Often people come to see me and they either have or are looking for a family dog. Sometimes they may have worked with me in the past and now that they are ready to add a family dog, they ask me to help, I guess due to the trust they have in me from the help I gave them in the past.
I have had many people ask if they could be placed on the waiting list for one of my Malinois for their next family dog. This is a tough one because although our Malinois live as part of our family, they are not a traditional “pet”.
But I guess that term “pet” covers many things these days, I know a guy with a Porsche for his “daily driver”.
Nevertheless people want one because they trust me, they know I would not knowingly sell them a dog with questionable temperament, genetics or health and that I will be honest with them.
So with most of them I am honest when I say the Malinois isn’t what you need.
You see when I was a kid, my parents owned and bred German Shepherds and I was always with dogs and loved them since I was a baby, I am told. I wanted my own dog and I guess it would have been irresponsible to give a child a German Shepherd so my parents got me a Labrador.
Not a “real” dog, but a Labrador who I named “Boy”. Simply because when we went to look at the pups I said “here boy” and he was the first to come running. Temperament evaluation done right there!
Home he came with us and he promptly embedded himself in our lives, almost seamlessly or as seamlessly as I remember as a kid anyway. Boy and I grew together as friends, Boy faster than me, that’s the sadness of owning a dog right there isn’t it. Back then dogs were not really contained in yards so much and had a load more freedom than they do now.
Boy would wake up in the morning and head out down the street to the old lady down the road and collect his share of her breakfast, then on his way back stop at another house looking starved and taking with him a few more tasty bites. Sometimes we could hear a car horn blowing and my dad would tell me to go get Boy, he was sunning himself laying in the middle of the road and would not even wake up to let cars pass.
Some days I would head off to school and give him firm instructions to stay here. Boy nodded and lay down on our front veranda. I walked to school and settled into class only to find 15 minutes later Boy standing at the classroom door, waiting to be invited in.
The first time, my teacher Mr Wallace, a tall man with glasses (actually I was about 6 or 7 so most everyone was taller than me) and a deep booming voice, was at a loss. He could not send me home with Boy and my mum didn’t answer the phone. Back then people were not attached to phones like these days.
Anyway he asked me “well what are we going to do?” I replied “he will just have to lay here until home time“
Mr Wallace’s eyes bulged through his thick glasses and said “ok then!” He folded his arms and stood there in his Safari suit as I said “Here Boy” pointed to the ground and he rushed in a lay down, for the remainder of the day. Only moving at recess and lunch where he told his sad story of starvation to the kids who fed him their lunches.
Boy would come to school with me pretty often and everyone just paid him no mind. He never did anything wrong and just laid by my desk.
There was even a running joke (that I was not aware of at the time!) that when the principal was walking by, Mr Wallace would say “here comes the head master, quick Boy, hide” and Boy would rush into the rain coat closet and peek out until Mr Wallace gave the all clear. Then back to my desk he would creep.
Boy was everywhere I was, I don’t remember him ever not being there growing up actually.
There was this one time, (sadly not at Band Camp) where I was at a friends house and the parents gave us ice blocks. I was licking away and my friends dog had been watching me eat mine. Now whilst Boy loved food, he would never impose on anyone eating, he was a gentleman.
Anyway I was oblivious to my friends dog when all of a sudden it took a dive at me to grab my ice block, as he flew through the air, Boy intercepted him and grabbed his throat holding him on the ground as he kicked and yelped. The neighbour ran over and grabbed Boy by the ear, trying to pull him off but Boy would not let go.
One of the guys who worked at their place with horses yelled “he was protecting the kid, leave him“
I called “Here Boy” and he let go and ran to me. We shook ourselves off and continued.
The things that dog did to care for me without any training or promoting was unexplainable. Specially as he wasn’t a “real” dog. 😉
On cracker nights, for the younger generation that had nothing to do with Cocaine but one night of the year where people got together and set off fireworks that were legally purchased in super markets, and we burned anything not nailed down on a Bon fire. Any time a cracker (firework) jumped or bounced near me, Boy would throw himself on it, stamping it out with his feet. As of course we all yelled “get out of it Boy!“
I had taken my motor cross bike to a local free parcel of land and was burning around making as much dust and noise as I could. Eventually the guy who lived next door came out and went off at me, Boy was there in a flash growling and snapping at the man, keeping him at bay. I pushed the bike to the river and sat near there for a while to rest after my most awesome ride, when I heard Boy fighting something.
