Bozzy, age 6


Part Labrador

May 23, 1966 _______ May 22, 1978

 Bozzy was born on a Victoria Day--a national holiday in Canada--and died on a Victoria Day




Born in New Brunswick, Canada, a few years later Bozzy moved with us to Los Angeles, California. Thus he swam in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The second half of his life he spent far inland, living in the country in my home province of Ontario, Canada.


Bozzy seemed to grasp intuitively what I wanted him to do. Once or twice was enough for him to learn a new command and never forget it. When he was engaged in some doggy project of his own (like excavating a field mouse burrow or breaking out of confinement) you could see him stop frequently and consider the best method for the next step. Unlike many other farm dogs who end up reeking of skunk every summer, Bozzy had one close encounter in his youth and never repeated that again.


Bozzy was always ready to scrap with another male dog. When he was young, I lived just down the street from Alex Colville, one of Canada's most famous artists, who has done a lot of animal pictures. Although I often passed him on the street, I never had a chance to engage him in conversation. We always met when Colville was walking his dog, a very scrappy Airedale. Each of us would pick up his 60-pound dog in his arms, smile and nod at each other, and walk by with the two dogs snarling at top volume. Luckily, both then and later, I was always with Bozzy and able to prevent or quickly stop any fights.

The way I ended two fights was memorable. (These were the only two times that Bozzy made hostile contact with another dog.) At one of our homes I always walked Bozzy on the leash because many other dogs were about. Every day a woman walked her Scottish Terrier off the leash at the same time. The Scotty would run around Bozzy yapping at him and challenging him while I held tight on the leash. One morning Bozzy's collar broke as he strained against the leash. He instantly grabbed the Scotty in his jaws and picked it up. I took a chance that he would be obedient to a command he knew and shouted, "Drop!" He dropped the Scotty at once and I pounced on him. Two years later in Los Angeles the front door was opened while Bozzy was standing there. He caught sight of a Great Dane on the sidewalk and launched himself at the larger dog. Bozzy caught the Dane by the throat and was hanging there from his teeth. It was not entirely logical, but I remembered the earlier scrap and bellowed, "Bozzy, drop!" He instantly let go, and the Dane's owner and I were able to get the dogs leashed.

Bozzy's aggression did not extend to puppies, females, or members of other species. He was gentle and friendly with all our cats and was best buddies with Samson, a clever and adventurous orange tomcat, who often accompanied us on our walks and liked to snuggle up to Bozzy when they were sleeping. Bozzy was fond of Sammy too. He would wag his tail at him and give him a companionable lick with his tongue. Looking back, I think the two were very much alike in personality. Samson was a fearless, confident cat, and he showed the same capacity for foresight and planning--mainly in the pranks he played on our other cat.


At times Bozzy's main mission in life appeared to be protecting my family: myself, my ex-wife Angela, and my two children, Chris and Wayne. He was always ready to growl at a threatening intruder, whether it was a bear at a campground checking out our garbage or some person who barged through our door without waiting for us to open it. Unlike some aggressive watchdogs, he knew when we were welcoming guests, and greeted them with friendly tail-wagging.

When we returned from New Brunswick, my father had not yet seen his first grandson. He arrived in his car, rushed into the garden where we were sitting and snatched Chris out of his playpen before we could even say hello. Bozzy was instantly on his feet, snarling and snapping his teeth. My Dad never quite forgave him, and for years after would inquire, "Have you still got that dumb black dog?" I would always reply, "Yes, Dad, smartest dog I ever owned!" for I felt that Bozzy had done exactly what any parent would want if a total stranger grabbed his child.

The only thing that ever frightened Bozzy and made him seek my protection was a 6.5 earthquake in Los Angeles. After experiencing that big temblor, any little tremor at night would send him bounding onto the bed to burrow under the covers between my wife and me.


Bozzy was with me practically every moment that I was at home with him. I was in graduate school in Los Angeles and had to spend long hours at my desk. Bozzy was almost always to be found under the desk, curled up at my feet.


Although Bozzy had a slight limp in the hind end from hip dysplasia, he was fast and strong. He would plow though snow up to his shoulders and gallop through the woods and fields for hours on our rambles.

Born with all the instincts of a hunting dog, Bozzy was doomed to live with a non-hunting master. Going through the woods, he was constantly casting in circles around me and putting up grouse or pheasant. Walking along the river bank, he often plunged into the water and tried to retrieve perfectly healthy wild ducks who would lift off when he got close.

