Tessa spent the first 48 hours of her life living in a bathtub.
Her mom, Tara, decided to go into early labor the day before we were due to move house. Timing wasn’t perfect, and I was frankly in a state of panic. This was only my second French Bulldog litter, and no one had prepared me for ‘what to do if you have newborn puppies and a house full of movers’. I had to find a quiet room, one that wouldn’t have movers constantly going in and out of it, and that seemed to be the bathroom, on both ends of the move. I lined the tub with heating pads and thick blankets, turned on the space heaters, and stuck “Do NOT Open This Door For ANY REASON!!!” signs up.
This worked fine on the front end of the move – at our destination, however, a careless mover ignored the sign and opened the door, and was met with 21 pounds of furious French Bulldog mommy, who launched herself at his jugular while screeching threats at him all the way. He slammed the door shut, she hit it with a thud, and I slightly freaked out.
Who knew that Frenchies were such fierce mommas?
Tessa was – and is – her mother’s daughter, and continued on a path of fiercely protective parentage. She barely tolerated anyone other than me coming near her kids for the first week or so, and she never accepted another dog in the same room. The only exception to this was her daughter, Sailor, who ‘adopted’ Tessa’s last litter, and even tried to nurse them. Tess put up with this for about two days, then not so politely told Sailor to “BuggerOffnGetYerOwnKids”.
Tessa had a lot of kids to practice her form of ‘tough love’ on – in three litters, she gave birth to 23 puppies, 21 of which were live birth. All of her live birth puppies lived past puppyhood, and many of them are still alive today, including Sailor.
Tessa’s most important contribution hasn’t been to French Bulldog pedigrees – it’s been her work as a therapy dog. She spent almost eight years doing therapy work, only quitting when her eyes and hips started to slow her down. She’s visited hospitals, hospices, old age homes and detention centers, and she’s made friends and fans at ever single place she’s ever been.
Tessa, like her brother Hammer, has an affinity with troubled people. Looking into her soulful eyes is balm for those undergoing their own pain. A friend once said of her “She’s such an old soul”. She really is.
Of course, she could also be a clown, and a stubborn clown at that. One of Tessa’s favorite play time activities was a game we called “Pibble!” (that’s a game that, in today’s Ontario, would probably get me busted for training a ‘fighting dog’).
Pibble involved holding out a sturdy Kong chew rope for Tessa, which she would then grab hold of with her strong teeth. We’d swing it around in circles, and Tessa would close her eyes and grin her wicked Frenchie grin. When we’d stop and put her down, she’d wobble in circles and fall down, only to spring back and bark “Do it again! Again!” at us. Eventually, we hung the chew rope off of a tree branch in the backyard, and Tessa would jump up, grab hold of it, and swing in peaceful concentration for ten minutes or so.
Stuffed toys were no match for Tessa – she didn’t play with them, she decimated them. The entire point of the game was “Get squeaker out, de stuff toy, shake it until it’s good and dead, bury it in the yard”. Repeat as necessary.
Raised with cats, Tessa regards them as sort of benign nuisances. Squirrels, on the other hand, exist only to be chased. It is likely the deepest disappointment of Tessa’s life that she never once managed to catch and kill a ‘tree kitty’.
Today, we had a little birthday party for her with all of the dogs in the house. Tessa and the other dogs shared some Liver Loafcake, and Tessa opened her gifts (a new fur coat with pom poms, a heated dog bed, a collar with “It’s good to be the Queen” on it in rhinestones). We also arranged for some photos with everyone in the house that she’s related to – her daughter Sailor, her Grandkids Delilah and Penelope, her Great Grandkids Dwight and Pickle. Next week, I’ll be posting a great big photo round up of even more of her kids, grandkids, great grandkids and great great grandkids.
Fifteen years is a good age for a French Bulldog, or at least that’s what everyone tells me. Fifteen years still seems to be an impossibly short period of time to spend with such a wonderful dog. Fifteen more still wouldn’t be long enough.
Lots of photos from Tessa’s party, below or full sized on Flickr.