Domino 2006 – 2019

Dom and Lil

I must write something about our dog Domino, who died last month after a short illness. Her final few weeks were marked by sudden symptoms of escalating seriousness, yet she maintained her basic outlook, which was that if her humans were happy then she was happy too. And as a result we have been left both bereft and somewhat shocked that it could have all happened so quickly.

When I first met Domino she was still a puppy, but with a frame almost as big as it would be when she was fully-grown. She needed to fill out, and Laetitia, who I was just getting to know then, was concerned that whatever she did she could not get Dom to put on weight. This phase soon passed and the weight came and the concern changed to preventing this dog who loved eating so much from eating too much.

Laetitia had two dogs and a cat, and when I first visited her at the little country cottage where they lived, it seemed almost alarmingly unruly. Domino, a medium-sized black dog, and Lilly, her small white “sister” (who wasn’t related in any human sense of the word, but they clearly thought of each other as family) jumped up and down at the gate, barking and barking and the sound seemed to echo and I wondered what madness I was about to enter. But it was just high-spirits and it was also that I hadn’t spent time with a puppy since our first family dog was young and that was twenty years or more before this. Dom and Lil would have play fights and chase each other and seem to be about to violently tear pieces off each other with their teeth, but that was just recreation and showed how much energy they had. They would play with a towel and would have a tug-of-war and then Lily would sit on one end of it while Domino dragged her around the cottage floor. While this was happening Mr Mu, the older, wiser, far more civilised cat would be above all this, sometimes literally – on top of some furniture – disdaining the filthy creatures and occasionally threatening them when their games got too close or they tried to include him.

Laetitia would take the dogs for a walk, morning and night, and they needed this exercise and more each day. She would take them to the beach and the sight of Domino running, running as fast as she could, along the sand, and in the shallow water, maybe bringing back some mysterious object, which might have been seaweed and might have been something else, was a favourite early memory from my relationship with her.

The dogs were brought up well, behaved themselves, and had been taught many tricks by the time I got to know them. Domino in particular was very good at tricks, not because she was a genius, but because she was willing to learn and eager to please. She also responded well to the food treats used in training, which never excited Lily as much and perhaps as a consequence Lily was never as interested in this activity. The dogs grew up, from early puppyhood, together. Lily, a mini Fox Terrier, had come along a few months before Domino, who was given to Laetitia by a neighbouring farmer in the district where she was living. The farmer bred Border Collies and Curly Retrievers and had not intended to cross the two breeds, but when an amorous canine accident occurred a litter of little balls of black fur, so cute they were almost unbelievable, was produced, and Domino was one of them. Initially she was actually smaller than Lily, which seemed hard to believe only a few months later when I met them. By this time Lily would habitually lie on Domino, or rest her back feet on her, or just cuddle up to her much bigger sister, and these habits would continue for the rest of their lives together.

When just getting to know Laetitia there was so much I did not know. I knew almost nothing about girlfriends and relationships and the bush and cats and multiple pets, but I knew about dogs which were about Dom’s size and must credit her with helping me to adjust to all of the other new realities which were dawning at this time. It was so comforting to touch her ears or rough up her wavy coat and the smell of her was something I loved the instant I met her. She smelled like dogs to me – the way they should smell, a comforting deeply pleasant scent to experience, and I’m not ashamed to admit that even when she became dirty the smell was still good, better even, to breathe deep into my nostrils. I miss the way Domino smelled, so very much now.

Eventually the pets moved to Sydney with their human and then I became their other human. The time we were all together formed the majority of her life. We would go on holidays to the country, where Domino barked at cattle and alpacas and sheep and kangaroos, and enjoyed sleeping in front of a log fire at the end of a day’s hard walking. It was always good to have her leash when walking up hill, as in her enthusiasm she would pull you up, like some sort of bush sled dog, and this really helped if you were getting tired. On local walks she barked at fish once in Cooks River, for unknown reasons, and it perhaps doesn’t need to be added that the fish remained unconcerned at this behaviour.

But she loved being at home, was onely really relaxed when we were all present and accounted for, and was more than happy to simply lie in a corner on a dog bed or maybe on some “human furniture” as we called a lounge or bed. Once we came home from a night away in the winter months and we turned the light off and turned the heater on and all sat on the lounge – two humans, two dogs, cat on the arm of the lounge – while we watched football on the TV, and it seemed to me then, as I patted Domino’s head, that this was about the best thing she could probably imagine and that there was nothing at all that I would rather have been doing either.

