© Photo courtesy of Fiona Garrioch
Luke is shown at age 12 after returning from a trip across the frozen Assiniboine River in Brandon to sniff deer beds on the other. He turned 14 in Prince Albert last week.
We had a birthday at our house last week.
It was celebrated in the normal way. There was food, fun, frolicking, scratching behind the ear, tummy rubs … pretty much the usual.
Our dog Luke turned 14. It’s a remarkable age for 70 pounds of white German shepherd, who have a projected life span of up to about 12 years. Weighing in Luke’s favour is the fact that he’s not a purebred dog.
We were actually told he might have some Labrador retriever in him when we picked him up at the Humane Society in Brandon back in 1999. We’ve since wondered if it might be a little Samoyed.
I had actually gone to look at another dog -- my wife was working so I was doing a solo pre-scouting mission -- when I first laid eyes on him.
The family joke is that we didn’t pick him, he picked us. At 10 weeks old, he came bouncing over and stood up with his front paws on my leg.
It was all over at that moment for the dog I came to see.
I reserved the right to take him home and escorted my wife to see him the next day.
She fell as hard as I did.
I can still see him sitting up in the passenger seat of our old truck on his first ride home.
I had never owned a dog before so every bit of it was new. He woke up around 6:30 a.m. because the staff at the Brandon Humane Society came in around 7.
To say that caused some hardship in a home where I worked a late afternoon shift and went to bed around 4 a.m. would be an understatement.
It took me a while to grow accustomed to this growing animal -- my first-ever dog -- and the responsibilities of ownership. When I was working afternoons, he got used to an early afternoon walk, an evening walk and a late night walk. We think his three daily outings helped us to avoid some of the destructive behaviours you sometimes see in puppies.
One of the really neat things is that owning that dog resulted in some outstanding friendships for me.
For years, a group of us walked together every day at 2 p.m. at the riverbank dogpark. We solved a great many of the world's problems as our dogs ran and played. (Actually Luke would greet them and then head into the bush by himself to sniff and hunt. They were welcome to join the big white alpha male, as long as they didn't interrupt his "work.")
We also got close to the family of Luke's brother, who we met when the boys where seven. Once a week we would drive across Brandon to pick him up so that the boys could enjoy a walk together.
We still take Luke over to see Yukon when we're visiting the Wheat City.
There are a lot of memories.
When your dog is 14 years old, you have a pretty firm grasp of an obvious fact; the end is near.
It might not be next week or two months from now, but it’s coming.
(On that point, he can say the same about us.)
We're going to be out of the dog business after Luke goes, at least for a long time.
He could be head-strong. He certainly had a wide independence streak.
He was expensive and time consuming. As chronicled in this space in November, I nearly lost my life trying to save his in a frozen river.
But every little negative was counterbalanced 100 times over by the fact that I've loved that dog since the first time I laid eyes on him.
And I'll treasure every day that we have left.
Perry Bergson is the Daily Herald’s managing editor. You can reach him at 765-1302 or by email at email@example.com