SINCE my wife and I split, my ‘family unit’ has been me and my dog, Kipper. Through the ups and downs of a pretty exciting half-decade, Kip has always been there for me. I was never one for all of that sentimental ‘man’s best friend’ stuff. I used to say that he was ‘just a dog’, and his job was to make sure no-one entered the backyard when I wasn’t home. Although I hadn’t thought about it much, I figured that when he died I’d just get a new dog. That was until he was killed a couple of months ago and suddenly I was hurting big time.
As these things often do, it came suddenly. I was away for the night and I returned to Sydney from Newcastle at about 8 am to find the main gate of the yard had been blown off its hinges in an overnight gale. I checked the yard and he was gone. Living on a highway, and not knowing how long he’d been gone, I feared the worst, although it was early Sunday morning and traffic was light.
I spoke to a neighbour who’d seen Kip trot past half an hour before. Then I saw a fella walking past and he’d seen a big dog in the park about half a click down the road.
I jumped in the ute and went to look for him. As I was driving up the main road near the park my heart sunk as I saw Kip lying still on the grass. I put on the hazards and stopped but he was gone. The one-inch cut on his forehead was the only evidence of impact, suggesting to me he got a knock on the head and would have been killed instantly. Not much consolation though, when you’re on the side of the road, hugging your best mate, the body still warm. It must have happened minutes or even seconds before. I’ll always remember how sad a sight it was—a full-grown German Shepherd, in the prime of his life, lying there dead up ahead.
At the time I didn’t give a shit about being angry. There was no-one to be angry at. I was sad at the misfortune of it all: the gate failing without warning after four years, me arriving on the scene five minutes late, Kip getting hit even though it was broad daylight in an open area with light traffic. What sort of bastard doesn’t stop after hitting a 50 kilogram dog though? My phone number was on his collar. A phone call would have been bloody nice… but all that just makes it sadder.
After half a day of crying, I finally got my shit together and realised that he’d had a pretty good life. He had a great yard to run in; loved catching pigeons and rats. Probably once a fortnight I’d come out the back and find a ‘victim’ of his there. I thought that was kind of different ‘sport’ for a big German Shepherd. I think he enjoyed catching birds as much as his owner!
But what he and I enjoyed most was hanging in the shed. Kip was there for the entire Trumpy build and he was there for a good portion of my latest chop build. Most of the time he’d sit off to the side on the cool cement while I worked on something. Every now and again I’d give him a pat, and occasionally he’d come over and just watch what I was doing. He didn’t get in the way. He didn’t bark stupidly. He just hung out in the shed with me and we worked on bikes together.
When I got drunk and sung Chuck Berry, he’d just give me that head-half-tilted bemused look. When I cranked up the grinder, he never flinched.
I never thought bikers were any more inclined to be ‘dog people’ than any other segment of society but I was surprised how many biker mates really understood what I was going through. I guess it makes sense. Most blokes with bikes love hanging out in the shed. And the only companion you need out there is a good dog.
I’ve got a new pup now, another German Shepherd, Keira, and she’s doing great. Thankfully I’ve got a lot of great pics of Kip to remember him by, like the one on this page. That’s the idea of a good night for me—in the shed with my mate, Trumpy chop in the background, working on a new bike.
words & pics by Wasko