The Mother Load

Boys and their Boxers

It’s been just over 4 weeks now since Toughey the hamster died. We eventually broke the news to the kids by faking a “who-left-the-cage-open-and-the-hamster-escaped” stunt.  This didn’t go down very well – turns out it’s Mom’s fault… However, there were tears of sadness and I’m happy that we decided to go this route as opposed to telling the 7 year old that his pet had died. (I blogged about this in Our Four-Legged Friends)

My son was more upset that I threw out his box of moths which he was trying to breed new silkworms from than about the rodent death in the house…

My longtime ex-colleague and now friend, Kirk read Toughey’s story and was reminded about his childhood Boxer, the Bulldog.

Here is Kirk’s Story:

My name is Kirk Ridgway, 40 year old male, married for 13 years with one daughter who is 2 years old. I was born in Durban but came to Johannesburg when I was 4 years old due to my dad accepting a transfer. We now live in Centurion, where we are very happy. I have spent my entire career in the marketing environment, having worked for numerous companies over the years.

Growing up, we have always had a dog in the family – and that has always been the case even now that I am married and have a family.

I know the joy that a dog can give to a child, so very important for us that our daughter also grows up with dogs – we now have 3 dogs which she absolutely adores.

She is also so confident around dogs – we see with other children her age who do not have dogs that they are very scared of dogs when meeting them for the first time. Our daughter is confident and loves dogs, although we have taught her to not approach strange dogs/ dogs she is meeting for the first time unless we are comfortable and happy for her to do so.

My wife is a huge dog lover as well and has also always had a dog in the family. As soon as we got married, we got dogs and for the first 11 years of marriage these dogs were our children (people who do not have dogs will struggle this concept). They were spoiled beyond belief and they were a huge joy in our lives. The one dog that we bought soon after we got married is still with us – and we are now starting to talk about the day that he leaves us – and with our daughter we will now also have the first experience of explaining to a child where a beloved dog has gone after it has passed away. Not a pleasant experience or easy conversation – but we are aware of it and trying to now already prepare for this day (which will still not make it any easier).

Boxer the Bulldog

The dog that my brother and I grew up with as young boys – a Bulldog named Boxer (no coincidence that one of the 3 dogs we now own is a Bulldog). Our beloved Bulldog was a boy’s best friend – by their very nature bulldogs are extremely wonderful with children and Boxer was no exception. He was such a great dog to play with – my brother and I used to get rough with him and he would just never get cross or try to hurt us – he was a big softy, but just dare enter the yard as an unwanted stranger and you would see the other side of a bulldog – very territorial and extremely loyal and protective of its masters.

Boxer got his name in a very special way – the day we went to go and fetch him the people we bought him from gave us to him in a Boxer tobacco box – the large carton box used for distributing the tobacco.

Well, the name Boxer stuck and so he came to be called Boxer (not sure if you still get Boxer tobacco, but for years after Boxer was gone every time I saw Boxer tobacco in the shops I thought of my beloved dog). I still do….Boxer was a beautiful brown bulldog – the typical brown associated with bulldogs.

My dad is also very fond of bulldogs, so when I was four years old 4 and my brother was six my dad bought us our first dog – Boxer the bulldog. 24 years later we (I) have always had a dog(s) in our house.

Boxer loved to chase a rope – and we had a long, almost industrial strength rope at home (thank goodness for that now that I think about it). My brother and I had endless fun taking the rope and running around the garden with it with Boxer in full pursuit. We would often both run with the rope and when Boxer had a good grip on it we would pull the rope taught and lift him off the ground – and then started to see how long he would hold on for. (Bulldogs have one of the most feared set of jaws in the dog kingdom due to the incredible strength in their jaws – they are very well known for lock jaw).  As it turns out, he was too heavy for two little boys and he held on for too long so he invariable won every time with these two little boys being unable to hold him up for very long. We loved this game though.

I think my dad just gave Boxer normal dog pellets – I do know that they were Epol because I remember the Epol dog bag always sitting in the garage.

Boxer passed away at the age of 12 from old age– and the day he passed away is still so clear in my memory. I remember it was a Sunday.

Boxer was bought up by my dad as a dog that was not allowed in the house – his place was outside and as such he never came into the house, expect for very late in his life when he came inside to lie in the passage where it was cooler (especially on hot days). We had a feeling that Boxer was on his way, and on that Sunday afternoon Boxer came into the house and walked around the house, walked into every room and sniffed around for a while and then left to move on to the next room. He must have walked through the house in about 3 to 5 minutes. Then he just walked outside and went to lie on the grass. At first we thought nothing of it, until 2 hours later when Boxer was lying on the grass and we found out that he had passed away. To this day still, we believe that he walked inside the house and came to say goodbye to everyone….and we will never be convinced otherwise. What a special dog.

My brother and I were initially shocked, and then the reality sunk in when that same afternoon my brother and I started to dig a grave for him – we dug a grave for him in our garden between 2 big peach trees – and to this day still I can go and show you exactly where Boxer was buried (we sold the house 10 years ago – but I can still go and show you the exact spot). I remember crying as I dug the hole, and then came that awful moment when you hear the sound of sand falling on a dead, lifeless body (almost a hollow sound). That was awful and for days after I would just go stand at his gravesite and look at the disturbed earth that was his grave.


Kirk’s daughter Nicola playing with Jixi the Pekingese and Mishka the Bulldog.

Our family now has 3 dogs – 2 Pekingese (one we have had for 11 years and the other for 8 years) and of course one bulldog that we have had for 7 years (that I insisted on due to my child hood love for this breed). Thankfully my wife loves the bulldog and all 3 dogs get along with other so well. The 2 Pekingese are named Sushi and Jixi and the bulldog is named Mishka. The younger Pekingese (Jixi) has become our daughters dog – she absolutely loves him and she enjoys throwing his ball for him that we fetches and bring backs. Mishka is unbelievably good with Nicola, our daughter. When Nicola started to crawl, she would often crawl to Mishka’s dog bowl while she was eating and play with her food – Mishka just simply walked away and waited for Nicola to leave (or for us to pick her up as this is something we did not want to encourage). But for a big dog to behave like this especially when it comes to food is testament to the wonderful nature of the bulldog.

All three of our dogs are house dogs – they sleep in the bedroom with us every night (in their own baskets) and in winter the two Pekingese love to sleep on the bed at night when it gets colder – something we do not mind. At night Mishka climbs onto the couch either with me or my wife and sleeps. Our dogs, to a large extent, have the run of the house (within reason) and they are a huge part of our lives. We do not want it any other way.

We will always have a dog(s) in our house for as long as we can look after them and give them love and attention – and we hope that Nicola will also one day have dogs as pets…we think she is already on the right path.

Thank you Kirk for sharing your story with me and allowing me to post it on my blog.

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