” They say, “What you don’t have, you never miss.” Some people don’t miss the dog they never had. I was different.
I didn’t have a dog growing up but my grandmother used to tell me stories about her dogs. I loved those stories. Like the one about her little mini foxy who would sit on command for a biscuit and knew many tricks – Stay, drop and roll over. And how she would train him. Her words ringing true today like they were yesterday – “Firm but kind.” She didnt realise it, but she was probably one of the first to use positive reinforcement training methods which leads the way, today, in any animal behavioural training programme. I was fascinated by how she got her dogs to do these “tricks” and how two species could communicate so freely and willingly. What happened to the little foxy always remained a mystery, but IÂ remember my mother saying, “She gave him away,” her voice trailing off, like that was all there was to it. I never questioned why. My grandmother was a strange woman. She loved dogs but she never had anymore after that.
I think I carried those stories around with me always, because as a teenager, I didnt know what I wanted to do, but I knew IÂ wanted to train animals. I briefly looked at training dolphins but as I was living in Newtown at the time, I figured there wasn’t going to be much money in that. It wasn’t until my 30’s when IÂ got my first dog. Monte. A gold and white cocker spaniel with long, floppy ears and big brown eyes. I called him Monte after Monte Carlo biscuits with his golden, biscuit coloured coat and creamy white markings with spots of rich red that shone out from his crown. He taught me most of whatÂ IÂ know today. Echoes from my past and my grandmother’s stories ringing in my head, it seemed instinctive – I knew what to do. Training started right away; he was eight weeks old and raring to go. What I didnt know – I learnt. I read and read and read some more. I went to Tafe and studied Cert III Kennel/Cattery Operations and became dux of my year. The more I learnt the more fascinated IÂ became with animal / dog behaviour, later enrolling in Delta’s, Canine Good Citizen program which led me to open my own dog training business which IÂ ran for two years.
Together, Monte and I had a wonderful relationship spanning 12 years until a stroke took him to Rainbow Bridge one sunny day in May. By June, I had my beautiful Bonnie. A big, bonnie, golden retriever pup, as creamy as milky dairy whip with big brown button eyes and soft, creamy eyelashes outlined in thick dark eyeliner. An intelligent girl who loves nothing more than to hunt. A huntress. Ducks, lizzards, magpies. Nothing is safe when she is in the woods. For this, she stays on a lead. My curiosity continued to grow and I soon wanted to learn more about multiple dog households, so when Bonnie was 2yrs, along came Scarlett. This time a smaller dog; a blue roan and tan cocker spaniel just like Monte. I called her Scarlett because her attentiveness and long, black eyelashes made me think of Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. Bonnie and Scarlett – they are the culmination of a lifetime of learning, loving and experience.
They say if you have one special dog in your lifetime, you are lucky – well, I’ve had three! My learning never stops. Each day is different as each dog is different. They teach me.
I think of my grandmother and her stories and how now IÂ am writing my own stories. People say to me, “But your dogs are your children.” Some would agree. But no. Not to me. They are my dogs. And dogs are my world and Bonnie and Scarlett mean the world to me. “
It was such a privilege to spend time with my friend Pauline and capture a little ofÂ her life where she lives on the south coast of NSW with her beloved Bonnie and Scarlet.
I love to preserve peoples’ stories – if you have a story you’d like me to capture no matter where you live in the world please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org. I love to travel.Â To see more of my work go to lizarcus.com or www.facebook.com/lizarcusphotography