It was just an old Sydney Swans cap, bought at a stand outside the SCG sometime in the 1990’s, when I was attending a Sydney Swans game. I liked it because it had a sort of vintage feel to it, a canvas fabric look rather than the bright red and white caps supplied by the Swans as part of the membership pack. It was also in the days when I was regularly buying Swans kit like shirts and jackets. My need to be identified by this paraphernalia has long gone, the attachment broken, in a process I have written about elsewhere.
The cap had become my cap of choice when I started walking regularly for exercise, around the time when I first met Molly in the early 2000’s. Molly’s two daughters were still living at home although there were plans for them to be moving in the near future to Queensland to attend university. Each of the girls had a dog and they had decided that Mum should also have a dog to keep her company when they left home. There was Astro Boy, a beautiful large Border Collie dog; Jack, a Maltese Shih Tzu cross dog and Dolly, a small long-haired Chihuahua-Terrier cross bitch, ostensibly Molly’s pet. That’s right, Dolly, Molly, get it?
All three lived exclusively outside, the dogs that is, and were taken for walks irregularly, very irregularly. I thought I might as well combine both the dogs and my need for exercise by taking them for a walk along the many walking paths available in the suburb we were living in.
So the three dogs, the old cap and I developed a routine of heading off for a walk each morning with Astro leading the way, being the leader of the pack, Dolly trotting along behind him, her hero, and Jack who had had some good training by his “mum”, would trot to heel very obediently by my side. I really came to enjoy these walks and especially seeing the three dogs delight in seeing and smelling all manner of new things each day. The only negative was when we occasionally came across another dog unexpectedly and I scrambled to bring all three in close to avoid conflict. Usually, though I could take evasive measures if I spotted the other dog in time. All in all though it was a mutually beneficial arrangement for all four of us and it would continue so for about three years. The girl’s university plans fell away and each left home, one to join the police force and the other to her own flat nearer to work, but their two dogs remained at home until they were each in a position to care for them themselves.
Sadly the first to leave the group was poor little Dolly who contracted a type of spinal meningitis which left her little control over her movements and in a lot of constant pain. We had little choice but to put her to sleep to relieve her suffering. This was one of the most difficult and sad decisions Molly and I have had to make and one that stills brings a wave of sadness over me at the memory.
So it just became the Astro, Jack, the old cap and I. Shortly after Dolly passed away, we decided to move to country Victoria to renovate the old family home and try to establish a new clinic in the area. Astro Boy was then able to leave to join his “mum” and we took Jack with us to our new home. And didn’t Jack relish his new found independence! Astro had dominated him up till then by the nature of their relative sizes but now he had the whole, larger, yard to himself. I had to put a “Beware of the dog” sign on the front gate as he was a great nipper of delivery men’s heels. I am sure he took on a definite swagger after the sign went up! So it was now just Jack, the old cap and I enjoying our daily walks. I can still hear Jack barking under our bedroom window early on cold frosty mornings eager to be out on his walk. We had by this stage acquired two cavoodle puppies but they were far to young to join us old seasoned campaigners on our daily walks but sometimes we did team up with an old neighbour, Sam Blackmore, and his little dog Honey. So then it became Honey, Sam, Jack, the old cap and I. With the renovations completed, or at least at a stage of being habitable again, the clinic struggling to make an impact and the pain of separation from our children, we decided to up stakes and move back up north. At this time Jack’s “mum” was now settled and able to resume the loving care of Jack.
The Cavoodles had now become old enough to start going for walks so it now became Rosie, Daisy, the old cap and I on daily walks around the streets. We would pass by Jack’s house sometimes on our walks, Rosie, Daisy, the old cap and I. He was getting progressively slower and slower but would still acknowledge us with a bark as we passed. Sadly but quietly Jack passed away in his sleep about eighteen months ago. Old Snaggletooth is now at rest. We also occasionally took Astro with us on our walks, Rosie, Daisy, the old cap and I but he was getting quite feeble and it was painful to see him all full of enthusiasm but the body not keeping up, the spirit strong but the body weak, so we had to retire him from the walks. He lingered on for a couple more years but just recently his suffering had reached a point that giving him a painless exit was the only merciful option. Old Boofhead was one of the smartest dogs I ever knew, despite my nickname for him, and I am relieved that he is now at peaceful rest.
Rosie, Daisy, the old cap and I kept up the tradition and go for a walk most days around the dog park near our home. It is just under a two-kilometre walk so that is plenty for the little girls and they love especially love smelling all the rabbit trails across the park. I wrote another post about our Cavoodle walks which you can read here.
Recently on returning from our walk, I noticed some black spots on the old cap when I put it down on the patio table. Upon closer inspection, it was revealed as being riddled all over with spotty mould, both inside and out. Something the old eyes had obviously not registered earlier. Now the dilemma! The old cap obviously had to go as there was no way I wanted to take a mouldy old cap inside and especially not into our washing machine, Molly would have conniptions! But to throw it out in the rubbish bin, with all the memories it held? The hours and kilometres walked with Astro, Jack, sweet Dolly, Rosie, Daisy, Honey and Sam? Throw them away with the hat? But then I realised the attachment that was happening here. Nothing is permanent, but nothing and this old cap had reached its use-by date. But this physical thing, this old cap, does not hold the priceless memories, I do, and they will be with me for as long as I live or at least as long as my mental capacities give me access to them. So bye bye old cap you have served me well and the beautiful memories you helped create will continue to make me smile in remembrance.
Now look what you have gone and done, left a girl like me sobbing into my keyboard on a cold Monday morning. What a precious story to share and what heart break you have had to face saying goodbye to those dear furry friends. Your words are permanent Michael, every one of them, whether they live here forever or not, the people who read them will be forever touched and moved by them. Thank you for sharing this with me today xx
What a lovely story. Well, you know I can identify with that. Didn’t I follow you yesterday when I was here? I could have sworn I did. Well, I’m doing it again!