She had me as soon as she flashed those beautiful baby blue eyes at me while curled up in my lap as a 6-week old pup. In two more weeks, I would soon begin a 14-plus year relationship with a special canine that only a few dog owners ever will truly understand. After decades of Weimaraner ownership, I knew instinctively that this pup had a very peaceful and serene nature about her that I detected while she lay in my lap.
WARNING: The following is a loving tribute to a very special dog, from a human companion who intensely appreciates the individuality, character, and soul of Weimaraners. Many readers may find this tribute too tedious. Weim lovers perhaps, not so much.
This girl, who we named Maddie, would be easy going - quite unlike your typical Weimaraner. Shortly after arriving at her newly chosen household (for she chose me), she developed a debilitating disease diagnosed as HOD - a type of intense inflammation of the joints that some believe is related to vaccinations. She could not stand or walk. We were very concerned that she would not make it to her 3-month birthday. My darling wife and I nursed her back to health through this very trying period. This nurturing resulted in a lifelong, intense devotion from Maddie to my wife. Miraculously, she ended up living the longest of any of our Weims - almost 14 1/2 years. In that lifetime, she was pals with a English Springer Spaniel for 9 years and another Weim for 5 years. She got along with both of her household buddies.
When the Spaniel needed to serve a timeout in her crate, Maddie would often come over to the crate and express her sympathies and concern for her buddy. Particularly when "Mom" (my wife) was heard to come home (giveaway - garage door opening), the Spaniel and Maddie would begin their howling routine. Maddie would jump on top of the dining room table, and the Spaniel would begin the chorus standing on the floor. The Spaniel was the first to start the practice of howling on Mom's arrival. Maddie joined in some months later and the two continued it together from that point forward. A more domesticated primordial sound has never been heard.
After family supper, Maddie and the Spaniel together were usually given "flip" chips (named in honor of the Spaniel flipping her chips in the air upon receiving). Maddie would consume her treat well in advance of the Spaniel. Of course, in her greed Maddie would then want to finish off her buddy's treat. The Spaniel was the ever vigilant dog. She would react to outside "disturbances" by barking incessantly and sometimes rushing the front window by jumping on the adjacent couch. In fact, on one occasion a joint rush by Maddie led to a broken window that needed replacement. Fortunately, no dog was injured. Like most Weimaraners, Maddie's power of observation was keen, and she would soon use this skill to her tactical advantage. After many observations of this behavioral reaction from the Spaniel, Maddie knew that the Spaniel's dedication to home vigilance dominated her desire for treats. With this knowledge in hand, Maddie would stand near her buddy while she was chewing her gummy flip chip and then use her "be on the alert" bark to agitate and distract her friend to react. On queue, the Spaniel would immediately begin barking and leave her flip chip unguarded to investigate the unknown, feigned intrusion. Maddie would then grab the unprotected possession and finish it off during her rival's absence. After investigating the false alarm, the Spaniel would return to discover that her treat had been stolen. She would look up at me with those sad eyes and bark, "Dad, I have been had!" Feeling sorry but amused, I would always succumb to her plea and go get a new flip chip for my "Little Buddy". Maddie used this ruse many times on the gullible Spaniel. I feel that it was probably the most intelligent preconceived scheme ever witnessed by me from my many loyal canines.
Like most Weims, Maddie would move in a tight circle two times before plopping down to rest; she would rub her front shoulder in a odorous substance when discovered outside; she would steal away my wife's shoes as comfort toys to take and hide in her crate; a chronic warm seat stealer, while you were away to the bathroom, you found that she had furtively repositioned herself from one side of the room to your favorite spot on the couch; during neighborhood walks, she would periodically sniff out and retrieve dead birds which she would carry back to the house - usually much effort was required to coerce her to give up such a prize. Maddie liked to give me multiple kisses on the face before settling into bed. Especially in her early years, she would sit her 65-pound body in my lap while waiting for my wife to complete her Saturday shopping. For some reason, female Weims seem to limit this honor to the alpha male person of the family.
But Maddie had many unique traits to call all her own. Those baby blue eyes would turn an amber color by nine months of age (typical), but by her senior years her pupils would enlarge, giving her a pleasant, soulful look. When outside, she liked to sit her haunch on the high back-porch deck with her front feet on the top step, and watch the world go by while gazing between the deck rails (see image below). She was very regimented in her family routines and somehow was accurately aware of what time it was. She expected her dinner to be served on time. If it was getting past that time, she would approach you, sit, and begin the stare-down. If that got no reaction from you, she began to bark at you. If that failed, she would begin jumping on you as you sat there unresponsive with your lazy butt on the couch. Commanding her away to the other room to be patient was to no avail. For I could see out of the corner of my eye that she would return and begin to stalk me like a bird of prey. I could not help but smile and to let her stealthily approach me. Finally, after arising and giving in submissively to her desires, she would do her happy 360 degree dance spin on the floor. After I retired, I witnessed how she expected my wife to arrive home from work on time. She expected us to go to bed on time; and if late for any of these milestones, she would sit down and stare at you and began a series of barks. I suppose that this trait is all about the stereotypical Weimaraner stubbornness. But Maddie had a unique slant to this whole intensity of focus.