Bozzy was a powerful swimmer. Whenever we were at a shoreline, he would find a stick and beg me for the pleasure of fetching it, no matter how cold or rough the water might be.


I never felt alone when Bozzy was with me. He was always communicating with his eyes, his body language and occasionally his voice. I often talked to him aloud and spent a lot of time thumping his chest while he lay on his back.


At least Bozzy wagged his tail appreciatively when I recited poetry, and he always jumped up enthusiastically when I quoted the opening lines of a T. S. Eliot poem--"Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky"--which was my signal that we were going for a walk!

When you left us, old friend, we had two younger dogs, and since then I have lived with five other dogs. All but one of those seven dogs were likable animals, and one of the seven, the red Irish Setter, became just as special to me as you were. But I've never forgotten you.

Hardly a week goes by without some memory of you. You were the companion of my young adult years. You were the first dog who stayed with me for a long time. You formed my idea of what a good dog should be: intelligent, forceful and quirky in personality, and totally devoted. I loved the Irish Setter so much because she shared those qualities with you, even though she expressed them in very different ways.

When you left me, old fella, it was during the busiest time of my life. Oh, I managed to find some time to grieve for you. I cried several times, I wrote a poem for you, I buried you at the back of the property near the big pond, I walked back there from time to time for a few years to stand beside you--until we had to move away. It never felt as if I had done enough to recognize your role in my life.

It's been a long time now. The Irish Setter I'm grieving freshly for was born seven years after your death, and now she has died of old age. Over all those long years I sometimes felt it was a shame that such an outstanding dog as you didn't have any sort of memorial. I found this website and put up a tribute to Santa, the Irish Setter, and then I thought to myself that's how I can give Bozzy a memorial too.

So, Bozzy, old friend, here's your tribute: your picture, your story as I saw it, and a piece of music. I don't know as it's anything you ever heard. I picked "The Great Little Army," a march tune by Kenneth Alford. I was looking for something that would express your personality. I wanted some very jaunty, lively music because you were always so cocky and self-confident, so fearless, so full of life when you dashed through the woods with your tail rotating like a propeller.


My ex-wife Angela has fond memories of old Bozzy, and after viewing his tribute page she very kindly e-mailed me the text of the poem I wrote for him many years ago.


For Bozzy

I often watched you digging. Now you rest
Unwatchful while I dig - but not with the zest
You dug out a woodchuck den,
Unearthed a mouse's labyrinth as if it were Troy
Or fabled Knossos of men,
Not with your furious patience nor joy
Plunging your whirling paws into hard-baked soil;
Instead I toil
Like an asthmatic backhoe
Grunting with each spadeful I throw,
Like an unwilling mechanical slave
While I backfill your grave.

I like to remember your young days, old friend,
Trying to retrieve the ducks I had not killed,
Springing up like a fury to defend
Our baby from his grandpa's first embrace,
Or begging for the thrill
Of fetching sticks in mountain rivers,
Like a mad voyageur plunging through rapids and rocks in your race.
And after, shedding the icy water in great triumphant shivers.

You were a bad dog, old friend, in those days
Always hurtling into frays,
The terror of terriers with your great thick neck,
Able to take and shake dogs near your own size;
And cocksure you could even deck a Great Dane,
You launched yourself with fury in your eyes.

You were a good dog, old friend, in those years,
Setting to rest our fears
In a city where mugging was a humdrum sin;
Gracious to the guests we admitted in
And a sudden nightmare of snapping teeth and threat
For those who entered without our let.

I like to remember your old days, old friend, when
Time, like a frenzied driver, suddenly ran you down,
Hurling you in a graceful arc towards decrepitude.
Even when you were already ten
You limped after that Dalmatian clown
Chasing him from your domain by sheer spiritual magnitude.
Your eyes were still intense and clear,
But no watchdog now you could not hear,
And with children, somehow, with the dignity of gray
Upon your muzzle you were readier to play.

And then crossing the road on Queen Victoria's birthday and yours,
Unexpectedly you ended your course.
A young kid driving too fast home from town
Suddenly ran you down
Hurling you in a graceful arc towards eternity.

I know that scripture gives no special promise for your kind,
But learned and reverend professors have opined
That cats and dogs are to be found in the Heavenly City.
And I am confident that it is so
That God will let none of his good creation come utterly to an end,
And you were good, old friend.