Sunday, August 14, 2005

The living, breathing Mulching Machine

Have you ever owned a dog? Our 'Jorgi' (the lovechild of a corgi and a Jack Russell) is 18 months old. She has the cute folded-over ears and body shape of a JR, but the lovely all-over caramel colour of a Corgi. Except for her front left leg which is white and looks from far away as though she has a bandage on it.

Obviously, like most other dogs, she likes to sniff the bottoms of other dogs when she meets them. However, our dog really goes to fourth base in that she likes to really sniff doggy butts. To the point of embarassment for me, her owner, and a sort of shocked 'Oh dear ha-ha-hah' chuckle from the other dog's owner. It's not just a cursory sniff, a wag of the tail and off they go for a chase; oh no. It's a v-e-r-y long thirty second inhalation and scented discovery of every millimetre of her potential new buddy's butt with the addition of surreptitious licks of whatever else may be dangling or lurking near the tail before going around to the front for a few slurps of their snout. Tail wagging furiously all the while, mind you, of both my dog and the lucky recipient.

Her unerringly enthusiastic version of a playboy bunny's welcoming skills has ensured that she has never ever been bitten by another dog. Despite her rather compact size, she too has yet to be beaten in a run around the local oval by any dog, including William the whippet. She's as nuggety as a footy player with the grace and pace of a grand final-winning Andrew McLeod.

The other day, after coming home from the weekly shopping trip, I presented her with a juicy bone from the butcher. It was a mutton leg, just starting to pong a bit from age and very generously covered with raw meat and yellow lamb fat. It made me slightly nauseous to lift it out of the bag in its sweaty, sticky, stinky state which of course meant that for our dog it was as compellingly attractive as a brick-sized bar of Lindt chocolate.

Or so I naively thought. I went back inside - yes, to wash my hands you germophobe - to finish unpacking the groceries. A minutes later, I was outside again, filling up the bin with various wrappers when I saw her in the garden, lying on her tummy contentedly chewing away at something wedged between her front paws as the sun warmed her back. "Ooooh you're a lucky girl," I crooned out loud like a demented 90 year old spinster, "What a lovely bone you have there!" Strolling over to give her ears a scratch, I noticed that she wasn't chewing an old bone: she was chewing an old stick instead.

"Hey hey HEY Furry Face, I spent a whole two bucks on that bone and you're not even eating it! Where did you put it?" Furry Face stared at me in that uncomprehending but winsome 'I-don't-know-what-she's-saying-but-her-lips-are-moving-and-I-want-her-to-continue-patting-me' expression on her face and continued gnawing at her preferred stick.

Later on in the afternoon she was prancing around the bottle brush bush with a canoe-sized piece of chunky bark that had fallen from our gum tree. This time she ignored the sunny spot and decided to jump up on my daughter's trampoline, slowly grinding her woody prize down to tiny splinters. This regular activity is tantalisingly frustrating for my husband, who often asks philosophically, "Why can't she be trained to chew it in the garden beds, so at least we'll get some benefit from the mulch she produces?" Instead we have to regularly sweep the top of the trampoline, or the back door mat, or once, even the top of the BBQ.

Yes, how come some of those poncy dog breeders (or in-breeders) don't try and come up with a dog who can do some basic chores? For example, if dogs (and cats) like to eat a few blades of grass every day (maybe it's their version of wheatgrass shots), why can't they be bred or trained to eat only the weeds? And as for dog turds, how come they don't bury them when they very willingly do bury bones, balls and stale bread rolls? Maybe they could be taught a thing or two about hygienic hole-digging from their arch-enemies the cats.

Let's not stop there, dear doggy breeders who may be reading this. How about we embrace the digging genes in their unique species and get them to dig through our compost piles in order to get them rotting down properly, and train them to only dig the flower beds when it's time for spring planting? It wouldn't hurt for them to have a dominant gene for the ability to switch on the timer taps either.

Or to sort out the recycling from the green waste from the ordinary household waste for us? Perhaps we could get the breeders to work cooperatively with the councils to develop a kind of wheelie-bin harness that the doggies could slip into in order to put the bins out on Wednesday nights and bring them in on Thursday afternoons? Considering too, that our dog will quite happily eat tissues, loo paper and serviettes if she can find them, how about developing a breed that will snuffle up the loose bits of paper and litter that blow down the street after garbage day? Or breeds that will inhale littered cigarette butts as though they were Good-Os?

And there should be no stopping other indoor advances as well. Opening the side gate for the meter reader; answering the door when your hands are in the sink water and your husband is in the toilet; flicking the heating switch half an hour before you come home or setting the video for the 'Lost' finale.

My Furry Friend is gazing up at me now, her brown eyes silently imploring me to walk into the kitchen and give the thawing steaks to her right now instead of cooking them for our dinner. It's only 2 in the afternoon; hours too early for her tea.

"How about a walk?" She's out of her beanbag and by the back door in a nano-second, flames burning the floorboards behind her. There must be some way to harness that speed and eagerness as an alternative household power source!

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