“What breed is he?” People often asked when they saw Khymer out with my mother and me on Takapuna beach. Suggestions included blue heeler, collie, German Shepherd, Staffordshire terrier, and even Dutch barge dog. But we never knew the details of his ancestry, exactly how old he was, or how he got his name. A member of our New Zealand family had rescued him from an abusive situation when he was young. He grew up into a fine dog; friendly, strong and handsome.
I had the privilege of walking Khymer almost every week since I met him nine years ago. He loved these walks, whatever the weather. He would bark at the top of his voice when I arrived to pick him up, pull me along the road at top speed until we got to the beach, then bark again until I started throwing the ball for him to retrieve. His favourite trick was swimming out to sea, dropping the ball, and waiting for me to wade in waist-deep and get it, so I had to wear special clothing when going out with Khymer.
We had many adventures in our early years together, but he gradually became more sedate. His eyesight and hearing were not so good, and he developed arthritis. He stopped swimming in the sea. But he loved his walks as much as always, even up to last week when I had to bring him home early because he seemed so tired. As if suspecting what was to come, I took a photo of him before I left.
A few days later I got the message – he had been bleeding from the bowel, was weak and in pain, and the decision to euthanise him that morning had been made. Given his age – at least sixteen, maybe more – everyone agreed that it would be pointless and unkind to do anything else. I arrived at the house just in time to join the tearful family gathered round his bed. When he saw me he barked and wagged his tail. I did not go with him to the vet, but have been told that his last minutes were very peaceful. Though thankful that his suffering is over, I shall miss our weekly walks so much. This is how I will remember Khymer: