He was amongst my earliest and most regular of playmates and true to his breed, loved to retrieve and swim. Even better was retrieving a stick, thrown into the water, though you had to stand clear while he shook himself as dry as he possibly could. He would oblige with shaking hands and cuddles willingly, as well as being a fabulous confidante!
Andy taught me a lot about what dogs need and enjoy: love, good canine manners and citizenship, routine, regular meals, walks, lots of exercise, visits to the vet for health checks, vaccinations and when unwell or injured and the opportunity for socialising, both with other dogs and humans. Andy and I loved each other dearly and were devoted companions. With Andy at my side, I was set loose early on solo walks around Lake Wendouree. Together, we enjoyed watching the many forms of life and changing seasons at the lake.
It was long before current animal regulations and Andy enjoyed a degree of freedom, certain to land him, along with his owners, in trouble today. Indeed, he was, even then, bailed out of the dog pound on at least three occasions, after which he probably managed to outsmart the local dog catcher. Then again, maybe they just made friends, as Andy was exceptionally good at that!
This was probably lucky, as he was an escape artist akin to a reincarnation of Houdini!
Andy would slip or take off any form of collar. He was able to jump our 6 foot fence with ease. In old age when arthritis prohibited such feats, he then chewed his way through the fence, to enable him access the world, he knew, lay beyond its confines.
Lake Wendouree was where he took himself to at least daily, for a swim, followed perhaps, by assisting in retrieving fish for anyone trying their luck. On several occasions we found him sitting under a tree, listening to a local brass band performing at the bandstand.
He faithfully deposited our newspapers at the backdoor each morning, but when initially learning the trick of delivering ours, believed my dad would be equally delighted with even more. This explained a pile of neighbour’s papers and the need for my dad to revisit his childhood newspaper delivery boy routine. Andy’s super delivery only happened once!
Another time his roaming was beneficial was when he alerted neighbours to the fact that their young daughter had trapped herself inside an old fridge in their backyard. Her cries were inaudible to her mother indoors. But Andy kept knocking and barking at her backdoor until she came out to investigate, leading her straight to the distressed three year old. Had it not been for Andy doing his neighbourhood rounds, their daughter may well have suffocated that day!
Andy had both friends and enemies in the neighbourhood. The boxer next door, Tim, was usually his mate, but Jimmy across the road, was not. I well remember my mum outside with the hose, breaking up the odd dog fight. Whilst Andy and Tim, would play and sit together quite happily, they too would have the odd scrap, when local bitches were in heat.
One day, Andy went one step further than fighting over conjugal rights and was invited to mate with another well-bred Labrador bitch that lived opposite. The resulting litter of pedigree puppies all had homes before they were born and for many years, Andy’s offspring were highly prized locally, as faithful and highly intelligent pets.
Then there was the stray Andy invited home to share his life. Little Fella, was exactly that, a golden mix of corgi and many other genetic infusions. We loved him as much as Andy did and were willing to give him a home for life. Unfortunately, our neighbours complained about their evening serenades to the moon, so Little Fella had to be rehomed. But for some months, Andy enjoyed life with his chosen companion. How we all cried, the day Little Fella went off to his new home!
As Andy got older he lost his hearing. This necessitated new ways of communicating with him. A double tap on the head meant “follow” and luckily, he had been trained to visual as well as verbal cues as a puppy, so easily reverted to using only visual ones.
Grieving for Andy, when he died at 15, was something of a neighbourhood event. Whilst there was no formal funeral for him, red eyed neighbours arrived on the doorstep for days on end. Even the milkman, the baker and the local fruiterer, who back in the 1960s delivered their goods to your kitchen shed a tear at the loss of our faithful and unique “community dog”.
Though many dogs have left an impression on my life since, I still cannot pass a golden Labrador, without stopping to greet it and its owners. I think of Andy often to this day!