Rachel, Cammie Sue, and Max


We wanted to give you our Dog story, a part of our long dog history. It comes from our hearts and our love of our dogs. I have had dogs all of my life, most of them rescued. This story starts with our angel, Rachel, a rescued Schipperke. There is another story about how we got Rachel, but that will be another time and place. This story is more about “Miss Cammie Sue”.

In 2000 we had Rachel, our beloved Schipperke, Max a Corgi X (the smartest dog I ever had), and Big Ben, a lab X. Big Ben had followed us home from a walk. We put up “found dog” signs that were promptly torn down. Our country Vet, an old timer here thought he was a ranch hanger on dog (dogs born on the ranches that they let stay, but won’t especially want). Ben took a long time to fully train (3 ½ years), Max treated him like his pet and would try to drag him in the house. Ben had never been in a car, garage or house. He was scared to death of men. We worked with him each night until he finally could be socialized. He is the gentlest dog we ever had.

My story starts on a very cold morning end of 2000.  I spotted a stray dog all chewed up and crawling toward our front yard as I said goodbye to my husband. A little Scotty dog looking like it was starving. I called our Vet and they suggested I put food in a crate so the hungry dog would crawl in the crate and I could transport it to the office. “It” turned out to be a pregnant female whose immediate wounds healed quickly. My plan was to get her through her pregnancy and then find homes for the pups and mom. On 1/11/2001, “Sissy” as we called her had 3 pups. Two survived and the following day I thought I would lose all three of them they were so sick. Took them all to the vet and with medications and time they all recovered. The two pups, a grey female we named Cammie Sue and a male called Buster, were adorable. After several weeks I noticed Sissy ignored the female and lavished all her attention on the male pup. Sissy then began attacking Cammie Sue, dragging her from a hiding place and biting her stomach hard enough to have Cammie screaming. I went out and picked up the pup…..she put her paws around my neck and went straight into my heart. When Tom came home I told him if Cammie goes I go with her! I vowed to care for this little puppy, so straggly for as long as she lived.

We soon found a home for Sissy. Max became Cammie’s nursemaid and Ben became Busters. Several weeks later Buster went to our daughter’s family, but visited frequently. When they came to visit the pups would go to all their hiding places and play in the fountain on the back porch and do their puppy things.

Rachel was the head of our little pack. She was ruthless in training both pups in pack etiquette. She could be really strict and they gave her a wide birth. In 2003 things changed dramatically. Our old country Vet retired. Sometime later we needed to have Rachel checked out as she wasn’t herself. We went to a Vet we had met who practiced in the valley. He gave us the news Rachel had liver cancer. He told us he would keep her pain free until the end. We were in shock.

Rachel had been having diarrhea and stomach upsets so we had her sleeping in the kitchen for easier clean-up before we went to this new Vet. Cammie Sue wanted to sleep with Rachel. Cammie soon became Rachel’s chief caregiver. Rachel’s eyesight was failing fast so Cammie soon became her eyes, groomer and constant companion. Cammie was very shy of people. We thought it might have come from her early experiences with her mother. Anyway, when it came to taking care of Rachel she was different. Cammie also knew if someone had Cancer. If a person came to visit, even a stranger and they had Cancer Cammie Sue was not her usual shy self. Cammie Sue would go up to the person with Cancer and put her head on their lap. We thought she would make an excellent service dog if I could get her through the training as she would panic in strange or new experiences.

Rachel became very sick very fast at the end. I wanted her to not suffer, but I couldn’t bring myself to put her down while her foxlike ears were standing up. I told Tom and the Vet Rachel would tell me when the time was right. The last day, Rachel went out and walked all around the yard, all her favorite places, she stopped taking food and her diarrhea was worse. She came in the backdoor walked to her bed, looked in my direction and lowered her ears. I called Tom and the Vet and said it was time, telling them Rachel had lowered her ears. I then drove her to the valley. She never moved out of her bed or raised her sweet head even though I picked her up bed and all and placed her in the car. I took lots of blankets, my tape deck and her favorite music with me. She was almost gone. While Tom held on to Rachel, I told the Vet how much Rachel loved this music and I wanted it playing while she died. She was gone in a short time with her favorite music playing. We were the last family of the day. The Vet had tears in his eyes, and said to us it was the most beautiful pet death he had administered.

