Long suffering readers of this column will know I am a dog lover. That’s the way it is. For all my many faults that may well be one of my redeeming qualities.
I was thinking the other day that it may be possible to measure your life by the number of dogs you have known. In my case that would mean that I am starting to get old.
My first dog was called Darkie. He was a large black and tan canine that stayed with me and my Granny Adams when my Uncles Frank and Seán emigrated to Canada in the 1950s. He was a great dog. I always think of him being big but size is relative. I was only seven or eight at the time so big then mightn’t be so big now.
It’s like the schoolyard at St Finian’s. When I returned there as an adult it was tiny. But back in the day when Brother Christopher, Mr Nolan, Johnny Blake and Brother Aloysius did their best to educate us the yard was enormous to wee Falls Road primary school students.
So too with Darkie. In my memory he is about the size of a Wolfhound. Or at least as big as a Labrador. When our Abercorn Street North gang used to foray into Getty Street or into the Dunville Park Darkie was always a great ally against the wee bucks from Getty Street. If he hadn’t been with us I’m sure they would have scalped a few of us or certainly inflicted Chinese water torture on any of us they chanced to capture. Darkie prevented that.
He also never had a dog licence. I have a distinct memory of my Uncle Paddy telling me how he had trained Darkie to walk well behind us if there were any peelers about. Paddy explained to me how he taught the dog to let on it wasn’t with us in case we were challenged about its licence. Or the lack of it. I always thought Darkie was very smart to be able to do that. So was Uncle Paddy.
I don’t recall how Darkie died. Or even what age he might have been. My Granny Adams went to Canada for a while and I moved back to the Murph so I suppose Darkie might have moved in with the Begley’s. They lived in Abercorn Street North as well. Funny how important the North bit of that address was to older residents. If any of us said we were from Abercorn Street we usually got corrected.‘It’s Abercorn Street NORTH,’ we were told.
Funny I’ve never heard of Abercorn Street South or East or West though I suppose there may well be such places.
So that was Darkie. He is still alive in my memory – that place of wonderment and imagination. He is the first of a long line of four legged friends. Rory, Mickey, Shane. Cara 1 and Cara 2. Cindy. Barney. Cocker. Oscar. Nuada, Snowie. Fionn.I hope I haven’t left anyone out. All but the last three are in doggie heaven.Nuada is up in the mountains living the good life. She was too energetic for our back yard. A real hyper hound, and handsome too.
Snowie nipped one of the little people in my life. Dogs do that sometimes. Especially wee dogs. She was banished to the MacManus’ household – the dog not the child - where she now lives a life of ease as befits a madadh of her disposition.Fionn is lying at my feet now. Snoring gently. He is a gentleman. Biddable. Calm. Patient. A great buddy to the little people in my life and an intrepid fetcher of a well pucked sliothar. Or even a mis-pucked one.
He seems to have life sussed out. He is a walking, sleeping, eating four legged bundle of good natured doggyness.
He also loves me. I love him too. And all his ancestors.