Flash: A Pinnacle of Dog-hood

I don’t dislike dogs. I enjoy the company of most dogs and I have yet to meet a dog that didn’t like me. I am not fond of small dogs as, in my experience, they tend to be far to prone to barking and whining. I become uncomfortable with their constant shaking. Medium and large-sized dogs are the breeds I prefer, they match my internal bias for what a dog should look like and how a dog should act. I don’t dislike dogs, I just don’t have a desire to add one to my life.

I must have been just entering my teenage years. It was so long ago, age and distance has merged those years of my life together into a single era. There are eighteen years in a childhood but it is impossible to separate my memories of that time into distinct years. I have memories that date all the way back to my daycare days and I find it can be difficult to place those at an age that feels correct. Time and memory can sometimes not connect seamlessly together. I am, however, fairly certain that I had just entered my teenage years when I got my first, on only, dog.

He was a mixed breed dog we had gotten from a neighbour, one of my best friends at the time. His mother was a border collie / blue heeler cross, a medium-sized dog that was fiercely protective of her puppies. She bit me when I went to take what would become my dog from her, the bite was serious enough to draw blood. She was normally a friendly dog but she was not willing to let anyone look at her puppies let alone take them away from her. I would go home with a bloody leg and a new dog.

He was tiny when he came home that first day, about the size of a small cat. He had been well fed and looked like a ball of black and white fuzz with legs, a tail, a nose and a couple of eyes. His feet were white with blackish blue speckles exposing his blue heeler blood, his feet were massive compared to his body. He was destined to be a big dog.

He would dwarf his mother by the time he finished growing. His father had been a scotch collie that had belonged to another of our neighbours. A dog that had never been fixed and was free to roam wherever he wanted, he sired quite a few litters in his day. The only thing my dog inherited from his father was his size, in everything else he took after his mom. He had the size of a scotch collie but the colouring and personality of a border collie.

We learned early in his life just how fast he was. He moved quicker than any of the family could react and seemed to possess and endless supply of energy. As a puppy he would use his speed to get at the cat food as it was put down and before the cats could even get a bite. He earned his name “Flash” as a result.

Flash learned to chase and catch balls and frisbee at an early age. It was almost an innate skill he seemed to pick it up with no effort almost as if he had been born pulling frisbee from the air. The grabbing of flying objects was not only an instinctive response it was also his favourite pastime. He would greet strangers to the property with a frisbee in his mouth, if they threw it for him they were friends and if they didn’t they weren’t to be trusted.

He was a dog of action who tended to be on the move long before he could think about what it was he was doing. One day during an extended family barbecue he ended up getting hit in the mouth with a baseball bat. We had been playing baseball and he attempted to intercept a pitch just as it connected with a swinging bat. He picked himself up, shook his head and prepared to grab the next pitch. We gave up on the game, he was too fast and there was no way to continue without putting his safety at risk.

His reactions were so quick and automatic that he could catch birds in mid-flight. Flash brought me the gift of a grouse at one point. He had been so careful when he caught it that there were no puncture wounds, no crushing from his jaws, not even any ruffled feathers. The bird had died but it was most likely from shock or fear than from any physical injuries. He had a hunter’s instincts.

He was a smart dog although he didn’t always use his intelligence for good. He had hurt one of his front paws on some barbed wire. It had been a pretty serious wound with a lot of blood and a trip to the vet. His paw was bandaged up and he limped around while it healed. He received a lot of attention while he recuperated.

It was this attention that he remembered. After he had recovered he would use the memory to manipulate everyone around him for more attention. He would hold up a paw and limp around whenever he was feeling neglected. The only flaw with his otherwise perfect plan was that he couldn’t remember which paw he had injured. He would switch back and forth between paws, sometimes even in the middle of his current con.

Despite his attempts at trickery he was still this boy’s best friend. We were inseparable from the moment we met. I was what could be called a painfully shy kid, to an extreme. I would have preferred to do just about anything to avoid having to talk to people or, much worse in my mind, to be made the centre of attention. Flash provided an invaluable friendship; I got the companionship and socialization I needed without the awkwardness, embarrassment, and pain that all too often accompanied human interactions.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have or couldn’t make friends, it was just difficult and exhausting to maintain. I had always had an affinity for animals and it was strongest with Flash. We did everything together.

He was an outside dog, his size made it difficult for it to be otherwise. We had an enclosed porch that the large dogs slept in. They had food and water put out for them and dog houses were built so they could sleep on straw and old blankets. It wasn’t heated but was otherwise a rather luxurious shelter. Flash had lived in the house as a puppy and there always seemed to be a part of him that wanted that life back.

