There are no dogs in my life at the moment and I miss them. I should probably get another one but I know I won’t……..
I’m fairly sure that my parents didn’t knowingly sign on for close to two decades of servitude when they arrived home with a golden retriever puppy all those years ago. A preposterously cute ball of sandy fur (seriously, baby seals would look at him and say “awww”), Lord Karl of GoldenWood bounded into our lives, hid behind the sofa and shat himself. We named him Max.
The puppy years are a little hazy for me but I remember certain things: laying in bed, not wanting to be the first person to go downstairs during the “house training” period, I remember his confused joy the first time he saw snow and the first time he “sat” for us. I remember the dead-person-smell of tripe in the morning and trying to avoid using the “dog spoon” if I ever had soup. One morning, I dropped a dripping fat-rimmed chunk of dog food between my toes, frozen with disgust, I watched Max nonchalantly lick them clean – unperturbed by decency as only a dog can be. There was also that Christmas Day I remember him lapping at his balls and lipstick for the entirety of the Queen’s speech.
With the genetic alchemy of the breed he changed colour and he grew, the underside of his massive leonine paws like suede cushions – he was inarguably a handsome beast. A placid giant – his breath was worse than his bite. When motionless there was a nobility about him, a majesty that lasted up until the moment he moved and then you realised he was just a dopey bugger with good breeding. Nowadays I meet people like that on a daily basis, often their breath is worse.
Whilst Max had nailed “Golden” early on, he never really fulfilled the “Retriever” part of the deal: often in front of witnesses I’d enthusiastically throw a stick shouting “Go on boy – FETCH!” and he’d watch it’s trajectory with mild interest before wandering off in the opposite direction to piss on some nettles. We went from leaded, to lead-free for a while, where he would walk obediently at my heel all the way to the field before bounding off.
This stopped the day he got hit by a car.
I was walking Max, lead-free, and chatting with a girl I fancied when, suddenly, he saw a moggy, and betrayed by instinct, he dashed out into the road in front of a car. The car hit him and screeched to a halt, Max rebounded off it’s bumper and lay sprawled in the road, unmoving. Time stood still for a long long moment: I remember the smashed glass scattered like frozen tears and that dent in the bumper the precise dimensions of my childhood. As I walked towards him, already rehearsing what I would say to my parents, my sisters, he leapt up and raced away, clearly disorientated and in shock. We took off after him leaving a confused driver (our next door neighbour as it turned out) far behind.
Now, anyone that has ever owned a dog knows that when they put their mind to it they can REALLY run, anyone that knows me (with my little legs and penguin feet) knows that running has never been my thing, but fueled by shock and the miracle of canine resurrection I flew. We eventually caught him in a lane about a mile later, confused and exhausted (him not me) but seemingly uninjured. His back legs though, were never the same, operating in a different time zone to the rest of him, the satellite link-up delay of their movement a constant reminder I’d let him down.
The years flew by and he was always there, smiling at us, warm-hearted, relaxed. As he got older the slobber came, and we became weary of his drooling kisses – often leaving the house unaware of the disturbing crotch stain of his affections. Old age comes to us all - and we were considerate: when he smiled in his sleep, we learnt to just open a window and leave the room. Occasionally, tending to an itch beyond his reach, he would drag his ringpiece across the carpet, striping the hallway with incontinent glee.
I had already moved out when he died, a fact for which I am eternally grateful, but still he bounds and pounces around my childhood and I often see him smiling away behind the eyes of other dogs.
I’m not ready for another one just yet.