The Culver Airedales’ Story – Sally Culver, South Australia
My husband Rob had a dog growing up, but in my family we weren’t allowed to have pets (my mother considered 5 children to be quite enough), so it wasn’t until I was nearly 30 that I had my first dog. Rob was keen to get a dog and his father was a big fan of Airedales, and one night out walking Rob and I found a lost Airedale. By the time we’d located her home and returned her to it (not so easy, as she didn’t have a tag with her details) I was in love. We walked home and I burst into tears and said “We have to get an Airedale!” I rang the SA Canine Association the next day and they put me onto Lily Howlett in Willunga, SA, and she just happened to have one little boy left, so by the end of that week Montgomery was part of our family. In no time at all I couldn’t imagine NOT having a dog. When Monty was 2 he was joined by Ali (2-legged child) and we have lovely video footage of him greeting her on her arrival home from hospital. (It’s no wonder she wants to be a vet!)
Next to come was Daphne, our second Airedale, when Monty was 2 ½, followed by Elise (2-legged). Daphne was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia when she was almost a year old and saw an Orthopaedic Vet who planned to replace both her hip joints when she had fully grown. In the meantime my sister Jenny took Daphne to a dog swimming pool and swam her every week, and we took her walking on the lead, and when Daphne went back to the Orthopaedic Vet he was so pleased with her progress that he said she didn’t need her hips replaced. We took Daphne swimming every week for years and she loved it; after initially having to wear floaties as she couldn’t swim, she used to swim along wagging her tail!
Monty and Daphne were best friends and grew up together, and when Ali was 6 and Elise 4 ½ along came our third two-legged child, Julia. Apart from her hip dysplasia Daphne enjoyed good health, but at the age of 9 Monty had to have a carpal fusion in first one leg and then the other. We nursed him in the kitchen, at the centre of everything, while he was in a cast, and carried him outside to the toilet! The dear boy was a good patient – uncomplaining and stoic. He made a good recovery from both operations and had good health until the age of almost 12, when a perineal hernia caused his bladder to rupture and he collapsed in a terrible state one morning. I rushed him to hospital and after 36 long hours they were able to diagnose a ruptured bladder and operated on him for 3 hours to repair it. 36 hours after that they operated again for another 3 hours to repair the hernia. A week in doggy ICU followed, during which I was sick with worry about our dear boy. Again he was a brave and uncomplaining patient, but he was so sick that it nearly broke my heart. I knew he had turned the corner when I got in to see him one day and heard his tail thumping on the floor – he had been too sick to wag! Rob knew he had turned the corner when he visited and had to tell Monty off for barking at the vet hospital’s resident cat, Charlie, who had been wandering around all week ignored by the sick boy!
After his abdominal surgery Monty made an excellent recovery, and lived for another year and ¾ until one morning at the age of 13 ½ when he suffered a huge stroke and died in minutes. Although he did not suffer and it was an ideal death, if there is such a thing, I found it heartbreaking to lose him as he and I were very close. I guess the first one is always going to be the hardest, and I had never lost a loved one, either two- or four-legged before that. Daphne was severely depressed after Monty died – it was very hard to get her up in the mornings. At that stage she was 11 and getting more arthritic, and I felt the only way for us all to move on was to bite the bullet and invite another puppy into our home before Daphne was too old to cope with a pup in the house.
A friend at work got onto the Internet and found Glenys Cochrane, and along came Humphrey! Daphne did perk up a little in her moods with a new friend, but physically she slowly declined over the next year, and at the age of 12 refused to eat or to get up, and I had the heartbreaking task of taking her to the vet for the last time.
Humphrey, having come from a big litter to a home with another dog, missed Daphne terribly. My sister’s Airedale, Bella, who was Daphne’s age, used to come and stay quite a lot when my sister was away for work or on holidays, and Humphrey found her great company, and even taught her to play, something she had never mastered! At the age of 13 when staying at our house she was outside doing just that with Humphrey when she died in very much the same way as Monty had, of a huge stroke. Once again Humphrey was alone and he was lonely, so we started looking into adoption.
We decided we would be happy to adopt an older Airedale, as there is something lovely about the Seniors that we had come to appreciate as Monty and Daphne aged. I started making inquiries through Sue Forrester and other avenues, and heard via a staff member at my older girls’ school, who also has an Airedale, that the retiring Principal at the school had an 11-year-old Airedale that he was looking for a home for as he was moving interstate.
We took Humphrey to meet Gerald and they got on well, and so Gerry came to live with us one Friday just over a year ago.
Imagine my surprise the very next morning when I got an e-mail from Sue Forrester titled “Raining? Pouring?” Then followed the story of a 3-year-old Airedale named Vicky who had been a show dog in NSW, with plans to breed from her. When this was unsuccessful Vicky went to live with a family in a suburb of Adelaide. The people were lovely but worked long hours, and all week Vicky was alone from quite early until quite late each day during the week. She suffered terrible separation anxiety, and quite literally tore herself apart trying to get out to find company.
She was found hanging upside down from the pool fence one day, requiring surgery to her leg, and when left inside tore the house to pieces in a frenzy. She had lost about 6kg in weight in the 5 months she was there.
As Sue put it, “She just needs her company back”. My initial thought was “THREE AIREDALES?!” and I told Sue I just didn’t think we could manage another, having welcomed Gerry just the day before, but a couple of hours later I had convinced myself and Rob that we had to meet her.
On the following Sunday, Vicky came to visit and never went back.
She was a tiny little thing at 14.6kg (she is only small, and at 19-20kg now is perfect), and she and Humphrey became instant friends. The day after she came they were curled in the beanbag together with Humphrey’s arm around her!
We felt a new start called for a new name, and Vicky became Violet, which she took to straight away. We felt our family was complete with three 2-legged and three 4-legged children, but sadly it was not to be.
Three days after coming to us Gerry became suddenly and violently ill with pancreatitis that was so severe it did not respond to treatment, and once again I had the heartbreaking task of being with a beloved friend as Gerry was put to sleep. We were shocked and so sad to lose him – we had really hoped to provide him with a long and happy “retirement” at our home, gently snoring on his beanbag in the corner!
So now it’s just Humphrey and Violet (well, as well as Ali, Elise and Julia…) and they are a happy pair. By coincidence they are half-brother and –sister, and they couldn’t be more compatible. There is plenty of “bitey-face” and plenty of curling up together.
Violet was a very anxious girl when she came to us – a very sweet personality and she loved other dogs and all people, but she was very scared of many things. This has slowly settled, and at her recent vet check for vaccinations a year after her arrival here the vet pronounced her “perfect”!
I detailed a little of her story to him, and his verdict was that “she just needed the Culvers!” Maybe it’s true – she needed what we could provide, and we needed her, and we couldn’t be happier with our complete family.