It was raining. There was barely a soul about. I almost lost sight of Indi in the drizzle as she set out in the direction of her favourite weemail post. As we crossed the grass and approached the beach, I saw them urgently approaching us. A young couple with their old lab, sporting a harness and a set of wheels on his back end where his working legs should have been. Wear and tear had got the best of him, but he was still smiling as he lumbered our way.

“Can our dog say hello to your dog?” the woman asked me, breathless. She was upbeat, but her face was soaked. Rain and tears. “This is his last walk. He’s going to heaven this afternoon.”

The day went suddenly greyer. The lab’s smile got bigger. Here at last was a fellow canine to commune with on this deserted patch of grass.

“Do dog with me,” it seemed to say to Indi, the gentle but self-interested retriever. “Dunno where everyone else is but I’m sure glad you’re here.”

Would Indi be the comfort, the ballast, the last dose of ordinary park life that this kelpie would know?

No, she wouldn’t.

Rattled by the lab’s mechanical leg arrangement and, perhaps more pointedly, fixated on her search for food scraps, Indi scuppered off in the other direction. The more I cajoled and begged her to come, the more skittish she became. My encouragement turned shrill. She got less and less biddable. We all got drenched. It soon became clear that there would be no friendly transaction between the only two dogs within cooee of South Beach.

The couple were very gracious about it. The lab kept smiling. As they bundled him into their car, all the humans were bawling. Indi was under a picnic table, eating sand-caked chips.

I sobbed all the way down the deserted beach. Later, I painted this picture. I was trying to capture something of the comfort that we all want to be able to offer our pooches. Even when it’s really us who needs it.

The first edition artwork now resides happily on a wall in Canberra. But it lives on in the form of a greetings card.

Now, it’s the bonus card that you get when you buy a 5-pack of Hangdog greetings cards. So if you’re looking for a good card for a cool dog person with a kinda sad story attached, get hold of one soon!

Card packs are available here.