Golden Totem, SH, VC, CGC
December 1986 - 4 June 2002
dog is a one-of-a-kind, but Totem was rare.
best story that illustrates her personality:
Totem to most of the concerts in the park when she was young.
At one concert, a huge boy with Down’s syndrome and
severe mental retardation approached us in the manor of a
huge ape. He was taller than me even in his hunched over position.
He not only grunted like an ape, but swung his arms like one
as he walked toward us. Any dog would have misinterpreted
his manner and would
have barked or bitten him.
| In fact, when the boy’s father
saw what he was coming toward us, he grabbed the boy and told
me that dogs usually bite his son because he flails around too
much. But, I watched Totem watch the boy. Her tail was wagging.
I told the father that it would probably be OK. He did not want
his son bitten again. But I told the father to sit the boy down
and let her go over to him. He sat the boy on the grass. She
went right over to the boy and licked his face. He laughed out
loud…flailed his arms all around even more. She just licked
him harder. And he just laughed harder. She found the best in
that scary boy and they both enjoyed the other.
the other hand, she had the persistence of a bird dog. The birth of
her only litter was a great illustration of this. I had set up a great
whelping box for her. She even nested in it for several days before
she had the puppies. But when it came to give birth, she wanted to
have them on the couch. We had a terrible “tug of war”
that day. I would put her in the box and she would jump out to go
to the couch. This must have lasted for hours. She had the first four
puppies during this tug-of-war. Puppies
she would have nothing to do with. I had the puppies crying in a
warmed box, waiting for their mother to feed and comfort them. But
she would have nothing to do with them. I had finally made enough
progress on my side of the argument so that she would lie down at
the foot of the couch, rather than on the couch. Those puppies continued
to whine as she ignored them. Then, she got up. Went her toy box.
Picked up her favorite toy, a little squeaky brown dog. Took that
toy to the place in front of the couch. And proceeded to put the
dog in a position where she could nurse it. I cried. Here she had
four wanting puppies and she was nursing a toy! She won. I gave
her the four puppies. She appeared content to have them there. She
continued to have the rest of the litter right there, on the carpet
in front of the couch. Took care of all of them. All was well. And
I had to get a new carpet.
was born the day after Christmas, 1986. I did not get to choose her.
The (backyard) breeder told me I had to take the female with the white
on her because she was the only female left. He thought she was flawed
because of the white butterfly on her chest. But, little did he know
that he had probably just picked the best dog in the litter. I put
her in the crate in the back of my Subaru wagon and proceeded to drive
home from Bowling Green, Kentucky. She stared out the back of the
wagon and screamed. She was leaving her first home and the three brothers
with whom she had been playing hard. I dreaded the next four-hour
ride home with her. She got tired of screaming about the time we hit
Louisville. All the way home, I wondered what I had gotten into with
Totem was named
while I was reading the book, Clan of the Cave Bear. Since
the dog appeared to be my totem, I named my dog Totem. I know she
liked it. No other dog has had that name, according to a search
of thousands of dog names.
- When she
was six months old, the 17-year cicadas returned to Bloomington.
These critters were so thick that you could not see the bark of
the trees. I had to sweep them off the house and patio. But Totem
loved them. She ate so many of them that I did not need to wean
her off of her noontime meal. She loved the males more than the
females as they would flutter and make more noise when she caught
them. She was only 1 ½ years short of experiencing the
cicadas again, when she died.
I never had any intention in showing her,
even though my family had been active in the sport of showing dogs
since the 1950’s. All I wanted was a buddy to go hiking and
running with me. I took her to an obedience class to socialize her
to other dogs. It was the professional handler who
Major in 1988
was helping with the classes who told me that Totem was a great
and that she’d
Veterans Sweeps at 12 years old
like to show her. Well, she was my dog. Not hers. So I proceeded to
show her. Totem hated the show ring because she’d sense my disappointment
in her losses. Showing looked so easy compared to obedience. But it
was not. Several people proceeded to tell me my dog would have been
a champion so much sooner if she had a different handler. But we did
do it and did it together. What Totem taught me here was that I had
to make dog believe he/she won every time he/she was in the ring,
even if he/she did not. That worked well with Copper, Flick, and Dart.
