WHY don’t I get another dog? That question was asked of me by a daughter home from Perth for a few days, and I suppose she sees something missing when for almost all her 25 years at home she shared it with a dog.
My days of dogs are over, I told her. I had picked up my life’s quota of dog poo.
That didn’t need reinforcing but it had been nonetheless that very day during a visit to a country relative’s home guarded by three dogs, the smallest of which is a Labrador. As we picked our way across the home paddock, and our relo apologised that she hadn’t picked up the dog poo for a week, I felt the need to warn everyone to step gingerly, that anyone with dog poo on a shoe was not getting into my car for the return trip!
So, no, I’m not in favour of dog poo. And I’m even more opposed to cat poo, which is why my two cats are in for an interesting experience this weekend when they come into contact with the white tape going click click click around my vegetable garden.
But I do like dogs and cats. There has been a procession of cats through my life but they all seem to merge into their colour, as in tabbies or gingers, whereas I remember vividly each of the dogs I have known.
The first was Rusty, a pure kelpie that, like the dog in Peter Lewis’s cartoons, is in almost every image I retain from my first three or four years. A little lighter in colour than movie star Red Dog, and certainly not as prosperous, Rusty would skirt around people and crouch on approach, a subservience that is inherent in the breed, or at least the working rather than show breed.
Four or five years after Rusty’s departure I picked up a black-and-tan kelpie older boys at the bottom of my hill were shooting with slug guns – it was a tough life for a stray dog in those days – and carried him home, and so began the principle relationship of my childhood. Kip was with me for every outdoor moment outside school hours as we ran for the sake of running, tried to get lost in the bush and collected cow manure to sell to gardeners, and I remember him looking up whenever I looked down from the tree I was climbing.
Kip came with us when we moved to Newcastle, and three or four years later a vet came to our house, put him gently in the boot of his car and drove off, and for the first time in my life I experienced grief.
It was to be 15 years before I had another dog, a bull terrier, bought to deter the intruders who thought my Cooks Hill home had an open-door policy. The next lot of intruders actually stepped over her as she slept at the end of the drive so the bull terrier made an appearance in the next Saturday’s Herald classifieds.
A month or so later Beau arrived, a two-year-old German shepherd, and while she was with us at Cooks Hill and the following three houses we didn’t have one intruder. During the day she was quietly welcoming, and at night she was on guard, patrolling the fence perimeter every hour or so, listening, alert and ready to accost.
Bozy became old as German shepherds become old, and one sad day I helped her into the back of the car one last time. For a long time I referred to the route we took to the vet, roads our family used often, as Bozy Drive, which was not appreciated.
The ageing shepherd’s life had been improved and extended by the arrival a few years earlier of a border collie puppy, honoured with the name Kip and bought for the daughter who wants to know why I don’t get another dog. The collie was a lovely dog, if a little too timid, and as he became aged another young dog arrived to lift his life.
That was a poodle, from friends who could no longer keep her, and Lucy is a joyous, percipient and eloquent animal whose evolution seems to have left that of mere dogs behind. She also poos like there’s no tomorrow, something to do with the name of the breed, and so I was very pleased to see her go to doggy heaven, which is living at my mother’s place.
As I said, I’ve picked up my quota of dog poo. But if I were to have another dog, which I won’t, it would be another German shepherd. They earn their keep.
Tell us about the dogs that have shared your life? Do you have a favourite breed?