Our dear dog, Polo, has entered the sunset of his life. Although he’s been suffering with arthritis for some years now, over the past few months it’s really been taking its toll. It breaks our hearts to see him shrinking and deteriorating this way. He’s always been such a… well… such a dog.
He came to live with us when we moved out west to Pererenan, Bali, back in 1999 and into the house we built there. He was one of our new next-door neighbours’ litter of 5 puppies. This makes him 13 in human years and 91 in dog years, which for a Bali mutt, is quite something.
The architect’s impression of our ‘old Bali style’ house with its living room open to the garden on 2 sides, was our dream come true, and we moved in on 31st December 1999 (the faux millennium… but that’s another story). Unfortunately, the place was still a building site. It was also the middle of the rainy season and there was no gate, no garden (only mud) and no blinds to keep the rain out of the living room. It was not a relaxing place to be considering the builders still had to finish the living room floor and the bedroom cupboards; that we had an irrepressible 2½ year-old daughter with very itchy feet; and a brand new puppy. In fact it was a living nightmare.
On New Year’s Day I woke up late with a very thick head to see 2 adult and 5, 4-month old muddy black dogs playing on our couch. Thank goodness I hadn’t put on the new cushion covers. After just one night the old ones were filthy, chewed up rags, because with no gate, no walls, and no blinds, the pack moved in and out of our living room on a whim, or should I say a whiff (especially of bacon). There was no such thing as a lone canine visitor. We were never, ever, short of the full pack.
Later that day when I couldn’t find our daughter I called to my husband, ‘Is she with you?’ She wasn’t. We were about to panic when a scuffle on the driveway attracted our attention. We peered through the rain. The pack was on the move… again. And right slap bang in the middle we could see a little golden head bobbing up and down as our daughter, naked and giggling, trotted out of the gateway surrounded by her new best friends.
Perhaps that’s why Polo has always been so protective of her, and by default protective of us, too. Perhaps he sees us as his de facto family or mates, rather than his owners. Very likely, since he’s never obeyed one single command we’ve given him.
He does look after us, however, although that has come at some cost, both to him and to us.
When we used to take him to our local beach he’d want us to stick together – that’s the 3 of us plus any extra friends visiting or family and houseguests staying – anyone who was part of our pack. But we are humans and need our space. So poor Polo would exhaust himself trying to keep tabs on our daughter mucking around on the beach, my husband table-hopping between friends and holidaymakers, me doing the rounds with my friends, and everyone else’s movements in our entourage. We, on the other hand, would exhaust ourselves trying to preempt him appearing from nowhere, growling and teeth bared, between us and a too-zealous friend approaching with open arms for a hug (which to Polo, looks like a brazen attack), or in front of a stranger wanting to give the handsome dog a pat.
I must be honest and admit that, over the years, we have found ourselves in a few sticky situations. Not just because of Polo, but also because of my husband - alpha male and indisputable leader of the pack – who has a policy of zero-tolerance with anyone who messes with our dog after being warned to leave him alone because he is not some wimp pedigree pet but a Bali dog that will bite if he has a mind to.
Now Polo no longer comes with us to the beach. It’s too far for him to walk and he never, and I mean never, willingly gets in the car. I miss the old days. They were... I'd like to say fun - and often they were... but 'edgy' is a more accurate word. Now, without Polo, being at the beach will never be the same.
Having written this I now realise that a single blog post about our dog just isn’t enough. There are many more stories to relate about the legend that is Polo. So all I can say is watch this space... and in the meantime Polo boy... it’s time for you to retire from the protection business. So relax and enjoy the remaining peaceful golden dog days of late summer that you have coming.
J M Leitch is author of The Zul Enigma, a factual futuristic thriller looking back at a cataclysmic event occurring on 21 December 2012, end of the Mayan calendar.