Monday, April 27, 2009

The Fairy Tree folk are fleeing.......

.....well, from me at least. No response to my politely worded card seeking to resolve the mystery of who lives in the fairy tree but I'll keep trying.

However, I was in the vet the other day (seeking an answer for Milly's bottom breath. Answer: nothing wrong, just brush her teeth occasionally) and I saw a wonderful photograph of Mr P on their wall.

Isn't he sensational? His owner, Tam, had left a beautiful thank you note to the doctors who cared for Mr P and it got me reading all of the other genuinely heartfelt cards, letters and photographs of beloved pets departed and still around. It then reminded me of our first dog, Tess.

She was a stumpy-tailed blue heeler that Love Chunks bought, sight-unseen, over the telephone when we were living in Darwin. Blue heelers were rather exotic breeds for that part of the world: Pigdogs and bull terriers were the standard fare up there, to go with the dusty twin-cab utes, bogan Ned Kelly-length beards, wrap-around black sunnies and blue singlets (and yes, they were just the women).

Tess arrived from Hayes Creek with owners who admitted that she had been the only surviving female - the other two had been killed by a snake. At first, I couldn't see anything inside the box as she was perfectly camouflaged amongst the newspaper.

It was love at first lick - she slumped into my t-shirt and slept, and when LC came home from work, he too was smitten. A glance at the photo album of the time shows that 80% of the pictures are of Tess - playing with her beloved tennis balls; eating her first solid food from a tiny soy-sauce dish; sleeping under a deckchair; cooling herself by shoving her butt up against the gap under our air-conditioned bedroom door; eating her dog-choccy christmas present.

Entertainment usually involved the blue thongs. She'd slip her snout under the straps so that one part of her face had the sole pressed up against it. A few vigorous shakes of her ears meant that the thong then cheekily slapped her face, thus starting a chewing, growling, ear-flapping Fight Club event that saw her dash around the garden, slapping herself into a frenzy of fun and frolics.

Her orange ball proved to be the segue towards real oranges. When we moved to Melbourne, her beloved plaything was becoming a bit bedraggled and somehow her colour-blind vision managed to figure out that the round things hanging over the fence off the neighbour's tree were orange balls as well.

Tess's first attempts at playing with them always ended abruptly when her teeth inevitably punctured the fruit, shocking her with the tart taste. Eventually however, she grew to like the pungent juice that oozed through the teeth holes and I used to return home from work to see literally dozens of chewed semi-circles of citrus and the unfortunate results (after going through the furry digestive system) violently splattered over the lawn.

Like all dogs, she was extraordinary licky (that's 'Uncle Robert' wrapped protectively in a sheet above, having been 'good morning-ed' in Tess's own inimitable style; such was the danger of being our houseguest). She loved to skulk under the dining table when we had dinner parties and, just when our friends were utterly unaware, shove her wet nose in their crotch. We lost a lot of wine glasses that way.

One thing that is true about dogs is that they are always true to their natures. Her mother was a guard dog on the property at Haye's Creek, and Tess too saw her role as Fearless and Neverfailing Protector of the Lockett family. There was no jealousy when Sapphire arrived: she was another Lockett to love and guard ceaselessly.

By the time Sapphire was two, things weren't so simple. Tess loved us unconditionally, but increasingly saw anyone and everyone else as potential enemies. Cautious introductions, careful sniffing and re-training failed, only for us to have to put her in a muzzle whenever we had company. What kind of life was that for her, or for us?
Then it happened. Three year old Lana was sitting on a deckchair, completely still and quiet when Tess rushed at her. We heard a sickening 'smack' sound as Tess aimed directly at her face, knocking her over. Even now, I shudder just imagining what might have happened had the muzzle not been on. There were hurried apologies, Tess ushered into the shed, sobbing tears of fear to wipe away, awkward discussions to resume, all the while we were thinking Oh My God.

We briefly wondered if we needed to install a smaller, fenced in section of the garden to put her in when we had friends over, but that only raised more questions. What if a child, left alone for a second, opened the latch, or Tess could escape out under her own steam?
The following day, we made the dreaded phone call to the vet. We knew what had to be done and didn't want to pretend that it was an 'accident', or that 'she's never behaved like that before.' We also knew that it wasn't fair to hand her over to someone else or to the RSPCA as she wouldn't pass their adoption tests. The vet understood and an appointment was made.

