Jake is our old Golden (well more of an off white) Retriever, twelve years and still going strong this summer.
He is also officially the laziest dog in the world, life for Jake involves long sleeps, preferably on a rug, and then eating at 4pm every day, if I had no clocks in the house then I’d know when it was 4pm every day for Jake tells you if you’ve forgotten by means of seeking you out in the house, laying his head on your knee and giving you those seal pup eyes until you realise that its 4pm again.
He comes from a long and proud lineage of gun dogs, we bought him from a genuine gamekeeper on a moorland bird shooting estate way up in the wilds of Nidderdale, he was one of eight pups, seven of whom were to be trained as gun dogs as their lineage decreed, their lineage being filled with award-winning gundogs, but by means of a random quirk of DNA Jake failed the first test of a gun dog when he was a very young pup, said test consisting of taking the whole litter out into the field at the back of the gamekeepers house and firing a shotgun in the air – Jake was back in his kennel shivering in fear before the “G” in BANG had died to the echo – instant FAIL and put an advert in the newspaper entitled “Scardy-dog for sale”
And so he came to live with us and he’s laid under my feet for these last twelve years, more so now that I work from home.
It became apparent very quickly that Jake also had a few other little problems, his skin allergies for one thing. We took him to Bolton Abbey when he was very young and he paddled in the River Wharfe for ten minutes – big mistake – several weeks of steroid injections at the vets, a bald shaved dog, and a few hundred quid eventually got rid of the skin rashes that broke out all over him because of his allergy to river and sea water (don’t ask me, it must be a dog thing).
Earlier this year he started sneezing, and the sneezing turned into spasms of sneezing where he couldn’t catch his breath between sneezing, dogs can’t blow their noses like we do so they sneeze very violently and this spring we have put up with sneezing fits and dog snot sprayed everywhere, but its easing now, he doesn’t sneeze much at all now, not that the pollen count is down, yes, our dog has hay fever too.
Which is sometimes a blessing.
He’s always been a home dog, the back garden is his domain and nothing more, if you leave the gate open he’ll simply stand at it and look outside with no desire to discover what lies beyond, only twice has he ever roamed and it was to the same house at the bottom of the street where the man there quickly returned him.
But this week he disappeared for half an hour, I roamed the garden looking under hedges for him but he was nowhere to be found and then just as I was about to walk down the street to find him he appeared as if by magic with that stupid grin on his face that Retrievers and Labradors do, but he wouldn’t tell me where he’d been.
Then yesterday in the space of two minutes he disappeared again, I turned my back for two minutes and he’d gone – ten minutes later and I had aroused the household to go on a Jake hunt when I walked up the garden for one last time shouting his name to no response.
Stood next to the big conifer hedge which is totally impenetrable I just sensed that he was somewhere near, so I shouted his name again, (he’s a bit deaf now too), still no response, I stood in silence just listening.
Then he sneezed.
Behind the hedge.
I told him to come out like you’d tell a naughty kid to come out and he did, with that big stupid grin on his face, he was waiting behind the hedge until I’d gone so that he didn’t have to give away the hole that he’d made in it, but that bloody hay fever let him down.