D is for Denmark (the town in southwest Australia in this case) a popular spot where river and forest meet the ocean and for Dwellingup, a historic and charming town situated amongst jarrah forests south of Perth. The Bibbulmun track – a nearly 1000 kilometre long walk trail – passes through Dwellingup.

D is also for dingo, an Australian wild dog. Some are bred and kept as pets and are very loving animals. On a similar note, d is for dog and dog beach.

Rugby, Refs and the Conciliatory Dog

It’s rugby season again. Weekends are devoted to watching most of the different matches, starting on Friday afternoon, continuing through Saturday with some on Sunday as well. No-one is allowed to touch the remote control for the television when a particularly important match is going to be screened, just in case we make a mistake and cancel the recording of the match – yes, the important ones are all recorded for replay later, and also for detail and in depth analysis of player genius or refereeing decisions so the game can be paused at any point, rewinded and replayed and paused at the exact moment a brilliant try, pass, alleged offence or non-offence occurs. Said remote control has been known to get hidden when the man of the house is going to be away during an important match, just to protect the rest of us against ourselves, should we make the dreaded mistake of causing something to go wrong with the recording or worse still, if he wants to watch the game delayed live –  purposefully making sure not to hear the score of the game if it’s already started, shutting off from the outside world, turning off the radio and making sure not to watch the TV news, and not looking at text messages from mates in case they’ve decided to share a progress report of the match until he’s had a chance to watch the game in full as if live – and we happen to have the match on the screen as he walks in the door, which renders the TV out of bounds for the rest of us for the duration of that time.

Luckily I enjoy watching rugby as well, although I don’t watch all the matches every weekend. Other sports such as footy (Australian football) and cricket are watched in our house as well should they be on TV and not at the same time as the rugby, but rugby is the one sport which is followed with the most passion, commitment and dedication one could ask of a supporter. Ever since I can remember the volume produced by rugby spectators at home has always been a barometer of the quality of the refereeing. It’s also an indication of how well or badly a much loved team is doing, of course – especially if it’s a nail biter the excitement levels and decibels will be sky high when our team does well but by the same token I can tell without looking when things are going badly just by how quiet the room has become – and here I count myself in because I get equally swept up in the emotion.

We’ve organised our social life around rugby matches, turned up late to a wedding reception because of a rugby test match and my husband has extended his stay in overseas cities after work conferences because there happened to be a test match being played there the following day. It’s fair to say (and it might be a slight understatement) that rugby is important in our house. Over the years I’ve come to realise that it’s impossible to watch a rugby match quietly and one night a few years ago my husband and one of his friends were watching a match in the early hours of the morning –  it was one I wasn’t going to stay up for – and I was trying to sleep to no avail, until I decided that I had two options: either get up and march into the living room to ask them to turn down the volume and give poor Friend the shock of the picture of me in my pyjamas, or send my husband a text message from the bedroom asking them to keep it down a bit, and since the bed was nice and cosy and I didn’t want to put Friend off coming to watch rugby at our house for life I opted for option 2. They thought it so hilarious though that their laughter kept me awake for the next half an hour anyway.

Some days there won’t be a break in the rugby for the kids to be able to do anything else in the living room so on a typical Saturday afternoon we’ll have the rugby on TV at full volume, child No 2 playing the piano loud enough so she can hear it over the top of the rugby commentators and the other two kids playing table tennis just outside the door vociferously voicing their opinions about the other’s shots and tactics.

The atmosphere at home while a game is on depends on who is playing and if it’s a match between two teams that we’re not really supporting but my husband is watching “because of the rugby” it’s generally quite relaxed but when “our” team plays it’s charged and electric and we get caught up in the moment, sitting on the edge of our seats biting our nails and not daring to look away from the screen. Surely this is routine for all fervent sports supporters, regardless of the sport? The kids might look at us askance and ask: “What difference is the score going to make to your life?”, but if it’s a close game Ironman moves further and further away from the TV the more the tension grows. It’s almost like the tension would be more bearable if he was further away. If the game is in the hands of a good ref all generally goes well but if the ref makes some bad decisions, incorrectly accusing a player of an offence or worse still: letting an offence by an opposing player slide, all hell breaks loose. If that happens we’re called to witness the injustice of it all and we solemnly shake our heads collectively in shock and agreement and berate the ref in unison. If only the ref could hear us.

