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Something about Heddy

“Heddy” (Copyright ©2000-2010, by Eleakis Photography)

I can’t quite remember how far back Heddy officially became part of our pack.

As early as 1998 Judith and the Kerry Blue Terrier Club of Northern California were trying to find a home for Heddy, who had a checkered past and had been thrown out of at least two homes for biting the hand that fed her, and most other hands as well.

Heddy had been born into a puppy mill and lived in a squalid cage until the age of four when she was sent to her first pet home. When it was clear that she was way more than they could handle, she found her way to the Northern California club’s Rescue. Heddy was dog aggressive, and had fear aggression, and she had been put in situations where she earned a pretty bad reputation. She had been deprived of all normal stimulus and was fearful of many “normal” things (even grass or carpets), and was severely undersocialized in every way.

In 1999 when a second placement failed, Sarah Freeman (a friend of Bay Area trainer Alon Geva) took Heddy on as a special charity case. Because Sarah was not a Kerry person, Judith was very involved in Heddy’s maintenance, and then, due to Sarah’s failing health, Heddy often came to stay with us for short periods of time. It was at this time that Heddy got her famous name; after Hedy Lamarr, the actress. Heddy was born “Blue” (GB’s Blue Skies Ahead) but everyone thought she needed to put her past behind her and “Heddy” was the name that was picked to give her a fresh start. And it fit. She had a big head; literally, a lovely, perfectly flat head.

Alon Geva initially worked with Heddy, but Heddy could not wrap her head around the idea of training, and did not understand corrections; I think even Alon Geva gave up on her after a while. But Sarah Freeman didn’t. For 11 months she worked with Heddy 24/7; she was the first person to be able to reach and teach Heddy. Her approach was slow and steady, starting with passive socialization with her own dogs in a very controlled environment. Gradually she introduced Heddy to more of the world, in small bits. Sarah truly deserves all the credit for saving Heddy. It was Sarah who showed, anyone who cared to look, that Heddy had a big, wide angelic side.

And it was Roger Ele, the renowned photographer, who gave us, pro bono, that fabulous photo of Heddy to help us try to find her a home. It’s pretty hard to look at Roger’s photo and think anyone would have a hard time finding a home for Heddy. But Judith tried and tried and yet sometime in 2000 when Sarah’s failing health prevented her from continuing to foster and rehabilitate her, we found ourselves with three dogs: Molly (The Original), Libby (a.k.a. The Scamp), and Heddy.

It’s almost inconceivable that we made it work. Molly had a well-earned, super-bad reputation for getting into fights with other dogs; so, with Heddy we had two powder kegs to deal with; and we lived in a tiny apartment at the time. It was probably The Scamp that made it possible. Scamp, also known as The Ambassador, was a real tie breaker. The truth is that we never really had any problems with our three “gurls” getting along with each other - it was outside stimulus that was the problem. It didn’t take much to set one of them off and Heddy was actually rarely the first to shoot; but boy she would be willing to join in. And Heddy did have a few hair trigger problems of her own; people might get bitten for the offense of reaching over her head, or for just being in the way when she decided to try and come to the rescue when Molly or The Scamp got going. When Heddy bit you, you knew it; her big head housed big jaws. She was not an aggressor; she just lacked impulse control and had no bite inhibition; when she felt threatened she’d bite first and ask questions later.

Fortunately Heddy had lots of other endearing qualities that made up for everything, and she was probably the “easiest” Kerry we’ve had; the most eager to learn the rules, follow them and please. Sarah taught her to sit quietly, and Heddy was just fine being on a tie down and loved being on the periphery of the action even if she had to wear her muzzle to make sure she didn’t “accidently” bite anyone. Sarah had also taught her the command “get dressed” (put on her muzzle) before going out on a walk; so she considered wearing her muzzle to be a positive thing. Molly was an average sized Kerry Blue, and Scamp was just a stout little dirt dog, but Heddy was big boned and elegant; like her namesake perhaps; so the idea of “getting dressed” to “go out” made perfect sense.

For years Heddy was the low dog on the totem pole around our house, she had less freedom and was the most closely supervised, even if she wasn’t really guilty of any more crimes than Molly. She was considered armed and dangerous compared to Scamp who was always a tail wagger who never bit into anything but a rancid sandwich discarded under a bush. Because Scamp was so old, and missing the majority of her teeth, we took extra precautions; as we considered her pretty much defenseless. But Heddy loved all her siblings and unlike The Scamp, she really loved puppies.

