Today marks 35 years since the death of my first and most memorable dog Jip. He was the son of my grandfather's dog Santee who was half labrador and half doberman pinscher. My grandfather, arranged for her to mate with a full breed doberman pinscher. During her pregnancy my usually frugal but dog loving grandfather gave her steak for dinner to help her cope with the challenges of pregnancy. My grandmother to say the least was not amused.
Jip and his 11 siblings came into this world on July 28, 1969. My grandfather sold and gave away all of Jip's siblings but he had a hip deformity and understandably nobody wanted him. He was also extremely shy, always hiding under my grandmother's flower pot stand. I don't know whether he was then just shy or self conscious of his hip deformity.
In early January 1970, Jip was still in residence at my grandparents' house and my grandfather with his dictatorial tendencies decided that it was time for his daughter to own a dog. He foisted Jip on us along with a plastic bowl of turned cornmeal. I remember seeing Jip sitting down quietly in the backseat looking very apprehensive as he was being taken into a new home.
Jip adapted well to his new environment very quickly. My twin brother Hilaire named him after a dog character in a book, the title of which I can't remember. Both of us who were nearly 8 years old at the time, loved owning a dog but not the responsibilities that go along with it. We would often argue about who should feed Jip. Our parents solved the problem by putting us on a weekly roster.
As a puppy, Jip was very playful, sometimes nipping some of my childhood playmates who would visit the house from time to time. Like many puppies, he had destructive tendencies. There was a hole in the fence that we shared with our neighbours. Jip would go through that hole and chew up sandals or slippers that were left on their verandah. My poor parents were regularly put to expense replacing these items.
Jip soon grew out of his puppy stage. Unlike some of his siblings, he was not a vicious dog. One of them, a brother named Turby was owned by some family friends and they related to us a story of a prowler who left a trail of blood after having been attacked by Turby.
Jip had a gentle spirit, my mother thinks that was the Labrador side of him. However he was fiercely protective of the household and could unleash his doberman side when required.
One of our playmates was James, a very troubled child. One day he came through the gate with less than honourable intentions. Jip literally leapt into action, railing up on James and pushing him to the ground and standing guard over him until help arrived. If James tried to get up, Jip would gently lick his face to remind him who was boss. My mother was able to relieve Jip of guard duty and deal with the situation herself.
On another occasion, our neighbour Judy was coming through our gate and a bad dog who lived a few doors down was able to get through the gate and was headed toward Judy and naturally there was cause for alarm. Jip came at full speed out of nowhere and chased the dog away with no harm being done to Judy. For his heroic actions, Hilaire rewarded Jip with some hamburger for his dinner.
One weekend we were all away and my we asked a friend Irene who lived four houses up the road from us to feed Jip in our absence. Irene was an animal lover so she gladly obliged. Jip was always fed outside, however when Irene came to feed him, he would not budge. When she tried to move him, he gently put his mouth on her hand. He was just not going to leave his guard post.
Jip started a less than proud family tradition of spoiling our dogs. He was the first and the most spoiled of the lot. Jip was a full time house dog. He would stay in the house while we were away during the day. At night Hilaire and I gladly shared our bedroom with him. He was house trained and rarely had an accident. On one occasion he did have one and when we arrived home we saw some newspaper on the spot and somehow he was able to move some newspapers that were under a coffee table nearby.
Actions sometimes well intended can have unintended consequences. As a result of our spoiling Jip, he became somewhat of a snob. At night, Jip would be inside and thought himself too good to lie on the bare floor so we gave him a mat. Not only did he have his mat, but it had to be put in a place of his liking. If it wasn't, he would gently nudge one of us to move it to a place of his liking which we had to figure out by trial and error until we got it right. Amytime Jip was ill, he would go one better and jump into mine or my brother’s bed. Jip was very particular about his food. If he didn't like it, he wouldn't just walk away, he would turned over his pan in disgust. Our neighbours had a puppy who used to bark incessantly at Jip. The aristocrat that Jip thought himself to be, wasn't going to use up energy barking back so he would lift his leg and relieve himself in the direction of the puppy.
Jip's most costly habit was his philandering during mating season. I remember one day watching helplessly and anxiously Jip expertly negotiating his passage across the very busy Mona Road to pursue his female interests. He would disappear for days at a time and coming back emaciated and with battle scars no doubt inflicted by other male dogs hunting for the same thing. Of course these jaunts resulted in costly veterinary bills. My mother once remarked that she spent more on Jip's medical bills than the rest of the family put together!! Jip came back from one of his jaunts badly bitten up, barely able to walk. We took him to the vet had his legs bandaged and figured he would keep quiet for awhile. A short time later he was off again but came back within a few hours. At this point we realized that we needed a permanent solution. In consultation with our vet, we cut off the source of the problem. Jip was also a snob when it came to his choosing his female partners. I gather that many of his female conquests lived in nearby upscale area of Beverley Hills(Jamaica).
In May 1979, my grand aunt having retired from her business was moving from her house to an apartment and needed to find a new home for her dog Snuggles who was a beautiful male golden retriever. This decision proved detrimental to Jip. Snuggles was always picking fights with Jip, seemingly in attempt to challenge Jip’s top dog status. However both dogs did come to some kind of truce, the result was that Snuggles taught Jip how to eat the common mangos that would fall from the tree in abundance during mango season.
Jip’s health began to decline and on the afternoon of May 12, 1981 I discovered him in a weird lying position, his tongue purple and his breathing laboured . I knew that the end of Jip’s sojourn here on earth was near. I watched him take his last breath. My father dug Jip’s final resting place under the common mango tree. Snuggles was also grief stricken, becoming agitated as we placed Jip’s remains in his final resting place.
My grandfather had a very soft spot for Jip and would sometimes express regret at having given him away. Jip was a very important part of my brother and myself’s growing up years. Since Jip, we have had many wonderful dogs but he remains a one of a kind dog, the likes of which I will never see again.
© A.Pierre Sobers 2016