This is a story I wrote a year or so ago - was reminded of it after a request by new member frizbee9 for rescue stories:
I found out recently that my old dog Banjo died and it brought back so many memories I thought I’d write some down. Banjo must have been about 15 or 16 years old, she had a good life. She hadn’t lived with me for about 12 years but she was a big part of my life for several years in Tasmania.
It was 1994 and I’d torn myself away from fishing in the north west of Australia and summonsed the courage to go back to school as a “mature age student” (shudder). I moved from Darwin to Beauty Point, in the north of Tasmania, to start a 3 year Bachelor of Science degree. I bought an old fishing boat and was living in the marina there, on the Tamar River. The then love of my life had just returned to Scotland and my brother and nephew were visiting. I decided to give a rescue dog a home and have a companion through the seemingly endless expanse of study and life in freezing Tasmania. So off we went to the local animal rescue, a private farm run by a local woman for the many cruelty cases that seemed to end up on her doorstep.
I remember standing at the dog pen with all these mongrels clamouring at the wire, “pick me, pick me!” They were all too big and boisterous to adapt to life on a boat. Then at the back was this little mutt just standing quietly watching, that was the one. Her name was Barcardi and she’d been a badly beaten skeleton when found. Being a bull terrier cross, her previous “carers” had tried to turn her into a hunting dog, but she just didn’t have it in her. I renamed her Banjo because after some time at the farm she had turned from a skeleton into a round, happy little thing. She was about 18 months old I guess.
Banjo adapted really well to life on the boat. She’d happily come along on the river jaunts I did in the old tub. If she was left on the boat on her own she’d spend the entire day at the bow peering through the anchor chain hole. To get off the boat from the bow onto the pontoon was quite a jump, Banjo got used to me tossing her down, though it did get hairy in the middle of winter when there was a layer of ice on the steel pontoon and she’d go skidding across to the other side...... never quite into the water though.
Because of the bull terrier mix she had a very pink nose which could get badly sunburnt so I kept it protected with blue zinc. When people would ask why she had blue zinc on her nose I’d reply “well she just refuses to wear any other colour” – more often than not they’d look at me strangely and ask no more questions.......
Banjo became a fixture at the maritime college where I was studying. Every day we’d walk up the hill to the school and every day for three years when I went into class Banjo would run around the building until she found which classroom I was in, then she’d settle outside the window as close to my seat as possible. If anyone left a door open into the building she would sneak in, run around and find which room I was in, sneak in the door, crawl under the chairs until she was under mine, then settle down happily. Almost invariably though she would get sprung by the lecturer as eventually she would let out this huge long sigh/groan/grunt of contentment and the entire class would erupt in laughter. “Get that dog out of here!” Boring lecturers......
If she wasn’t able to sneak into class she would be waiting patiently at the front door for when we all came out. Then she would erupt into a joyous bouncing, leaping straight up into the air again and again. I’d play her like a yoyo. I think she may have had fox terrier in the mix somewhere as she would also do those straight up leaps if she was in long grass. Very funny to see her in a field of long grass, popping straight up like she was on a pogo stick.
The maritime college once had a visit from an eminent Russian fisheries management scientist. This guy was like a guru in his field, heaps of publications, very well respected worldwide. At the time he was probably in his eighties, a venerable old chap. They gave him an office which had a window on to the front foyer where Banjo would wait patiently all day while I was in class. Days went by, the Russian scientist was like a god walking amongst us, as a lowly 1st or 2nd year student I certainly never had any interaction with him. And then one day he walked by when Banjo was leaping up and down like a maniac as I came outside and he said “I hav been vatching your dog for days now and hav done a statistical analysis!” I gulped. “Yes, I hav observed that 97.99 % of peoples entering zis building stop and pat ze dog, amazing, no?” That was my brush with scientific superstardom! I waited in vain for a scientific paper to appear in New Scientist regarding Banjo.....
I still have a certificate given to me after I graduated that reads “1996 Special Awards: Joint Degree Award. Lyn Plus dog (who did write the macro’s anyway?)” A macro is a computer programme and Banjo spent many long nights with me in the computer lab (no one around to kick her out at 2 am) working on that torturous assignment.
Not long after I started living in the marina I scored the job of caretaker there, looking after the 80 or so boats and dealing with the visiting yachts, especially busy during the racing season. One day I climbed down from my boat, after tossing Banjo down, and saw a dinghy rowing towards me with a couple of old Tassie codgers on board. They were classics! They had an Abbott and Costello type routine and grilled me relentlessly. John and Glenn had come to check out this “sheila living on her boat and taking over the marina.” Well from that I formed a lifelong friendship, in fact it is John who let me know of Banjo going to doggy heaven. Banjo adored John. He would periodically bring his boat, Awanui, from Launceston to the Beauty Point marina and stay there for a few days. Banjo would go visit and John would give her all the chop bones he’d saved from the past few meals. But she wouldn’t eat them straight away, no she’d come back to my boat with her mouth stuffed full of chop bones and ask to be hauled aboard before they would be eaten.
Close to the time that my studies were nearly over I had to think about what I was going to do next. I knew that I would be working overseas or somewhere remote or at sea and Banjo could not be a part of that. My friends knew it too, and I had so many offers of a home for the girl, she had won over an entire community. I settled on a lovely couple from Ulverstone who kept a yacht near my boat. They had a young daughter, an aging dog and a great love for Banjo. I was offered a job as a fisheries observer on Russian fishing boats in New Zealand, and then a dream job working with the fisheries department in Samoa, which I jumped at. Sold the boat, left dear Banjo with my friends from Ulverstone, and hightailed it for Samoa. I remember for weeks after leaving Banjo I would pick up my car keys and look around expectantly for her to start yo-yoing in anticipation of an adventure.
Every year I received news of Banjo, she was happy, getting very fat, doing a great job looking after Grandma, outliving the old dog, getting fatter, chasing rabbits in the paddocks, bouncing up and down like a yoyo. I never saw her again but I am so glad she had such a great life and gave so much happiness to me and her adoptive family. I can’t believe they had her for 12 years. I hope that all those good years shoved out the awful memories of her first 18 months. Dogs, honestly, they give us so much more than we give them.