by Howard

Seren's Walks. 1 a.m. Tuesday, November 6, 2001.

Going for long walks was my special time with my little girl. For the last couple of years, I usually took her out once a week for a long walk, on a Saturday or Sunday morning. She was always keen. If Jemima wanted to come then it would not be a long walk. But if, as usual, she preferred to stay home then Seren and I were often gone for an hour or two.

I liked the walks for exercise, and to discover my local area. The map below shows all the places we went. I can't remember when I started keeping this map (on a photocopied refidix page) - at least three years ago I think. After every walk, I would add to it with green highlighter the new areas we had explored. You can't read the street names unfortunately, but if you know the area you will work it out and if you don't then names won't matter.

Having a Beagle's snoopy nature, Seren loved discovering new places. She didn't really like walking on roads, but as soon we headed off-road, into a park or vacant land, her tail would sweep up and start to wag. "Thank you daddy - I knew I could trust you to find a park" I imagined she was telling me. Every time we walked past Nudgee junior college sports ovals, she would pull on her lead. "Come on daddy, it's a park! Can't you see it's a park?" "No," I would explain to her "there are some parks we can't go in to."

The sub-suburb Jay Park is a great place to live for walking a dog (our home is the red dot). There are surprising amounts of park and vacant land all around the place, and quite a few walking paths connecting them, and connecting roads. Even in the last few weeks we filled in some more places on the map. Three weekends ago as I write, just after her first seizure, she and I and Jemima explored the North end of the ex-horse paddock (now council-owned) West of Jesmond road. And last saturday, two days before she died, we sniffed out some more places in the vacant land West of Fig Tree Pocket road.

What with Seren following her nose, and my lousy sense of direction, we often ended up in unexpected places. But especially this last year I had been systematically pushing our boundaries. As the map shows, we explored most of an area about 3km by 3km (each grid division is 250m), including substantial parts of four suburbs. The map above includes areas I hoped to get to eventually with Seren - Lone Pine, Jindalee, Chelmer, and the large park near the freeway. Seren will never see these places with her own eyes or smell them with her own nose. But when I do walk there, by myself, or with another dog, I will carry Seren with me in my heart, and tell her all about it. I cry.

Seren's Tail. 8 a.m. Tuesday, November 6, 2001.

Seren's tail was her organ of expression - a barometer for her mood. It had a continuum of positions, from tucked between her legs when she was frightened, to bent forward over her back, the tip quivering, when she was assertive. Walking by a busy road, it usually pointed down. As we approached a park, the tip would start to curl upwards, then gradually the rest of the tail would follow, until her whole tail pointed up. Not rigid, but supple, like a sapling swaying gently with the tempo of her gait, the white tip waving with a graceful life of its own. Yesterday, the day she died, her tail was down almost the whole day. But, quite unexpectedly for me, there was a very brief time when she looked her old self, bouncing down the back yard, her tail smiling again. I try to make that moment of joy my memory of her last day.


Seren's Birth. 8 p.m. Tuesday, November 6, 2001.

Seren was born on the 28th of January, 1997. But in a sense she entered our life even before then. We had been talking about getting a dog for years. Nadine had been doing meticulous research, and finally suggested to her sister (and our vet), Clare that we get a beagle. The response was enthusiastic, and the issue was decided. We reserved a puppy in a coming litter from Adabuf Beagles, and set about buying a house to put our dog in. We were very lucky to choose our home in Jay park without really being aware how good an area it is for dogs. We moved in one week before Seren came to stay.

We chose Seren at age 6 weeks, two weeks before we picked her up. There were two litters at Adabuf at that time, and there seemed to be armfuls of puppies everywhere. Seren was a big contented-looking puppy who wanted to say hello rather than chew my shoelaces. (How misled we were!) She was almost all black but with a white patch on one shoulder. Since we had already been considering the name Seren (Welsh for "star"), this clinched it. Here is a photo of Seren shortly after we got her.

Seren's Life. 9 p.m. Tuesday, November 6, 2001.