Whenever the temperature would drop to a ridiculously frigid level he would get a taste of the indoor life. There were days when the mercury plummeted to the point where no amount of shelter or thick winter fur could keep a dog even remotely close to warm. On these days we brought the outside dogs into the warmth and shelter of the house.

This meant that I would have a couple of guests for a few nights; Flash and Shadow (a small scotch collie youngster who earned his name because everywhere Flash went he followed like a shadow). As I was his boy Flash would claim my bed, a small twin, as his. I would put out a small cot for Shadow to sleep on.

Flash and I would share my twin bed, or at least attempt to. Flash took up at least as much space on the bed as I did, there was essentially two people sharing bed built for one. Flash loved to sleep on the bed, he would jump onto it and stretch himself out on his stomach right down the centre of the bed. I would have to squeeze in between him and the wall or perch myself on the edge of the bed.

He did not make a good bed mate. I could pet him for a bit after we went to bed, but only for a short while. He would let loose a deep, semi-threatening growl when he had had enough and was ready to sleep. It was the same warning he would use anytime I moved or jostled him during the night. Without a doubt the bed was his and he suffered me to share it with him.

The bulk of the time that I wasn’t in school was spent with him. We’d throw around balls or frisbee, he’d run alongside me while I biked around the subdivision, he’d accompany me through the local marshes while I hunted frogs and snakes, and we’d have adventures together. We lived on ten acres of mostly wooded land that was nestled behind a large, government-run wildlife preserve. This provided us plenty of opportunity for adventure.

Flash and Shadow (who was never far from Flash) were fearless companions. Between the back end of our acreage and the wildlife preserve was a wide, deep creek, flooded and swollen thanks to a family of beaver that had made it their home. I used fences or fallen trees to cross over the water since it was far to deep to wade through. I was not a strong swimmer and I doubt I would have enjoyed swimming through the disgusting smelling water anyway, so makeshift bridges were the order of the day. The dogs didn’t have this concern they just swam across from one side to the other, even in the dead of winter. The water almost never froze over enough to support their weight. Flash’s loyalty and devotion were so great that he wouldn’t allow something as minor as a dip in freezing water to separate him from me.

Flash took his canine companion duties seriously. He was as faithful a companion as any boy could have asked for and staunchly overprotective. Throwing his body into danger to keep me out of it was as natural as breathing to him. He would be overzealous in carrying out his duties, there was one time he jumped between me and a neighbour, growling and snarling with such ferocity that the neighbour chose to flee rather than risk an attack by the big dog. This boy was someone that Flash saw just about everyday, his only crime was an attempt to dunk me with water from a bucket, an action I had already perpetrated on him.

The protective feelings were mutual.

One of the many children that we fostered over the years decided one day that he was going to take his anger out on me. This was not an unusual occurrence, I had learned from experience to just accept it as defending myself would just get me into trouble. It was better to put up with the bullying than to stand up for myself and wind up with a punishment in addition to the bullying. This time the bully had made the mistake of pushing me in front of Flash. The dog moved faster than either of us could react, there was no warning given, he was on the boy’s back snarling and growling as his front paws grabbed his opponent. To his credit he restrained himself from biting the other boy.

The boy turned to defend himself from the dog, his fist lashed out at Flash’s head. I saw red and threw myself at my bully. My fists connected and the boy cried for help as Flash and I fought with him. We fought well as a team, neither one of us getting in the other’s way. We were pulled off the boy, fairly quickly, I remember in my rage that all I could think was that nobody hit my dog.


I still rage when I think about it.

He lived to be about fourteen, maybe fifteen. He stayed with my mother as I attempted to start my adult life. They had moved from the acreage to a home in the city. Anytime I went by for a visit it was like we had never parted. He would find a frisbee, he always seemed to have an unlimited supply, and I would throw it for him. Even as old age ravaged his body he would still bring me a frisbee, in his mind it was what I enjoyed and he wanted nothing more than to make me happy. He could barely walk at the end so I would place the frisbee in his mouth and he would hand it back to me. That was how we played our game near the end of his life and they were some of the best games of fetch we ever played.

I still feel guilty over not making more time to visit him as he aged. I regret that I was not there to see him off as he left this world.

For years I kept his collar in my pocket everywhere I went. Having his collar with me allowed me to keep his presence close to me, as if we hadn’t parted company. His last canine companion would cry every time I’d visit, she could smell the collar in my pocket but couldn’t find him. Her presence had extended his life and together we would mourn him all over again.

Since I met Flash I had had the most perfect dog. I have never felt the need to replace him, it would feel wrong as no other dog would ever match him.


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