Day Eight - Appreciative August
Love Chunks and Sapphire got heartily sick and tired of my rushing up to complete strangers (often quite scary-looking blokes) to pat their dogs and, four years after our blue-heeler Tess died, we decided to adopt another one. When I was chatting to a toothless homeless man and eagerly stroking his muttley dog's rather pongy coat, LC said to Sapph, "I think your Mum needs a dog of her own."
On the designated day, I was told - by my then five year-old daughter and my thirty-six year old husband that I was not to get too excited and pick the first canine my beady greens focussed onto. It was to be a dog that was child-friendly, not too large or energetic for a suburban life, not too crazy nor too timid was not to require any excessive grooming.
Plus - LC waggled his finger in front of my face to stop me interrupting - if the ideal dog was not found that day, then we would go back another time. And another time, if need be. The dog had to be just right for we three Locketts.
I nearly garotted myself on the seatbelt in my eagerness to get out of the car and inside the Sandy Creek Dog Sanctuary. It was smelly, noisy, chaotic and busy, and run by a passionate local family without any government funding.
One hand-painted sign said 'Grown Dogs' and the other said 'Puppies'. "Ooooh, let's look at the puppies first," and before LC could say, "But I thought we were going to see if an older dog needed a better home," he followed - Sapphire was being dragged along beside me.
And there she was. Our Milly. Shaking a little from the deafening barking all around her, but wildly wagging her tail and licking at our fingers through the bars. "This one, LC, this one!" I peered at the card. "Look, it's a female, she loves us and she's about the size of a coffee table! This one!"
With that, all-too-familiar, 'But Kath I Thought We Had Maturely Discussed This Earlier' look, Love Chunks took me aside, reminding me in a furious whisper that we didn't know anything about her background, how she'd behave outside of her enclosure or seen any of the other dogs needing homes yet.
My own invisible tail drooped and hid between my legs. "Oh. Yeah, you're right. Let's do the rounds then." But, like a good pair of shoes or a spouse's Christmas gift, it's always the first one you see, isn't it, but you still tramp up and down the shopping mall 'just in case' and end up right back where you started.
There were fully grown dogs that were all beautiful, but were too large for a suburban home and would be infinitely happier being told to jump up into the ute to get ready for a round of farm work. Others were cowed or nervous and needed a full-time carer to show them that not all people were evil. Still more were anxious, barking endlessly and too eager to jump and dominate. The puppies were all gorgeous. All energetic worker dogs though - kelpies, heelers, shepherds and dodgy mixtures of rottweiler and staffies.
Back to Milly. Again she made a beeline for our fingers, and we called a helper over so that we could meet her outside of the cage. Milly's exuberant tail wagging extended up to her bottom, hips, back and ears and she didn't jump up and scare our five year old child. She willingly sat and let a lead be put on, and we walked her around their garden, dodging the clothes dangling from the Hills Hoist. LC and I said it together, "Yep, she's the one."
Driving home to Trinity Gardens, the new addition didn't make a sound in the back of the station wagon, just looked out at the traffic and back over the seat to us, the three new humans allotted to her guardianship. "Dog, you don't know this yet, but you've just won the lotto", Love Chunks said, winking at me.
It's been the other way around really. She's been my faithful companion during runs, walks, book writing, computer work, reading, gardening, holidays, walks to and from school and at picnics. She's been sang to, danced with, kissed ("But Kath she eats cat shit, licks herself and then you kiss her"), videoed and cuddled. Even LC has held her lovingly in his arms like a newborn baby when he thinks I'm not around.
Milly very patiently endures the costume designs that Sapphire and her playdates inflict upon her but will not tolerate being laughed at or being made to wear her tiny Santa Hat on Christmas Day. She hides on bath day, yet has learned to include Skipper the bunny in her heart and daily rounds of licks and sniffs.
The vet assures me that our dog is a 'smiler' who easily reveals her emotions. She is utterly put out when we drive off somewhere without her and laps up the adoring pats and chats she gets from our neighbours, school children and friends.
She's featured on a few overseas doggy websites and garnered her fair share of online fanmail. She greets the postman, tradies and the Banana Blue man with a wagging tail and a lick of their shoes (and ankles, if there's skin on show) and sometimes - if I'm not paying attention - she'll zoom across the road to chase Andrew and Jill's cat through their garage and up the apricot tree. Andrew never gets angry; he's too busy falling about laughing, "That'll teach Tigga to sit in the driveway looking like a smug little bugger."
Even my parents - who have never been 'dog people' - have fallen for our furry little friend, a Jack Russell Corgi mix we jokingly call a 'Jorgi'. When we stay at their house in Victor Harbor, Milly has her own kennel (made by Dad, painted by Sapphire), lined with two leopard-spot blankets and a selection of chew toys, wooden sticks and tennis balls (some with sound effects when they're bitten into) to play with. She accompanies Mum during her pruning, watering and planting sessions, sitting or sniffing quietly next to her as a silent friend - there, but not demanding. When Dad's returned from fishing, Milly sniffs his sneakers, rods and the detritus left by the back shed after the haul's been gutted and scaled. A visit to Grandma and Grandpa is, indeed, as much fun for Milly as it is for Sapphire.
During my migraines or times of stress and sadness, she is a determined shadow. Sitting on my feet and leaning against my legs so that she's sure to know my next move and I'm assured that she's there and she cares. If migraines send me to bed seeking the darkness and silence, she sleeps for hours at my feet, stirring when I stir, licking my hand just once to remind me I'm not alone.
She's the find of our lives for only eighty dollars.
'Let me inside you meanies!'