As for the field competition, I had absolutely
no idea what that was, having grown up in LA. I knew I wanted a pointer
rather than the poodles I grew up with, but I wanted a pointer because
I liked it’s looks. I had no idea pointers still liked to point.
Her desire for birds was so strong that she developed a little game
in the backyard. She would hide behind a small brick wall. Wait until
the birds came to the bird feeder. Then she’d point. Hold it
for quite a while. But no one came to flush and shoot, so she flushed
and chase them out of the yard. Then, she’d go back and hide.
Then wait until they came back. She would do this game all
day long, until the birds would go to sleep. It wasn’t
until Debby (Friedlund) Lynn saw Totem at the Hoosier Dog Show. Debby
line quite well. She knew Totem's field potential and invited us to
the Miami Valley Vizsla Club versatility where Totem had her first
bird. She was 1 ½ years old. She got that bird in her mouth
and would not let go for 45 minutes. The picture of her first bird
is above. She was so proud of herself. That same day, they wanted
to see her run the field. I had never let her off the leash and was
afraid she would run away. Everyone laughed at me. So, under the peer
pressure, I let her go. She hunted like she’d been doing it
all her life. That day I saw a spirit come out in her like I had never
seen before. From that point on, I knew we would continue to look
for birds the rest of her life. I even got a shotgun and began to
hunt with her and the rest of our new Vizsla family.
For my first summer vacation in Bloomington I decided to drive around
Lake Michigan. You know, to see part of the Midwest. Totem and I
were going to camp out all the way. She was only seven months old.
We took a few hikes. On one hike, through a wooded area, Totem went
nuts. I wasn’t quite sure I could control her. Her nose would
not stop. Her activity increased 200%. She quartered the area as
much as she could on her 15-foot rope. I know now, that she had
scented grouse or some other type of bird and that her bird dog
instinct took over.
This picture of Totem that made the 365 dogs calendar in 1993. She
was June 17th. That day I got a phone call from a guy who said he
was a lawyer from Louisville and wanted to know if I had a dog. Lawyer
- dog. I hesitated, to say the least. Then he asked if my dog was
on a calendar today. He had had a bet with his secretary that Totem
was a dachshund and wanted to know if he was correct. I don’t
think I’d ever hire him as a lawyer. The Monroe Co. dog calendar
rejected this picture because they thought the yellow reflective collar
was an electric collar
In May of 1988 Totem and I flew to LA. I took Alice Lindeman to the
airport with me to make sure Totem got on the plane. If she did not
get on the plane Alice was instructed to take her home and I would
be back to get her. Even though I had found a direct flight from Indy
to LA, the trip was worse for me than it was for her. She traveled
with a collie and two cats. And I knew she was OK when we landed because
as the cargo door opened, you could hear that “where-in-the-hell-have-you-been”
bark. She liked California much better than Flick did. We went to
the beach, a dog show, and my favorite
place, Yosemite. Flying home was even more traumatic than flying out.
I took Patsy to the airport with the same instructions I had given
Alice. But no one could see her get on the plane and the attendant
could not tell me she was aboard or not. I did not hear any barking
when we landed in Indy. It was a long flight and were we glad to see
Each New Years, Totem and Flick and I spend time with the Schaefers,
even though Ed makes the sauerkraut for dinner. One New Years it snowed
so well that there was a great accumulation. Trip Schaefer wanted
to build a snow cave. Totem thought he was working too slowly and
started to dig with him. Trip stepped back and Totem dug and dug and
dug until the only thing that we could see was the snow being thrown
out of the opening of the cave. She and Trip played in their snow
cave the rest of the day.
She was a little boy’s dog. Jay and the neighbor kids would
come over on a daily basis and ask, “Can Totem play?”
She would run and play hard with them. She would steal their shoes
an play keep-away. She also did that with Pam Flower’s cigarettes.
