Finally Top Dog... but without a bottom dog.

The Golden Leave-it-There’s morning ritual, rain hail or shine, was a belly bath in the river....

The Golden Leave-it-There didn’t change his ways much after Queenie, my mum, died back in February – if anything, he seemed to perk up a bit.

That might have been because Queenie, although smaller by a margin, was older than him and insisted on being top dog.

He would stand back and let her pass or let her go through the door first – less through good manners than through fear of a sharp nip.

Without her around he could do what he liked, which had always been his instinct - but now without any hindrance.

He would commandeer my bed after I had warmed it up, say, and he taught himself how to nudge open the heavy glass door off the kitchen and let himself in – although he’d never close it behind him.

He always considered his breeding superior to we Chessies and was inclined to prance about with his white fluffy tail feathering in the breeze, his nose in the air. He was, as The Missus frequently pointed out, ‘a beautiful boy.’

His game, so far as I could work out, was to exploit his handsome looks and aristocratic bearing to maximum effect, distracting attention from the fact that, as a retriever, he was a dud.

As his name implies, he showed no interest in ever bringing anything back: the only time he would pick up a ball was when it was mine and fell short of me – perhaps bouncing off a tree branch when The Boss mis-cued.

Then he’d steal it, rolling on his back with my ball in his mouth…. until no-one was watching him anymore, when he’d immediately drop it.

Occasionally, he would hunt up a baby rabbit and cart it back in front of me, slowly chewing his way through it while eyeing me off gleefully. His habit, when he had food and I didn’t, was to growl fiercely if I came anywhere near him.

That’s what he was doing the day he died last week. I knew he was crook – The Boss had caught me the day before, sniffing the Leave-it-There from head to tail and his smell wasn’t good – it made me uneasy and The Boss gave me a re-assuring pat…. although he wasn’t any more re-assured than I was.

The next morning the Leave-it-There didn’t want his breakfast – but he didn’t want me to have it either (I got it in the end - but lost my last canine companion in the process.)

It’s up to me now, defending the place on my own. As you would expect, I’m trying to put the best slant on it – I get all the food there is, which is one way to look at it… and I keep reminding myself that if he was the last dog standing instead of me, he wouldn’t have given me a moment’s thought.

In fact, his attachment to me was zero - all I was to him was an occasional obstacle to his getting exactly what he wanted, which was everything.

So why would I miss him? I suppose he was like the grumpy uncle who had always been around - never very friendly but who had a couple of redeeming features.

One of them was his nose- which was highly-tuned and could sniff out dead entrails three paddocks away. I always kept an eye on him because I could tell when he had fixed on something worthwhile: being the athlete I am, I could always get there quicker. Woof!