It was 1957. I was nine-years-old and lived on the wrong side of the tracks in Prince George. It was the year we adopted eight-week-old Rex.
My father was the CN policeman and we lived in CN housing. The first house CN provided for us was two boxcars joined together to form the letter H. Well, actually that was the second, as the first one was practically slum housing and it rained through the roof.
Mom had the boxcars fixed up so cute that people would ask us where they could, “get a house like that.”
We lived in a tiny house before it became trendy and when I was 12, we moved to another tiny house that actually looked like a house, also provided by the CN.
If you ever head up to Prince George and go to the railway museum, you will see the house I grew up in. Now don’t get too excited. LOL.
It is called the Russell House. They have been working on restoring it for some time now. It gives whole new meaning to the phrase, “You know you are old when.” LOL.
I was a free-range child as opposed to being a child of helicopter parents. For those who are not aware, I’m told helicopter parents hover over their children all of the time, almost never letting them out of their sight, over-scheduling them with as many activities that can fit into a 24-hour time frame.
So the latest trend, apparently, is to allow children to walk more than a few blocks all by themselves and it is called free- range (like chickens?). OK, that was a bit sarcastic. Ahem.
Our fear-based society has managed to make some of us believe there is danger lurking around every corner.
I was allowed to roam quite freely around the fields that surrounded our house and this included walking across the beaver dam and exploring Cottonwood Island (across the railway tracks, down the hill and across the creek via said beaver dam).
But then, my best friend was always with me. Rex grew up to be a very handsome fellow.
He had a fawn-coloured coat with a black muzzle. He was a large, mixed-breed of German shepherd and boxer cross.
I was an only child living in an irregular neighbourhood, so Rex was my only playmate. Actually, we were the neighbourhood for many years.
He was a working dog and worked with my dad when he patrolled the CN yards. If he was hurt, he went to mom and if he wanted to have fun and play, he and I would team up.
He was exceptionally well trained and extremely protective of me. So as I explored the island and came across someone living in a cardboard shelter, which I did from time to time, Rex would put himself between me and the other person and growl menacingly.
We spent hours together, exploring and finding all sorts of interesting flora and fauna. I am flooded with lovely memories when I think of this now. Our love for each other was unconditional and those memories make me smile.
I remember climbing a tree with Rex sitting watching me, with what seemed to be a worried look on his face as I climbed higher and higher. I remember telling him, “I’ll be OK Rex, it’s OK. Unfortunately, I misjudged the strength of a branch and ended up falling out of the tree, thankfully injuring only my pride.
For me, being a free-range child was a wonderful experience as my love of nature and animals was born then.
So, as irregular as parts of my childhood were, I am very grateful for this now. Life felt wonderfully simple and pure as I wandered the fields with Rex.
But my heart was shattered when my best friend became ill when he was nine-years-old and had to be euthanized.
Rex was my first love and I will always hold his memory deep in my heart.
Carole Fawcett is a counsellor, clinical hypnotherapist and freelance writer. www.amindfulconnection.com.