Our canine family: the dogs I’ve met and owned 150



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We are pretty much a group of dog lovers. I’ve put together a few selected tales about some of our canine family members over the years. I hope you enjoy them and they renew memories for you of your own puppy people!


Nipper came into our lives in the 1940s. He got his name from the little Fox Terrier in the HMV advertisements, copied from Francis Barraud’s famous painting, “Little Nipper”. We were inseparable until his untimely death six years later (the vet thought he’d been thrown a bait but we could never understand the who or the why of that). We buried him in a formal ceremony and planted a Satsuma plum over him. That tree bore incredible fruit and even now, seven decades on, whenever I have a dark red plum I think of Nipper.


Next, a beautiful little girl named Belle. A cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Dachshund, she was so low slung her belly used to bounce on the ground when she ran. I had an old Humber bicycle with a wicker basket mounted on the handlebars. It seemed a good thing, once, to put Belle in there and take her for a ride. From that day forth, any time I went near the bike, Belle would put in an appearance! She became my permanent guide.


Max was a Jack Russell and, inevitably, highly intelligent. He soon realised that the little logs he left lying around the yard must have some sort of human value. Well, after all, his mum would seek them out and pick them up. Being the good boy he was, every time he deposited one, he’d go find his mum and take her to show her whither it lay! She would show her appreciation by picking it up and taking it with her.


A purebred Bitser, Tippy was predominantly black and tan with white toes of all four feet, prompting her name. The poor little girl had an undershot jaw and was going to be put to sleep because her human birth mum and dad thought she’d always have difficulty eating. My wife saw her and fell in love with her. We became her new family.

Tippy had many special tricks she used to entertain us for the fifteen years she remained a member of the family. Her favourite, before I got around to fitting a cat flap, was to jump and hook her front paws on the back door handle. Her weight would then draw it down, unlatching the door, allowing the cat to enter or exit.


This was a special boy – a dark brown Dachsie – who lived a tragically short life, making the most of his freedom when someone left a gate ajar, running out under the wheels of the only car that came down our road that day.

I’m sure he thought himself a cat. He loved nothing better than to lay in my lap, pushing his head up my chest so that his face pressed into the side of my throat. He would then go to sleep. This was fine, once a comfortable position was found by us both. Until, that is, Paul Keating came on either radio or TV. Gravy would awaken on the instant, growling loudly and barking until Keating stopped speaking or we turned the volume down. I always reckoned he put up a better argument than Opposition Leader John Hewson!


Very determined people, Japanese Spitzes, with minds of their own! We needed a Japanese name for her but nothing seemed to suit until we settled on the diminutive name of the cars we drove over the years; thus Mitsi.

Mitsi was a bundle of beautiful white hair. She had a coarse outer coat and an ultrafine under coat that required regular stripping. This always had to be treated as a game played by two, with pauses, playtimes and rewards. (Honestly, I think at times the incentives might have been offered to me…) It was never allowed to be an ordeal but I can’t say either of us actually enjoyed it. The photo attached tells the story: Mitsi, post-stripping, treating me with utter disdain!


Muffy, the last about whom I will write was another Bitser, although there was a suggestion of royalty somewhere in her background. We thought a cavalier King Charles may have dallied with her mother.

Thirty-odd years ago, my wife and I had a fortnightly two-hour Friday night drive through the hills and mountains of western Tasmania. Muffy always accompanied us on the trips, asleep in her doggie harness on the back seat. Her main claim to fame – and it was always worst on the coldest, wettest, darkest nights with the heating on full blast – was that she’d fart in the car. Often times we’d have to open the front door windows – raining or not – for a reviving breath of fresh air. Muffy? Not a worry in the world. She would smile, roll over and go back to sleep.

I bet many of you have interesting tales to tell about some of the four-legged people in your lives. Would you care to share with us?

John Reid

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