Afghans In The Park

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I had a , when I was little. A gorgeous .

She had been locked up in a shed with a dozen other dogs for six months by some weirdo, who chucked in tins of unopened food now and then. By the time they were discovered they were all dead or dying, except for this one amazing animal.

They didn’t expect her to survive, but she did. Her remaining teeth had to be removed and she was nursed back to health by vets and a lady in a specialist kennels for six months, before we were chosen as a family to care for her.

We called her Sian. I now have a daughter with the same name, but she wasn’t named after her. It would be strange to name a daughter after a dog, but I love the name. It is Welsh for Jane.

She was pretty wasted away still but over several months she put on weight and her coat grew back thick and shiny, as an should be.

She was already about four years old and had never been trained. As Sian gained confidence so did her speed and agility, and she was a handful for me to look after and control on a lead. But slowly she came back to life, and learned how to have a good time.

We lived close to a huge , and most days I would take her down and let her off the lead to race off and disappear for an hour. Sometimes I would eventually give up looking for her and return home, only to find her curled up on the chair fast asleep.

Sian was independent.

But gradually she began to come when she was called, and she had a dry, wicked sense of humour. She would take off faster than a greyhound and tear off down the hill towards the lake where, invariably, she would find a small being walked gently on the lead by its unsuspecting owner.

Sian would come in out of the sun, zeroing in on her target like a stealth fighter until she was right on top of her victim going at sixty miles an hour.

Then with a single ‘WOOF’ she’d bowl the smaller over, turn around and pant at the yelping, tangled mess on the floor. She never hurt any of them, and after the first few moments of blind panic the owner of the wailing dog would realise Sian was only there to play, and she found plenty of new friends that way. Most dogs carefully go up and sniff another dogs bum, but not our dog.

My father spent hours every week attempting to train her, to guard the house. He’d knock on his own front door, race in the house next to Sian, bark furiously at the door then race outside again pretending to be an unknown visitor.

Sian sat and smiled at him every time, not uttering a sound. He seemed to be enjoying herself and Sian was never one to interrupt.

After two years of this high octane training dad came in late one night after a couple too many drinks with his mates at the pub. He arrived at the front door and jimmied around with his key, trying to get a key shape into a custom built keyhole and finding the task nearly impossible.

The commotion outside her door obviously stirred up Sian’s curiosity, but she didn’t like to bark unless it was necessary.

She crept up to the door and waited until it opened, crouched next to the stairs to see what would happen next then leapt, barking furiously, baring her gums, throwing herself at dad coming through he door like she was a highly trained police dog.

Afghan’s are big, and dad wasn’t a very tall man. She had him pinned to the wall, paws on shoulders growling at him face to face and breathing last night’s tin of Chum into his mouth.

‘Not me you bloody fool” I heard him yell from my bedroom upstairs, trying to disentangle himself from her clutches. She gummed him twice hard on the arm before realising her mistake and doing everything to redeem herself.

Licks, whines, rubbing her head on his hand dad soon got over the shock of being attacked walking into his own home by his own faithful and reluctantly praised Sian for being ‘a good dog.’

Too little, too late. Sian never became a guard dog, preferring instead to trust implicitly people who came to our door, day and night. Which was credit to her, after the life she had led before.

After four years of sharing our lives with this lovely animal, she got out through the front door one morning after seeing her small white fluffy mop of a friend galloping small legged up the road. She went to say hello, and very sadly got hit by a car 20 minutes later and killed.

I often though that after all she’d survived she deserved to live a long life, but thinking about it now I know there is no rule about this. And I still think of her, 35 years later, which tells you what kind of she was.

Pets are good for children. They teach them about feelings, about caring, friendship and sharing, and they ultimately teach us a little about grief and understanding.

If you’re not sure about getting a pet for your child or children, the time they spend with them and the memories they take carry will last a lifetime.

I am a children’s author living in Albany Western Australia.

I tour schools running creative writing, self-esteem and advanced memory techniques workshops, and run an online creative studio for everyone who would like to join in at: Come inside and check out Rob’s school tour dates, and how to get him to your school.

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