I went to sit with my first ‘child’ today. Although he’s a bit dottery on his paws now, and old and grey around the muzzle with weepy eyes, underneath he’s still my old Rex.
He was born one cold blustery winter night under the combine in our machinery shed. Coincidentally it was on my dad’s birthday. Rexy was from a litter of nine, and was sired by our legendary dog, ‘Roady’.
Rex had an unlucky start to life as his mum died when he was only five weeks old. He had numerous accidents in his first eighteen months and if I’d had my way, he’d be a three-legged dog now, after a kick from a cow tore all his hind leg muscles and ligaments.
The vet could operate for $1,500 (much more than we could afford back then), or amputate the leg for $800. The boss said ‘bring the dog home, Fleur.’
In floods of tears, I took Rexy home thinking he wasn’t long for this world, but six weeks of rest and restricted movement saw him perform the unbelievable; a full recovery!
He has gone on to become a brilliant yard and paddock dog. Rex and Roady worked together amazingly well, compensating for each others weaknesses, although they really couldn’t stand each other and were constantly competing for our attention.
Rex and I spent hours together pulling down old fences and repairing the ones we couldn’t afford to replace. He would laze on the green grass, snapping at flies and flicking his ears as I talked to him. He sat in the tractor with me during the long cold nights when I was ‘ripping up’ and answered my questions with a thump of his tail.
He was so pleased to see us when we returned from our recent South Australian holiday that he tried to jump on our chests (a big ask for a dog with arthritis) and for the first few days sat close to my legs and wouldn’t let me out of his sight.
Patting him today, I know a trip to the vet is close. His heart murmer is very bad, his arthritis painful. I can’t and won’t let my old friend suffer, but the sadness his passing will bring is huge. He’s the last of the ‘old brigade’ – the ones with us when we first began farming, when we didn’t have any money and clapped out machinery. He lived with us in the hut, watched the house built, the children born and kept watch when I was working in the sheepyards. His barking would alert me that one of the kids was crying.
While he is still here, I’ll enjoy every pat, conversation and ‘woof’ that we have.