Pam was quite frustrated. But I always came to the rescue with a,
“Totem, over here.” She’d always come to me and
give it back.
Spaying her at eight years old was another reproductive nightmare.
She would always have false pregnancies. When I decided to spay her,
she had just finished her season and the previous vet said we should
do it before the false pregnancy to prevent it. Well, Totem’s
hormones didn’t like that. She must have spent a month in the
closet nesting and nursing her toys.
are always a couple of events that make you older, faster. Both
of them had to do with Totem getting lost.
first was after the Cleveland Specialty, in 1996, when we stayed at
Cindy & John’s. We all had decided to go out to dinner.
I left Flick and Totem in the back of the GMC Gimmy, in their crates,
with the back window up, in the cool of the July evening. When we
got back, not only was Totem missing, but also her crate looked as
though it had been bashed in. I yelled that she was missing and that
someone had taken her. Cindy took one look at the crate and knew Totem
had ripped it apart from the inside. We had no idea how long she’d
been gone, but I took my whistle out of my pocket. Walked down Cindy’s
driveway. Cupped my hands so that I could project the whistle. Blew
it long and loud. I only blew it about five times and there she comes
out of the darkness with that “where-have-you-been” look.
There appeared to be no marks on her, but the next day her gums had
turned black from the pressure
had put on her mouth to bend the wires of the crate. No one knows
what made her panic. But whatever it was, it drove her to do “super
human” things. When I got back to Bloomington there was a message
on my answer machine telling me that they had my dog. They lived in
Columbus OH. Apparently they had found her after she got out of the
crate. I called them. They told me she had seen them in the yard and
just wanted to be part of them. She did not appear anxious or anything.
They said they were going into the house when heard the whistle. When
they saw how she responded to it, they let her go. She had only been
three houses away, but too close to a major road.
second time she got lost was just a few weeks ago, at age 15 ½
years. The gate had been left open after the graduation party I always
give my students. She was so elderly at that point that she was sleeping
downstairs because she pooped in the bed and so that she could relieve
herself when needed. When I got up the next morning I could not find
her downstairs. I could not find her in the garage. I could not find
her in the yard. My heart fell when I saw the gate was open. I just
knew she had left the yard. But when? It could have been as early
as 11:00 pm the night before. I also knew she could not hear and could
only see movement. Her back was bothering her so much the night before
she could barely walk. She could not have gone far. But she was so
venerable to cars and coyotes. I knew she had to be dead. I kept saying
to myself, as I combed through every gulch, “it’s not
supposed to happen this way”. My neighbors joined in the search.
They took the streets and side streets. After 1 ½ hours of
looking, I felt sick and needed to go back home. When I got there
I called the human society and told them I had lost an old dog and
would appreciate it if anyone had called. She was getting grumpy in
her old age and would snap at hands coming at her face. I believed
that people would not try to touch her. They asked me to describe
her and tell them were she was lost. I did. She was there. At the
pound! A woman and her daughter had seen her struggling to walk by
the side of the road. They thought she had been hit by a car, but
found it only old age. She went right up to them and got in their
car. She had walked more than a mile from home. Without a scratch,
not even bloody feet. When I got to the pound to pick her up, I had
to listen to a lecture on licensing and then bail her out. They had
to call the vet to verify her shot record. They asked me for ID. I
had none with me and hoped she would recognize me in her senility.
She did, and was quite happy to see me. The little girl that had found
her was disappointed I had picked her up. She wanted to take Totem
home. Once again, it was a “lost scenario” that she should
have not survived. It must have been the St. Francis medal I got for
her at the Vatican.
that I will not miss:
The endless digging –
Boy did Totem love to dig. Every time we went camping she would
spend the whole time digging up all the trees in the camp. She loved
to dig. So, I gave her one area of the backyard to dig up. It would
look like a bomb field, but she’d stay there and dig while
I did yard work or split logs. Copper would stand there and watch
her dig. Flick ignored her digging.
