This is the story of our dog, much abbreviated to make a series of five posts at 48-hour intervals.
Some time in the 1980s my daughter, Jennie, told me that she wanted a dog. At the time neither our environment nor our lifestyle was conducive to ownership of a dog, at least, not what I call a proper dog, so I told her that when we lived in a suitable place we would have a dog.
Well, we moved. From a conventional suburban semi-detached house and gardens we relocated to a large, single-storey rural property with more than an acre of garden adjacent to farmland. Now we could have a dog.
When I was about eight years old, I, too, wanted a dog. It was not to be. But I did have a rather nice book illustrating the best-known dog breeds and after due research the number one breed on my short list was the Golden Retriever. It was the right sort of size. It was, and is still, in my eyes the most handsome of dogs and it had a reputation for its excellent temperament. I had a feeling that any dog that was going to live with us would need both patience and a sense of humour. With a young daughter in the house the temperament mattered.
At the end of 1988 we made enquiries and discovered that a friend of a friend had a goldie that had presented her with a lively litter of eight pups on December 9th. Unbeknown to us, this date was to become even more significant. Arrangements were made to view the said litter. As we entered the owner’s kitchen the pups paid no attention at all to us for the very good reason that all eight of them were arranged around the perimeter of a very large dish and were tucking into their evening meal, heads down and tails wagging furiously.
Having cleaned the dish completely, they all set off in different directions to explore the kitchen and play and we didn’t choose any of them. Instead, we were chosen. He wasn’t that much bigger than some of the others but he was inquisitive and clearly a personality. According to the owner he was the King of the Litter and as if to say “Choose me!”, he nibbled my shoe. So we chose him and collected him when he was eight weeks old, in February 1997, so that he was at home before Jennie arrived from school.
Quite by chance we had acquired an aristocratic Golden Retriever whose not very distant ancestors included such renowned champions as Camrose Cabus Christopher and Stolford Happy Lad. We gave him a suitable name, following in the somewhat alcoholic tradition started by his mother and to this we added the name of our house making the whole thing look distinctly impressive in the Kennel Club’s records. For the purposes of this blog I will refer to him as Dram (another, albeit unofficial, alcoholic measure).
After a slightly nervous start Dram quickly proved to be happy with us. Our large living/dining room at that time had a parquet floor but we had not yet carpeted it, having been there for a fairly short time. In the picture above he is about 10 weeks old – a mischievous bundle of fur but trying hard to be good. To accomodate him safely, at those times when we couldn’t be in the room with him, I built a wooden pen from the remains of a cupboard that I had dismantled previously. Inside the pen the floor was covered with umpteen layers of newspaper and his food and water bowls were in there with him. I will not attempt to describe the state of the newspaper each morning for the first couple of weeks. Suffice it to say that I would scoop it all up and shove it into the solid fuel boiler (complete with the little white sterilised bones that he used to enjoy) and then start again with fresh paper and freshly washed bowls. By 11 weeks he was house trained. At 14 weeks he weighed 35 lb and liked nothing better than digging molehills while looking sad, yet enjoying himself hugely. By this age he would sit, stay, go to bed and do other things(!) more or less to order.