Today is a glorious spring morning. Beams of light dapple the tiny insects scurrying in the dew. Flowers nod their sleepy heads. Flashes of sun peep through the garden to climb into a blue sky. Why do I have the feeling that today, for some reason, is not going to be a normal day?
When I was ten years old, I pestered my dad into letting me have a dog. I researched breeds in the library and decided on a yellow Labrador. I was in boy heaven when we brought home my new puppy, whom I named Duke. However, by my teenage years, the responsibilities of dog ownership had become chores.
When mum opened the passenger door, the dog, named Jessie, jumped up and straight onto Mim's lap, licking and wagging her whole body. Mim had a huge smile on her face. 'Mae, look who's here!' The little dog jumped through the car and onto the kid's lap. Mae was a bit unsure. Jessie was full-on.
As a dog training instructor, I'm often asked for advice on choosing a dog. A common misconception among prospective dog owners is that the main concern is matching a dog to your living area. But a dog is not just for Xmas. It's lifestyle, not living area, that should determine whether you buy a dog.
Jet joined our family in March 2014. It had been two-and-half years since we'd lost our dear old Lab, Harry, and Jet was two-and-half years old at the time. It seemed a good omen. However, we were Jet's fourth family! Why had he had so many homes? What had happened to him? Was he unruly and aggressive?
Walking to the local coffee shop one morning, my dog, Harry, alongside me on-leash, I overheard 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."
When my wife and I told family and friends we were expecting our first child, their first response 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.
My local dog club runs a season-ending Fun Day with events designed to be fun and to test the bond between members and their dogs. Our most popular events include fancy dress, an agility-type slalom, a saveloy race (relay, not eating!), 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 divided the talk into three parts: 1) How to approach a dog; 2) How to look after a dog; 3) Dog training and tricks.
In addition to basic obedience commands, I like to demonstrate the power of play in my dog training classes. But I don't let the dogs run around and chase each other in mad 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. And as I've commented to my local dog training club classes, his heeling in obedience rings was like dragging around a reluctant sack of potatoes! But recently, it's become evident that age is wearying him even more.