What a dog!

Early last year my Favourite Wife had an idea.
“A dog”, she said, more than once, “would be a special companion, and a lovely friend, and a valuable responsibility too”.  Speaking, of course, of our Little One’s interests.

I was slow to warm to this plan, but the plan was forming, with or without my warmth.  By midyear serious investigations into breeds and agencies were being made night by night on the iPad.  And in October a trip was made to Canberra to bring home a five year old Labrador named Flikka, who seemed – as we read her particulars and spoke to those who knew her at Labrador Rescue – too good to be true.

But it was true.  Flikka was everything anyone had said and a great deal more. It felt at times that she spoke English.  Commands such as “pick that up, and take it outside” (for a chew toy dropped in the hall), or “Off to sleep on Cassie’s bed” were simply obeyed from the outset; we never trained her to do anything at all.  She would come when called and sit when asked.  She would sit while food was put her in her bowl, and remain seated – in an agitated, tail-banging, lip-slavering state – until we said “OK”.  She was adorable, and she adored us.  Let’s be honest, she adored everybody! A paw would be placed gently on the knee of anyone found sitting down, drawing their attention to the beautifully seated Labrador with the slightly mournful, penetrating gaze; longing for a scratch.  Scratch under her chin too long and the delicate manoeuvre of double-paws on the sitter’s knee might be enacted; and scratch just a little longer and the whole dog would begin to lean heavily on your leg, and slide ever so slowly sideways onto the floor.  Which just so happens to present the dog correctly for a tummy scratch.  In the extremely rare event of a reprimand (thrice? maybe?) she would immediately hop on three legs with one paw poised to match the painful pity on her face.  Who could be cross with that?

If Flikka barked it was only ever once.  One single, gruff, woof; just enough to alert us to the person at the door; or to her desire to come or go through it.  She had the most adorable wrinkly-Labrador face that made us laugh out loud as we watched her emotions pass through her fur.  She was an accomplished sleeper.  Late in the evening we used to say her name very, very softly and her tail would bang-bang-bang on the wall even while she snored on through her dreams.  In fact, one of her greatest gifts to us came through her aptitude for slumber.  Against every scrap of my better judgement we had told Little One that Flikka would be allowed to sleep on her bed!  This bribe was not only effective in getting our 12 year old into bed on many occasions; but with Flikka on the end of her bed Little One began to routinely sleep all night.  We had been getting up to our daughter in the wee hours every night, sometimes more than once, with very few exceptions for more than a decade.  Thank you, Flikka, for teaching Little One something that we could not.

Back on the END of the bed please Flikka!
Back on the END of the bed please Flikka!

By now you have probably noticed that I have written in the past tense: Flikka has gone; barely five months after she arrived. I went to church on my own last Sunday, while the others took Flikka to the vet.  The vet was more alarmed than we had been, and was uncertain if she would come through an operation for a bowel obstruction.  But she came through well, and on Tuesday she came home to our enormous relief and joy.  It was short lived; as was our gorgeous friend.

Today I am completely alone in the house for the first time in months; no occasional woof, no paw appearing on my knee.  I was never keen to admit that Flikka was “good company for you” (me? needing company?  what am I, an invalid?).  I was wrong, and today the emptiness of the house is a very raw wound.  And it’s raining, which never helps my mood.  It hasn’t rained properly for three months; and now the drought has broken I’m glum.  But not so the animal kingdom.  Two green parrots, a pair of majestic red parrots with long blue tail feathers, and fully fifteen green finches have been nibbling at the bird feeder just outside my window – more than I have seen before – and as many Kangaroos have been grazing a stone’s throw beyond.  It feels like the zoo!  Nature lost one of its own and has summoned a menagerie to pay homage, and to remind me there is beauty in the world.

Roos in the Rain
Roos in the Rain

Our sadness is sudden and engulfing.  We have wept a late night vigil together on our lounge several times this week. It seems impossible to believe that one day our memories of Flikka will be fond, rather than anguished.  My distress frightens me.  I am troubled by our unanswered prayers for her life.  I am spooked by wordless notions of my own mortality.  I don’t understand why goodness is fleeting, why the pure things in our world are subject to indiscriminate violence.

As the rain clears away I am reading The Little Prince.  So popular when I was a child, but I guess he can’t compete with My Kitchen Rules.

“Goodbye”, said the fox. “Here’s my secret.  It’s very simple: one only sees clearly with the heart.  What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” repeated the little prince, so as to remember.

“It is the time you have wasted on your rose that makes your rose so important”

“It is the time I have wasted on my rose…” said the little prince, so as to remember.

“The men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox.  “But you must not forget it.  You become forever responsible for that which you have tamed.  You are responsible for your rose…”

“I am responsible for my rose,” repeated the little prince, so as to remember.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

And as the rain clears away I am listening to J.S. Bach, St Matthew Passion.  It is the most beautiful, ordered, deliberate and unsparing telling of human grief; and of the hint of joy that lies beyond.
Sometimes no more than a hint.



7 thoughts on “Flikka

  1. Kate Coffman

    Oh Rod, I don’t know what to say. Flikka truly was an exceptional creature, a dear friend to your family. I am so pleased that we had a chance to meet her, and so sorry to hear this news. We will be praying, and send our love to you all.

  2. Milton

    Rod,we are so so sorry,God Bless Theresa an Milton. P.S. Colin an Kym Craigo were at Church yesterday.Great to see them.Colin still has God”Fire on his life.So Wise.

  3. Shirley Sanson

    Hi Rod, Such a poignant tale of events, so sorry to hear of Flicka’s demise, as always when one doorshuts another opens, Thank you for sharing.

  4. We have 2 dogs and I sometimes feel they are more knowing,faithful and loving than humans.It is sad when they leave us,but try and think of the happy times.Love your stories Rod!

  5. Nadia Humphries

    “I don’t understand why goodness is fleeting, why the pure things in our world are subject to indiscriminate violence”.
    You write so beautifully and as you have so eloquently said, “one only sees clearly with the heart”.This story has come from your heart and thank you so much for sharing it with us all Rod

  6. Zelma Turton

    So sorry to learn of Flikkas death. A sad space in your lives. He sounds like an exceptional dog. One of a kind. I can understand how it would create resonances with in you. Is Jas still with you? Can I ask how that’s going? Dont know if your up to replying. Love to Karen. Blessings Zelma

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