September Featured Vallhund

Pedigree Name: Wynrik Christa  Known As: Christa

Bred By: Alwyn Hopgood  Owned By: Rose and Hans Madsen   Location: Mangawhai

Like a Very Good Wine.

 By Rose Madsen.

Wynrik Christa came to us from Victoria in Australia, in November of 1995 and left us at 2.45 am. on the morning of 11th March,2006. By a strange coincidence, this was the day of our 2006 Annual Vallhund Gathering in the garden at Valkrista. At 12 years of age, we thought we would have another 2 or 3 years together, however, she developed a leaking heart valve during her last few months, and was on a diuretic for congestive heart failure. At her last Vet visit a week earlier, her heart had been beating way too fast and I was to take her back soon, with a view to putting her on heart medication. I have been determined not to make her live on for my sake, when her body was saying – “it is time for me to go”. I also worried a lot that I wouldn’t be able to decide when that time had come. The very last thing I wanted was for her to be less than comfortable. She still looked good and seemed quite happy, and was even occasionally playful with Bindi, her great great granddaughter, but her choking and coughing came at increasingly frequent intervals. 

Late afternoon of March 10th I became very worried about her, and thought I would spend the night downstairs with her. Her breathing had become laboured. By 11.p.m., I was unbearably tired and she seemed to be sleeping, so I went up to bed to sleep in greater comfort. I awoke in the early hours to a wail of distress from Christa. She was in a very bad way. I went back upstairs where Hans was awake and he came down.

He could immediately see that there could be no saving her – she was drowning in her own fluids effectively, so he got the gun and we sent her quickly on her way. A terrible moment but we both felt that this was the kindest thing we could do for a little dog we both loved just a bit more than any of the others. 

Our first Vallhund, she was always a real character. Aren’t they all? When she came to us at 20 months old, she was distraught at her change of pack, and gave us a few weeks of fear that she would run away. She did try once early on, and Hans raced after her in our van, passing her and heading her back home. After that, until we trusted her to stay , she trailed a quite heavy length of chain on her collar whenever she left the house.. Her speed was amazing. 

She duly settled in and attached herself to me completely, but it was another 8 years before she came to fully accept Hans into her pack. He was so nice to her, and she disdained him. 

I felt very disturbed by her behaviour towards him, which was without justification, however in her last two years, it brought joy to my heart to see her beam on him as she did on me. She aged with such grace that we grew to love her more with every passing day. After she came to live inside the house when she “retired”, she developed some cute ways of letting us know when her friend, our lovely orange and white cat Columbine, was waiting to be let in the back door. Columbine was a kitten, when Christa first arrived from Australia, so was her first animal friend in NZ. These two were truly good friends. Columbine is fed in the pantry with the door shut to protect her from marauding Vallhunds. Christa would patiently wait a seemly period of time, then she would come to me, tossing her head, eyes shining and making little snorting sounds to get my attention. This meant that the cat wanted out of the pantry, and Christa was waiting to do the dishes! 

Steppenwolf Zip

I could take her anywhere with me as she aged, and she NEVER put a foot wrong. She explored friends’ homes and garden with gentle grace and the serious air of a great adventurer. A gentle word would bring her hurrying back to me when her busy nose took her a bit too far away. Where necessary, she cleaned their cats’ dishes with great care. She is widely missed. 

The timing of her departure was, I at first thought, really terrible. I expected that during the Annual Gathering that day, I would be a wreck, however I managed fairly well and as others pointed out, the occasion really amounted to the most wonderful “wake” for a grand old lady. Mine were not the only tears shed that day. A sad part of the day was, that Christa’s first mate Steppenwolf Zip, who was rehomed about 4 years prior, came back home to attend his first Gathering. There was no doubt that he could still smell Christa in the garden, and he spent a lot of time, nose to the ground searching. My plan to get photos of the pair of them together was unexpectedly shattered.

Perhaps her timing was exquisite after all. She was lying at peace beneath the Phoenix palm outside Hans’s workshop, by the time her descendants arrived. They all walked past her fresh grave, as they arrived for their annual picnic day in her garden. What better send off could she have asked for, since she couldn’t be there in person. She really enjoyed a good social occasion, and shone when it came to attending Pet Expo’s. She will be missed from that aspect of our lives, too.

She and Zip stamped their place in history. They produced two litters from which we kept 3 daughters – Valkrista Miss Milenium, and Iceland Poppy from that first litter of 4 boys and 2 girls, and Valley from the next. These three girls made it a viable option to import a dog from the United Kingdom, Drammericans Echo at Valpyn.

Future Vallhund Gatherings will celebrate the anniversary of her passing.
 Instead of trying to determine a suitable date each year, the closest Saturday to the 11th March will be Gathering Day in future. It will be a continuing celebration of a dear little dog who is the fountain from which the present day Vallhunds in New Zealand (there have been almost 200 descendants in the 10 years since her first litter), have flowed. We will put up a photo of her so that we can salute this illustrious forbear. Like good wine, Valls improve with age, and Christa was a VERY good wine.