Wow. It’s the 11th. It’s quite an important day, but due to my worrying about my last Uni essay, I nearly forgot.
Yes, today is my dog’s birthday.
Jack was a Golden Labrador Retriever. Dad bought him from a breeder I think, out of a litter. All the pups were a kind of pale gold colour, but Jack, with his rich gold coat, stood out from the rest.
Dad trained him to be a gun dog, meaning that he’d accompany Dad on shooting expeditions, and retrieve whatever Dad shot. He was really good at this. Dad would tell Jack to stay behind him, and he would. If Dad reached back to check where Jack was, he’d always be right there. If Dad was about to shoot, Jack would sit and stay, and he didn’t even get scared by the gunshot, as most dogs seem to be. And then, on Dad’s command, he’d run out to fetch whatever had been shot, even jumping out into the middle of the dam to get cormorants. He was very well-trained. He also knew exactly where not to go, which meant that he never came into the bedrooms. They were off-limits at all times. He also knew he wasn’t supposed to go down the hill to my aunt’s place to play with her dog, but he still did. He’d always come back though, all puffed out from walking up the hill.
When I came along, Jack looked after me. If Mum went to get the washing in or something, she’d leave me in my bouncy chair, and tell Jack to keep an eye on me. And he would. When Mum came back, he’d be sitting there watching me, just like Mum asked him to. When I got a bit older, he’d lie down and endure 1 year old me prodding him, trying to work out what this big furry thing was. Jack was only a couple of years older than me, so I grew up with him, and I knew that he’d never hurt me. He was a good dog like that.
Jack loved people. Whenever anybody visited, he’d grab a rubber boot and give it to them. You’d know that somebody had turned up while you were out, because there’d be a boot lying in front of the gate. But he never jumped up on people like you often see dogs do when they meet someone new. He’d give them a boot, get a pat, and be incredibly well behaved. He didn’t insist on licking people, either. But he’d hang around and see what was happening, while not getting in the way. Then he’d lie under the table and have a sleep.
It wasn’t just boots he’d pick up, either. Being a retriever, he’d pick just about anything up. He liked sticks, so when we’d gather kindling for the fire, he’d help out and collect them as well. As soon as you told him to drop whatever he had, he would. No fighting. He also, however, had a habit of picking up lizards. He’d grab stumpy-tailed lizards in his mouth, but only gently so he didn’t hurt them. And then he’d throw them in the air. He’d always catch them again, but the lizards never enjoyed it. Once, after being thrown around a bit too much, one of the lizards went and bit Dad’s boot in some sort of misplaced retaliation.
Jack died in 1997 while I was at school camp. He was fairly old, being fourteen years old at that point, and had leg problems. I think he might have even had a bit of pneumonia or something. Dad had to take him to the vet to be put down because he was in such pain. I’m glad I wasn’t there to see that, because it would have been horrible. I know that it was really hard on Dad, because Jack had been such a good friend. And you don’t like to see good friends in such pain.
It’s been ten years now. We haven’t got another dog since, because it’s just impossible to replace someone like Jack. There can be only one great dog, and that was him.
Happy birthday, Jack.