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Goodbye Mr Gyps

Gypsies tend to wander and keep to themselves, but not this one.

He ran, chased, and leapt in unconfined joy, unless he was sitting quietly while the rest of us lunched or sunned ourselves through a spring afternoon.

Gypsy was great at communing with humans, even by canine standards of companionability. He walked, ran and climbed and, as a Golden Retriever, would fetch a ball if he felt like it. Which he usually did.

I first saw “the Gyps” more than 12 years ago, when he arrived – a gorgeous pup – to live with our friends who live in a rural district an hour’s drive inland from Perth. This sort of debut is rather like the arrival of baby, except it’s more “outdoorsy” and the likely school fees are less frightening.

Gypsy was indeed fortunate to have a hectare of bush to run around in safely. Even if he had ever got over the fence he would have been a long way from traffic. However, as I say, a wanderer he was not. He was also lucky in having kind and attentive owners.

For us as enthusiastic visitors, Gypsy was a family fixture that added a strong dimension. A common routine was a walk before dinner, up a hill track, along past the large properties that housed neighbours. The sound of barking would usually accompany our passage, reminding us that other dogs shared this idyllic retreat.

This particular friendship has many threads. We discuss music, education, websites and sport, among other things. Geographically speaking we can draw on time in Texas, Switzerland, England and Japan for conversation. These people have seen me through plenty of vicissitudes. In many ways they set the benchmark for friendship. For well over a decade Gypsy has snoozed beside us all while we see off a bottle of red before bed. His favourite outside spot was amid a bank of grevillea.

“Gypsy has developed a problem in one eye,” the friends told us last year. “Could be a tumour.”

Thus did it prove. We steeled ourselves for observing his discomfort. In late April the pleasure of our excursion to Gypsy land was tempered by seeing him wearing a big plastic collar to discourage him from rubbing the eye.

That was the last time we saw him. “A turn for the worse” was inevitable. The ultimate act of kindness was briefly resisted but then sought at the vet. “Goodbye, Mr Gyps,” said my wife Jo.

Indeed. This Gypsy is now free to roam through the field of our golden memories.