12+ I met my old black labrador, Harry, when he was six months old. He was the last of his litter, hiding under a kitchen table. And when the breeder dragged him out, Harry flopped his head on my leg and looked up at me with worried, brown eyes.
At that moment, a bond formed between us. And a favourite resting position, with Harry's head on my leg or lap. This bond lasted twelve years until Harry passed away in October 2011, with his head on my lap one final time.
My Demo Dog
I learned a lot about dogs and dog training from Harry. We were associated with a local dog training club for all our years together. I stumbled on and joined the club on our first morning walk, and by the time I lost Harry, I had become a trainer there, running classes, and he was my "demo dog"
Harry was also the star of a childcare centre and school holiday workshop I ran for kids called, "Can I Pat That Dog?". I divided my talk into three parts:
- How to approach a dog
- How to care for a dog
- Dog training and tricks.
The tricks were always the most popular part of my talk. And afterwards, kids would crowd around us and, to prove they had listened to me, ask, "Can I pat Harry?"
In addition to being a star demo dog, Harry was the muse for articles I wrote about dogs, published in the dog club's newsletter and by a now-defunct community newspaper, where I shared my insight into dogs, dog training and dog owners. And I have since shared many of these articles on Tall And True.
Harry's principal role, however, was as the family dog. And when he died, I wrote Harry had brought so much joy into my life — it seemed wrong to feel sad about him. But as other dog lovers know, that's not how grief works, and at moments like these, I like to recall my favourite dog quote by Agnes Sligh Turnbull:
“Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.”
My Good Dog
I felt grief-stricken when Harry died. And while I maintained my connection with the dog club, getting my "dog fix" by running training classes, it was another two and a half years before I was ready to take on the responsibility of another dog.
In what seemed like a good omen, as I wrote in another Tall And True article, A Forever Home, my new black labrador, Jet, was two and a half years old when I adopted him — he was born in September 2011, the month before dear old Harry passed away.
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When six-month-old Harry flopped his head onto my leg, I had no idea of the bond that would form between us or the journey we would take together. Let alone that he would inspire me to learn about dogs and dog training and run classes and workshops. Or write about dogs.
Harry was a loyal companion and a great muse. But more than that, he was a good dog!
Have you had a similar good dog in your life?
© 2018 Robert Fairhead
N.B. You may like to listen to me narrate this blog post on an episode of the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast.
Robert is a writer and editor at Tall And True and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com. He also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast, featuring his short stories, blog posts and other writing from Tall And True.
Robert's book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media. In 2020, he published his début collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story. In 2021, Robert published his first twelve short stories for the Furious Fiction writing competition, Twelve Furious Months, and in 2022, his second collection of Furious Fictions, Twelve More Furious Months. And in 2023, he published an anthology of his microfiction, Tall And True Microfiction.
Besides writing, Robert's favourite pastimes include reading, watching Aussie Rules football with his son and walking his dog.
He has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.