I see Dogs




He’s been dead for four months, yet I still go walking with Mr Jorge every day. I see him as clearly as when he was here, running along the beach, jumping through waves, with the biggest smile on his face. The pain is all gone. No more suffering, just pure joy.


Often he’s joined by one of his friends. Trev, his best mate from when they were both mere puppies, often comes to play. Trev never liked water, and still doesn’t. So he flies along the beach on his stubby little Inspector Gadget, springy legs, while Jorge lopes along on his gangly clown legs, trying not to fall over himself. Emma, the lab, often comes for an amble and Phoebs the staffy keeps looking for food. Louis the bullterrier runs along rolling his little tubby body in the sand.


Today something a little different happened. Jorge wasn’t his usual excited self. He seemed tired and didn’t want to run, just walk very sedately as he did when he was alive. Toddling along, just keeping an eye on us, but moving at his own pace. Quite suddenly, striding down the path from the beach, I saw a beautiful Alsatian. Tall and strong, with a bushy tail that would be the envy of a fox. Deep brown eyes with a fixed stare, just like Jorge’s, that seems to penetrate your very soul. A coat of shades of brown and black that seemed far too thick for the warm day and a thought crossed my mind ‘I wonder why she hasn’t lost her winter coat yet.’, closely followed by another ‘I wonder why she looks so much like…..’ She came closer and stood, sentinel like beside me until I said ‘Go and look after Jorge’, which she did- immediately. Walked up and just stood beside him without any of the usual mutual sniffing that usually occurs. Jorge stood a little stronger, before they both moved off to walk side by side, tails up, purposefully, back towards the beach.


She was a police dog. The best trained animal I have ever met. The smallest finger movement from her person was all she needed to tell her exactly what to do. She and Jorge had met ten years ago. He was still in the joy of adolescence, while she had just retired from duty. She’d been shot. How anyone could do that is way beyond my comprehension of humanity. She’d been nursed back to health but couldn’t work any more, so she had been awarded the highest service honour, and went home in her handler’s back seat. Since then, they ran headland to headland every day, rain, hail or shine. She never strayed further than a metre from his side, and it took her a year to learn it was ok to go and stand in the water for even a few minutes. We’d sit on the beach and chat while she would stand near Jorge while he jumped over small waves. He never lasted very long and would come and flop on the sand, ready to be carried home. She would have one swim then sit, gazing out to sea, until they were ready to continue on their run.


The time came when she started to struggle with her running. She developed arthritis, as her breed are wont to do, and her runs slowed to more gentle walks. She never lost her stance and her protective gaze, until right near the end.


The last few months she couldn’t walk so her human would drive her to the estuary. We’d carefully unload her and help her walk down the stairs. By this time it was Jorge who had become the protector and guardian. He would walk very closely, often under her, as if he was trying to help lift her tiring body.


We ended up making a sling of sorts, out of a picnic blanket to carry her down, and lay her gently on the water’s edge- so it would lap over her feet. She would then roll in and swim for a minute before we’d have to help her back out.  The final day, he didn’t use the sling. He just picked her up as if she was a feather, and carried her down the stairs and into the water. She barely moved as he sat there and cried with her as we stood by and cried too. Jorge let me cuddle him very closely that day before he wriggled to be let down, so he could escort them back up the stairs.


The day she reappeared, I could have sworn she was real. It was only when I went to pat her that I realized what had happened.


The next day she appeared again, in the same spot.


I had been wondering why there was a spot beside Jorge’s grave where the grass was flattened and had not started to regrow even after four months. I had mentioned to friends that it was as if someone was sleeping there, keeping him company. Now I know who was standing guard for him.


The second day she appeared was the day of an eclipse. Weird stuff happened. I was supposed to attend a video conference meeting that was about stuff that was going to affect me, so it was important I was there. As the meeting was about to start three things happened – the eclipse started, the entire coastal area where I live suffered a total blackout, and I received a phone-call from a friend. Her sister, Jo, had been killed in a freak encounter with a malfunctioning boom-gate at a shopping centre, and she had been dealing with the fallout from that for two weeks. The police, the coroner and the shopping centre were each carrying out investigations and she’d heard nothing from any of them. The funeral had been held, the friends who had flown in from interstate and overseas had left. My mate got sick, of course, but was now well again, and she was at the angry stage of grief. Concerned that the police may have deemed it just an accident, she wanted to know why she’d heard nothing from them. So, she had called to ask. The policeman in charge she had spoken to suggested she come up to the station ‘between 6 and 10 tonight’ as that was when he was on duty. So she asked if I’d go with her for moral support. Of course.


We drove up, me not remembering to tell her about the encounters I’d had that morning with Jorge and his mate- even though my friend knew how often this happened.


At the police station, after a wait as two young women had been one-punched by some random bloke in a pub across the road and the whole station was dealing with that, the door opened. There stood this cop, with the gentlest, most open face I’ve ever seen of someone in that profession. Paul, he introduced himself as. Over the next hour he answered as many questions as we had, all the while not providing any information that could compromise the investigation. He still managed to reassure us that the investigation was far from finished, but they had eliminated certain issues and narrowed the focus of concern very clearly. He wasn’t just a police officer. He told us he had trained initially as an intensive care nurse. He then decided on a change of career and became a lawyer. Finally he turned to policing. His behaviour- his language, his mannerisms, his gentleness, was something I’ve rarely witnessed in a police person. He talked about the impact on the two women officers who had attended the scene and how one in particular was struggling to cope.


As he stood to escort us out, it struck me. He was the human equivalent of the police dog. Her name just happened to be Cassie – also the name of Jo’s best friend.