Dogs and us

Raised by Wolves | by Tim Flannery | The New York Review …
One day around 26,000 years ago, an eight-to-ten-year-old child and a canine walked together into the rear of Chauvet Cave, in what is now France. Judging from their …

I love this article. I can’t think of a single thing I love more than dogs, and my experience of them is that they feel as we do, and nothing is truer or more noble than a good dog.

My weekends with the dog

Rigby in dad’s bed

This is pretty typical for me on a weekend.

I want to sleep in but from about 7am onwards Rigby will let me know he’s waiting for breakfast. Sometimes he’ll just be restless and if I’m determined (or sleepy) enough I’ll ignore and outlast him till he settles down with a sigh. Other times he’ll stand by the bed looking at me. He can do that for 10 minutes without blinking an eye.

Eventually, I’ll sit up and he’ll be fully aroused at this point and excited, often leaping up at me to express a pleasure he just can’t contain. I’ll pull on a pair of track pants and a t-shirt and pad out to the laundry, flicking on the espresso machine on the way through.

I’ll measure out a heaped cup of dry food for him while he looks on intently. While he gobbles that up I’ll open the back door so he can venture out afterwards and do whatever business he needs to do.

I’m reasonably awake by now and so I set about making my morning latte. The machine hums and whirrs, the concentrated juice from the ground coffee pools in the mug like a rich syrup before I set about frothing the milk. With the coffee made it’s time to collect the newspaper.

Rigby follows me to the door with his ears notched hoping for he believes it that I’m about to let him out. I open the door and he’s off! He gallops down the concrete driveway to the front pavement. He’ll look either way before visiting the tree conveniently located there. I’ve caught up by now and allow him his sniffing and digressive investigations while I collect the plastic wrapped sections of the paper. He’ll notice me then and bound to me and using his initiative will take one of the papers from my hand. He’ll trot back towards the house proudly, tail wagging, leading me to the front door.

For the next hour or two, I’ll lay in bed and read the paper from cover to cover and will sip my coffee. Rigby is snuggled up close. Sometimes he’ll contour his body perfectly to the curve of my body – he’s expert at that. He’ll rest his head on my leg or hip and watch me as I read or will outside or will abruptly sit up to give some urgent attention to whatever part of his body needs a prolonged lick or studious nibble. Then he’ll settle back contentedly, just happy to be close to me.

Eventually, I’ll decide it’s time to get up. By now I’ll have listened to the news and learned what’s been going on overnight. Generally, it’s about 9am, or a little after. The cue for this is reaching to my bedside table for my glasses. As soon as Rigby sees that he knows it’s up time. He’ll stand and watch and then jump down from the bed as I swing from it. Sometimes he’ll get fascinated by my feet and will seek to give them a lick as they come from under the covers.

Out of bed he’ll precede me into the lounge room and then the kitchen. He knows the routine very well. His tail is wagging and he’s watching me very closely with eager anticipation of what comes next. I put my empty – or near empty – coffee mug upright in the dog bed he never sleeps in (but which he’ll often adjourn to to eat something) and he’ll stick his snout in it to lick the last dregs of coffee. He loves his coffee.

That pretty well ends our weekend morning rituals. I’ll check my email from there, or go have a shower, and so on, before taking him out for a walk around the block.

Walkin’ the dog

Had a simple, but very nice evening last night. It was one of those nights that affirms what a privilege it is to be alive.

Weather in Melbourne over the last 2 weeks has just about been perfect. Sunny every day, the temperature has ranged between 26 degrees and 34. Yesterday it was 32.

I had arranged with Cheeseboy earlier in the week to take the dogs for a walk together. He sent me a message as I was on my way home from work to check if last night was good. I told him yes.

He came by last night with his crazy dog Bailey at about 8. The four of us walked to nearby Hampton beach and up towards Sandringham. It was a majestic evening, still warm, and very pretty. The shot I took of Sandringham yacht club sums up the beauty of the evening – it’s a photo taken with no filter applied, just as it was.

