Blackwood’s Linden Farli CD, RN, JH, OA, OAJ, TF1, ONYX, UTP3, TDI
Born 2 July 1993
Died 10 December 2007
In the last few years, Farli has been really aging. On Dec 7 we found out that her kidneys were failing. We supported her with fluids and some meds over the week-end to make decisions and say good-bye. On Monday evening we had a vet come to the house to put her down. It took me a while to be able to write anything; even now, a few months later, I find writing about Farli hard.
In the 1992-3 hunting season, Rusty, our female Harris Hawk showed us her hunting skills on rabbits, pheasant, chukar and ducks. Rusty was afraid of dogs and totally refused to work with other falconers’ flushing dogs (spaniels, JRTs, beagles, etc). She did catch a pheasant that Jim Nelson’s “English” setter, Daisy, pointed. So it seemed we needed a pointing dog to join our family. I read books, talked to dog folks, and watched as many falconry and other dogs hunt as I could. I liked the idea of the European versatile hunting dogs as they were bred for fur & feather on land or in water – just what Rusty hunted. I narrowed the choice to a Vizsla or Brittany. Wesley voted for the one with shorter hair.
I had my name down on a litter in WA. But that breeding did not take. So I set about finding another Vizsla litter immediately – I was a bit impatient at the time. I called every lead I had and asked each person that did not have any pups to give further leads. I left my phone number in case something came up. Eventually one of the breeders I had called, called back. It turned out the vet had docked the pups tails too short (more like 2/3 off rather than 1/3 off). When Denny & Linda Keeton told the folks that had reserved puppies, some backed out. I had no intention of showing so I said I was interested. We had several long conversations and passed each other’s evaluations. They sent our female pup to us via Delta Dash on a Friday early in our first semester of grad school at TX A&M U. I was prepared to fall in love with the puppy that came and the pup was prepared to love the person that rescued her from the travel crate.
That first fall we started taking our pup hunting with Rusty. Rusty quickly learned that Farli was better at finding game than Wesley and I. From then on she followed Farli more than she followed us.
We had not consulted our cat, Eris, on the addition of a dog to the family. Eris was appalled that we had a dog in the house. She was afraid of dogs, but had been trained to leave my pets alone. Farli was a year old before Eris ever used her claws to tell the rude puppy to leave her alone. Eris was also most surprised when I rewarded the use of claws with cheese rather than scolding her. As the years went by they became good friends. Both Eris & Farli enjoyed time next to Wesley when he read.
Eris and Farli enjoyed resting together (I think they liked the shared heat)
They also rested on top of me sometimes:
From the first time Farli had access to quail she retrieved directly to me – she dropped the bird on my foot and ran off to find another. From that day forth her mission in life was to bring me birds, rabbits or squirrels. In the early days, she delivered to hand if my hand was at nose level when she got there – otherwise she dropped the bird on my feet. Later with a little encouragement, she held the bird till I was ready to take it. She had toys, and I remember her tossing them in the air to catch when she was a puppy, but she never carried things around in her mouth like many Vs – I don’t remember her showing much interest in retrieving balls or toys – just birds and small mammals. When she entered some NSTRA trials, she had the highest retrieving scores of any of the other dogs present. After the judge watched her retrieve quail, my gunner clearly missed but Farli caught the bird anyway, he said he wished his dog retrieved as well.
When Farli was about 10 month old, Farli and I went to a Vizsla Fun Day at Judy Richey’s. Among the activities that day was a flyball demonstration by Texas Tornados, which was a mostly Vizsla team. Farli watched the other Vs having fun and bounced and pulled to join them. After the demonstration, I asked if Farli could try. I released Farli from the runback area. She took the four jumps and hit the box, watched the ball fly, picked it up and ran around the field. I called her and praised her. I released her a second time – she ran, took the four jumps, hit the box and picked the ball off the ground, then I called her. She was off to the side and so missed jump 5, but jumped over jumps 6, 7 & 8.
Neither of us had ever seen flyball before – we did not know that dogs have to be trained to play the game. Most don’t learn 8/10ths of the behavior just from watching. Farli was hooked on flyball, though it took us a few more years to find a team close enough to join – with Galveston County Dogs Sports. She taught herself a smooth “swimmers” turn and learned to pass her team mates at full speed.
