It’s my beautiful Mal’s 10th birthday today.
From the loungeroom I hear:
“Go on Mal, hop-up!” as his chin is rested on the couch, waiting for permission.
“Come on Mal, go!” still standing there.
“HOP UP MAL, I’m not going to ask you 10 times!!!” still standing.
“Jesus Christ Mal, hop up! Finally! Good boy, now lay down.”
Yep. Happy 10th birthday you weirdo.
It’s strange to think that almost 10 years ago my Mum and I drove for 6 hours one-way to get my little orange half-tailed puppy. I was 18, starting my final year of highschool, and had managed to convince Mum that getting me a dog was a good idea. Mal was always the dog who knew so many tricks (now overshadowed by Lu), who just loved agility more than anything. Mal was always so easy to walk because he was never far ahead, and would check in all the time – I never worried about taking him anywhere the way I worry about Lu, because even if he saw a roo or a rabbit, I could call him off the chase anyway. Mal has been my constant shadow for nearly 10 years. When I was dating a guy who worked until midnight, Mal would fall asleep curled up with me on his side of the bed, and sneakily hop off before the guy came home. Mal was the first Aussie Shepherd to get his Agility Champion title, and the 2nd dog in Victoria. Not bad for a dog with no consistent contacts, no real foundation training (apart from “lead your dog around the course and say “over” when it gets to the jump) , and who would always pop out at the 10th weave pole. And he’s enjoying his ‘retirement’ a bit more now – having time at home if I take Lu to the dog park (he has some dog issues), but coming on adventures with Penny’s pack. I’ve noticed just in the last month that he’s starting to slow down- he wants to lie down more often, and will sometimes just lie there with his eyes open… he gets down with more effort, and he’s stopped running when he comes out to play agility. He worries- he always has, but I see it more often now if I have to grumble at Lumen, he’s worried because somebody is in trouble and maybe it’s him and he hates being in trouble.
But he’s adventuring – more often at a walk than a trot lately, so maybe he’s sore (getting a muscle lady to check him out on Friday), and he loves racing around with the pack, telling the young’uns that they’re having too much fun, yelling at Lumen as she races after a ball, trying to keep up with Badger with a hyper-speed gait (and not quite catching him).
Mal has always been a dog that people love. Testament to this is my father, who HATES dogs – will always ask about Mal on our phone-calls, and tell me that he’s a good dog, that he likes Mal. That’s saying something. I posted a birthday message for Mal on Facebook and people that I haven’t spoken to in 4+ years are wishing him a happy birthday. I bet they won’t wish me a happy birthday, but for Mal, of course! I’ve always felt like he was such a charismatic, gentle, sweet soul. He’s taught me a lot about dog training, but also very little- I realise now, having Lu, how easy Mal’s been. His main issue is that he likes to bark at cars driving past, and, as he’s gotten older, just with excitement. Of course they’re different dogs, but Mal has always just been good. Or at least, that’s how I remember it, anyway!
So happy 10th birthday my Mal-man. We still love you, even if Lu gets most of the attention these days (and when we try and give you tummy rubs she tackles us and pins us and licks our ears. Sorry).