On Tuesday, 26th January 1988, Sydney was in party mode. It was Australia Day and two hundred years since the arrival of the first fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788.
The party was organized on a large scale with over 2.5 million people attending the event. It featured the re-enactment of the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney Harbour with a VIP ceremony at the Sydney Opera House and the parade of sails before the Prince and Princess of Wales as well as street parties, concerts, and performances all over the city.
On Wednesday, 27th January, it was back to work and everyone had a story to tell of how they had spent the Bicentennial celebrations.
I walked past the receptionist’s desk. “Hi Sue, how did you spend Australia Day?” I asked.
“You wouldn’t believe it,” she replied. “We were virtually ready to walk out the door, picnic basket in hand, kids all dressed and sun screened, when Hannah, my German Shepherd, went into labour.
We spent the next fourteen hours by her side, then just before 11 pm, not long after the vet arrived, she gave birth to six beautiful puppies.
Three males and three females. She is so proud of herself and such a good mother.”
“Oh, what a story. How exciting. Have you named them yet?” I asked. “Yes. We have Matilda, Lantana, Alice, Banjo, Ozzie, and Sirius." "Serious? Why, was he frowning?” I laughed.
“NO. It's spelled as S-i-r-i-u-s, after the “HMS Sirius”, which was the flagship of the First Fleet,” she replied. “Of course. It’s also the Dog Star and the brightest star in the night sky", I said.
“In Ancient Egypt, the Egyptians based their calendar on the rising of Sirius.
It coincided with the annual flooding of the Nile and the summer solstice,” I continued.
“Well, thanks for the history lesson. Feel free to come and see the pups. They’re so cute,” an exhausted Sue replied.
I resisted the temptation, but everyday when I walked into the office and past Sue’s desk, I asked, “How are the pups?”
There was always a progress report.
Sometimes funny, other times it was about some disaster or mischief they had got themselves into, but the account that stopped me in my tracks was when Sue told me of the day the first puppy was sold and how Hannah was fretting and refused to eat and looked everywhere for her pup.
“Come over on the weekend,” she suggested. “I think they will all be sold by next week.”
On 6th April 1988, we met Sirius. A big fat ball of black and gold fluff came running to us. The most adorable German Shepherd pup.
There was no hesitation, we handed over our money and we were given an armful of soft fur, wet licks, and unconditional love.
With instructions of what to feed and how to care for him, came to a very impressive Pedigree Certificate that went back to five generations of champions.
His father, Sarazo Ivan, was the Australian Champion, and his mother, Hannah, was the offspring of the male champion of the UK and the female champion of Germany.
Sirius had no trouble fitting into the family pack. He managed to share his role as playmate for each one of the children. He became the football mascot at my son’s footy matches, proudly wearing the team’s colours on his collar.
He learned the rules of playing ball and to return the ball to keep the game going. He played soccer and basketball with the family. He learned to fetch, to sit, open his mouth, and swallow his heartworm tablet. He graduated from German Shepherd school, mastered new tricks, made friends, learned to stay cool when a gun was fired, and reluctantly refused food from strangers.
He grew into a strong and handsome dog. He was disciplined and intuitive and he would have given his life for his family.
One night, in 1995, Sirius didn’t come when he was called. This was uncharacteristic. His obedience was unquestionable.
On that bright starry night, he lay motionless and lifeless outside the back door and although we knew it was too late, we still rushed him to the 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic.
An autopsy revealed a massive heart attack. There was no answer as to how or why this should happen to a young and healthy dog. The hurt and sorrow we felt can only be understood by one who has lost a faithful companion.
Back in January 1862, American telescope-maker and astronomer, Alvan Graham Clark, observed that the star Sirius had a companion, now called Sirius B or affectionately known as “the Pup.” In 1894, some apparent orbital irregularities in the Sirius system were observed, suggesting a third very small companion star. This has not yet been confirmed. I like to imagine that since 1995, there was a fourth companion, a flagship dog that was a star and shines bright in the night sky.