Saturday, October 27, 2007

Memories of Our Boxer Dog

My daughter rang me last night, talking about how much she liked the painting I posted of her and our boxer dog Dempsey, so I thought I might do a small write-up about him.

We had Dempsey for 9 years only as boxers rarely live much longer that than that. He came to us as an eight week old, gloriously soft faced and beautiful, all big feet and loose skin. He grew rapidly into a lanky teenager, delighting in family life, snoozing under the children's doonas and chewing anything that came into sight.

As he grew into adult hood, a darker side crept into his personality, and I remember his and my first and only face to face argument. I asked him to move from his bed and he growled deep in his throat at me, all bully-boy teenage stuff. He was going to be a huge dog when mature, and potentially dangerous, so I grabbed a newspaper, rolled it up and took off after him around the bedroom. He growled and stood up to me for a while, but I kept thumping him and shouting at him to get down, until finally he acquiesced and did. He rolled over onto his back and showed his belly, a sure sign of acknowledging defeat. I praised him loudly and got him up and outside, and showed him I didn't hold a grudge. He was mine for evermore, and never grumped at me again.

His good humour didn't show to everyone, and each day as the postie came, he would roar out to the fence barking loudly. When we walked the streets with him on the lead, he would spot the postman coming from far away, and be dragging on his lead to get at him. Poor man, he was a bad tempered old bugger who had growled at the dog when he was a pup, and Dempsey never forgot, or forgave.

We also had some pretty awful neighbors who lived on a 'battle-axe block' down behind us. Their two dreadful boys would throw half bricks and gravel at him over the fence when I wasn't home, so he hated them too, giving them the same treatment as the postman. They weren't clever enough to work out what might happen if he got over the fence to them.

He was well bred and very handsome, and one day a woman came to me and asked if she could use him for stud. She brought her bitch on heat for him to meet, and he was horrified, not understanding the manners or mechanics of mating, promptly biting her on the nose .... and drawing blood! Needless to say, there were no puppies expected from that meeting...................

He and I walked many kilometres around
our country town, and we were often stopped by admirers, complimenting me on my beautiful dog. He grew very large, around forty kilos in weight, and his arched neck, high tail carriage and floating movement was reminiscent of an Arabian horse. I never tired of watching him 'strut his stuff'.

Later on, he developed an infection in his prostrate, so he lost his 'undercarriage' and any future opportunities that might have come his way.

As an eight year old, some health problems began to be noticed, and he was diagnosed with cardiomiopathy after his heart was found to be hugely enlarged. This slowed him down considerably. Then he developed some cancerous lumps on his feet. Poor old boy, he aged very rapidly after that, until I finally had to make the hard decision to have him put to sleep. It was a sad day for us all, but we celebrated his life as one worth living.

Cancer and weak hearts are common boxer problems, and I was only talking to a man last week whose dog was put on chemotherapy as a four year old to extract some more time for them both. He now has another, and a second daughter of mine has one as well.

They are wonderful dogs, physically beautiful, with faces full of expression. As an artist, I have always loved them. I did do some portraits of him (see below).

He was a great mate, a top guard dog and loved those who mattered. The rest he didn't bother with.

"Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really."
... Agnes Sligh Turnbull

No comments: