Sunday, August 10, 2008

Day Ten - Appreciative August


I was always a cat person growing up. When we bought our house in Murray Bridge, it came with a stray cat whom we fed and called only "Puss."
When he high-tailed it off to cat heaven we got a white kitten my mother called "Tom," but he had about as much personality as a slice of wonderwhite, spending most of his fortnight with us hiding behind the shed before escaping for good.

When "Socks" arrived, as one of my ninth birthday presents, he turned me into a bonafide cat lover. He literally hugged - his front paws would wrap around my neck and he'd nuzzle into my face, purring: it was always me that got sick of him and put him back down onto the ground and not the other way around. He'd sit on the kitchen window sill to watch us as we ate, laughed, squabbled and washed the dishes and he'd wait in the driveway until we returned home from our visits to Adelaide. When we'd start packing the caravan for longer trips, he'd scoot in and hide under Mum and Dad's bed in the hopes that he'd be included as well. We all cried when he died from injuries received after being hit by a car. Dad found him and took him to the vet to be put down, and told me afterwards when I'd got home from my holiday job. I couldn't bring myself to get another feline to replace him.

Little did I know that I'd marry a bloke who loathed cats and have a child who if she even looks mildly interested in one has her eyes swell and close up entirely. Also, I shared a house with Jill who had a gorgeous red heeler called Polly, and Tim, who had a bluey called Sam.

Love Chunks once noticed that if he stood out on the back porch in front of the dogs with a tennis ball in one hand and a sandwich in the other, Polly's eyes would be on the food and Sam's would be waiting for him to throw that ball. Those two furry friends started my continuing admiration and love for the dog.

My older brother Rob once said that if he ever started a band, he'd call it 'Dogs In Cars' because they represent the epitome of simple joy with their ears flapping back against the breeze, tongues hanging out and eyes glistening in delight.

Love Chunks found 'Tess', our blue heeler in the oh-so-literate NT news under 'give-aways'. Her human owners were moving to Queensland, and she was the only one of the litter still left - two of her siblings had already found new homes and another two had been bitten and killed by snakes. She arrived at our Darwin home day later almost entirely camouflaged by the newspapers she was soundly sleeping in. At barely six weeks of age, we found a tiny asian dipping saucer for her to lap milk and weetbix from and again, my heart opened up to loving another little animal.

It also opened my eyes to the personalities of other dogs around me. Walking, running, waiting on the backs of utes, digging, sniffing, camping, sleeping, stretching, bathing, swimming, barking and chasing. If you look closely as you pass by, each dog has a happy glint in their eye and they honestly seem to be smiling when they're out for a walk.

They have likes and dislikes, however amusing or irrational. Tess used to dig in the monsoonal puddles around the edges of our pool, but hated to swim in it. She'd wedge her boofy little head into an old rubber thong and shake her head, letting the thong slap her face repeatedly. This would then start a thong fight that would entertain her for hours; as did skittering empty PET bottles on the pergola pavers, defronding palms and yelling at the neighbours when they were trying to relax in their outdoor spa. Like the dog here in front of the fan, she also used to wedge her arse up against the bottom of our bedroom door to catch the cooling breezes from the only air conditioner the Darwin house had.

By six years old, she had shown us one time too many that her love and loyalty lay with us three Locketts and nobody else. Her little life would have been utterly complete if only strangers from 'outside' would stay well away. She snapped at a child who was sitting quietly in a chair - I can still hear the godawful 'smack' sound as her muzzled snout hit Lana's face - and we knew what we had to do. It was one of the saddest days of LC's life when he returned home from the vet with nothing but an empty lead and frayed dog collar, and I sat at my desk all week at work and sobbed until they sent me home.

Four years later, Milly found us, and instead of preventing me from bowling up to any strange Tom, Dick or Harriet with a dog, she's made me worse. Dogs give me such happiness and entertainment just by observing them; let alone patting them, seeing their delight at receiving attention and their honest, uncomplicated acceptance at whatever's happening in their lives right then. They may be different breeds, shapes, sizes, colours and temperaments, but they all want the same thing; to love and be loved.

