Authors: Roy MacGregor
The Dog and I
Roy Macgregor has been a journalist for more than thirty years, and for many years has written his immensely popular “This Country” column on page two of
The Globe and Mail
, Canada's national newspaper. He is the author of numerous bestselling and award-winning books, including
A Life in the Bush
The Home Team
, and the popular children's mystery series
The Screech Owls
. MacGregor was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2005 and currently resides in Kanata, Ontario.
ALSO BY ROY M
Canadians: A Portrait of a Country and Its People
The Weekender: A Cottage Journal
Escape: In Search of the Natural Soul of Canada
A Loonie for Luck
A Life in the Bush: Lessons from My Father
The Last Season
The Home Team: Fathers, Sons and Hockey
Road Games: A Year in the Life of the NHL
Chief: The Fearless Vision of Billy Diamond
Home Game: Hockey & Life in Canada
(with Ken Dryden)
The Screech Owls Series
(for young readers)
Forever: The Annual Hockey Classic
CONFESSIONS OF A BEST FRIEND
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First published in a Viking Canada hardcover by Penguin Group (Canada), a division of Pearson Canada Inc., 2006
Published in this edition, 2007
(WEB) 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Copyright Â© Roy MacGregor, 2006
Illustrations copyright Â© Jason Schneider, 2006
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In appreciation of Buddy, Cindy, Bumps, Bandit, Cricket,
and Willow, who have made our lives so much richer
Sad to say, dogs are much better than daughters when it comes to obeying simple commands. She wasn't listening.
Our old mutt, Bandit, had not long before moved on to wherever it is that old dogs go when everything gives out, from eyes to ears to back end. It had reached the point, finally, where even the adult human in absolute denial had to act, and sadly, we did.
With Bandit so recently departed, I had no interest at all in a puppy crossing the front-door thresholdâfully aware of the consequences.
Once a puppy makes it through that front door, it's in.
That's just the way it is with puppies and front doors. Imagine, if you can, a parent watching his or her partner come through the door with their brand-new baby, which the waiting parent then holds up to check the heft and colouring and sex before handing the infant back with a dismissive “Not this one, thanksâlet's have a look at another.”
So no puppy; at least not yet.
Yes, it was difficult coming home from a long road trip and not having that one member of the family who isn't shouting “What did you bring me?” race to greet you. And yes, it was odd getting up each morning and going to bed each night without opening the sliding doors that lead to the backyard so that Bandit could go through all the necessary sniffing and squatting and barking at various territorial invaders before closing off her day. But still, I wasn't ready.
Jocelyn wouldn't listen though. Our daughter was already surfing the net in search of something that might approximate the glorious mutt we had just lost. She was poring through shelter listings, checking out Humane Societies within a three-hour driving range, and letting everyone know that someone who needs a dog doesn't yet have one.
No â¦ no â¦
she was told.
She interpreted that to mean “Yes” and, I must confess, that may be exactly what it was. A “yes” with trepidation.
So when I saw Jocelyn pull into the driveway after a long weekend up in the Ottawa Valley I cannot today say if I was pleased or disappointed that I could see no basket, no wagging tail, no furry little head staring over an elbow at the new world it was about to take over.
There was really no time to think one way or the other. She ran up the steps, through the door, and simply unfurled her jacket to release a little white and yellow furball that hit the floor wiggling and wagging and hasn't stopped wiggling or wagging in the year since.
The new puppy was in.
And in to stay.
I COULD TELL YOU
the story of my life through the dogs I have loved,” Erica Jong once wrote in an essay trying to explain her preference for the canine world over the human. “I could tell you the story of the losses in my life through their deaths. Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love and loyalty. They depart to teach us about loss. We try to replace them but never quite succeed. A new dog never replaces an old dog; it merely expands the heart.”
I am now on to my fifth dog, though that seems a foolish way to put it; nothing seems as crass as treating a dog as you would an appliance that needs replacing from time to time. Better to say, as Erica Jong suggests, that I have fallen in love again. This time with Willow, a floppy-eared little mutt with long white and tan hair as soft as down, a face sharp as a fox, and a weakness for carrying around dirty socks in her mouth.
I think I was born a dog person; it just took a while to become one. When I was very young we lived part of each year in Ontario's vast Algonquin Park, and dogsâespecially deer-chasing dogsâwere discouraged by those who were there to protect the wildlife. My grandfather was chief ranger; and while he too loved dogs, it wouldn't do for the head man to have one running around when no one else did.
I was eleven when I was finally able to have a puppy, though it was made clear that Buddy would have to be tied up whenever we were staying at the grandparents' log home on Lake of Two Rivers. That sweet little puppy never got to become a dog, but he still leads the list of “dogs I have loved.”
Buddy came from a rundown house down by the Muskoka River. A kid who, like me, had a
Toronto Daily Star
paper route also had a litter of part-shepherd, part-hound, part-guess puppies to dispose of, and one late-winter afternoon I picked out a little male, free of charge, and carried him back up Reservoir Hill to where we lived.