As a retriever, a gun dog, Domino produced a strange kind of vocalisation, which sounded like moaning. We would refer to it as singing and indeed some songs and types of music would cause her to sing along, almost involuntarily, although she also learned to respond to the command, “Domino, listen!” She would then hear the music, and especially if it was high-pitched female voices (or boy sopranos) she would sing along. She sang to the theme music of The Brady Bunch and The Cook and the Chef and Everybody Loves Raymond and she sang when Songs of Praise came on on a Sunday morning and no one else was in the room. A video was made of her singing along to the Flower Duet from the opera Lakmé by Delibes and sent to Australia’s Funniest Home Videos, who didn’t think it amusing enough to put on their show. It is sad to watch it again now, but her vocal skills remain entertaining: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQ2ltdtI9v0

Domino would make her noises when she thought you should know something. She would tell me, while I was watching the football on Sunday afternoon, that dinner was coming up and she was getting really quite peckish. This message could be delivered for well over an hour before the thing she wanted to tell you might take place and she would tell you again and again as it got nearer. But she also would just moan – lie there and moan or come over to you and loudly vocalise in your ear.

This got worse and eventually Laetitia and I realised we would often just raise our own voices and talk over her, almost screening out the sound, which could be made at a surprisingly high volume. I once heard Domino inside the house, when I was on the street out the front, and it sounded as if she was being tortured. She wasn’t, of course. When she wasn’t apparently experiencing some sort of existential angst she was enjoying herself, making a noise and listening to it.

The thing Domino always wanted to do was to share the bed with us and Lily and Mr Mu and there would have been enough room for us all but whenever this was tried she would behave strangely and get off. She didn’t want to lie in some parts of the bed and seemed to think that feet moving under the covers were small monsters to be scared of. This hadn’t been a problem when she was younger – I recall waking up in the cottage one morning and feeling uncomfortable because Domino was lying on the covers and between my legs, facing east west and causing my legs to go as far apart as they possibly could.

She wanted simple things: comfortable bedding, of course, and food most of all. On one occasion she ate a selection of meats about to be barbecued and got into serious trouble as a result. Most of the times she was in trouble were food related. On Christmas Day last year she ate part of a decoration, which had small wires in it and the veterinary advice was to feed her every few hours, to flush the potentially very harmful foreign objects from her system. This was Domino’s best Christmas ever – whole cans of dog food, several times a day – and she was perplexed and a little put out when we got the all clear and went back to feeding her normally again.

But she was a good girl and we told her so whenever we could. In the end she was medicated for canine dementia and for a number of other things which all seemed to arise together but she kept her spirits up and loved it when we got home from work and wagged her tail if you entered the room or said her name or for numberless other reasons. The wagging was such a constant in the house that it is quieter here than it was. It was a kind of drum beat. She set the rhythm, kept it up, and we all lived at that tempo, performing all those household functions in a certain way, at a certain time, every day. And now the beat is missing and we are endeavouring to carry on and it is hard. It is hard for the humans, who lost a friend who was always there – to pat on the head as you walked past and say hello and goodnight to – but most of all it is hard on her sister, her aged little white sister, who doesn’t see or hear all that well herself, and who isn’t really her sister at all, but is surely missing her like the world just became a smaller, dimmer, more empty place.

Published in: on November 17, 2019 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Moist Earth

The earth was black and moist and soft under foot. It obtruded in places through the lank grass and left tyre tracks exposed. He leant down and smelled it, allowing the soil aromas to fill his nostrils, taking his time, closing his eyes, allowing his brain to fill with associations and memories. There were other times at the park and there were times walking in the countryside in rainy weather when it stung your nose and you couldn’t see very well and you got a bit dirty as you got wet, but it was fun and when you got back home and warmed up you knew you’d had a really good time and had a little sleep near the fire. This time, there was a ball to chase, if the human would only throw it, and there were birds on the other side of the park which needed to be barked at, and a tail which needed wagging. It was always good to go to the park.

