August 14, 2012
(I wrote this last summer while Caleb was still around)
Late Afternoon with Jack and Caleb
I’ve lived for 22 years in a house in Cadboro Bay, a great ocean-side community in Victoria, B.C. My home office is a nine by eight foot room on the main floor. During the latter years of my working life I earned my keep there, vigorously engaged in the practice of law. These days I spend peaceful hours in the office writing, reading and reflecting. The office was originally my younger daughter Chloe’s bedroom. Nowadays when she comes to visit from her home in Edmonton, she has to sleep on the couch. My two dogs Jack and Caleb are always very excited to see her. She lets them both sleep on the couch with her.
In my office is an “L” shaped arborite desk with a bank of drawers at either end. Over my desk is an eye level shelf with a corkboard behind it, and over that are four small cubbies with doors. On the shelf are binders, tape dispenser, stapler, knick-knacks and a desk lamp. On the cork board are photos, clippings, notes birthday and Father’s Day cards from my girls, and free-coffee coupons from Starbucks. In the cubbies are office supplies, notebooks and the like.
In the centre of the desk sit my computer, screen, keyboard and speakers. To the right are two jam-packed pencil and pen holders, both long-ago gifts from my older daughter Billie. To my left is the Samsung colour laser printer I bought last month at Staples for $460.
On the floor behind my desk are the two dog beds where Jack, my miniature pinscher and Taco, Billie’s chihuahua (whom I dog-sit daily) sleep for hours. At lunch time they perk up and bark at me, wanting to go for the mid-day outing, a 30 minute walk up to the University and back. At the end of the day these two plus Caleb, my 12 year old golden retriever, are loaded into my white 2004 F-150 Ford pickup, and we drive three blocks to Gyro Park, at the beach. I take along several balls and a Chuck-it. I make sure I have plastic poop bags.
We could walk to Gyro, but the dogs always get wet and muddy and they then want to rub against me on the return trip, so I end up wet and dirty as well. This is not the problem it was when I had two golden retrievers. Poor Cairo died of cancer four years ago at the age of only seven. When the time came to put Cairo down I had to ask Chloe to stand in for me at the vet’s as the actual injection took place. She has a lot of vet’s office experience and she is, in her own way, a much stronger individual than me.
Two minutes after leaving our driveway we pull into the pot-holed gravel parking lot at Gyro Park. Jack barks and barks. I back my Ford up to the grass at a certain spot 50 yards from the restrooms, where there is a bit of a hump. I do this in order to reduce somewhat the distance Caleb must jump to get in or out of the truck bed. I turn off the ignition. Jack stops barking, sits in my lap, and focuses his attention, laser-like, out the window until I open the driver’s door. Jack and Taco then boil out and Jack starts up barking again. I walk around the truck, drop the Ford’s tailgate and Caleb is now also loose.
I grab the Chuck-it out of the truck bed and whip a tennis ball a hundred yards into the park. Jack and Caleb roar off after it while Taco checks out, one by one, the six London Plane trees evenly spaced in two rows beside the parking lot.
We all move into the park proper. Jack and Caleb take turns returning the ball to me and I keep firing it into the air. Taco runs past us off to his next stop; at the base of a small tree he relieves himself after sniffing intently for two or three minutes. I often throw the ball high, at least 50 yards straight up into the air. Caleb watches the ball’s arc and he is ready when it touches down. The ball bounces once and Caleb leaps up to snatch it out of mid air. He learned to do this by himself. I tell him he is a big show-off, that he must be imagining he’s a circus dog or something, but he never seems to mind my remarks.
I do worry that he might do himself an injury, and as he gets older I am careful that he not over-do the running and jumping. I don’t think I could stop him completely, however, and I wish, more and more frequently now that he is well into the late autumn of his doggie-life, that he should meet his maker while asleep on the floor beside my bed with his running and jumping faculties more or less intact. I imagine his will then be a short journey to an afterlife where a sun shines every day on a perfect afternoon in a Gyro Park full of his doggie pals, where I will join him when my time is also done, and where we will play ball until the end of it all.