When I was eleven and twelve, we spent long summer weeks on a farm in the province of Smaland in south east Sweden. The farm came with a large manor house that the owners turned into a small family inn. The guests, we were perhaps four families, ate meals together at a very long table made of blond wood. On this table appeared lots of good and healthy country food: Eggs, fruits, home baked breads, Swedish pancakes with fresh berries, and much more.
There was a lake nearby where we swam and fished. To get there, you walked through a meadow where a large working horse, named Bisman, grazed contentedly. I remember him being a friendly horse, who liked to be petted.
There were many cows, calves, chickens, geese, and barn cats on the farm. And a bull we were told to stay away from as he was considered quite dangerous.
And then there were the dogs. The farmer hunted and had two hunting dogs. One was a Stovare, a Swedish breed, the other a black English Cockerspaniel, named Troika. I spent so much time with that little dog the last summer we were there, our bond became strong as our love for each other grew over the summer weeks. I was heartbroken when our vacation was over and I had to leave her behind.
My dad often went on business trips to his company's headquarters in Copenhagen. In the fall of that year, my mother went with him. When they arrived back home, there was a big commotion. A dog came flying in the door! A black dog! She rushed up to me and licked my face and it was Troika. My parents had been touched by my devotion to this dog and since Troika was not the best of hunting dogs, some deal was made. On their way home, my parents stopped by the farm and brought her back with them.
She was young, less than two years old and she was the sweetest dog. She soon became the neighborhood dog, spoiled rotten by everyone. Her tendency to gain weight didn't bother her. On summer afternoons, as soon as the ladies in our street started dinner, there was Troika at their door, asking for a treat. In those days, we left our front doors open in the summer; there were few cars, dogs roamed free, and children played hopscotch, marbles, and jump rope in our suburban street.
Troika's puppies, my mom and the neighbor's kids.
Somewhere in there, Troika had three adorable puppies. My mother found good homes for all of them.
Troika enjoying a large sausage.
I took good care of my Troika. She required a lot of brushing and cleaning of ears. We went for long walks together to fight the ever losing battle of her waistline.
She went with us on the boat in the summers and, as we approached land, she would stand in the bow ready to jump. She loved to swim and when she felt we were close enough to land, she would jump into the water and swim the rest of the way. She had a rich and wonderful life with us kids, we were always doing things, playing, running, biking, skiing, boating and she was always there with us.
Troika was my dog, she loved me the best and I her. After I went to England, she missed me. I was so busy having adventures that I probably didn't miss her much. When I came home, Troika was old, but still, she was so happy to see me, she ran her fat little butt around the outside of our house several times before she calmed down.
I was home when she died of kidney failure. She was around thirteen years old. Troika was my first dog, my first love, and you never forget your first love. Tears as I write this, after all these years......
Troika ~ My first dog, my first love.