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From dog days to puppy love - the lessons we can learn from a good old boy

Opinion

There are plenty of lessons we can learn from our canine companions, writes Rebecca Levingston

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My dog is 98 years old.

His beard is grey, his hips are stiff and he always gets what he wants because even though he’s a cantankerous old man, he’s still a good boy.

My husband and I named him Tully because, unbeknown to us when we met, our families were both from the sweet north Queensland town of Tully. My grandparents knew my husband’s grandparents. They were all sugarcane farmers. When I told my nan about my new boyfriend, she said to me, “Ooh they’re a very good-looking family.” I know, Nan. I’d noticed.

So we got married, and we frolicked around the world a bit, then adopted a dog.

Tully is a staffy crossed with a lot of breeds and a lot of love. We got him at the RSPCA when he was eight weeks old. He smelt like milk and when he drank too much, his fat pink belly reminded me of a piglet. He snored gently. He’s been our furry golden mate for fourteen-and-a-half years.

Much has been made of President-elect Joe Biden winning a kennel in the White House for the first rescue dog owned by a Commander in Chief. Major was adopted by the Bidens to serve as a canine brother to their other german shepherd, Champ.

I hope Donald gets a dog.

Dogs know when to sit down and when to stand up. Dogs dream, they inhale the world around them and they love loyally. Dogs show you how to lead a good life because some days they’re content to follow. Sometimes they get you to slow down and sometimes they nudge you speed up.

Zoe, my first dog as a kid, was a blue heeler with one brown ear that refused to prick. In one particularly enthusiastic game of fetch, she wouldn’t let go of the tennis ball in her mouth. I remember gripping and pulling tightly while repeating “Drop it, drop it,” She did not. She thought it was a good game. I hung on and as I tried to prise the hairy green toy from her mouth, her jaws slowly crushed the ball and she bit down on the web of skin between my thumb and index finger giving me my first proper blood blister. Dog lesson: when you’re holding tight to something you love, it’s hard to let go.

My grandad’s dog in Tully was called Minder. He was a muscly bull terrier with a long white snout and a fondness for coconuts. He’d rip a husk just enough that he could swing the hard shell from side to side, whacking his head in the process. Dog lesson: when you’re having fun, sometimes it hurts.

My family did go through a stage where we had a fish tank and a dog. For some reason, we got a Mexican walking fish and a dozen neons. We called the amphibian Axel. He ate all the other fish in the tank and promptly croaked. Axolotl lesson: if you eat all your friends, you’ll die sad and alone.

These days my old boy Tully struggles to stretch and I know that’s a lifelong habit he misses. He’s a bit deaf and can’t see so well. But he gives that staffy grin when he gets the zoomies on a frisky day. He still snores and I hope he still dreams. We’re not ready to say goodbye to our good boy yet.

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