I've made some wonderful friendships from other regular dog walkers that started from only knowing the names of the dogs and not their owners for the first few months. Even now as I'm strolling around the hood with Milly, I'll think to myself, "That's Douglas's the daschund's house over there, and Missy the lab is right around the corner, right next to Holly the Beagle. Poor old William the Whippet - he's getting so old he pissed on his parka the other day and had to be taken home for a tidy up. Albee the Alsation tried to play with Izzy the Maltese without taking the size differential into account and got nipped in the 'nads for his efforts..."

I'll leave you with three of my favourite dog quotes:
If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went - Will Rogers
Anybody who doesn't know what shampoo tastes like never washed a dog - Franklin P. Jones
You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, 'Wow, you're right! I never would've thought of that!' - Dave Barry

Whatever the level of your wit, if you own a dog, you'll know that no-one loves you or is as ecstatic to see you at the end of a hard day like your dog is. Always and forever.


Baino said...

So true Kath, lubs me lab! Actually the shot with the sprinkler could be Lily, she's a pest with a hose then looks all forlorn when I won't let her inside because she's soaking wet with an "Aww c'mon, it's only water!" expression.

Naomi said...

great post...I always like to say dogs make the best humans, for all the reasons you said!! My kids often joke that I love the dogs more than I do them so I say lets stack it up
1. who eats whatever I put in front of them no complaints?
2. who is always glad to see me at the end of the day no matter what?
3. who does what they are told without answering back?

Hmmmm : - )

franzy said...

8. Milly post - Tearful

9. Radelaide post - sobbing into bed clothes.

10. Full on doggies post - ?!??!?! WTF?!? Leave me be! Stop rubbing it in! Now I'm gonna go cut myself ...

ps. You put the dog down because she snapped at a kid? Was it that bad? Why did she bight?
Our family dogs bit me all the time and they got to die of cancer ten years later ...

Kath Lockett said...

Sadly, Franzy, Tess was what the vet (who loved her) would hesitantly call 'unpredictable'.

It's hard to describe how sick LC and I felt when she smacked into the face of a three year old who was sitting quietly. If Tess wasn't muzzled (a very sad decision we'd had to make in itself, don't you think?) she would have sunk her jaws into that kid's face.

Friendly nips etc all fine but Tess quite clearly saw the world outside of our house as one she had to protect us from. We tearfully talked about building a special enclosure that we could put her in when friends and family visited but we knew that as Sapph (who was 2 then) got older it may be tempting for her or a friend to undo the gate or poke Tess through a gap and....

Kath Lockett said...

Oh and Franzy. You are in QUEENSLAND. We here are in miserable, freezing rain and coupled with the flu that Sapph and I have been suffering for the past few days, I'd be struggling to be able to taste a Farmers Union, Frog Cake or Haighs, let alone enjoy one.

No doubt you're at the computer wearing t-shirts and shorts??

River said...

Franzy--"miserable, freezing rain and" HAIL. Three times this last week.

I had my german shepherd x ? put down the day after he attacked me. There were lots of little kids living in our street and I didn't want to take any chances. He was very timid and a fear biter. attacking when afraid. We got him from a backyard breeder when he was 6 weeks old and didn't realise at the time how dysfunctional he was. By 8 months we knew, and when he attacked me during a training lesson, we knew what we had to do.

gigglewick said...


I would cut myself in despair also about the dog-related hijinks on this here blog, but i'm a gen xer and we're already so hard-wired with apathy that we can't bring ourselves to be emo.

Also, having had a beautiful cat killed by dogs off their leash (and OVER THE FENCE AND INTO OUR FRONT YARD) in North Carlton I'm all for erring on the side of caution where unprovoked attacks by dogs are concerned. Sometimes owners can take precautions (as you clearly did Kath) but sometimes you just can't take the risk - like River, I'd had to think what would have happened if our cat had been Grizzlewick, aged two.