When I was young, I had a constant and faithful companion. An ever present friend at my side. He was there on the day I was brought home from hospital as a baby, he was there when I left for my first day at school and he was there as I studied for my GCSEs. His name was Magellan and he was possibly the finest border collie who ever lived.
Magellan and his brother, Tasman, were my babysitters in my early years. They followed me around and made sure that I didn’t get into too much trouble. There’s barely a photograph of me that doesn’t have one or other of them standing watch or lying curled up around me.
As I grew up, I’d spend my time wandering with them along the riverbank or across the fields. And when Tasman succumbed to illness, Magellan continued to be my loyal partner in crime. When it came to the ageing Magellan’s time to leave us, I sat with him and held his paw as the vet administered the injection that would send him to sleep.
It was only when I got my own dog, Molly, and became a fully-fledged member of the local dog scene that I realised how much Magellan, Tasman and their successors – the infamous Blue and Collie and the hooligan-like Vasco and Hal – had taught me.
When I’m out and about with Molly or just relaxing with her at home, we seem to communicate in an easy way beyond words. I know from her expression and her body language how she is feeling. And she clearly knows and responds to how I am feeling, too. And it’s not just Molly. When I meet other dogs, they always come over for a chat and a ruffle behind the ears. They look at me with their soulful eyes and tell me about their lives. I’ve lost count of the times fellow owners have remarked that their dogs ‘don’t usually behave that sociably’ or ‘aren’t that friendly with anyone else’.
I have this knack, then, for getting on with dogs. Thanks to the legacy of Magellan and those who came after him, I can commune with our canine friends. Through living alongside them since I was born, I can understand what they are feeling and can anticipate their behaviour. So my question is this: have I inadvertently been raised by wolves?