Page 21 - Chiron Calling Spring 2021
P. 21

                Love me, love my dog...
by Reverend Brian McAvoy
Growing up on the East
Coast of Ireland I wasn’t allowed to have a dog at home as we lived on a busy main street and only had a small back
yard, so space wasn’t available for such luxuries. It was a fishing town, so we were allowed a cat who was well fed with the by-products of the weekly catch on its way to market in Dublin. Fresh fish was never a problem for us or for the cat.
I met my wife 60 years ago this coming August and she was a farmer’s daughter who always had a dog. So began a canine relationship for me which is still part of my life today. Even during our days when
I was in the RAF as a chaplain, we just had to have a dog in the family and so we became used to them being an essential part of our gang and making sure they were properly looked after. Sometimes, due to quarantine regulations or other posting factors we had to leave our dog with another family or indeed inherit a dog from someone else
to ease their problem of a similar nature. It worked for us and our three sons grew up with them and now all have dogs of their own too. Time and space prevent me from detailing the variety of pooches and other wonderful canines who shared our lives, both in sorrow and joy.
My present companion is Toby.
As you can see, he’s a long-haired Jack Russell who came to us from an RAF family posted to Cyprus about 12 years ago and he’s been charming everyone (and shouting at most of them!) ever since. When my wife died a couple of years ago, he became an even closer companion and quietly got further under my skin as he seems to understand and feel for my new predicaments and emerging situation. He’s very good at filling empty spaces and creating
a routine which suits him and me very well.
Having served 27 years in the RAF, I was really pleased to be asked to be a part time chaplain to the RAVC at the Remount Barracks in Melton Mowbray in 2011, then the Defence Animal Centre. Every day’s a school day, but my learning curve got even steeper! It was a real joy to be among and be a part of the training schemes for the new dog handlers and I think Toby’s life improved as I learned some new tricks and skills in handling him.
‘I learned that we only use and get involved with around 10% of a dog’s capabilities and instincts’
I learned that we only use and get involved with around 10% of
a dog’s capabilities and instincts. And we think we’re so clever! I also
learned to distinguish between an angry dog and one who is a habitual “grumbler” when I watched the interaction between a handler and
a Mali, who was quite scary even though he was only grumbling. My Toby is like that too and our relationship is so good since my understanding has improved and I have learned to think much more like him and not expect him to be just a mini human. I only wish I could sleep as much as him!
I’m very grateful for all my experience at DAC and I hope I
was of some use or ornament to the unit in the short time I was among you. I loved the passing out parades with the joy, pride and pleasure everyone felt in the achievements of both the students and the dogs. I’m particularly glad that I can continue with my attachment to the RAVC Association and am looking forward very much to when we can have another reunion event. Roll on the day!
    Chiron Calling / 19

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