We’d been walking for about half an hour I guess when ol’ Cheeseboy said how about a drink? Well, I was up for that except, as I told him, I’d left all my money home. That’s okay he said, my shout.

We cut up from the beach and towards Hampton street. Brown Cow, and old haunt of hours, was heaving with people given the balmy weather. We tied the dogs up then sat outdoors under the clear night sky, within sight of the dogs, and started on our first pint.

We had 3 pints each in the end of Little Creatures. The conversation ranged far and wide while the dogs played together or gazed at us, or were set upon by fond bystanders unable to resist the allure of two cute dogs.

I kept an eye on this thinking on the lost opportunity this represented. Most of the people happily cooing were women, and some very handy types too. Rigby is a Labrador, which is a beautiful dog, and a chocolate, which makes him even more beautiful, but even for a chocolate Lab Rigby is particularly handsome. He’s like the Brad Pitt of dogs, he just doesn’t know it. He draws a crowd.

I’m half hoping that Rigby is getting phone numbers for me, but know he isn’t, And then I happen across the notion of next time pinning a piece of paper on him with some tear off strips saying If you want to meet the owner of this beautiful dog call…

I don’t know how Rigby would feel about that. He wants me for himself. He is a wonderfully devoted, affectionate boy, and I guess I reciprocate. So after a few beers and a few laughs on a lovely balmy night I untied him from his post and headed home, parting from Cheeseboy halfway down Hampton Street, till next time…

Leash off

Cheeseboy and I caught up last night to go for a long walk along Hampton beach with our dogs. It was a pleasant evening with a beautiful sunset. We walked towards Sandringham with the dogs on leashes until we came to the leash-off beach.

All along the way Cheeseboy’s dog Bailey had been nipping at Rigby and generally driving him crazy. Rigby has a lovely temperament, but was getting annoyed by it. Once we let them off their leashes Rigby ploughed into the water. Bailey, a cavoodle, came after him, but being the smaller dog quickly turned back as the water became deeper.

We drifted down the beach, the dogs racing here and back while we chuckled at their antics or called them away from trouble, in between having a gentle and aimless conversation. It was very pleasant. Over yonder yachts at anchor sat in neat little rows, and beyond them a fiery ball of sun slowly sinking over the horizon in a blue sky. The air was briny, the folks wandering down the beach affable, and all in all it was a scene of tranquil beauty.

We returned back walking along the cliff edge overlooking the bay. In the hazy distance city towers loomed. Dark came slowly as we both wistfully discussed how lucky we were to live in such a place. It’s very pretty, and the people nice, and living close to a beach is always a grand thing.

There’s something about the gentle act of walking that’s soothing. I do it a lot with Rigby obviously, but it’s always more pleasurable to share it with a friend. The conversation is easy because it’s the end of the day and the sun is setting while dogs frolic about you. Whatever angst you felt during the day is behind you. Looking out over the water friendship seems simple and elemental – you know everything about the person walking by your side, the conversation is familiar, the gestures and tics you know all the way to the bone, and the very act of being there seems a Socratic form. It’s easy to become whimsical.

After an hour the loop was complete. We parted in the street and Rigby and I went indoors. Rigby had the tang of sea about him, and was freckled with sand. I love him going for a swim, but I regret the after effects.  We’ll do it again soon though.

Death of a pet

I was sitting at my desk on Friday when I heard a murmured conversation about how someone’s pet dog had just died. I was curious, but at the same time I didn’t want to know too much. The mere thought of a beloved pet dying made my heart sink. Some things you are better off not knowing

About an hour later it was confirmed to me. I’m close to about 3 people in the office. One has a beautiful Samoyard he is devoted too. There’s always pictures of him posted on Facebook with my mate his family. He’s doted upon, a happy looking bundle of white fur. But now that’s all past tense. He’s the dog that died.

I found out and I didn’t want to know more. I was sorry I knew so much. I felt an ache. I certainly didn’t want to know how the dog died, though it’s inevitable I’ll learn. It was just a young dog, and seemingly healthy.

I sat at my desk feeling for my friend. I knew how devastated he must feel. Naturally it made me think of Rigby. I’ve suffered a lot of trials and tribulations the last few years, and survived, but I’d find it hard to recover if anything happened to him. As strong as I’ve been I know losing Rigby would bring me utterly undone. I couldn’t get out bed. I’d weep. I’d question the meaning of everything.

This morning I took Rigby for his Sunday morning jaunt on the beach. He was particularly excitable today. He loves the beach. Approaching beach road he slipped his collar. Before I could stop him he had taken off across the road.

Beach road is a busy, four lane road. Thankfully we’d been stopped waiting for the traffic to clear when he took off, and everything happened so quickly I didn’t have time to be afraid.

He made it to the far side, dodging a few cyclists, but not vehicles. I made it straight after. “Don’t do that to me,” I told him. Rigby was oblivious.

It can happen so easily. I’m lucky. Rigby remains. My mate is not so lucky and I have no words for him.

The best people are dogs

Every day in the city I walk the streets at lunchtime. Just about on every block I see a beggar or homeless person subsisting on the edge of the footpath. Sometimes they hold up handwritten signs explaining their situation and asking for money. They never say anything, and rarely meet your eyes. Sometimes they just lay or sit there, the world going by them.

More often that not it seems these people will have a dog with them. The dog will snuggle in close, sleeping sometimes, and other times contentedly watching the passing parade of human beings.

I can understand why a homeless person would choose to share it with a canine companion. It’s a lonely and alien life living on the fringes of society. Going it alone is courting disaster and makes for rude mental health. It’s important to receive loveland affection, which you will from a dog, but equally important to give it.

Everyone has this stuff in them, a well of compassion, that if not used dries up and leaves you bitter and lost. To give is an act of life. To care for, to provide, gives purpose to what otherwise would be a meaningless existence. It’s also a stake in the future. It takes you forward one day to the next knowing that you have to find a way to live, if not for yourself, then for that beloved other.

The dogs themselves could ask for nothing more. They live to be companions, it doesn’t matter where or how. In the street, under a bridge, in a park, or in a comfortable home, your dog wants to be nowhere else but where you are.

Fogs are the most generous and unselfish of animals. They forgive quickly, and respond readily to the smallest signs of kindest or attention. They will gaze at you as if you are a god, and will give you a surreptitious lick just because they can. They are there for you, and in the strongest of bonds will happily sacrifice their comfort for your benefit.

I look upon these people in the streets with their dogs not sure what I should feel. Seems to me I feel both broken hearted and uplifted. To see those loyal dogs melts a part of me, and I wish only to shower them with grateful affection. What people dogs are!

I understand too at another level. I sailed close to the edge, but managed avoid living in the street. I’m sympathetic to those who weren’t so lucky, but happy that they have found the solace of meaningful companionship. Of such small things a life can subsist.

I return home to Rigby, and as always he expresses his delight with joyful abandon. I am the prodigal son returned. I am the morning sun. I am meaning and purpose. I am his beloved dad.

It fills me like sunshine, and in turn I spoil him. He gets my constant affection. When he looks to me he meets my eyes. I pat and stroke and caress. I make room for him to snuggle in the crook of my body. Together we watch the cricket or a movie. And I give to him more than I leave for myself.

This week again the dollars are tight again. I had $20 to spend on my weekly groceries, and he always gets first dibs. I can go without, but I won’t deny him. So of that $20 half was spent on hard dog food, and brown rice and carrots, which I boil up and feed to him 2-3 days a week for his health and variety. I had to make do with the rest, and if it gets any tighter it won’t change except that I might end up sharing his rice and carrots.

Dogs are a blessing.