Heddy fretted when Molly became sick, and when in 2004 Molly died, Heddy mourned while Scamp was oblivious. Later that year Sarah Freeman also passed away. 2004 was probably a bigger turning point for Heddy than we realized. She really bonded with the Scamp; and while both of them were food hounds, and we were always careful about not feeding them too close together, we never really had much trouble. Heddy seemed to have a real mothering instinct and cared about The Scamp.

Mostly what Heddy loved to do was walk; it must have been a reaction to all of those years being cooped up. She was always ready for a walk, and because of our schedules it just so-happened that at the end of every walk was a meal, her equivalent of gold at the end of a rainbow. Unlike The Scamp, who viewed each walk as an adventure and opportunity to wander and visit with neighbors, Heddy viewed each walk as a well defined journey to be traversed as quickly and as purposely as possibly. She would MARCH. You could not turn her around either. She had only one sense of direction. If you started a walk and were only 10% down the path you could not get her to go home the short way. She knew if she just kept walking “ahead” there would be food at the other end. Once, in the past year, she managed to sneak off our property alone. A neighbor a block away found her marching away from our house, and she was moving much faster than the usual pace of our walk (I guess she was unencumbered by others) and our neighbor could not turn her around either; Heddy was on autopilot.

In 2005 The Scamp died and Heddy was, at long last, the top and only dog in our house. She didn’t need to be on tie downs or crated, and she needed to wear a muzzle only when we had house guests who were not dog savvy. But, instead of relishing her new found freedoms and elevated position, she seemed to lose her footing and become insecure. We then realized that all the progress she had made over the years had been through mimicry; following the lead of the other dogs. Now that she was alone, she was sometimes confused and unsure of what to do.

Still, as she got older the positive experiences exceeded all the negative ones in her past. She slowly began to demand attention and affection (petting and scratches) from people in her inner circle. She became friendly with the dogs we met on our walks, and was far less reserved with new people. I think it helped that we started walking around our own neighborhood and Heddy learned that several people stocked biscuits for the passing dogs. We didn’t need to flinch anymore when people reached out to pet her on her big head.

In 2006, at the ripe old age of 11, Heddy had another big, positive, experience. That was the year when a five-month old Kerry Blue Terrier puppy we named “Pinky Bryce, Action Figure” came to live with us. Pinky was another little refugee that we just had to take in. Judith worried that Heddy deserved the increasing freedom she was growing into, and how that would play out with a defenseless and exuberant 17 pound puppy. But when we introduced Pinky to Heddy for the first time (on a walk, on neutral turf) it was clear that while Pinky’s puppy ego was way too big for her to be intimidated by Heddy, Heddy’s big heart was totally melted by little Pinky. Heddy, who was born in a puppy mill, finally got a puppy of her own, to raise up right.

It is fair to say that any manners Pinky now has, she learned from Heddy. Pinky isn’t a bad dog; but she never had to undergo any of the serious discipline that Molly and Heddy required. It was pretty inevitable that in our household Pinky was destined to be spoiled rotten. But Pinky’s not really all that spoiled, and we can only thank Heddy for that.

As Heddy got older and older, her world, reduced by failing eyes and hearing, got smaller and smaller. But, little Pinky tried her best to fill it with happiness, and it was clear that Heddy was happy; she adored Pinky.

It was only when a stroke and serious neurological problems kept from Heddy her walks around the neighborhood, that the joy suddenly drained out of her long and eventful life. Just weeks later she died on February 23, 2010, and left Pinky with some big shoes to fill.

Heddy taught us a lot about the resilience of Kerries. She demonstrated even the most damaged can eventually lead a happy life and become a cherished pet and essential pack member. By sharing our experiences of 10 years of ups and downs, we hope we have been able to guide other owners of Kerries-with-issues, to resources and solutions that help dog and owner find their own middle path, as we all did, learning from Heddy.

Roland Alden & Judith Bruno
Palm Desert, CA

Subject: Heddy's Memorial Shrine
Date: March 15, 2010 8:16:01 PM PDT

Heddy is currently laying in state in our living room, on an altar table, under and hand embroidered Chinese ancestorial.

She is still in the paperweight she came home from the crematorium in, but her Irish Wade porcelain biscuit jar is there awaiting the transfer.
The cards we have received from friend remembering her and flowers that have come for her are there to keep her company.

Every evening Roland lights a candle just in case.

But I think it is time to move her to the tansu in our bedroom where she will constantly be in the fine company of Scamp and Molly, and where Pinky spends a good deal of her time lolling around, and through which we pass a zillion and one time a day.

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