One member of the family doesn’t take it very well at all when refs make such bad decisions though. She’s always eager to please everyone else, can sense the mood, keeps a keen eye on all her family members to make sure everybody is safe, well and happy and when someone is unhappy she takes it upon herself to try and make that person happy by running over to them, looking into their eyes intensely and then licking their feet while keeping eye contact. None of us particularly likes having our feet licked but we just can’t stop her from doing it. It’s the only way she knows how to fix the problem of an unhappy human. Poor puppy Tess just can’t for the life of her work out why she can’t make dad happy when the ref is being unfair, and the more his annoyance levels rise at the unfair reffing decision the more ferociously she’ll lick his feet until she finally manages to draw his attention away from the TV – purposefully but not for the placatory reasons she wants (the licking in itself doesn’t make anyone happy) –  only because the licking is actually more annoying than the ref and he starts laughing and she’s managed to break the spell even though her methods aren’t our favourite. She’ll be satisfied and content because she’s managed to make dad happy again so off she goes to lie back down in her spot until the next time she decides that her mood-changing skills and special services are required (which could be a minute later or next week, it all depends on the ref).

Placatory Tessa (photo taken by Child No 3)

Placatory Tessa (photo taken by Child No 3)

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Or rather: who didn’t let the dogs out? Part of our morning go-to-school-and-work routine is to let the dogs out at the last minute and check that the doors are locked before we leave. I’m usually the last to leave and up until the end of last year I had the privilege of taking (by then only) child No 3 to school every day and since she despises being late and wanted to help me as much as possible to get ready in the mornings before we left to ensure we’d leave early, she would let the dogs out, check that they have enough water, put my handbag, mobile phone, car keys and lipstick (everything I need at the last minute) ready at the front door. Not that I ever caused her to be late but she wanted to make sure. It was quite an adjustment for me when she went to high school this year and she didn’t need me to take her anymore and my handbag, phone and car keys weren’t waiting for me at the front door in the mornings! She still lets the dogs out and checks their water bowl, but that was now the extent of her last minute house checks.

Then one morning a while ago Ironman left home after us, and we didn’t have to let the dogs out when we left because he could do it. I reminded him to let them out and lock the back door and No 3 – not trusting dad to remember – wrote him a note to remind him, which she left on the kitchen bench. By that time No’s 1 & 2 had both left. That afternoon we arrived home to two very excited dogs who were so happy to see us as they met us inside the house as we walked in the front door, where they wouldn’t have been able to be had they been let out! Upon closer inspection we found that the back door was open (security fly screen with dog flap was thankfully locked though) and the dogs had had free reign of the house all day. They must have thought we wanted them to have a party! Hmm, so much for all the reminders to let them out…

When I told my husband that he’d forgotten to let the dogs out and lock the back door he was quite adamant that it was our (the other human inhabitants’) fault for not doing it because he wasn’t used to doing it. Of course. The funny thing was that the exact same situation repeated itself not long after that and again, it was our mistake. Luckily the dogs behaved themselves and didn’t make a mess in the house, but they probably had an absolute blast sleeping on our beds all day and eating the cat’s food!

Letting the cat out is, on the other hand, a serious thing in our house. It’s council regulation that cats have to be kept inside at night, and after the trauma of our previous beautiful and loving ginger boy-cat getting mysteriously killed one night while we were out nearly two years ago (he loved roaming and never stayed inside when we tried to keep him in), we taught little M to stay inside at night and she only gets fed her dinner once she’s inside and the window with the cat-flap has been closed. Everybody knows the drill and our Jack Russell cross Kelpie, T, knows it as well. She’s particularly obsessed with the window where the cat (and her predecessors used to) goes in and out and late afternoon she starts watching our movements in case we’re going to move towards the window and close it or hears us say the word, then she’ll race to the window at top speed with nails scratching on the floor and jumping up towards the window on her short little legs regardless of whether the cat is at the window or about to come in at that moment or not. What she thinks she’s going to do once she gets there and there’s no cat is still a mystery to us, but she does it without fail. She’ll even take off for the window if the cat was sitting calmly right next to her when we said the word and one of us starts moving towards the window and the cat will just look at her with an air of detached amusement while T runs for her life on this serious mission of getting to the window.