Published in: on June 17, 2014 at 8:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Story Of The Awesome Dog

On the weekend there was a story on the radio about the Australian War Memorial holding a day-long event to honour the contributions made by animals over the years in the Australian military (here’s a link: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-02-23/tribute-to-animals-serving-in-australian-war-effort/5277992). This got Laetitia and I talking, as we’re animal lovers, you could say, and while it seems to be a truism that it is cruel to include animals in a conflict they know nothing about, it is also true that if they are highly trained and do their job well they do have a contribution to make, and the unfairness of it all – if that’s the right word – only highlights the truly heroic things some of these animals have done over the years.

And we said we would take in a war veteran dog if there ever was a war veteran dog needing a home, and we taunted the pair of our own dogs about their lack of resourcefulness and practicality in comparison to a dog who has recently had a highly responsible job to do in a dangerous place with bullets flying around. We often taunt the dogs[1], challenging them to pay their own way and questioning why they don’t show a bit of ambition and go and beg on the street. The YouTube video of Domino singing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQ2ltdtI9v0) is a record of what could have been a majestic canine musical career, but sadly the TV show that puts on the funny videos – allegedly funny, and yes, it’s still on television – didn’t deem this material worthy to be shown alongside brides falling into ponds and men getting hit in the balls with a swing. It would have been a contribution to the household economy, this singing act, if it had been allowed to get off the ground, but like Decca rejecting The Beatles, the producers failed to recognise Domino’s talent.

This got us thinking about adopting a former dog soldier, and our imaginations ran with the idea a bit, and we talked about this fictional animal, who I named SAS Dog, building things and remodelling and planning and organising. SAS Dog would construct an extra storey on top of the kennel and make other modifications as well. SAS Dog would dig in the backyard – behaviour we see evidence of too often from our pair – but in this case it would be to irrigate the veggie gardens. In short, SAS Dog would be awesome.

In my mind a sort of plot emerged. Initially SAS Dog would think Dom and Lil were losers who are incapable of doing anything useful and they wouldn’t know how to relate to their new gruff housemate either. The first chapter of the story would be about the clash of cultures and then they would all somehow learn that they had something in common (food possibly?) and realise that they could in fact get on after all, albeit in a limited fashion (like SAS Dog might need his space or something). And then the second chapter would see SAS Dog getting to know the other two and asking about things they like to do and things they don’t like. They would say they didn’t like the little fluffy white yappy dog across the road, and SAS Dog would ask what they do when it barks, and they would say they bark back at it. After he told them they were lame in the extreme, they would tell him that they bark very very loudly, really make him know to watch his step, and remind him not to come anywhere near them on the other side of the road, when his owner takes him outside and he does a wee on the grass of the next door neighbour’s nature strip. “So you just bark more?” SAS Dog would ask. “He pisses on the grass, right in front of you, and you just bark a bit louder?” And SAS Dog would say he had a better idea, that he had fought the Taliban and barking didn’t get anything accomplished. And the next time the little dog was taken for a wee outside on the nature strip of the house next door a landmine would detonate.

And, well, that was the rather over the top end to the story. It was a silly ending to a story which had a silly premise and was shot through with silliness and gaps in logic. But there you go.

Is this evidence of being a writer, to create a story where no-one needs one and no-one has asked for one, and out of the least promising of material? Or is it being a writer to allow your imagination to wander off into the realms of absurdity when you really ought to be doing something else, like actually writing something? Perhaps it doesn’t indicate anything at all: it’s just evidence of being slightly unhinged.


[1] The dogs might not be capable of understanding all of the nuances of everything we say to them. There’s no good evidence either way, but we tend to think they understand quite a lot of English.

 

Published in: on February 24, 2014 at 7:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dogs In The Garden

Sheltered by the low branches of a peach tree, I sat on a little bench and surveyed the backyard in all its green beauty. I drew short, gentle breaths from my corncob pipe and watched accidental smoke rings form every now and then. It was the end of the day and it was a good time for a bit of a ponder.