Looking back, Seren packed a lot into her short life. We started obedience early and continued up to a fairly advanced level. She was certainly the most obedient beagle we've met, but that is perhaps not saying much. She learnt to sit, drop, come, heel, crawl, "upon", stay and stand beautifully on voice and hand signal. But she got bored with it after a while so we stopped. By then she was no longer a puppy so we moved on to agility, where she again reached the advanced class. To the obedience commands she had learnt we added "weave", "tunnel", "over", and "walk-on". She enjoyed it at first, but after she had mastered the basics she got bored again. We decided she didn't have a competitive nature, and allowed her to retire to a life of undirected creativity :-)

In the meantime, Seren had acquired an older sister in Jemima, in October 1998. Jemima became top dog, but this never stopped Seren snatching food from under her nose. They became good friends, sleeping together and playing together. Seren would often walk without Jemima, but Jemima would sometimes howl and wait by the door for to come home. As soon as Seren got home, she would race to the back step and stand there wagging, waiting to sniff Seren to see where she'd been. Jemima doesn't understand what has happened now. She's never been an only dog before.

As well as Jemima, Seren made many other long-term friends in the park. As she got older she played less, but she still occasionally had a tussle with little Oscar the Jack Russell, or gave a hug and kisses to big Oscar the Bernese Mountain dog. She knew her friends; if Barney or Meg and Mack or Champ walked up our hill she would stand at the door and wag, never woof. And of course there were people friends as well, especially the ones who carried pieces of sausage to reward good dogs. In the park she finally mastered the fetch command as well, or, rather, the fetch suggestion. Many times she preferred to keep chewing on a piece of wood she had found, and left me to fetch the ball myself. We loved her.


Seren's Death. 10 p.m. Tuesday, November 6, 2001.

Early on the morning of Friday the 19th of October, we let Seren into our bedroom, as usual, where she joined us on the bed for a snooze before we started the day proper. Then, completely out of the blue, she had a seizure. Thus began the worst few weeks in our (and her) life. Over the weekend we were adjusting to the idea that we probably had an epileptic dog, when she started showing the horrible symptoms of meningitis, crying out in pain and holding her head oddly. She went in to the UQ vet hospital on the Monday. Then followed days that seemed like weeks of waiting for test results. We faced the idea that she was probably going to die of an infection. But then the results indicated an immune system disorder, granulomatous meningo- encephalitis (GME) instead. She responded well to cortisone and we adjusted now to the idea that, with treatment, we would have her for months or perhaps years. But we knew that the GME would get her in the end.

We took her home one week after she went into hospital. She seemed almost as good as ever. Despite three lesions in her brain she showed no dysfunction. Jemima welcomed her home with great excitement, and then after a minute they both settled down to sleep. Seren jumped into her arm chair and let out a big sigh as she lay down, as if to say "Oh, its good to be home." Later that week, she played in the park with her friends, enjoyed her food, and went for quite a long walk with me on the Saturday. We are very glad for those 6 days of happiness. Here is one of our photos of her from that time.

Things started to go wrong again on Sunday, when she seemed sore again. She yelped once on her walk with me and Jemima in the morning. By the afternoon she was as bad as she had been two weeks before. She went back on higher doses of steroids, but did not improve. She couldn't put her head down to eat so we fed her by hand (no loss of appetite!). The next day she was no better. That evening (yesterday, Monday the 5th of November) she took forever to settle in her bed. Then she awoke shrieking in agony, her neck twisted as she attempted to find relief from the pain. We decided then to end it for her and called the vet. Around ten pm she slipped peacefully from this world, at our home, as I cradled her head.

It's 24 hours now. Our beautiful Seren is gone.

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Like Stars at Dawn

Like stars at dawn she is gone,

The sky empty, white.

Like the Huia's song she is gone,

The air still, quiet.

Like a golden thread pulled from the fabric of my world,

She is gone.

See my world fall down,

Softly, fold upon fold.

by Nadine, 7/11/01