On the loss of a friend
Over Christmas I said goodbye to one of my best friends. If you attended one of our courses between 2010 and 2013 there is a very good chance that you would have met him – Sam, my huge (50kg) and bear-like German Shepherd.
As outdoorsy dogs go he wasn’t the most conventional. His size meant that he needed feeding as much as a small human, he was never going to be much help in hunting (I once saw him accidentally end up with a mouse in his mouth – he held it there for several seconds before depositing it, unharmed, back on the floor of the barn) and although he looked vaguely lupine he was about as soft as you can get. He was however fit and healthy and happy trotting around on rough terrain (including chasing the quad across the fields or climbing grade I winter routes). He wasn’t the biggest fan of water, or more specifically, my being in/under it. If left on a beach when I went surfing or snorkeling he would bark and drag anybody holding him to the waters edge. He tried to drown me more than once by standing on my back when floating around the shallows looking for marine edibles. He was useless in a canoe. He was also the best outdoor companion I have ever had, with no apologies to my other friends whatsoever.
I grew up with dogs. As an only child I learned to be on my own quite happily from the start, but dogs were always good adventure partners, from excursions into the woods to mess around with sticks and shelters (who knew that would pay off…) to running around the back lanes or walking the towpath back from the local town (and nearest pub). Jenny was a Labrador puppy who was placed on the mat next to my infant self and we were left to get on with it, the thought being that we would work it out between us. Molly was another Lab who came out pretty much everywhere (and needed lifting out of the canal by the scruff of her neck more than once). Yogi, Eve and the other dogs littering our offices (and following my mother around the farm as a fleet of Lhasa Apsos) are surprisingly tough for their diminutive stature and have guarded ‘their’ camp in the woods against several clients. I’ve tried explaining that the clients are meant to be there, but to no avail.
I’ve had cats too, but cats are a different prospect altogether. They are dispassionate to our needs or desires, and only look to us to see how we can assist them. Dogs are special, and as a species alone we have a more historic link to them going back at least 15,000 years, and most probably much longer. We domesticated wolves and made them our allies and our friends. They have shared our campfires, our meat and our company and it is no surprise that it feels natural to continue to do it today. I’ve always had dogs,and I always will. That doesn’t, however, help much when grieving the loss of a friend.
See you next time Sam.