When we first moved into this house a few years ago it became clear that the dogs could escape at various weak points along the fence line. As renters, it was our job to make sure that our pets couldn’t get out as long as the fence we had was barely adequate—and it was barely adequate, but no more than that. So, after experimenting with different methods to secure the fence, we decided to invest in one of those “containment systems,” as the manufacturers call them. A wire circuit runs around the perimeter of the property and when the dogs, wearing special collars, come too close they hear a warning noise, and if they go closer than that they get a small shock. This means the animals learn to keep away from certain areas, and it is quite humane, although the idea seemed somehow cruel to us at first. The safety of the dogs is more important, and when you know the system works it confers a certain peace of mind which can’t be quantified.

Unable to escape, the dogs turned their devious minds to other puzzles while we were out at work. Naturally they saw the vegetable gardens we had constructed with chicken wire and numerous stakes and pickets as a challenge worth pursuing. And so they worked methodically, examining the fences which had been constructed to keep them out, sniffing what was on the other side, enthusiasm for the task increased by proximity to the forbidden zone, and planning their assault. The little white one is the general and the big black one does what she is told, and together they are able to dig under, push aside, knock over, or slide through any obstacle put in their way. They would go days, sometimes weeks, and occasionally months, without doing anything naughty, without any attempts to get in, and it was natural to think, as we did, that they were not going to get in any more, because they couldn’t now—it was too secure—or they were bored with the idea or they so hated the punishment when found transgressing that they thought better of further transgressions. But they always got in again. It was never over.

The Gardener would often say she was sick of it. She got her hopes up and thought it would be different now. Things were growing and she had started to make plans about what to do next, what to grow next, how to approach the next season. And then her hopes would be dashed as seedlings were dug up and fragile plants trampled and newly planted areas rendered barren. She would go back though, increasingly reluctantly, but she would go back, and weed and plant and plan. Despite the best efforts of the dogs, The Gardener had some great successes: corn grew thick and high at one stage, and seemed almost out of place in a suburban backyard, and one of the beds became a herb garden, which was established enough that canine interference could not harm it too much.

But she eventually reached her limit. We both did. We pulled down the fences, as she had often threatened to do, but we replaced them with the wire from the containment system, running through the middle of the crops, linked to the rest of the circuit, creating a zapping footprint which now covers the whole growing zone. We used wire cutters, some teamwork, and a bit of imagination: the dogs are not only restricted by the boundary of the backyard but they also cannot venture into human only horticultural areas. It’s a great relief.

And now we focus on the food. Cares are left behind. There are no more catastrophes. The Gardener tends and waters and frets about the weather. She talks about the zucchini becoming too wet if it rains and is careful to not oversplash its leaves. She has had successes and failures—a watermelon being the single notable example of the latter—but she has harvested, and we have eaten, much more than it ever seemed possible from such a modestly proportioned plot. Modest is not the right word at all, for it is a very fine garden.

I have learned to recognise carrots when they are growing and only their delicate, feathery leaves are visible above the ground. I can also spot a tomato plant, particularly if there are tomatoes growing on it. (I like tomatoes.) Basil goes well in the ground near a tomato, just like basil goes well with tomato on bruschetta or in countless other dishes. And I have successfully identified radish, sitting in their rows, but that was mostly a guess. I’m only truly sure it’s them when I can see the red part. Leaves are becoming more familiar to me, but it is a slow process. There are so many plants to learn. Our neighbours accepted a genuinely enormous turnip from us the other day, which was growing so lustily that the bulbous purple top had burst through the soil. Events like that require no special knowledge to comprehend. Growing things can be dramatic and even violent. A garden is never still for long, and outbreaks of surprisingly vibrant colour are always possible, too.

Under the new, rather large, blue umbrella, we ate a late lunch last Sunday. Beyond the shade over our table the sun was hot. We sat in comfort and ate a bacon and egg salad featuring vegetables and herbs from our garden beds. The cat perched on the arm of a director’s chair and the dogs sat and waited dutifully for scraps. They didn’t get many. The meal was delicious, and it was good to be in the backyard, eating together.

This piece first appeared in The Good Men Project
Published in: on November 26, 2012 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment  

A Rainy Night In

The first thing he heard was a thud. Not a dull thud, but a deep, resounding thud, which didn’t quite echo – that wouldn’t sound right, would it – but seemed to reverberate a few seconds after impact. He went outside in the dark and had a look around. Shining a torch up at the approximate site of the noise disclosed that there had indeed been a problem, if he thought he was imagining it, and he wasn’t sure of that until he had a look, and the roof had suffered a gash where once a couple of tiles had fitted neatly into their place.

