Today we farewelled our dog Chief.
Chief came into our lives in 2006.
We'd been living on the farm for a while and Bearhands decided a farm needed a dog. I'd grown up with Australian cattle dogs - Mum's uncle was a breeder of champion blue heelers. They're smart and loyal and fiercely protective.
We found a litter of puppies in a town an hour away. We travelled up to see them and one pup immediately appealed. He was inquisitive and alert. We agreed we'd found our pup. Then the breeder's five year old daughter excitedly declared "Dad, they picked the runt!"
We were right about that runt. He turned out to be a very clever dog.
With that special certainty that childless people have, I declared that well-behaved dogs, like well-behaved children, were welcome in more places. I enrolled Chief and I in puppy preschool.
By the second week of puppy preschool, Chief was well ahead of the pack. Looking back, we had several distinct advantages over his classmates. Chief was a smart dog and I had child-free time on my hands. Every time I stepped out the door, we practiced. I now realise the other women in that class were tripping over puppies, kids school bags and skateboards as they stepped out the door - it's any wonder they didn't have quite as much time to dedicate to the task.
About week four, the eight year old owner of a cavoodle declared that her dog would beat Chief (and win the coveted dried pig ear prize) the following week. I forget what the command for the week was - I think it was 'stay'.
Now I'm a competitive person. It's not my best quality. I took up that gauntlet and Chief and I set to work.
That poor girl and her cute but very silly dog* had no chance. By the time week five rolled around Chief could not only stay on command, he could shake hands. We won that pig ear and every pig ear for the remainder of the course. (Yes I totally said, we. Such is my horrible competitive nature).
Chief's smarts also landed him in a bit of trouble. In later life, he became an accomplished burglar. He helped himself to anything decided he fancied - including opening our workers' lunch boxes and nicking a moreton bay bug from the top of our Christmas seafood delivery.
I'm not looking forward to school pickup. My girls have seen too much death. I hate that they've experienced so much grief in their short little lives. We'll stop at a nursery on the way home and they can choose flowers to plant on Chief's grave. I'll tell them that Chief's body was old and it couldn't work any more and he died. I cannot bring myself to tell them that Bearhands and I decided he was too uncomfortable and made the choice to end his life.
Vale Chief Dog
Thank you for all the fun. Thank you for the respect you showed our daughters, whom you might well have felt jealous of. Thank you for all the excited welcome homes.
We'll miss you. I hope there are bugs to steal and lunch boxes to open wherever you are. Jack will be there for you to annoy. He'll have missed you.
*Apologies to any cavoodle owners out there. That pup was hypoallergenic but hyperactive.