International Dog Day. Who knew such a thing existed. And how wonderful that it does.
My first dog was a German Shepherd named Rex. It was the early 1970s and we lived in Kenya then.
Rex’s role was, according to my parents, that of guardian. As remains the way there and in many countries outside Europe, we lived in compounds enclosed with walls, ditches, and wire which guarded those within from ill intent without. At least that’s how it looked from inside.
I saw Rex very differently; here was a bear like creature with a captivating face who was clearly up for playing fetch the ball, he would tip his head to one side when I spoke to him, there was understanding and a deep loyalty in his eyes. He would visibly perk up when I scampered towards him after lessons were over, his bushy tail waving vigorously. My Mother’s shock was total the day he leapt up and bounded towards me, placing his front paws on my shoulders and licking my face in greeting, grinning in that way that big dogs do, his tail signalling the delight he genuinely felt. We hugged as my Mother screamed.
I have no picture of Rex, but had he grown old I imagine he would have a benign professorial air about him and a deep empathy and affection for us humans.
Rex never had the chance to grow old, and we were denied his companionship. Rex was poisoned; he paid the price to protect us. We left Kenya soon after.
This home in London is now owned by cats, and they would never allow a canine presence in what they see as their absolute and sovereign territory.
Perhaps at some point much further in the future, there might be another Rex. I do hope so.