Dogs were barking. Some may have heard the initial noise. Others reacted to pretty much anything and the cute but pointless one with floppy ears across the road would react whenever a front door opened on the street. This yapping would lead to other dogs joining in and before long the larger animals in the district had stirred and were adding to the discordant canine choir.

He thought it best to go inside.

He slipped off his slippers and eased himself back into his big bed and put on his eye mask and turned off his bedside lamp again. There was unfinished sleep business to attend to. Another item had been added to tomorrow’s agenda, but first he would dream. Hopefully it would be that one where he lay on a blanket and stared up at the clouds and the clouds actually turned into real moving figures, which danced and fought and came down to earth to laugh and sing and chase each other. Or the one where he was mountain climbing, and he would reach the summit and stand on top of the mountain, and look at all the other peaks. He looked forward to waking slowly and feeling revived.

It started to rain, and he listened to the pattering on the leaves, and sleep took him.

Jolting awake he tore off his mask and frantically looked around the room. In the shadows all he could make out were the furniture, where it had been hours before, and his books on a small pile on his bedside table. He wondered why he had awoken with such a start. Then the door creaked and he thought he heard a scratching noise in the hallway beyond, but it was faint and it seemed to die and he wondered if it was real in the first place.

So he placed one foot on the floor and he reached as far as his arm would allow, he turned the knob and opened the door, and was back under the covers in one quick movement. He felt silly, like a little boy. What did he suppose would happen? He didn’t know the answer to that, but he sat with his knees up under his chin, swathed in bedclothes, and he watched and listened.

Nothing.

He kept listening. Still nothing.

A sound, more a feeling than a sound, like swishing material at the hem of a dress, stopped as soon as he detected it. Could be a breeze, he thought.

His eyelids grew heavy and his body relaxed and he stopped looking but kept listening.

He turned to grab his eye mask from the bedside table and lowered it over his face. The last thing he saw, he thought, was two shining round eyes on top of his pile of books, and now he couldn’t see anything as he had an eye mask on. He buried his face in the sheets and instinctively shank from the creature, if it was a creature. He thought he heard a soft but persistent breathing as his posture became more foetal and he wriggled away from the reading stack.

This felt silly, but he wasn’t ready to look again yet. He admitted to himself that he was scared and wondered if the breathing he heard was his own.

The scratching had passed. The breathing was nothing. And it may have just been a breeze. The creature probably wasn’t a creature at all. But he remained where he was, not yet ready to act, but preparing to strike out, if necessary, or to laugh off his own infantile imaginings, if that’s what they were. He reached down to scratch his ankle and brushed his hand against the flannelette of his pyjama leg and the flannelette of the sheets and the fluffy socks … but he wasn’t wearing socks – there was something in the bed! Under the covers. In there with him.

He threw off the quilt and his arms and legs cavorted spastically. The only noise he could emit was a high-pitched grunt, which he repeated every few seconds for about a minute, gripped by terror, until he could compose himself enough to look down and observe his bed.

A small kitten was lying in a tight ball, approximately where his feet had been before the involuntary gyration of limbs, looking up at him with its big, shining, round eyes.

 

 

“This must be where the little fella got in,” said the man the next morning. The man was standing high up on a ladder and peering at the roof.

“Oh,” he replied with a frown.

The man frowned back.

He paused, and looked gravely at the ground. But he was pretending, and so he mustered the courage to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. How did he get in?”

The man explained that the cat had been stuck up the tree in the front yard, and when it began to rain the cat had walked along a branch and sheltered in the space in the roof which was created when the tiles slipped out.

“And that’s how he got in.”

“Oh”, he said, and frowned again.

Published in: on February 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bedroom Nostalgia

In my old bedroom a Winnie the Pooh doll as big as a small child sits in the saddle of a wooden rocking horse. The rocking horse is on top of a wardrobe. Pooh squints down out of the gloom, his eyes narrow, looking along his nose into the half-light. He wears a Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs jersey, which just happens to be exactly the right size for him, as it was purchased for me when I was about eight years old.

