When I was about seven years old my father bought a labrador retriever, who was a remarkably intelligent dog. His name was Leroy. Remarkably also, he lived for seventeen years.

Leroy accompanied anyone who left the house, and insisted on carrying something, a basket, a purse, a beach towel, his lead, anything he could get his teeth around.

When he was quite old, he would wake my father at dawn to be let out, and he would go for a long walk for an hour or so, along the beachfront and around the neighbourhood, then he’d return and rap on the door to be let in, carrying the morning paper.

Back in the days when supermarkets were small and fairly rare, my mother went shopping every day, to the corner store, the butcher, the newsagent and the greengrocer which were all on our block. Leroy, of course, carried her basket and purse, and carried the full basket home. He knew all of the shops, and the shopkeepers knew him

One day my mother wondered aloud whether he could do the shopping by himself, and decided to put him to the test. She wrote a shopping list, put sufficient money in her purse, and put both in her cane basket, then gave it to Leroy. She let him out of the front gate, and he trotted straight down the hill towards the shops. A quarter of an hour later he came home with everything on the list!

This feat was justifiably celebrated in the family. Next day I went with my mother and spoke to the shopkeepers. Leroy had simply gone to each shop in turn and sat at the entrance with the basket in his mouth until someone noticed the purse and the list, put the desired goods in the basket, took payment and made change, then patted him on the head and he moved on to the next shop until he’d completed his rounds.

It became quite a regular thing thereafter, a little chore that he loved doing, and he became very well known. At times strangers would knock on our door and ask to see the dog who did the shopping.


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