I was crying uncontrollably at my desk until the boss came out of his office and quietly said, 'Why don't you go home and spend some time with her?' He was a hard-nosed capitalist who wasn't a popular leader, but as a dog-owner himself he showed me nothing but compassion and understanding that I'll always remember and appreciate.

I threw her the tennis ball until she started to limp. She still deposited it hopefully at my feet, stump wagging furiously, tongue hanging out, eyes glinting with joy. LC arrived home. It was time. The veterinary clinic was at the end of our street, and he put Tess's lead on. Oh My Oh My, More fun! A walk!

I kissed her beautiful black velvety ears one last time as she trotted trustingly with him out of the door.
An hour later, LC was back home with an empty lead in his hands and tears in his eyes.

Eight years on and I can still hear the crackling of her cane bed basket in the darkness of our room when she shifted around in her sleep. She was a feisty one, full of love and spirit. Doing the right thing doesn't mean I don't still miss her.


franzy said...

I think we love dogs because they are the best of our own lives condensed: innocence, happiness, bravery, family, age, death and sorrow, all focused into one bright four- (and sometimes three-) legged light.

Word Ver." "furef"
How lovely.

Terence McDanger said...

Lovely story Kath, in an odd sort of way.

The poor doggy, but like one of ours back in the day, if they step out of line like that, you have no choice. Well done on being resposible it's not easy.

Baino said...

That's so sad. My nephew was attacked by a blue heeler at a friends house. Unprovoked and quiet surprising, they had to do the same thing but only after it attacked another visiting child a few weeks later. My brother had two which used to get under the house and chew his telephone cables but they were lucker and 'went to the farm' no really . . they're working dogs in Mudgee now!

Deep Kick Girl said...

Oh Kath. That's brought tears to my eyes. I've had to walk that path with two of my dogs and the tears are still close to the surface when I think about taking those trusting little friends to the vet's. Thanks for sharing those memories of Tess.

Kath Lockett said...

You're right Franzy, plus they're just more pure than we are and require so little from us.

Terence, it made us learn that buying a dog unseen isn't the way to go. Milly was carefully checked out beforehand and is the friendliest, 'front of house' doggie ever.

Baino, we considered seeing if a farmer wanted Tess, but we figured that the same problems would arise - somebody would get attacked eventually. Poor girl; she was only being true to her nature.

Thanks DKG. It was her utter and total trust righth to the very end that still haunts me.

River said...

I had to have one of mine put down too. He was timid from the first day and while he got used to us he was never really "right". He didn't attack a child, he attacked me and I took him to the dog shelter the next day requesting that he be put down.

Helen said...

I have had so many exciting episodes with one of my dogs - we rescued him from a pigpen and he was incredibly sick for a long time - to the point where sitting him on my lap and force-feeding him was the only ay we kept him going. I was working at a vet at the time and I took him with me every day and every day they would find someting else wrong with him.

Eventually we figured it out and he got better, although his growth was a bit stunted - people still think he's a puppy and he's nearly 7! But he is extremely protective of me, and although he's fine aroun people, as soon as I walk into a roo he attacks. He's getting better now though and we know when to lock him away and when to let him out, and he's actually had two vet visits where he hasn't tried to bite the vet!

Of course I don't have children and we don't have little kids coming to the house often, so at least we don't have to make that decision! You were very brave to make the decision when it had to be made, but that doesn't stop it hurting!

Oh and thanks for putting up the photo of Mr P, ,I've been wondering about his sunglasses!

wor verification: allapsy -sounds like disease!

ashleigh said...

I was attacked by a dog (large Alsation) when delivering junk mail. The people had it running around outside their house unrestrained.

This was when I was about age 16. Tetanus shots at the hospital emergency department, patching up, limping around for weeks after, lodging a police report, etc etc. The whole day gone, for a lousy $16 for delivering 1000 items of junk mail. Not a good trade off.

Turned out the dog was a police dog reject. They used to give them away if they were too vicious or unable to take training. Hmmm - you gotta wonder.

It took me over 10 years to get at all used to being around dogs, and I'm still not too sure until I know them.

You did right.

Kath Lockett said...

Ashleigh that's awful and it was terribly irresponsible for the trainers to hand over a dog that wasn't quite right.

...these days the reputable shelters run a few socialising, child-friendly, temperament tests for dogs up for adoption and if they don't pass them, they don't get handed on.