T, guard of the window (and house)

T, guard of the window (and house)

Once kitty is inside for the night we all have to be extremely careful that she doesn’t escape so no doors or windows without flyscreens can be left open. I’m paranoid about this as I can’t bear the thought of a repeat of what happened to our ginger tom. And then one night a while ago my husband and I were sitting outside having a quiet drink and the next minute kitty M came casually walking along the top of the fence with the neighbours as if it’s the most natural thing in the world for her to be walking the (top of the) back fence at night while we sit outside watching her and having a drink. It only took a split second for me to realise that there was something very wrong with this picture and then we had to try to coax her inside again since catching her was completely out of the question. As we were trying to persuade her to come inside my mind started racing to work out where she’d got out and once we had her inside I went around the house to look for her escape route and found that child No 1 had left his bedroom window wide open and the flyscreen nowhere to be seen. Naturally a curious cat is going to investigate and accept an invitation like that! Child No 1 was out that night but I couldn’t wait until he got home to let off steam and sent him a text message doing just that.

But it seemed that one assisted escape was not enough for M and her co-conspirator child No 1 because not too long after that he left the back door open one night and that time it was him, child No 2 and I who spent about half an hour foraging around in the garden looking for a mostly black cat on a cold, wet and windy night and she wasn’t giving herself up without making us work for it. She was probably having a quiet giggle to herself watching us trying to find her.

Most nights around the time that we have dinner it’s like our M cat decides that she’s been couped up in this Alcatraz that is our house for way too long (maybe two hours by that time) though and she starts running through the house like a cat possessed literally jumping off the walls (from the floor about a metre up in the air against a wall, kicking off the wall with her back feet and off in another direction). Just like a bouncy ball, as child No 2 described it. If we’re lucky we get another show as well where she somehow manages to get the dogs involved and she starts playing hide and seek with them hiding behind a couch and then jumping out over/past/onto the dogs and shoots off behind another couch and she has the dogs running around in circles not knowing where to look for her and when they find her she has already darted off to another spot. It’s the best live dinner entertainment!

Miss M, the queen and ruler of dogs. Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.

Miss M, the queen and ruler of dogs. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

Z, hide-and-seek playmate

Z, hide-and-seek playmate

But our best letting-the-dogs-out tale yet is of our Kelpie/Jack Russell girl T who was home alone one Saturday afternoon when she was only a pup of about six months old and we all went out but my husband didn’t realise that the garage door didn’t close properly behind him as he left and she was left sitting there with the big wide world inviting her to go walkabouts but being the good, caring, and faithful girl that she is we got home later to find her sitting right there at the open garage door watching the road and guarding her house.

The Mystery of the Missing Steak

A steak went missing off our outdoor table a few years back. We had friends over that night, and it was their steak that mysteriously disappeared off our outdoor table while it was left unattended for a while. The two men had taken the meat outside to cook on the barbeque, and left it on that table when our friend received a call from their daughter to fetch her from work, and so the meat was left unattended, but the two guys never told me that they’d left the steak uncovered. Open. They left and when they returned, walked outside to barbeque the meat and the next thing I heard was: “Where’s the steak?!!”

Now our family has two dogs and a cat.  One of the dogs is a Jack Russell crossed with a Kelpie, with probably some Red Healer in there as well. She has the most beautiful, loyal, intelligent nature, she watches behaviour patterns (ours and the cat’s) and reacts accordingly – as an example, our previous cat preferred to drink water from the bath, and eventually T decided it was a good idea to jump in the bath to drink some water as well (next to the cat), and nowadays we hear her jump into the bath and know she’s waiting for water; she tries to herd the cat by blocking its path and trying to get it into a corner, she anticipates when the window where the cat goes in and out will be opened or closed and runs towards it at such a pace that she skids on the stone floor regardless of the fact that she’d run past the cat who bemusedly watches her on her way there, while at other times walks so quietly on the pads of her feet that you can’t hear her nails as she stalks the cat, and then sometimes she lies still on her back while the cat play-attacks her; she picks up on our moods and in general tries her best to make everyone happy. But having a Jack Russell mum and a Kelpie dad meant in her case that she has short little Corgy-type legs with a long body like a sausage dog, plus she’s put on a bit of weight over the years. Not the type of build that is predisposed to jumping very high…

Our other dog is a little Jack Russell crossed with a Fox Terrier. Another beautiful girl whose ears and nose pick things up way before her friend T’s do, typical of the Fox Terrier in her. She gets so excited when child No 3 (her owner) gets home that she whines with excitement until No 3 takes off her shoes, and then Z carries the shoes (one at a time) to the couch where she loves to lie down. She never chews any shoes, but she has to have some in her lair. If no shoes are around, she’ll run into No 3’s room and if her wardrobe is open, take out a shoe and run with it to the couch. I keep saying that we need to train her to take shoes to bedrooms and not out of them, but it keeps falling on deaf ears. She loves to sit with us whenever we eat outside, and seats herself on a chair like the rest of the family. She is built the opposite to T, with long legs and a small body that enables her to jump vertically into the air. If the pooches happen to be inside the house when you come home, they both race to the front door so excitedly as if you’ve been away for hours even if you’ve only been gone for ten minutes, and Z jumps up into the air, vertically, so you can see her through the glass pane of the front door bobbing up and down and looking like a bouncy ball or a yo-yo. Very cute. She has been called the jumping fleabag by another of our friends, something No 3 takes personal offense to. The bottom line is, this little dog has an extremely strong sense of smell and the ability to jump vertically into the air, and quite high…