Memory fails as I attempt to recall the detail of how this birthday present came into my possession. For some reason I was given it, a gift, I think, from my uncle, who didn’t always give birthday and Christmas presents on time (if at all), on its own and not at the same time as my mum and dad and sister gave me things on my birthday morning. It wasn’t my birthday morning when I was given my first Bulldogs jersey. It wasn’t morning at all. It was a winter’s evening, in front of the open fire in the lounge room, a fire burning bright with coals glowing in the grate, radiating steady heat even as it began declining into embers. There were two presents that night: the jersey and a football. A rugby league football. My first football. A ball from made from leather, as they were in those days, with the manufacturer and official logos and badges printed on it. I wore my jersey in front of the warm fire and clutched my ball, and held the ball away from me, turning it over in my hands and running a finger along the stitching, examining the laces which tied the whole thing together just at the point where the rubber inflation valve protruded. There were laces on a football then. That’s not made up. And then I clutched my ball close to my chest again, like a second-rower going for a slashing run, aiming to scatter some defenders before looking for an offload.

The jersey and the ball arrived on the wrong day. From this remove it seems they were unexpected, not just because I didn’t think I would be given these things, but unexpected because it wasn’t my actual birthday and thus I could not have anticipated being given anything. But it was my birthday time of year, and I certainly didn’t want to remove my new footy garment or put down my ball. Bedtime must have intervened though, and my new items must have been carefully rested, until the next time I could play with them. I recall gazing at my jersey, carefully arranged on a bed, to look its best, so I could clearly see all the correct badges – manufacturer, club, and competition – which had been sewn onto it. I marvelled at the deepness of the blue stripes and the whiteness of the white parts. It was blue and white. It was almost too good to wear. But then I would put in on, and look at myself in the mirror, and that seemed a reasonable compromise until I took it off and displayed it on the bed again.

Getting my jersey wet or, worse, dirty was something I tried very hard to avoid. My memory is of it being consistently clean – but as a little boy I was partial, as most little boys are, to the odd unhygienic and even occasionally disgusting practice, and so it was probably grubby in places. And it also probably smelled a bit. But it was my special footy garment, and I wore it on momentous occasions, like when there was a very big game. I wore it for added luck, when I felt the Bulldogs could do with assistance in that area. I still wear my adult jersey during some Bulldogs games, but perhaps momentous occasions of that sort seemed more frequent when I was eight.

The ball was thrown around a bit at home and as I grew and became more skilled with it I attempted more of the things I used to do in the backyard when I was inside the house. Grubber kicks rolled along the carpet, bobbling, typically followed by a diving grab and crash over in the corner for a try. I would run towards the dog, acting as a defender, and step past him with dextrous footwork. Then he would start barking and chase me, and I’d have to stop and calm him down before the game could begin again. I tackled him a few times, and I used to jump over him with the ball tucked under one arm, wearing the jersey, imagining I was a first-grade rugby league player when in fact I was a boy playing with his dog. Unsurprisingly miscalculations were sometimes made, and there were breakages, although these were few.

I began to take my football – my old football, as it had become – to school from about the age of 16, as it was just a the right size, this ball made for boys, to play touch footy with at lunchtime. It was perfect, in fact. Until the day someone put up a towering kick, which seemed to keep rising. The park where we played was under the north side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the ball became lodged in a walkway of the steelwork above. It was gone. Just like that. It was sad. Not tears sad, but a phase of my life had ended. My jersey was already far too small and Winnie the Pooh was wearing it, and now the ball was gone as well. A gift which seemed to arrive from nowhere at not quite the right time suddenly departed without warning.

Published in: on November 24, 2011 at 7:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

This Afternoon’s Mission

The weather seems to be defiantly showing some leg, unbuttoning a button or two of her blouse, and preparing to step out of her overcoat and stride away, carelessly casting her fur lined hat with an ostrich feather sticking out of it into the nearest hedge as she heads for the sun and leaves the bleakness and the grey and the damp alone and unloved forever. It’s not forever though. Nothing lasts that long. The overcoat will come out again, and the thick socks, and the gloves. We just have to wait.

OK. That wasn’t a very successful analogy. But the weather is changing. Or it has started a process which means it will soon change. That’s assuming the two are separate – and I’m not sure they are. What I am sure of is that my nose isn’t happy. And the other parts of my sinus apparatus aren’t particularly overjoyed either. Maybe it’s a coincidence, this weather change and getting a cold – like some pathetic little kid’s sniffle, but with adult intensity and tenacity – but that doesn’t seem likely. I’m tired and sick and being sick is making me feel more tired, and it’s preventing me from sleeping deeply and efficiently, and that’s making me feel sicker and – of course – more tired.

