Writing on Dogs
When I first met my dear old dog, Harry, he was six months old, the last of his litter, hiding under a kitchen table. When the breeder dragged him out, he flopped his black Labrador 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, Harry’s head on my leg or lap. It was a bond that lasted for just under thirteen years until he passed away, with his head lying on my lap.
My Muse and More
Harry was the muse for the articles I wrote on dogs, published in my dog club’s newsletter 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, and it seemed wrong to feel sad about him. But as other dog lovers know, that’s not how 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. You can find more of my writing on the Tall And True writers’ website.
In addition, you might like to read about a contribution I made to a coffee table book featuring a collection of short stories and photographs of our “loveable pups”, The Dog Collection (shared on Tall And True), and a guidebook on dogs and dog training I’m currently writing, Robert’s Responsible Dog Training.
My local dog club runs a season-ending Fun Day with events designed to be fun and to test the bond between club members and dogs. Our most popular competitions include fancy-dress for members and dogs, an agility-type slalom, the waggliest tail, and an event we call the “Ned Kelly”.
Last year, I talked to the children at my son’s childcare centre about dogs and the important question, Can I Pat That Dog? I broke the talk into three parts: 1) How to approach a dog; 2) How to look after a dog; 3) 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 my Harry, they would call his species a “Lick, Lick”.
When I was ten, 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, whom I named Duke.
When told my wife and I were expecting our first child, the response from friends and family was, “Harry’s nose will be put out of joint!” However, I was determined our three-year-old Labrador’s nose would not be put out, 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.
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!
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.
Walking to the local coffee shop one morning, my dog, Harry, besides me on-leash, I overhead a compliment from a passer-by, “Look at that well-trained dog.” “Nah,” retorted another. “You should see the two big dogs outside the coffee shop. They walk off-leash.”
An introductory question I ask student handlers in the first week of dog training is, Why train your dog? The answers never include wanting to train their dogs to win a flag race!
Welcome to the blog posts and selected writing of Robert Fairhead. A writer and editor at the Tall And True writers' website, Robert also writes and narrates episodes for the Tall And True Short Reads storytelling podcast. In addition, his book reviews and other writing have appeared in print and online media, and he's published several collections of short stories. Please contact Robert for further details.