Chat to any dog lover and they’ll sing the praises of these amazing animals. Completely devoted to their master, they ask so little and yet offer so much. I could write pages about the strengths of the humble canine, I could advise why so many people prefer the companionship of a dog rather than another member of the human race or how a pet can replace a deceased loved one. But I’m not going to, instead my story is about one very special dog, my dog, Murphy.
We’ve had a pet dog in the family just about all of my life. There have been a Bassett Hound (Bertie of course), Greyhounds (Blackie and Bill Teal), a Great Dane (Toddy) and a Springer Spaniel (Bill). Every one left a massive void at the time of their departing and each time we vowed never to have another one, it was just too traumatic to say goodbye.
The year was 1993, the pain of Bill Springer’s death some 12 months previously had eased and the possibility of looking for a new puppy was mooted in the household. Naturally everyone agreed, who can resist a puppy dog ?. My sister had a copy of a magazine detailing just about every breed of dog available, their temperament, their traits and habits etc plus a list of breeders. Even before looking through the book I had some strong opinions about what type of pet I wanted to look at. Medium sized, neither small nor big. Short haired, I had neither the time nor the inclination to groom my pet for an hour a day. Maybe a gundog, not that I’m into hunting but I definitely prefer that style of dog to the herding or terrier type and I’m definitely not into the “my dog’s harder than your dog” breeds such as Rottweilers or Staffies, so beloved by certain sections of our society. Browsing through the publication I noticed this amazing chestnut coloured dog that caught my eye.
I’d never heard of the Hungarian Vizsla and wasn’t aware if that the breed could be found here in England. I rang one of the breeders mentioned in the book and had an extended chat, enquiring about the characteristics of the breed in general and their suitability as a family pet. The breeder was enthusiastic and mentioned that I might like to go along to a huge dog show taking place in Windsor in a couple of weeks time. It was a wonderful show with dogs of all shapes and sizes and there was a class just for Vizsla’s. The rest, as they say, is history. I fell in love with the Hungarian Vizsla breed and wanted one !!.
Wanting a Vizsla was completely different to actually finding one for sale. There was only a handful of breeders in the country, the web and email were only a glint in the eye of a bunch of geeks, so it was all down to snail mail or the telephone. All existing litters had been sold and several of the breeders seemed unwilling to sell a puppy as simply a pet dog. They were looking for people who wanted to compete in dog shows or working dog trials with their puppies. I guess that they were trying to carve out a reputation for the dogs they had at stud and selling pet dogs wasn’t on the agenda. The long wait began. There was no shortage of German Shepherds, Labradors or Spaniels but my decision had been made, and my next dog was to be a Hungarian Vizsla.
The breeder that I had originally contacted and had subsequently met at the Windsor dog show was Peter Harper and his “Pitswarren” Vizslas had a tremendous record in the show ring. His champion dog, Pitswarren Levi, had won more best in breed prizes than any other Vizsla in the UK. On one of my regular calls to Peter, he told me that he and his wife had kept a bitch and a dog from the last litter for showing. These pups were now 4 months old they had decided to keep only one, so would I consider a 4 month old boy dog. I was in Andover as fast as 4 wheels could carry me. I was introduced to “Pitswarren Murphy Himself” and naturally he was lovely and soft and wonderful and sweet and everything else that a puppy should be. As is normal with most reputable breeders, I was told to come back in a weeks time and I could pick him up. During that week the Harper’s phoned a couple of times and there were one or two silent calls. I’m sure that each one was just the breeders checking to make sure that we were who we said we were, and that the pup wasn’t about to be left on his own all day whilst everyone went to work. We must have passed that examination because exactly seven days later we were able to pick up Murphy, our very own Vizsla puppy.
He’s now fourteen years old, and sadly he’s coming to the end of his time on Earth. He is, and has been, the best dog in the World. He’s my best friend and has been my constant companion and I pray that we’ve given him as much love and affection as he has so willingly given to us.