On the way home from work I saw a couple of slightly confused, but friendly enough, dogs on the footpath at one point. When I reached home I told Laetitia and she and I walked back to where I had seen them, in case they were lost/escaped and we could render assistance. Initially we couldn’t locate them and wondered what had happened, hoping they lived somewhere near where I initially spotted them, and so started for home again. On that journey we spotted them in another nearby street, barked at by dog residents adjacent to where they were sniffing and otherwise exploring, chased them (a bit, but not in a threatening, anxiety-inducing kind of way), and followed them into a lane where the backyards of houses from two streets line up on either side. The pair disappeared under a cyclone fence and were in the process of reappearing and barking at us when a man came out of his back door, telling them gruffly to be quiet. He was their owner, was pleased to see them, didn’t know they got out, and was thankful to know they were safe and sound.

Laetitia and I felt like we had done our good deed for the day, as responsible citizens of the dog community.

And my nose is still running, and it’s annoying and I wish it would stop.

Published in: on August 16, 2011 at 8:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Stuff

A list:

 

Car

House

Backyard

Front yard

Air conditioning

Driveway

Fence

Lawn

Lawns

Roof

Electricity

Gas

Sunlight

Darkness

Health

Vitality

Money

Luck

Help

Appliances – kitchen

Appliances – entertainment

Appliances – vanity

Appliances – other

Clocks

Light bulbs

Security

Seclusion

Privacy

Room

Rooms

Know-how

Talent

Application

Family

A job

Tools – power

Tools – non-power

Imagination

Design

A sense of taste

Rain

Reception – various devices

Friends

Weekends

Cutlery

Crockery

Hands

Pets

Published in: on March 2, 2011 at 7:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

When Rocky Did A Little Wee On The Carpet

And there we were, walking along The Boulevarde, talking about how crap the Strathfield outlet (or is branch better?) of a very influential supermarket chain which starts with a W, quite happy in many ways, happy and comfortable, and relaxed and having a gentle whinge and understanding each other and being sympathetic or mildly outraged, depending on whose turn it was. We had already popped into an Indian grocery shop, bought a pack of cheesy ball snacks, eaten a few, remarked that they seemed to lack a little zing in the flavour department, and realised that their Best Before date was in July. Ah, we said, explains the lack of zing.

And we walked on, talking about the possibility of a stormy meteorological event – we had seen rain falling, in the distance, from the train, and it was very cool indeed, and all around were ominous clouds of varying shades of grey – and not for the first time we saw far away lightning, and getting home before the deluge seemed a priority.

But we were happy. There was no rush. It’s not a problem to arrive where you are drenched: you change your clothes and put the heater on, or have a shower and dry yourself off – there are so many strategies.

And then we saw it. As it turned out, it was a him, but we didn’t know that yet. An exceptionally cute little dog with fluffy hair in a range of red shades. He was lost. Since Lily and Domino made a run for it at our old place and had a frolic at the park and became confused on the way back,[1] and were rescued by a woman who lived near the park who realised they were lost, while Laetitia and me and Laetitia’s friends were worried sick, we’ve been very much focused on rescuing lost dogs when we encounter them. (We were that way inclined before, don’t get me wrong – people in general should be; especially animal, and particularly dog, lovers – but sometimes it’s tempting to assume without evidence that a discombobulated little pooch will be OK, and walk on.)

But this one didn’t seem to want rescuing. The slightly stale Indian cheese balls weren’t a big attraction to him. The inevitable quite large storm was looming as a bad stimulus for a stressed pet, and it was clear that rumbling was likely to get louder and more frequent before the rain came. And this poor little bloke seemed likely to run away if we chased, and possibly to run onto the road. It seemed too hard: he wouldn’t come too close; seemed interested in who we were and what we were doing, but little more than curious. We decided we had to act. Tried a few approaches to entice him closer – and then, as I held all the shopping bags and other bags, Laetitia pounced and cornered him, and even briefly pushed him onto his carefully brushed little back in some long grass, and although he made to bite, it was a defensive thing, a warning, and when Laetitia had control, holding him in front of her, he calmed himself to accept the situation and behave, and quietly became more and more anxious on our walk home. Anxious in a settled, I’m going with you, sort of way.