Farli was soon racing as a “4.9 second dog”. She was a good anchor dog, running faster as she got more excited watching the other dogs run, and putting that extra into a close race to beat the other 4th dog in close races. Farli ran in any position and was very consistent. She would skip jump 8 if she was afraid of the dog running after her (and if the dog was released too soon for a _very_ late pass). When we moved to San Diego we joined Catchers on the Fly – Farli visited her captain from Catchers, Bob Long, in July 2006 at Wags for Wishes.
She would run for anyone and went to some tournaments without me. She made good friends with the Rutkowski’s when they took her to tournaments.
Farli and I also started agility in Galveston. We learned equipment at familiarization runs at demo’s at Flyball tournaments. Farli earned her AKC novice title after with 3 Qs in 3 attempts, completing the title at the 1997 Vizsla Nationals in Tampa FL – our first time attending a national event. Farli continued agility training, but did not really enjoy agility competition as we both worried too much. She managed OAJ, OA and 2 excellent standard legs before stopping competition. We both enjoyed training in agility so we continued that.
Farli learned to pull me on in-line skates in her skijor harness. We often went to get the mail (about a quarter mile each way) on skates. She also enjoyed regular runs on the beach in Galveston. A friends dog, Paco, stayed with her in our yard when Paco’s person was at school as they had no yard. One day when I got home, Paco and Farli proudly showed me the den they dug under the large buoy in our yard. Farli gave up digging when we moved to a yard that had thick healthy St. Augustine grass – too tough for digging.
I loved her ability to assess a new hunting location and intelligently hunt new cover. Her early experience was on fairly thick cover in “east” TX & FL. On her first trip to KS, she scoped out her first big open field – a large pivot irrigation crop circle of corn stubble – there was bare dirt around the corn stubble. She ran to the downwind edge and quartered the whole field, getting the pheasant to hold has they approached the upwind end. She never learned to work a pheasant like border collie on sheep, blocking the running birds, but she was excellent at finding and tracking them. When we worked tight areas, she stayed as close as needed and opened up as the cover allowed. The furthest I measured her hunting was some casts to a half mile in alfalfa or other crops in the Imperial Valley of S. CA. She also made long casts when I walked the ridges of the hills in E. San Diego County, but I did not measures those. The hawks stayed up high with me and were in good position to stoop on game. She would hold points for humans to flush or flush on command and stop to flush. She was steady to sent, unless a pheasant landed (after being shot in gun hunting) alive and running, then she went on fall – it seemed a good arrangement for gun hunting and we rarely lost a bird that way.
In 1998, when we were in San Diego, Farli was bit by what the vet thinks was a brown recluse spider. The spider venom dissolved her saliva duct and surrounding tissue. This resulted in a very sore swollen face. Multiple trips to the vet resolved this injury.
When we lived in San Diego, Farli also enjoyed visits as a Pet Assisted Therapy Dog. She enjoyed showing off her fun dog tricks and just visiting with older folks or playing with children. As she ate pills in cheese, she thought of pills as treats – I had to make sure she did not eat a stray pill at the hospital or nursing homes. Many times folks told us mistook her breed as they told of us about a loved coonhound/ redbone, ridgeback or what ever. She put her head in their lap and soaked up the petting.
Farli had a brief modeling career. This was when she was between 6 and 9 years old. A friend of ours served as an agent for dogs, and Farli appeared on pet product packaging, advertisements, annual reports. She also had one film job, appearing in a pharmaceutical infomercial. She was in several news and other films spots with Catchers on the Fly flyball team and as part of the Agility Club of San Diego. We also enjoyed participating in a Harlem Globe Trotters half-time show with our teammates a few times.
She also enjoyed outings at Fiesta Island with Robbie & Shella and other friends. Robbie and Farli shared ball retrieving – Shella or I threw the ball out in the water – Robbie eagerly swam to retrieve the ball. He brought the ball to the shallows and dropped it – Farli trotted out in the shallow water to get the ball from Robbie and deliver to hand for a food treat. (Farli believed one could buy food with tennis balls – but never saw much point in retrieving them unless buying food). Robbie missed out on the food, but did not seem to mind. Robbie was the only dog she let share her bed under my desk. Most dogs ran and played at Fiesta Island – Farli hunted, occasionally retrieving live rabbits even when the hawks were not with us.
Robbie and Shella also invited us for Christmas dinner in 2001. The dogs played some agility games, nosed Shella’s cats and asked for their share of dinner. Robbie graciously shared his monogrammed bed.