I got up and he had killed a brown snake a few metres from me. How proud he was as he gave it a final shake or two.
I gave him a big pat and a kiss on the side of his face and he was happy, feeling well paid. I noticed blood on my hand and it was coming from the side of Boys face, his now greying muzzle meant he wasn’t just as fast as he once was.
I ran home with Boy in tow but the closer we got he started to slow down, I kept calling him in a frustrated tone, he was trying but the snake venom was taking its toll.
I got him home and my parents rushed him to the vet. The vet asked us to leave him there and we did. They called up and said he was in a bad way…
He told my dad that the anti venom was very expensive and as an old dog “it may not be worth it“.
My dad hung up the phone and shared what the vet had said. I could not understand what they were saying, Boy wasn’t old? I wasn’t old so how could he be!
My dad called the vet back and said “give him the medicine, we will find the money“.
No one really spent that kind of money on dogs at vets in those days, I think it was about a week or twos wage for my dad.
Boy was home in a few days putting it on and being dutifully spoilt. He came back strong in the next week or so good as before the bite. I was in high school now and a bus trip meant Boy did not come to school, and I guess not everyone was as accommodating as Mr Wallace. He would greet me off the bus each day and we would hang out.
It was the next summer that Boy was snake hunting again and although he got the anti venom again, he must have felt it was time to leave me to it, so I could get a real dog.
It is still very hard to talk about Boy, so I don’t have any more to say about him right now.
My daughter Biscuit is a natural with dogs, I am super proud of her, she is always going out to play ball with Diesel, comes to every Team K9Pro training day, training Malinois with my friends too.
But like me at her age, she is a bit too young for a “real” dog. So about 2 years or more ago I started talking to her about getting her a dog.
She chose the name Rosie Cheeks the first day and has stuck with that since that day. I am thankful really because she has a doll she calls Kumar. No offence to the Kumar’s reading but imagine calling your black Lab “here Kumar!”, no.
I never told her when but promised when she was good and would look after Rosie the day would come. I began looking for Labradors, I never really knew when I was a kid how awesome a dog Boy was, but as a father I sure do now.
As a trainer I wish I knew how we got him so good without a moment of formal training, but if I had to guess, I would say it had a lot to do with love and time (and LUCK)
I see many Labs come to training and in working roles too, I gathered information who bred them so I could narrow down my choices of breeder. The list of dogs I liked that came from Tapua grew longer and about a year ago now, I called them and had a great chat with Pete from Tapua who also suggested I called Pauline. I did just that and made an appointment to drive the 6 hour return trip to meet them. They had no pups at the time but that wasn’t a problem, I was in no rush. In fact I had told Biscuit just a couple of days before that it may be another year 😉
Over the past year I have assessed a couple of litters and just now selected the lucky girl who shall now be known as Rosie Cheeks Courtney.
I brought her home and hid her in our store room. Biscuit was brought over and Rosie took to her like a Lab to a kid.
The following days have been filled with all the puppy things we do and suffer with a new puppy, but she is a gem.
Is she a “real” dog? Well I hope she is a real friend like Boy was for me. I thought my parents gave me a Labrador as a substitute for a dog, I know he was my substitute for a best friend, confidant, school yard mate, my go to guy, bike riding partner, protection dog and teacher.
They say dogs are good for kids because dogs have shorter life spans and it teaches them to deal with loss before they lose a parent. It’s been 34 years since Boy left and I can’t say it was easy to write this article…
I don’t even know if these stories and a thousand more I could share are accurate, but they are some of the clearest memories I have from my childhood.
He thanklessly did a billion things for me that were awesome, selfless and caring and only one bad thing (leaving), but the good sure outweighs the bad and I am told he could not help it.
We hope to share The times of Biscuit and Rosie Cheeks Courtney with you and to start here is Biscult meeting Rosie for the first time.
– Steve Courtney, Dad.