Well-known journalist and author Michael Gawenda has started a Crikey blog with his dog Rocky. It will cover news and events and media criticism, sport and the meaning of life, all seen through the prism of their dog-man relationship. Well, up to a point. Head to Rocky & Gawenda to find out more. In his debut post, Gawenda writes:

St Kilda beach at six in the morning, along the board walk, newly built this past year, part of the prettying up of St Kilda about which I have grave doubt, but which, thankfully is nowhere near complete so that the old St Kilda, the one I have known these past 30 years or more is still there beneath the veneer of tourist sheen. The sun is just rising, this morning a red hazy ball just above the horizon because of the smoke haze a week after the fires. Along St Kilda beach I walk, watching Rocky down at the water’s edge searching for a ball.

Most mornings, he finds one. When he does, he takes it in his mouth and throws the ball — most often a tennis ball covered in sand but sometimes a bouncy rubber ball which is not quite as big a prize for it is more difficult to control — triumphantly in the air.

Rocky is a medium size dog but with a large and majestic head and I must say, a majestic fringy arc of a tail. His face is grey bearded, his eye-brows long and silver and they tend to grow over his eyes. He is rather long-haired. His paws are furry with splashes of white and his chest is deep with a striking white streak of long hair which wobbles from side to side when he runs.

On this hazy morning, the sun fiery red rising over the Esplanade, Rocky, Ball in mouth dashes onto the board walk and drops the ball at my feet. His body is tense, ready to pounce if I go to pick up the ball. He growls, a soft low long growl of excitement and anticipation. I bend down and snatch up the ball before his mouth can capture it. I raise it high above my head. Rocky jumps vertically in the air. I wind up and then throw the ball as far as I can across the sand to the water’s edge.

My technique is still not bad, the  throw’s power coming from the swivel of my shoulder rather than from the snap of my arm. Rocky flies off the board walk onto the sand, his head in the eyes, his eyes fixed on the ball’s trajectory. I watch him run. I feel a great wave of affection for him.

The pleasure of watching him is unqualified and uncomplicated.  We are connected by that sand-covered ball flying through the dawning hazy light. We are grateful for each other.

Rocky is 16 months old. My children delivered him to us when he was an eight week old puppy in October 2007, after we had arrived back in Melbourne from Washington where I had been the correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

While we were away, Lolly, our old and blind Jack Russell, had to be put down. My children have yet to forgive me for not being there, with them at the vets when Lolly was euthanised.

I have had dogs all my life. They are sort of markers to the stages of life, from childhood to old age. Rocky, well Rocky, with some luck, will grow old with me. We will grow old together, though I have fewer, far fewer, years ahead of me than behind me and Rocky is still an adolescent. At some stage, we will both be old.

We do talk about that, growing old together. We talk about time passing. We talk about the past and about dogs I have loved. Rocky does not appear jealous. His demeanor is always that of an attentive listener, though I must admit that he can be easily distracted. I believe Rocky considers the world to be a benign place. He is open with his affection for virtually everyone and expects affection in return. He is surprised when it is not reciprocated.

He is aware of the fact that I consider the world rather more malign but this does not affect his outlook. He remains an optimist.

He has changed my life.

I first decided to become a journalist all those years ago because I found it impossible to live with the same routine day after day, especially waking early every morning to start work at what I back then considered an ungodly hour — 9.00am was standard and with some jobs, even earlier.

Read more here.

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Peter Fray
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