Joey, the Dog a Toddler Loved

Joey, December 2003

That’s Joey, our greyhound, a couple of weeks after we adopted him at the RSPCA. We’ve had him five years now, and he is the sweetest, gentlest dog I’ve ever known.

And I say that with some authority, because in nearly sixty years of life, I have been without a dog for only seven years. I’ve known collies, retrievers, setters, spaniels, shepherds, even a coon dog, and various delightful mixed breeds. They were all wonderful, loving dogs in their way. But Joey is something else altogether.

When we lived in Kingston-upon-Thames, I walked him daily to a local park that was next to a primary school. There I could let him off the leash and he could run. He loved having his walk when school was letting out, because he loved the attention the children paid him. There were other dogs in the park, a cuckoo border collie who chased squirrels up trees and then barked incessantly at them; a rotweiller who was often there with no owner and no collar; and various small, yappy dogs who were actually about the right size for a city dwelling canine.

But the children loved Joey, and, when the parents saw his gentle demeanor and his endless tolerance for clumsy pats on the head, they were pleased that their children could be around such a calm dog. He had a fan club of four little girls who wanted to take turns walking him on his leash. I marveled at his patience with these little girls, who fawned over him and hugged him far too much, but he wagged his tail politely and allowed their cuddles.

One mother with a pre-school child of about three and a toddler in a stroller (buggy, to the English), asked if I would bring Joey to the stroller because the baby was afraid of dogs, and she thought such a gentle dog would help him to overcome the fear. Well, Joey sniffed the baby’s head and face gently, then rested his chin on the baby’s knees, and the baby was delighted. He bent over and hugged Joey. I saw this family occasionally in the park, and the baby always yelled Joey’s name as soon as he saw us there– but his mother told me he was still afraid of other dogs.

Now that we live in the country, Joey has his daily exercise in a huge field, with a lovely copse at the far end of it. He has lots of dog pals, a young border collie named Toby being his best pal. They start wagging tails and run toward each other the moment they spy each other across the field. Joey loves his daily run and bounces around like crazy the moment he knows I’m getting ready to take him. But he always returns home ready for a nice, long lie-down.

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