He also shared his toys and his “mom”, Shella.
Farli and Rusty hunted together all of Farli’s life. The watched each other and cued off each other’s behavior. If Farli looked “birdy” Rusty flew near. If Rusty flew in a way that looked like she had seen something, Farli hunted in that direction. In the photo below it is hard to see the duck both Farli and Rusty are attempting to catch.
When I was training for NAVHDA, I clipped the wings of a duck – released the duck in the “toolies” in ponds or rivers and let Farli search and retrieve the duck to hand – live and unharmed. We also trained with the local NAVHDA chapter.
Farli believed she could catch live ducks. In the winter there were often ducks dry feeding at Fiesta Island. She never tired of stalking and chasing them – although she never caught a single one of those ducks. She did catch a live grebe once when I sent her on a water search for a tennis ball. Before we got the ducks I had her search for a tennis ball to practice searching. We started on land and moved to water. At Fiesta Island I left her on a stay behind a sand hill to throw the ball and then let her search. Farli learned to run down wind along the shore until she could smell the tennis ball and then follow the scent as she swam up wind to get the ball. From then on I had to throw the ball downwind if I wanted a true search.
Through our participation in NAVHDA and hunting dogs clubs in San Diego she gained a local reputation for good bird finding and retrieving skills. We were regulars as dog-teams for the Fish & Game hunts – taking hunters out to find pheasant. When she earned her UPT-3, the only points she lost were in the Duck Search exercise. It was a chilly raining morning and she did not really like to go in cold water. After searching the bank, the equipment truck, etc, she eventually entered the water to complete a good duck search – finding her duck, but the slow water entry dropped her score to a prize 3. Many folks repeatedly expressed “I sure wish you had not spayed that dog”. They wanted pups with her excellent hunting abilities.
She placed third in the first field trial stake she entered in spring 2002. The stake was large enough she qualified to enter the _Open_ VCA National Championships – I thought it was a hoot that the pair of us qualified for the Vizsla Nationals in open but not amateur when we had only ever entered one field trial – I thought it very funny. We entered the 2002 Nationals in Prescott AZ even though I knew we were not competitive – she hunted slower and closer after her broken foot in summer of 2002. Actually 2002 was a hard year – the broken foot took ages to heal, she had a tumor removed twice and she survived a rattlesnake bite and had to have the vet remove a foxtail that year.
Swimming was part of Farli’s exercise from Galveston on, and we increased swimming after the broken foot. Sometimes I swam with her, other times she swam to get paid to retrieve a ball. The Pacific was cold enough that Farli shivered so we got her a custom wet suit made by a woman in Ocean Beach.
In 2004, we added another Vizsla to our family – Ritka. So after 10 years as an only dog, Farli had to deal with a “sibling”. I worried that Farli would resent the newcomer. They were soon best friends.
They both wanted the passenger seat in the van when I drove them places – so they learned about Vizsla stacking.
The girls slept on the couch together and played wild dog games. From then on hunting trips involved two dogs and two hawks.
Farli slept on my right side from the first night she lived with us. Partly due to Wesley’s comment that the puppy (not yet housebroken) sleep on my side of the bed. This became such a habit that Farli always wanted to be there. This was not alway the best place for her, but she was determined. Although she loved Ritka – Farli insisted on the position next to me.
In 2005, my friend Greta and her dogs stayed with us when she sold her house in Berkeley and found another in Portland, OR. Farli learned to adjust to two Austrailian shepherds (Nickel & Cedi) in the house. Later, Greta added a border collie (Mellie) and they visited from time to time. The five dogs enjoyed outings in the high school field behind our house in Concord CA.
In Sept 2006, she added a senior dog vestibular disorder to her list of problems. Since then, Farli went around with a permanent rightward head tilt and inherent wobbliness on her feet. This ended her ability to race in Flyball, she had earned 28,690 points and so earned her ONYX, but missed earning her Grand Championship by 1,310 points. She was ranked 3rd for Vizslas for all time in NAFA (now she is 4th). She enjoyed racing as her second favorite activity (hunting was her favorite activity) and it was sad to stop racing. She could no longer turn safely with speed. She still enjoyed a few practice runs from time to time and knew enough to turn carefully.
In later years, I would buy an extra bird or two for Farli each time we got birds for Ritka. We no longer trained Farli, but let her enjoy her birds as she wanted. We played tracking games where she followed my track and found articles to earn food treats, but I never took her to compete in tracking. She continued to play agility and compete in flyball until she was 13 years old.