On the night the steak went walkabouts, there was general confusion for a moment and at first I thought it was a joke, but it quickly turned out to be serious and the steak was really missing. The container it had been in sat glaringly empty on the table. It hadn’t gone far though and since the dogs were the only real suspects, we soon enough discovered to our absolute horror, our two dogs on the lawn happily chewing on two beautiful pieces of steak!  I was mortified, but the whole situation was also hilarious. Z has never before (or since) stolen food off our table, but at least she was kind enough to share it with T. She shouldn’t have done it though, but in her defence: the steak was left uncovered! For a temptingly long time! The worst part was that, apart from other shared food, we were planning on having a low-key dinner that night which meant hamburgers for us, and we therefore only had hamburgers to share! More mortification!!

We’ve laughed and joked about and re-told this story numerous times since, but never again left meat uncovered and unattended on the outside table. In the meantime we got a new little rescued kitten who is an absolute character. She is playful, loving, cute, adorable and sometimes acts like she thinks she’s one of the dogs. She jumps on them as if they’re her playmates, and T tolerates it patiently while Z reacts instantly by either counter-attacking or running away. In the garden she runs around like a cat possessed and mock-attacks me as if she’s a ferocious beast, and waits for me outside the front door in the shrubs in the afternoons when I get home from work and again, storms to me as if she’s going to attack me, then meekly rolls over on her back and looks up as if to say: look at me – I’m so cute! Ever since her early days in our family, she took to jumping onto the kitchen bench when I was preparing food, and no manner of picking her up and putting her on the floor demotivated her – she just kept coming back. Eventually I started keeping a water spray bottle handy and even just the motion or sound (without actually spraying the water) taught her very quickly not to go there, but she still went and sat on top of the water cooler and watched the proceedings from there. None of us could bear chasing her away from there because she did nothing wrong and was just too cute for words.

Our routine on the days when child No 1 finishes work late, has become to leave his dinner out for him on the kitchen bench so he can just heat it up or eat as it is, whichever he wants to do. One night a while ago when I put his plate there for him I thought I’d better cover this with some paper towel in case M (the cat) decides to investigate the kitchen bench as she does think that no area is out of bounds to her and as we were having hamburgers (again!) the meat might have been tempting to her. I then got busy doing something else, child No 3 was out and child No 2 was playing the piano when next minute she burst out laughing and admonished the cat at the same time. I went to see what was going on, and it turned out that M was on the floor eating No 1’s hamburger patty! No 2 said she’d noticed that the paper towel covering No 1’s plate had moved so she put it back but didn’t notice that anything was amiss until she saw M and the hamburger patty on the floor. How on earth that tiny little 4kg cat managed to pick up a hamburger patty and carry it in her mouth while jumping down to the floor is beyond me. She hunts insects on a daily basis, and brings them into the house to show off and play with until she’s bored with them, but never has she carried anything bigger than that. (She wears a collar with a bell and won’t be able to catch birds because the bell will warn them if she’s coming.) That was a hamburger patty wasted as it went straight in the bin, but it was too funny to be angry at her. What is it with our pets on the nights we eat home-made hamburgers? Needless to say, tonight’s leftover meat was covered with a plate while it cools down to a suitable fridge-storing temperature, but the funny thing is that our pets aren’t undisciplined. Really. The dogs do as they’re told, even though sometimes it means going outside so slowly and with their heads and ears drooping so low it nearly touches the ground so you feel really guilty for sending them out, but they still obey, and M is learning not to jump onto our bed in the mornings until my alarm has gone off, even though she has a relapse every now and then when she thinks it’s time for us to wake up and she then jumps onto the bed and then onto the headboard, walks across the headboard and jumps down on Ironman’s side (this must have maximum effect in her mind as she gets to jump on both of us in the same lap) and she does this repeatedly, but it’s all small stuff. Their only minor little shortcoming is that we have to watch them around meat…