MY dog Lloyd should have died two or three times in the first year of his life, after he was found on the beach as a pup with a piece of rope around his neck.
The first time was a Saturday. I was mowing the lawn and he was inside, yapping occasionally behind a sliding screen door at the cars whizzing by.
I'd never owned a dog before. For my whole life until Lloyd I was an anti-dog person. I didn't know how dogs acted. I didn't know what drove them. I didn't know why people bothered with them.
I didn't know, for example, that a little fluffy Jack Russell/terrier/bits-of-everything pup who could run like a rocket was also able to push a sliding screen door off its hinges and send it crashing to the ground.
Not that I heard it with the mower going.
I only knew he'd escaped as he hurtled past and headed up the hill towards one of the busiest roundabouts in the region. On a Saturday afternoon, no less.
I choked the mower and flew up to where he was - an hysterically happy little dog running around the roundabout as traffic stopped in three directions. I ran towards him and he kept running. I called and he ran further away.
I wished him dead. I wished me dead. People sitting in their cars wondering what the hell I was doing almost certainly felt the same. And I didn't know what to do. Lloyd thought this was the best game ever and the heavy afternoon traffic just kept piling up.
I wished him dead. I wished me dead. People sitting in their cars wondering what the hell I was doing almost certainly felt the same.
Not far from the roundabout is a run of shops. There's a doctors' surgery, a real estate agent, a service station and a pharmacy. And, praise the Lord, there's a fish and chip shop. Just when I really started to panic about ever getting Lloyd off the road, a father and two young kids walked out of that shop with food.
The kids laughed and pointed at the little fluffy dog. The startled dad responded well when I yelled and asked him to whistle. Which he did. Lloyd bounded over to the delighted kids, the dad grabbed him, the traffic which had been inching forward headed off, and I stood on the roundabout for a minute or so waiting for an opening to slink away.
I grabbed him from the dad, thanked the family profusely, walked down the hill, kicked the screen door out of the way and threw Lloyd inside, slamming the sliding glass door behind me.
He nearly died again a few months later when he caught sight of another dog across the road and sped away, his lead wrenched out of my friend's hand. We don't know how he avoided being hit, but he did.
He sped off a few times in the early years, when the scent of a female dog would send him flying. He fathered pups on one such escapade. I was in China when my son sent a text to congratulate me on becoming a grandmother. After I picked myself up off the floor (my sons were still in their teens), he named Lloyd as the proud dad.
We never saw the pups. The owner of the pure-bred female dog Lloyd hooked up with when a builder left a gate open, and the two dogs did what dogs do, wasn't impressed. The bits-of-everything pups were given to happy owners. I was sent to the dog house.
Lloyd nearly died again when he was attacked by another dog a few years later as we walked near a park. Both dogs were on leads, but the bigger dog charged, gripped Lloyd around the head and threw him like a rag doll until two men pulled the bigger dog away while people screamed.
He survived after surgery.
Lloyd nearly died again in 2013 when he contracted a dog form of brain disease, aged 10, in the week that I responded to a subpoena from a Special Commission of Inquiry and gave evidence at an in-camera hearing. The local vet held him for the day, said there was not much more that could be done for him and we waited to see if he would pull through.
Lloyd was the loyal little companion who didn't complain when I took him walking in the middle of the night during the worst of times while reporting on child sexual abuse. It was soothing to see him trot just ahead, sniffing and piddling, enthusiastic as always, happily indifferent to the dramas swirling around him. As long as there was food in a bowl in the morning and evening, warm places to sleep, walks twice a day and a place beside me when I sat down, he was happy.
My friends called him Hollywood because he looked like a dog in an American comedy movie - floppy ears, tan splotches on a white body, big black eyes and a head cocked at just the right times to charm food.
He loved food.
Three years ago I forked out nearly $900 in vet's bills after he disappeared in the pre-dawn dark one day while I helped my son set up his cafe near the beach. I found Lloyd after about 20 minutes with his head in a garbage bag behind a restaurant.
While we don't know exactly what he ate during that glorious time, we do know it contained a lot of cooked bone. It took two treatments under anaesthetic over two days to get my little dog, then 13, over one of the worst cases of constipation the vet had ever seen.
"He's a special little guy," said the vet, and another vet in the treatment room nodded.
"Usually it's the bigger dogs who need double treatments after eating too much cooked bone. I don't think I've had to do a double treatment on a little dog."
The other vet thought about it for a few seconds and decided she hadn't either.
"Thanks," I said. "That makes it so much better."
We were back at the vet a few weeks ago for the last time.
It took quite a while before we realised Lloyd's hearing had almost gone about a year ago. By that stage his sight had been compromised for some time. Somewhere along the way it became clear he had a kind of dementia, and we started talking about his quality of life, and what that actually meant.
It is the hardest thing to ring a vet and say it's time for a little dog's life to end when you sense the onset of real pain, and fear. But he left as he came, in my arms.
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