She showed no obvious signs of a hip problem until after she lost muscle tone recovering from a broken foot when she was 9 years old. Farli’s arthritis and hip dysplasia became an issue in later life. We had to restrict her diet, since carrying extra pounds would have made the arthritis pain that much worse. We went through a series of different pain medicines and regimens looking for something that would relieve her pain, without much success in these last months. This ongoing, chronic pain was a major issue when we were considering what to do in her final days. The pain made her likely to snap at other dogs if they got in her face or bumped her in the last 3 years of so of her life. Before then she got along with everyone – dog or human. The last year of her life she only played with Ritka, who knew how to play without hurting Farli. Both in MI and in Concord CA, the dogs loved going out our back gate to play. There were days we could tell that Farli’s arthritis really hurt. When we went out the back gate, she was determined to have fun – no matter how much she hurt.
This photo shows her joy in running even with the head tilt from the vestibular disorder.
Each summer we took her swimming and/or water walking to strengthen her muscles with minimal joint pounding. The house we rented in MI had a pond so she swam there – by now if I forgot a ball, she swam out & back and asked for her cookie for swimming without the ball as a “lure”. I’ve never let her swim when I was not willing to swim if needed – especially this last summer, as she could loose her orientation and a few times I had to right her as her balance was still off from the vestibular disorder. In San Diego during duck search training I had to untangle her several times from old fishing line that had been left in the water.
She lost her hearing till she was mostly deaf. Her visual perception was decreasing and even her sense of smell decreased. I had delighted in her keen ability to find birds that other dogs had missed and follow tracks or find lost objects for me. She had been a marvelous hunting dog for many years and it was hard for both of us as her body deteriorated and she could no longer accomplish what she had once done with ease. In response to her hearing loss, I taught her to recall in response to a vibration collar. This worked as long as she knew where I was. The vibration collar was black.
Farli swam to get ducks or went in water to cool off, but did not swim for the joy of swimming. However, swimming and water walking did help keep some muscle without pounding her joints – So, Farli swam for me. Sometimes I swam with her – especially in San Diego at Mission Bay or in a friends pool.
The two girls enjoyed regular play till a few weeks before we put Farli down. The fact that Farli did not feel well enough to play was one of the clues what she was sick. We also noticed that she wasn’t eating as well, when she normally ate with great enthusiasm. Since she was still eating the vet did not at first realize how sick Farli was – I knew something was wrong even if she was eating all her food – she loved food, and even to eat slowly was worrying. We got blood work done, taking a fasting blood draw on 6 Dec, and got the news midday on Friday. Farli had kidney failure. This put us in a bind, since treatment would mean intravenous fluids, which we could not do at home. I wasn’t willing to leave Farli in a place where she would be caged overnight without anyone in attendance, so we arranged to provide subcutaneous fluid treatment over the weekend. This would simply be a maintenance, not a therapy. We cuddled and gave her favorite foods such as chicken, cheese toast, etc. I gave her some body message and snuggled and loved her.
Wesley took her back to the vet Monday morning for another look. I was able to call from in between teaching classes and speak with the vet. Our sense was that treatment might or might not work, and depending upon the cause of the kidney failure, she might live anywhere from days to a few more months. Given Farli’s continuing chronic pain, we felt that putting her down was the right thing to do now. Since Farli had protested even the short car ride to and from the vet clinic, we got a vet service that made house calls to come out to provide euthanasia for Farli.
The second one got away and she searched diligently till she found and retrieved that chukar as well. I wanted to call the vet and tell her not to come when I saw Farli enjoy the chukar – but Wesley reminded me that Farli had hunted on her broken foot as well. And even that bit of activity tired her out.
The vet arrived about an hour and a half later. Farli died around 6:35 Monday night, as comfortable as we could make her on the couch. We had a private wake at the house followed by a private burial in the back fields near the pond where she swam. Ritka came out with us Tuesday morning when we buried Farli. Wesley, Ritka and I have missed Farli in the weeks since and will continue to do so. Ritka has demanded more attention with Farli gone. We took a road trip to visit friends over Christmas which helped all of as escape the daily reminders of our loss. Rusty and Shelby (Harris Hawks) have adjusted to hunting with Ritka without Farli.
Treasure each day with your beloved dogs no matter their age.