With that internal clock of hers indicating a 15-minute countdown, Maddie would begin the lookout for the Mom watch by sitting on one of the chairs and gazing out the front window for the arrival of the blue van. When my wife did arrive home from work, Maddie would usually retrieve one of her cached shoes, and approach her with it in her mouth, tail wagging, and with what one can best describe as "boner ears", that is with her floppy ears almost sticking straight out from the side. I have never seen any Weim do this before or since the arrival of Maddie. Another unique physical trait was the sound of her teeth chattering in the anticipation of receiving a wonderful morsel of food. This would sometimes occur during the dinner badgering routine described in the previous paragraph. It was with the hearing of this chattering that you knew it was getting serious and you owed the poor dog her dinner now and then.
Maddie had this prim and proper attitude about her. The family sometimes referred to her as "Princess Maddie". To her, things must be done a certain way and you just did not deviate from these highest standards of protocol. She liked her water bowl to be fresh from the tap. Yogurt, especially vanilla, was a delicacy not to be shared with her buddies. It was only proper that a dog of her character start her day with a small treat from the "goodie drawer". And when camped beside said drawer, with nose pointed to contents inside, you, her servant are expected to reward this distinguished behavior with further treats throughout the day. In her mind, a fine dog of her social standing was not bred to be wet, even though the Weimaraner breed is a sporting dog that can instinctively swim. To relieve herself even in a fine rain drizzle was a total indignity. If you insist on this mockery of civil behavior, then you must provide the humiliated girl a raincoat for her troubles. And this is what my wife and daughter did for her on such weather events. When she was nine years of age, we introduced her to a swimming pool while on vacation. By then she was too set in her ways - she was not agreeable to learn how to swim. But she trusted Mom enough to let her hold her head and half her body above the water. There is an image below that captures this tender moment. The image exemplifies the loving trust between a dog and its human. Look at that sweetness in Maddie's face. I love this image. But even the Princess has her moments. Stuffed toys and boxes are fair game for shredding. Sloppy dinner manners are acceptable - canned dog food and leftovers should be scarfed down hastily and food spillage from the plate to the floor and adjacent water bowl is tolerated.
Then there was the flap ear, semaphore signaling. At nightime, Maddie used the flapping ears as her wakeup signal. It told us that one of us needed to wakeup and let her out to do her business. She would kindly give us about three to four flapping sequences to respond. If this had no effect, then it was time to escalate to barking, which usually did the trick. After being let out to relieve herself, Maddie enjoyed taking long midnight strolls around the fenced-in yard. During these early and mid-summer evening strolls, she would search out toads (she would never bother them, seemingly to know better) and sometimes would disappointingly eat dirt. When Maddie reached the age of nine, a new canine buddy arrived to fill the void after the loss of our beloved Spaniel. Our new Junior Weimaraner puppy pestered Maddie to accept her into the family. At first, Maddie would hardly look at her new partner. But that quickly faded when Junior insisted that Maddie acquiesce. Maddie was very tolerant of Junior's high energy and shenanigans. Maddie led by example to help Junior settle down and become a good house dog. At some point after Junior's arrival, a new dinner ritual was born. Maddie was now spending more time relaxing in her open crate, no doubt to get some uninterrupted rest from the ever spirited Junior. As the dinner hour approached, Maddie would arise and emerge from her girl-cave, flap her ears, and begin the badgering routine. On hearing the ear flap semaphore, Junior would reply with her own ear flap as acknowledgement of message received, rush into our bedroom, retrieve my pillow, and begin her happy showing off waltz around the house, tail wagging, large fluffy pillow drooping from her mouth, with eyes uplifted. This Big Dinner Show occurred till the very end, and how or why it ever began is beyond me. It just happened. With Maddie's passing, Junior does not have a start-the-big-show signal to trigger off of anymore and now just patiently lies and waits for me, whenever I am ready to serve her dinner. No longer are there Big Dinner Shows for me to enjoy. On June 20th, the first morning of this 2016 Summer, my beloved sweet girl crossed the rainbow bridge. Oh how I, the family, and Junior miss her.
Afterthought: The full moon was visible low in the southwestern night sky as Cindy and I left the house that morning to go say our tearful goodbyes to our dear friend. The moon set shortly later at approximately the exact time that Maddie crossed the rainbow bridge. I will forever remember it as Maddie's Summer Moon.
Many images of this wonderful soul can be found in the first seven photos and later half of the gallery at http://dworr.zenfolio.com/weimaraner.
See my blog post from September 2015: Canines, Weimaraners, and Me
D W Orr
Environmentalist, Historic Preservationist, Weimaraner Companion, Blogger, and Photographer
Harford County, Maryland
June 21, 2016
Maddie at Age 13