- The screaming she did on the first ride home was an expression she
continued express when she was not liking situations. Later, it evolved
into an expression of greetings when I came home. The neighbors would
always know when I got home.
– The counter surfing and stealing of my meals as I turned
my back. She did not start this until she was spayed at eight years
-The habits of a frail elderly dog –
As an elderly
- Her tail
- She could
not read my body language and I would always end up tripping over
her or stepping on her toes
- The endless
- The dragging
of her back feet until her toe nails bled
- Seeing every
bloody foot step of her endless pacing
- The standing
and starring at the wall
- as she
- as she
walked through the house
- The anxiety
of being without me there
And most of
all, as an elderly dog, she eventually lost all the qualities that
had made her “Totem”.
is Totem they way I want to remember my Totem.
her “rooing” in excitement about life.
Totem is now
resting in the arch of the flower garden.....where a "yard-art"
totem pole was placed.
few weeks have not been easy......especially for her. When we traveled
to Cincinnati over memorial day I learned that she could not travel
well and would never make it to LA. She could not rest/sleep in
comfort which meant her back would really hurt and walking would
be progressively more difficult. I also learned that she had lost
most of what was “her”.....except for that look in her
eye that was only hers. She still loved people. She could still
find the birds, but just stood there confused. And, Clif, it was
you who gave me the permission to do what I needed to do.......whereas
others judged only what they
saw....thank you. When I traveled to
St. Louis last week I learned that dog sitters, no matter how responsible
they were, would never give her the care she needed. I realized
she had the right to die at home and not on the road. I cried most
of the way home.
I came home, she told me she'd had enough. Her "eyes"
had turned into a tired stare.....she had the dry heaves......drool
hanging from the corner of her mouth.....she could not walk in a
straight line.......she'd fall over if she ran into something.....she
would not eat. She had paced the run that whole afternoon in >90o
heat. She paced right by the swimming pool full of water, but never
stopped to drink. She was so dehydrated. Inside, she drank water
for, what seemed like, more than 20 minutes. She had almost paced
her self to death.
So I decided
Tuesday would be her last day....but that it would be a good day.
I took her to bed with me Monday night. Flick let her sleep alone
in the bed with me. She slept through the whole night. She didn’t
even poop in the bed. It felt good to feel her beside me. I fed
her her favorite food......the porterhouse steak left over from
the memorial day dinner with Rem & Judy. She enjoyed the bone
as much as she could with what teeth she had left. We took naps
on the couch.......in the hammock in the gazebo.....on the swing
by the fire pit....all the places she loved so much....however,
I could tell she was not comfortable in the hammock or on the swing....her
back hurt her too much. Mary Alice (vet) came by as the sun was
setting....and she died by the fire pit, the place we spent so much
It was so important
to me for her to have a good last day. She followed me all over
the back yard....she even ran a few strides....she barked at Flick
to play....she was as much of “Totem” as she could be
as an elderly dog. But, I never wanted to come home again and find
her suffering as she was on Monday. It would have meant that I had
waited too long....and I would have regretted that. I waited too
long for Oliver and came home to a dog who could only drag himself
to follow me around the house. It is too selfish, to keep a dog
alive as long as you can because you don’t want to lose them.
I wanted to remember Totem feeling as good as she could......not
bad. The quality of her life had not been good for a while. I knew
that. As her partner, my participation in her life is just as vital
on her last day as it is on her first day. There is no good ending
to this. She did not have to get any worse....and I did not have
to watch it happen. But I can make the ending as best as I can.
She did fight
the needle and had to be sedated.....I'm not sure how I'm going
to sleep with that.
came, I held her lifeless body. I want to remember her "feel"
forever. When I let Flick out to see her he ran over and took only
one look at her. But, he watched me bury her....stood there the
whole time while I piled dirt over her. I found it hard to cover
her face....but she's resting with a quail and the bone of her last
......and I know she is chasing that bird right now.
Flick now wears
the St. Francis medal that watched over her so well.
Golden Totem, SH, VC, CGC
26 December 1986 – 4 June 2002
Webmaster: Janet P. Wallace