THIS ( HAPPY) LIFE
HAPPY was not what you would call an aesthetically appealing dog. Polite people mentioned his vaguely terrierlike appearance, but the more frank would simply refer to him as ‘‘ that orange dog’’.
Happy’s hair was coarse and wiry, a sort of sandy- coppery colour. He had stumpy little legs that stuck out at funny angles when he ran, an abnormally long body and a plumy tail.
He was an outside dog on a country property and, as a consequence, the hair on his undercarriage was often matted with dirt and very smelly, which is no doubt exactly the way he liked it. Living in the country gave him endless opportunities to run through stinky, muddy puddles and roll in cow pats and, at times ( I’m ashamed to say), the remains of dead things.
Any attempt to enforce ablutions on him proved almost immediately futile; as soon as he was released after a bath, Happy would race off to find something indescribable to roll in and restore his dignity.
Happy took pleasure in the simplest canine activities. I can still see him, emerging from his kennel on a crisp spring morning, squinting in the sunshine and sniffing the air, as though just enjoying the sensation of being alive. I remember him ambling around the patch of raspberry canes on hot January afternoons, pausing to suck the meltingly soft, over- ripe crimson berries from the lower branches, eyes closed in delight.
I have no idea what flight of fancy led my then 10- year- old sister to choose the name Happy when he came to us as a puppy, but time proved the name apt. He had a lovely nature without a hint of malice, the perfect counterpoint to the narcissism of man. He was loyal, unselfish, always good- natured and always enthusiastic.
He didn’t mind what we ( the family) did, as long as he could be involved.
Even the most mind- numbing of doggy tasks, such as sitting on the grass watching someone weed a garden bed, or lying under the apple tree while one of us read a book in the hammock, was perfectly acceptable to Happy because it meant being near a member of his beloved pack.
Happy had a strong sense of his place in the family and took great pride in it. Even as an old dog, stone- deaf and almost crippled by arthritis in the Tasmanian winter, he could not be coaxed inside to sleep at night next to the warm combustion stove. An outside dog he had always been and he was determined to continue to protect us in his way, regardless of the suffering it entailed.
Happy asked for nothing more than companionship from the family and receiving it left him completely and utterly content. Indeed, in the end he couldn’t live without us. After my mum’s funeral, we returned to the house to find him cold in his kennel, having gone to sleep that day and simply not woken up.
Dear, faithful dog.
thislife@ theaustralian. com. au