. Typically though Sheena soon lost interest and normal ball-throwing with Daisy resumed. Whilst not a fan of the ball, Sheena did have a piece of rope with which she would engage in a game of tug o’ war. However, she didn’t quite get the rules and used to aim to grab the end that I was holding as opposed to the other end!
- Looking out the window and watching Sheena and Daisy play together. This was lovely to watch and demonstrated that despite the sisterly rivalry, they did enjoy each other’s company. They would engage in rough and tumble inside and outside, in a really affectionate way, which usually started with one of them lifting their paw and gently tapping the other.
- 23rd December 2016 – I had just arrived at my parents’ house and was all ready for an evening out with some of my old school friends. I sat in the lounge with a drink and Daisy wandered over and sat on my foot. Sheena merely wandered casually past, but this was enough to provoke a reaction which then descended into world-war three in the middle of the lounge. This wasn’t the first scrap they had had. The first one was definitely my fault a few years earlier, when I invited Sheena to jump on to my knee when Daisy was already there. On this occasion though, I do feel that I was blameless. Various dog-separation techniques had been tried by me, and my parents over the years. A bucket of cold water had been used before, as had the good old grab their collars and wrench them apart technique. My usual tactic was to pick up Daisy, and thus disengage the fight, Daisy being the far less wriggly one. On this particular occasion as I pulled Daisy from the melee Sheena grabbed what I think she would have thought was Daisy’s leg, and instead bit into my middle finger. The searing pain made me drop Daisy back into the boxing ring (my dad soon then ended the fight). I ran my finger under cold water and saw that it was a fairly deep cut. So off to A&E I went. Happily, the hospital was very quiet and I was able to meet up with my friends in town later on, with a heavily bandaged middle finger. The next morning, I showed Sheena the patched-up wound and smelling the clinical material, her ears went back in sympathy with an expression that suggested “what on earth happened to you?!”. I forgave her instantly!
- Sheena and Daisy spent many a week staying with us over the years. In later years after little Daisy had passed away, Sheena came on her own. I always enjoyed looking after her and particularly so over the past eighteen months when I was working from home and was on my own in the house most of the time. Sheena kept me company and provided more structure to my day. The two most memorable moments over the past year were when she unexpectedly and with very ageing legs, somehow managed to climb the stairs and wandered into my upstairs office to say hello. Getting her back down the stairs wasn’t easy, but we shuffled down together. The other moment was when I was in an online meeting which spanned her dinner time of 3:30pm. By 3:45pm she was providing me with increasingly frequent and loud reminders that I had to mute myself for the rest of the meeting and not make any further contributions.
There are so many more memories of Sheena though my over-riding memory of her will be as a curious, perky, optimistic, persistent and affectionate dog. She retained puppyish tendencies well into her old age and only really lost the bounce and excitement from the age of 14 onwards, from which point she began to show her age and lose some of her faculties, though never the friendliness and affection which remained until the end.
She lived a good life, and was always optimistic about the day ahead.
RIP Sheenie Beanie, you were a good dog x