This post is a longer one than normal. Rather like a newsletter, if you like.
So pull up a chair, make a cuppa and grab that piece of chocolate cake.
Passage’s launch approaches fast.
Along with revision, this week has been dominated by dogs, both mine and the Dog’s Home’s. Mine are Jack Russell terriers. Normally fit, fighting fit, with emphasis on the fighting. Both dogs, being small, suffer from SDS (Small Dog Syndrome) part of which is a psychotic belief that one is actually a bull-mastiff or a pit-bull. Something that is big, anyway, and preferably threatening. This week my poor poppets have been unfit in so many ways. Dog One, the smooth coat, is fourteen and is beginning to suffer aspects of senility. He gets lost inside the house and just sits and barks until I appear and he can follow me. It’s no good me calling as he is almost deaf. But he is a vocal dog and is quite capable of letting me know when there is a problem, it’s just that the vocalising itself can be a problem . . . especially when one is trying so hard to revise a manuscript.
Ah yes, but is it really? Certainly for those loved and spoiled pets we have at home, it is.
But then there are the others. I’ve just begun work as a volunteer dog-walker at our local dog shelter: http://dogshomesoftas.com.au.
Every Thursday I travel out into the Hobart hills where 80 dogs of varying shapes and sizes are in residence. My job as a walker is to get a lead and a nifty little label that says ‘I’m out walking’, get the chart and see who is yarded, who ‘holds’ (doesn’t dirty kennels and must be walked first before it busts), who is on short walks because of de-sexing. Then I pick my dog and begin. We do a 20 minute walk into the bush along tracks with wonderful smells and seats where we can sit and talk to the dogs and then we return them to their kennels and the whole thing begins again.
Their kennels have under-floor heating and they are concrete bunkers that have been covered in soil and have grass and succulents growing across the top for insulation and for bush-fire protection. Some dogs are kenneled together in double kennels and that’s great because I get to walk with a friend and have a gossip, knowing the two dogs will get on.
My first time last week was filled with four enormous dogs and as I am only 5’3, they walked me rather than the other way round. At the end of my shift, I was knackered and could barely speak.
This week, I walked six dogs. But being sneaky I made sure that at least two were pups. The other four were hound crosses and it seems a hound’s lot is to go far and fast and pee as much as possible. The Home seemed full of hounds this week. The week I trained it was filled with terrier crosses. Sometimes it is filled with designer dogs and puppy-farm dogs. One never knows.
But as I walked, I wondered what foul people could just dump their dogs, what other people are so irresponsible that they never de-sex their dogs and then we have a host of unwanted pups. Why people buy dogs without a clue as to care and love and why many buy dogs that are just plain difficult in a given situation. I’m a writer, so it was natural that my thoughts then drifted to the convolutions of human emotion and what prompts people to act in certain ways. And just as my mind became enthralled in this philosophical discussion with itself, my dog would stop, pee or poo and then I’d have to get practical, pick up the offending stuff in the bags provided and then drop it in the bin and the dog would say, ‘Well! Nice that you’re paying attention, can I have some more please?’
I love the work and love the dogs. I admire a Dog’s Home that has adopted out 11 dogs since Saturday and more than 400 since January. And I love Piper. I walked her today . . . 6 months old, a Jack Russell X with a white head and a tan ring round one eye. She’s quite small, a joy to walk and lies in my arms like a baby, blissed out and enjoying having her little pink tum-tum rubbed. Once again, my husband had to search my pockets and the car when I came home . . . just to make sure I hadn’t adopted a third to add to our other two.
Some days aren’t meant to be writing days, or if they are, the inspiration is so low that one seeks diversion. Time away from quill skill. So the dogs and I go to the beach. They do their obligatory sniff and so do I, although mine is just to breathe in the scent of waves, salt and seaweed with my nose twitching in the air, whilst theirs is at ground level. I look along the beach: 2 kilometres of white sand. And we do it, the dogs and I.