When I first met Harry he was 6 months old, the last of his litter, hiding under a kitchen table. When the breeder dragged Harry out, he plonked his head onto my leg and looked up at me with worried, brown eyes.
At that moment a bond was created between us, and a favourite resting position, Harry’s head on my leg or lap. It was a bond that lasted for just over 12 years, until he passed away, with his head lying on my lap.
Harry was the muse for the articles I wrote on dogs, published in my dog club’s newsletter, PawPrints, and a community newspaper, where I shared my insight into dogs, dog training and dog owners!
When Harry died, I wrote he’d brought so much joy into my life, it seemed wrong to feel sad about him. But as other dog lovers know, that’s not the way grief works.
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.”
Selection of Writing On Dogs
The following is a selection of my published articles on dogs. I hope you enjoy reading them – more of my writing can be found on TallAndTrue.com.
Each year my local dog club runs a season ending Fun Day with events designed to be fun and to test the bondbetween club members and their dogs. Our most popular events include fancy dress, for dogs and owners, an agility-type slalom, a saveloy (relay, not eating!) race, the waggliest tail and an event we call the “Ned Kelly”.
Last year I gave a talk to the children at my son’s childcare centre about dogs, titled Can I Pat That Dog. I broke the talk into three parts:
How to approach a dog;
How to look after a dog;
Dog training and tricks.
In my early days of dog training, I commented to a fellow class member that if aliens landed on Earth and the first dog they saw was Harry, then they would call his species a “Lick, Lick”.
When I was 10 years old I pestered my parents into letting me have a dog. I researched breeds in the library and decided upon a yellow Labrador Retriever. I was in boy heaven when we brought home my new puppy, who I decided to call, Duke.
The response from friends and family when told my wife and I were expecting our first child was, "Harry's nose will be put out of joint!" I was determined our three-year-old Labrador's nose would not be put out by, nor would he be shooed outside, away from the "new baby in the pack".
I’m often asked for advice on choosing a dog, especially around Xmas. A common misconception among prospective dog owners is that the main concern is matching a dog to your living area. It’s lifestyle, not living area that should determine whether you buy a dog.
In addition to basic obedience commands, heel, sit, stay, and come, I like to demonstrate the power of play in my dog training classes. I don’t let the dogs run around the training grounds, chasing each other in mad, uncontrolled circles. Instead, I demonstrate with my dog, Harry, how to motivate and reward your dog by playing one-on-one with it.
My Lab Harry is almost eleven-and-a-half years old. He’s never been a very energetic dog – as I’ve commented to my training classes, his heeling in dog obedience rings was like dragging around a reluctant sack of potatoes!
Walking to the local coffee shop one morning, my dog, Harry, besides me on a leash, I overhead a passer-by compliment, "Look at that well-trained dog." "Nah," retorted another. "You should see the two big dogs outside the coffee shop. They walk off leash."
A question I ask student handlers in the first week of dog training is, Why train your dog? The answers never include wanting to train a dog to win a flag race!