Sir Tristram (TristyBoy to his friends) has reached the rich age of twelve and a half human years or eighty-four canine ones. His eyes have a bluish tinge, his muzzle is frosty and his grin is gappy. He doesn't hear so well anymore. Just recently osteoarthritis has set in and our morning walk has been halved by two kilometers. Notwithstanding, his thick black coat still gleams. He remains a handsome knight of the finest kind.
Trist is my most loyal and loving friend. When Richard passed away, he mourned his beloved master for weeks. Then he assumed the part of my dedicated protector, a role which has caused him no little anxiety. The scarring on his leg, the result of obsessive licking to which Labs are susceptible, is probably the result of that trauma. To others he is a gentle warrior, with rather a distant air for a Labrador. But then he has Galahad, doesn't he? Galahad, the life and soul of the party, is always at hand to do the necessary socialising.
In June 1997 Tristram joined our household to follow in the footsteps of our previous black Lab, Valiant. His puppyhood and youth were expensive - he left behind a trail of chewed shoes, excavated irrigation pipes and dirtied dishclothes. But Richard, quick to anger and even quicker to forgive, said, "A dog must keep his spirit. You don't want him to become staid before his time." And spirit he had, also in the ring where he won a rosette or two or three. But Trist was not really a show dog. He never managed to hide his boredom at all the endless posturing and tended to sit down firmly when he received the command, 'Stand!' .
Old friends, like Tristram and I, don't need many words anymore. When he rolls on his back in my study, I scratch his tummy and he grins a wide doggy smile and murmers, "That's it! No, there, just over there!" When I nestle against the pillows with my opened Bible at the end of the day, he strolls to the bedside and says, "Oh, okay. But if you get to do any praying, say a word for me!" He gives me a nudge or two with his nose, while I sit hammering away at the computer keys in the mid-morning and remarks, "Don't take it so seriously, girl. Remember your in-basket will always be full!" I marvel at his wisdom.
How much longer do we still have together? In Tristram's view, that is a futile human question. "We're together today, aren't we? What more matters?" And I have decided he is right.