My First Aussie, Sydney
After saying goodbye to Gretchel, our White Shepherd, my husband and I chose our first eight-week-old, red-merle, Australian shepherd, and gave him a unique name, Sydney! We had been told Aussies could learn words like a two or three-year-old child. Since I was teaching special needs children, I had to give it a try.
We spoke to him, using one or two words at first. I named his toys and when he knew the word ball, he also distinguished the difference between a ball or a football. After doing research to see if dogs saw colors, I taught him the names of colors. He recognized shades of blue, light yellow, darker yellow (sort of brown), and very dark gray.
Sydney craved learning new things. My husband and I started spelling words, thinking he’d not understand. But he listened to us spell and picked up on the meaning by our actions. His favorites were: BED! GO! CAR! TRIP! WALK!
He was a red, brown, and white bundle of energy, and needed to be kept active, mentally and physically. His instinct of herding became a problem when our petite, three-year-old niece visited. She could not walk down the hall. She ran. Her rapid movements made Sydney want to nip her ankles. We kept him on leash when she visited, until she grew larger and he matured.
Every year we traveled to Edisto Beach with our best friends and spent long, delightful weekends in an old house, overlooking the ocean. Digging in the sand, chasing seagulls, and biting the waves kept Syd busy. Unfortunately, he learned the hard way not to drink the salt water. A tablespoon of pumpkin everyday helped the bad effect of the ocean water.
My husband and I fell in love with the high maintenance of an Aussie personality, and have had three other Aussies. After Sydney’s death, I wanted to keep his memory alive and he became my main character on Edisto’s setting in Seven Days to Goodbye. I had as much trouble writing the last chapters as the readers who were affected.