My First Dog

My First Dog
I bought an old house in 1980. It needed a lot of TLC to get it into shape. We planned to do a lot of the work ourselves. It had a big enclosed back garden and was an ideal home for our first dog. We had spoken about various breed types that we liked, had drawn up a list of medium-sized dogs that we preferred, but had not settled on any particular one. 

Some weeks after moving in, we were at home one day, busily painting some upstairs bedrooms, when there was an attempted burglary. Somebody was pushing in the front door. When they realised we were there, they scarpered.

That settled it—we were getting a dog today. I searched the Dogs for Sale column in the Evening Herald. There was a 9-month-old boxer for sale by a reputable breeder in Kilkenny. I rang the number, agreed on the price, and drove to Kilkenny that night to collect “Leo.” It was love at first sight. A large, dark brindle, a handsome male beauty. He came with his own O’Neil’s Football—his only possession. We got him home, and I was insistent that he would be a yard dog and sleep in the shed. Wiser counsel prevailed when I was told that I could sleep in the shed if I liked, but Leo was sleeping inside.

The thing both of us agreed on was that the name Leo did not do justice to this noble specimen. 1980 was the year of the Moscow Olympics. One evening, as I arrived home from work, I delayed in the car outside my house to hear a boxing match where an Irish boxer from Belfast won a bronze Olympic medal for Ireland. The penny dropped—that was it. A boxer called Russell had just won an Olympic medal. Leo's name was changed to Russell, and henceforth, all our dogs would have Irish surnames—with the exception of two rescues, Sam and Debbie. So followed our loyal Boxers Kelly, Reilly, Casey, Ryan, Kiely, Murphy, and Darcy 

Soon after welcoming Russell into our house, we decided that as a pack animal, it was not fair to leave Russell on his own while we were at work. He needed a companion. We arranged to buy a neutered female boxer from the same breeder in Kilkenny. She was red by colour and nature, no beauty, but an unbelievably playful, lovable, and faithful companion. Russell and Kelly hit it off from day one and were inseparable all their lives. They loved to walk the beaches of Dollymount in Dublin and Rossbeigh in Kerry. They loved to play, they loved to swim. They were our constant companions  

Russell was such a handsome dog that I was encouraged by many to show him. I entered him in two dog shows, and on each occasion, he came second. On my second attempt, an experienced dog breeder, on seeing my efforts in the ring, was heard to say that he was a fine dog with much promise, but he could not say the same for his handler. So ended Russell's promising show dog career. Both Russell and Kelly lived long and healthy lives into their twelfth years. When their time came to depart, it was heartbreaking, but for all dog owners, it is part of the ownership contract. Despite your strong emotional bond, the comfort and well-being of the dog come first. A good family vet will help you make that decision, and your consolation will be that your love for your faithful companion allowed you to do the right thing at the right time. In the end, it is the last true act of kindness you can do for your dog.