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Running with Nature's Child: Georgy's Story

To err is human, to forgive, canine’ (anon)

This is a love story. Some say they let a dog in to their lives but in my case, a black 12-week old Labrador crossed with a Rottweiler (a Labweiler), allowed me in to hers.

One morning during the scorching summer of 2008, as my wife and me pulled in to a country market in Adelaide’s north, we saw four puppies for sale in the back of an old ute.

The two brothers and two sisters were all stumbles, with big paws and needle-sharp teeth. I gave one of the black pups a tweak on the ear and she quickly sunk her fangs in to my thumb. It was love at first bite.

My wife named her Georgy, after The Seeker’s song, Georgy Girl, “walking down the street so fancy free…”

Georgy was a scrubber. If she was a school girl, her socks would be down, her school dress non-regulation and her hair in desperate need of a brush.

Our house fronted the beach and after she’d devoured her breakfast, we’d tear across the sand dunes to the water. One morning as we were playing on a submerged sandbar, a dorsal fin carved its way towards us.

I ran to the shore but Georgy had other ideas. With water up to her chest, she adopted her attack profile: legs set back and proud, head down, teeth exposed and hackles raised.

The dolphin raised its head, took one look at my slathering beast and made for deep water.

As a ‘teenager’, Georgy made us her study. She read our moods and remembered people by their smells (and generosity).

She reserved affection for a chosen few. Children with ice-creams were a target. With me, she’d let her full weight lean against my leg or shoulder. That’s Labrador love.

Georgy had a ‘boyfriend’ who lived 100 metres down the common. Shadow was 50 kilos of lovable Cattle Dog cross. Georgy would hoover Shadow’s breakfast and then rip the heads off his favourite cuddly toys. Ever have a girlfriend like that?

On long car trips across the eastern states, she’d stand in the back of our old Subaru Forrester and stare fixedly ahead, then stick her head out the window, and let fly long gossamer trails of drool.

Domestic dogs live with us for their whole lives yet they are wildly unknown. We are strangers to their deeper thoughts and feelings, although like the Labrador lean, we can intuit something of them.

Professor Pauline Bennett from the Department of Psychology and Counselling at La Trobe University, and a specialist in Anthrozoology agrees.

“Dogs mostly likely do have an ability to empathise emotionally. I believe this for two main reasons. First, it’s consistent with the evidence emerging from studies using brain activity scans to reveal what dog brains do when the dog experiences certain stimuli that, in humans, evoke specific responses. Second, it makes no sense from an evolutionary perspective that these skills would just pop up in humans, with no precedent elsewhere in the animal kingdom,” says Professor Bennett.

Yet unlike humans, their truth is on display 24/7. Dogs are alive to the minute gestures of insects, bird song and wind scents. They are immersed in the sensuous presence of the world. Where our senses leave off, theirs begin. Georgy was nature’s child.

I got Georgy when I was 50. I was tough, independent and I didn’t suffer fools. She bought a second boyhood out in me, restored wonder and vanquished the brooding curmudgeon, while gentling my nature.

She showed me a world that fizzed with scents, of raucous mischief and extraordinary acrobatics with a tennis ball. She was her own dog.

By the time she was 13, she struggled to walk and slept much of the day, as if she had eaten deep of life and could eat no more.

On her last night on earth, we made our way slowly to the top of a favourite sand dune and watched the sun set. Georgy sat next to me. We stared at the sea as a flock of birds flew north to the mangroves and I started to cry.

Then, in slow motion, the Labrador lean.

written by Malcom King, October 2021 
in memory of Georgy. Malcolm King is an Australian writer and dog lover.

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