We took Rachel home to bury her in the backyard. Our tradition is to let the other animals see their pack member before we dig the grave. Cammie Sue came running up and whining. She licked Rachel all over her body crying all the time. She then put her nostrils over Rachel’s nostrils and tried to blow Life into her beloved Mother Figure. This went on for 20 minutes while we tried to distract Cammie Sue. Talking with other dog people, we have found no one who had heard of this behavior between dogs. Finally we dug the grave and buried our girl. That night we tried to bring Cammie Sue back upstairs to sleep with the rest of the pack. She wasn’t having it and cried most of the night. She looked for Rachel for a long time. This went on for several weeks.

Fast forward to New Year’s Day 2009. Cammie Sue didn’t appear to see very well. The next morning we rushed Cammie Sue first to the current Vet, and then on to the Special Eye clinic he sent us to. After all day tests they told us Cammie Sue had gone blind –  Sard – Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration. There is No cure and it often comes on rapidly. Little Cammie Sue, my baby, was only 8 years old. Tom and I thought what will we do? When we arrived home, Cammie tried to climb the stairs to her favorite viewing spot out the window and tumbled down the stairs crying. I was a mess whereas Tom took charge and began training her.

Needless to say it was a long process of all three of us learning. Tom taught her “right” “left” “stop” “slow” “no street” “step up”. We call Tom Cammie’s -“SEP” or Seeing Eye Person. What a love affair……Tom gets up 3, 4, or 5 a.m., or whenever Cammie wants out (she seems to love the dark backyard where everyone and everything is as blind as she is). Tom goes right back to sleep; I don’t so I don’t join in this rendezvous! Cammie now has a deep connection to her SEP. It is darling. She trusts him with her sight and keeping her safe even from her playful self.

We have a great Dog Park in Ventura, CA. We took all three dogs there before Cammie lost her sight. She knows the park well. When we get there she walks with us to the area free of trees and runs back and forth between us knowing she is safe and free to run. Ben is our ‘greeter’ – he has to greet every dog. Max was social too. They both would run take off to check out the park, but if an aggressive dog would approach Cammie Sue both dogs would suddenly appear and would guard her, one in the front and one in the back. We were astounded at how the communicated.

Our beloved “Max” (the smartest dog I have ever loved) at age 15 was really slowing down. He had a stroke-like neurological thing happen in the summer of 2011. He just began slowing down and became very confused; medication helped some.  He was also going blind. He could barely walk. Cammie became his constant companion and guide. He would go outside and then couldn’t seem to know where he was and not be able to get back in the house. We would have to find him constantly – he would get in the bathroom and we would find him wedged in behind the toilet screaming for help.

I was outside looking for Max one day and couldn’t believe my eyes: Cammie Sue was herding and guiding Max up to the back porch to come in the garage leading into the house. We observed our Blessed Little Blind Girl leading her blind, confused, former Nanny, “Mr. Max” right back into the house.

In his last days, Max would fall on Ben or on Cammie Sue or lay on top of Cammie Sue to sleep.  Arthritic Ben would growl and warn Max off of him, but Cammie Sue never complained or moved away. Cammie Sue just stayed there supporting Max. Her caregiving skills, even though blind herself, were and are astounding.

When Max died on November 17th of this year, Cammie Sue, strangely enough, pretty much ignored Max and his burial. Ben seemed to take it hard. As young dogs and best buddies – “The Boys” as we called them had a special game came called: Jousting – they would each go to opposite sides of the backyard and run full speed at each other and play a version of chicken. They would enviably hit each other’s chest and knock each other down. They would hurt one another slightly, but it never stopped ‘the game’ until they became older. Max appeared to consider Ben a foot soldier of his…..it is good to see Ben now developing more of a separate personality, but we so miss Mr. Max. This is our dog story and we wanted to share it with you.

— Tom & Jane from Fillmore, CA