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Passing Clouds

M Leith
 
8 March 2015 | M Leith

The Winemaker's Wife

You know you are a winemakers wife when your family dog is named after a grape variety.

Dear Reader, are you a dog person or a cat person?

If you asked me this question 5 years ago, I would have absolutely said cat person. I love cats, always have. As a child I was envious of any friend who had a cat and I used to befriend all the cats of our neighbours.  Most knowing was Tigger, who lived next door to us. He was the only cat that made me believe that cats had 9 lives, as Tigger used to go through his quite regularly. He did live to a very old age and with only 3 legs, due to a traffic accident.

After many years of coming to terms that my Dad was allergic to these furry creatures and hence no cat for me, once I left home and moved to the country I got myself a cat! The reason I love cats so much is their independent nature, as my Grandma used to say “ you don’t own a cat, they own you!” I rescued Jinsky from the RSPCA in Ballarat, she was 1 of 7 in a litter that were abandoned under a house. It is also true to say that a cat will always choose its owner. As I knelt down to play with all the kittens that were available to adopt there was one kitten that had spied me out.  She had attached herself to my handbag and was trying to get inside. She had a cute pink nose, mostly white and grey with a variety of spots and tiger stripes. There wasn’t much I could do, Jinsky was mine or I was hers!

6 months previous to me adopting Jinsky, the WMH had also brought another animal into our life.  Tempranillo, not only a delicious Spanish grape variety, but also the official name of our beautiful black and tan Kelpie. Nillo (pronounced Neo) has been the WMH’s loyal friend since 2010. When the WMH decided to get a dog, it was to his luck that a farmer up near Rheola had a litter of Kelpie’s and this is where Nillo was adopted from. To my delight I was taken on the day to collect Nillo and I remember seeing 8 identical Kelpie pups jumping all over each over – they were adorable. Kelpie’s are known for their loyalty to one owner, the WMH and Nillo have a bond that is unbreakable.  Nillo follows him everywhere and is noticeably sad if he is left behind for any particular reason. As a Kelpie it is important that these dogs get lots of exercise and Nillo certainly fell on his paws when the local winemaker chose him to be his winery dog.

So, in our tree change house we were a pretty happy family unit – Cat, Dog and each other. I started to enjoy watching the interactions of Jinsky and Nillo play out, they were starting to become best buddies. Nillo always showed patience with Jinsky, even when she would spring out from behind the couch and pretend she had caught some wild beast. They would sleep together in the lounge room and Jinsky could be found grooming Nillo before bedtime.

All was looking calm and happy with our animals, but as with all puppies, you have to understand that at some point they will get up to some sort of mischief. Well for me, you definitely know you are a winemaker’s wife when your WMH’s dog ends up on kidney dialysis from eating a bucket of fermented grapes! It is easy to write about this now, because as I type Nillo is lying on the floor in front of me; living and breathing. In Nillo’s first vintage at the age of 1, he was loving the hustle and bustle at the winery; so many people to throw the ball for him and lots of new things to smell.  The WMH was confident that Nillo was behaving himself, and did not really worry that he was sniffing around the grapes that had fallen out of the press and were littering the winery floor. We are not exactly sure how many grapes he ate that day, but I can tell you that he was not a well puppy dog that evening. At home, it was like he was drunk, he could hardly walk straight and the panic started to kick in that something serious was happening. WMH took Nillo to the VET and we were told that grapes were highly toxic to dogs and their kidneys could begin to shut down. It was decided that Nillo would be put on dialysis for the weekend and fingers crossed that he would make it through the night. Growing up, I never really had any pets apart from budgerigars and fish. So this was the first time, I really had to deal with the feeling of losing a pet. It was hard to see my WMH go through watching his beloved friend in pain and having to decide what the most humane path was for his Kelpie. Over a weekend, Nillo was looked after and cared for by our local and wonderful VET and to our delight we saw a huge improvement.  Nillo was allowed to come home and rest. Jinsky was also aware that her buddy had been away and was not well. Her maternal instinct kicked in and she licked Nillo’s paws and groomed his face to make sure that he was properly looked after. After a while he made a full recovery, but his grape grazing days were over. Although always watched at Vintage time, Nillo seemed to learn pretty quickly that grapes were not his food of choice.

Nillo is such an important part of the winery, his best job is annoying customers to constantly play ball with him or help the WMH on bird patrol to scare the birds away. Nillo is also a very important part of our family, not only having a plutonic relationship with Jinsky, but the beautiful bond we are beginning to see shape between our 17 month old son, who loves throwing balls for Nillo and is just as excited to see his Dad in the evening as well NEEEOOOO!

Having always been a cat person, I am glad to say now that I am also a dog person.  Nillo has turned me into a dog lover, he is such a gentle and well natured dog that I wish everyone could own a Kelpie. Nillo and Jinsky are harmonious in their living together, although as usual the cat rules the house!

 


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