I must confess I was scared. Scared about getting it wrong. I called the number on his collar tag and left a message with his Mummy. (I couldn’t believe that his Mummy had her phone turned off, but then people do that all the time for a multitude of reasons. However I still couldn’t believe it: it just made everything worse.)

And we got him home and sort of snuck him inside before the dogs outside, or the cat in the bedroom, knew what was going on. Although the dogs soon knew. They smelled and heard him and wanted to come in as well. They didn’t behave very well when they met our new little friend – his name is Rocky – but it was nothing too bad, and I can’t blame some less than charitable behaviour when something like this is sprung on you, in your house, on your property – and for a dog that’s a bloody huge imposition.

But little moments of potential canine anger subsided somewhat with the introduction of the cat – whom they all decided they didn’t like, and Rocky in particular sought to see him off from his temporary refuge – when Mu woke up and decided he hadn’t had any attention for some hours and wanted some – now. It was amusing.

Things became resolved to everyone’s satisfaction when Rocky’s Mummy called and Laetitia spoke to her and she took Rocky back down The Boulevarde to the exact house where we found him on the street (yes, he was locked out, but not lost at all … although how are you supposed to know that?). His Mummy was pleased to see him, and he her, and the commotion and tumult was over, and I for one just about needed medication to get over it all, having seen for myself, again, how easy it is to ‘lose’ a pet, and how little some people do to assist an apparently lost pet on the street, and how easy it is to get that rescue wrong somehow.

Glad it’s over. And glad Rocky’s with his humans.


[1] Anthropomorphising (if that’s even a word): they did go to the park, but what they did after, and why, is anyone’s guess. And unfortunately they cannot be interrogated on the subject – or indeed on any other subject: they can’t understand their right to remain silent, or any of their other legal rights, as they don’t speak, and barely understand, English. They’re pretty cluey for puppies, though.



Published in: on November 9, 2010 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

When Good Turns Bad

The veggie gardens seem more secure now, and spring is here – you can feel it and smell it and hear it; it’s also a taste. The veggie garden changes are mostly cosmetic, but hopefully they will make the dogs think that attempts to jump over, push through, or burrow under the fences are not an option now. And that if they do make such attempts they will break a structure and it will be obvious and no “It’s just a bit bent, I didn’t do that” defence will be available to them. I sincerely hope these things are true. I don’t feel like I have permission to let myself off worrying about this issue during the day, when I’m away from the house. It feels like I can relax a bit, but not totally. Certainly there is no question of being able to dismiss it from my mind as something that is sorted and can never be a problem of any sort ever again. It most certainly can. I find myself hoping that the weather will be inclement, as that implies the dogs will stay in their house, and if they do that they won’t be out, being frisky, and getting cheeky ideas. But the weather is becoming bright (well, it’s mostly bright) and sunny and beautiful. It’s the weather which is Sydney’s best and possibly without parallel in the world – or only with a few parallels, maybe. It’ll get hotter and be almost unbearable, later on. But it’s really pleasant now. And pleasant means an encouragement to roll around on the lawn and maybe to dig holes, in my mind anyway. And obviously it can’t rain every day, even though if it did that would allay my sense of unease somewhat. No, spring is here, and this is a good thing horticulturally. Bigger fan of colder weather for other things but it’s a bit rubbish for growing stuff. But even this ‘best’ time of year is a problem. The Melbourne Cup is coming up, the rugby league grand final will be played this weekend (and the AFL replay) and Laetitia has seedlings lovingly cared for and nurtured and ready to go, where they have been outrageously successful near the back window. Next stop the vegetable patch for them – but it makes me feel a queer sadness when I see them. The overwhelming feeling when I see them is a kind of delight and a confidence that those one’s will kick some arse when planted. But there’s a nagging memento mori angle too – we all die in the send, don’t get cocky, don’t just assume that everything will be alright and these little buggers will thrive: plants die and plants are sometimes dug up by overexcited and bored puppies. And so on. And on.

Published in: on September 27, 2010 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment