Tuesday, 30 November 2010

I Am A Dog Person.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy not so far away, I was out on a walk to the local outdoor shopping centre with my sister and my dogs. It was foretold that she would venture out on a noble quest to obtain the sacred chocolate bars from the hostile land of Safeway and that I would stay back and keep the dogs in check. I was just sitting on a bench, minding my own business and occasionally telling one or both of the dogs to shut up, when a man came up to me. This man delivered a pearl of wisdom that I’m sure will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“You have two dogs. One is bigger than the other one.”
After informing me of this, he left, presumably because his people needed him. Needless to say, I was in awe. He was right. I do have two dogs. One is bigger than the other one (Pumba being ‘one’ and Max being ‘the other one’). How he figured all of this out from simply looking at them, I’ll ever know. Perhaps he is a wizard. I’d like that. I’d like it very much.
I love dogs. This is one of the basic things about me that doesn’t take most people very long to figure out. I am a dog person. Dogs generally tend to like me, too. I’m not sure whether it’s because I must smell vaguely of Sheltie and Cocker Spoodle, whether they know that I adore them and want to play fetch, or whether they sense that I’m pathetic and not a threat and thus are not afraid of me. Whether it’s option a, b, c, a ‘d’ that I haven’t thought of yet or some mixture of any of those, I’m okay with it.
Actually, I used to be more of a cat person. When I was younger, they were one of my obsessions. I had a couple of books with lots of information on cats. I can still remember the advice of blinking slowly instead of staring into the cat’s eyes – and yes, that did actually help me to make friends with the neighbourhood cats. Both outgoing Leah the Tortoiseshell from across the road and shy Toosa the Chinchilla from next door were friendly with me.
Then, when I was ten, our family friend’s tricolour Sheltie Tish had a litter of puppies. Of course we went up to see them. As you should probably know, two day old puppies look like mutant hamsters from space. But they look like adorable mutant hamsters and make cute little high pitched noises from time to time. There were five pups in Tish’s litter, three males and two females. Their names were Pippin, Nala, Simba, Milo and the biggest one, Pumba. It took all of five minutes for Pumba to be ours. Due to them all being very young, though, we had to wait a while for them to mature before we could bring Pumba home with us.
The next ten weeks were the longest of my life. The first thing I did was tell everyone ever that I, Rachel Mitchell Macwhirter, was getting a puppy. I can still remember running up to my teacher and yelling “I’m getting a doggy!” like it was the greatest thing in the world (which, in retrospect, it really was). During these weeks, I acquired a new toy to cuddle up to at night – a fluffy, soft dog that I named Maxine (most likely after Madame Maxime from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Up until this point, I only held onto Piglet (so named because she is a bipedal pig wearing a dress) when I went to sleep. Now I had a doggy as well. Another of my ways to pass the time what to chatter aimlessly at our budgerigar for hours on end. The longest session of this was the day before we were due to pick Pumba up.
The day of awesomeness finally came. Excited to the extreme, we got into the car and began the one hour car trip to the farm. These days, the trip doesn’t take nearly as long, what with Eastlink being built. I was practically bouncing out of my chair the entire way there. When we arrived, I know Pumba recognised us. We’d been up to see him a couple of times as he was growing up. He was bigger this time than we’d ever seen him – he’d grown so much! However, at ten weeks old, he was still a baby and still prone to silliness.
This fact shone like a star as we were driving back home with him. Although we had bought a seatbelt harness especially for him, he turned out to be extra proficient in self tangling. Becca and I tried to free him and stop his crying, but being eight and ten years old respectively, we never had much of a chance. Unable to do anything else, we pulled over to the side of the road and Mum and I switched seats. I was now riding shotgun and Mum was next to Pumba, trying to stop him from destroying the universe again.
Success! We finally got home and our new puppy was in one piece. There isn’t a lot more I remember about this day, except that Pumba settled straight into our house and was more than happy to start playing tug of war as soon as possible. No, what I remember clearly are the second and third nights. Staying at our house for one night was obviously not an issue for him, but on the second night, he must have decided it was time to see his buddies again. Our failure to provide said buddies disappointed him and he felt the need to vocalise said disappointment all night long. Rinse and repeat the next night. We were now privy to the fact that not only was our new dog adorable, but he also had an impressive vocal range.
Despite the initial angst, Pum settled in just fine. He took to us very quickly and was always super glad when one of us walked in the front door. We discovered his trilling ability early on. He also warbled like a magpie on occasion when one of us came home. It was also obvious that we had bought ourselves an excellent watchdog. Not a thing can get past Pumba without him scolding it. How dare those birds fly across his street?
For three years, Pumba protected our home, frightening off many a door-to-door salesman with his Rottweiler-like bark. I would like to point out at this stage that although Pumba is a huge Sheltie by Australian standards, being only just shorter than a Border Collie, his bark is a lot deeper and more threatening than it should be. Now, when you’re a door-to-door salesman, trying to talk through a wire door to the owner of the house and you can’t quite see what’s on the other side, a bark like that is going to frighten you a little bit. One man even asked us if we had ‘a tiger in there’. He promptly left when Mum said yes.
However, we began to realise that Pumba needed a friend. Yes, we were his friends, but when all of us were out of the house, the only one he could talk to was the bird, and our budgie is still a vicious beast in its old age. Pumba’s sire and dam had another litter together, but we didn’t end up getting any of the pups. My aunt and cousin did though, and they are now the proud owners of Pumba’s brother Finn. But that’s a different story.
The next part of this story (no, I’m not shutting up yet) starts when I was very sick in year eight. I’d had to stay home for an entire week. It sucked really bad, but at least I wasn’t at school. I spent a lot of the week moping around, playing Maple Story and downloading old Evanescence tracks (as I’d found out that fans actually had permission to download their pre-Fallen material). By the time Saturday rolled around, the most notable thing that had happened was that we got a new computer desk.
Near midday, Mum and Dad went out to do some errands. Or something. I was thirteen years old and sick, I didn’t really care as long as it didn’t involve me doing anything. I can’t remember where in the lounge room I was sitting, but I was either at the computer or watching TV when I received a fateful SMS. It read ‘we are bringing something home’ and was from Mum. Naturally, I shouted out to my sister not to eat, because they were probably bringing McDonalds for us. I was sick, I deserved it, of course.
As it turns out, they were not bringing food home at all. When Mum came back through the door, we noticed she was holding a puppy in her arms. Okay, Dad must’ve had the food- holy shit, my mother just brought a puppy into the house.
BEST. SURPRISE. EVER.
The first thing I can recall Max doing is trying to eat Mum’s watch while he was still half asleep in her arms. Back then, we thought it was because he was hungry. Oh, how naive we were. Max turned out to be a very, very naughty puppy. That was okay though, because he was so loving, so cute and almost immediately brought a new spark into Pumba’s life.
So there you have it, the story of how I became a dog person.
Cats don’t like me any more.

Monday, 29 November 2010

My Name Is Gary Hercules Oak.

Let me tell you about my day. My day that inspired me to start blogging.

As I have my interview to get into the composition course I want at TAFE on Wednesday, I (read: mostly Mum) was getting my portfolio ready. Mum thought it would be a good idea to call the school and find out if there were any awards I missed out on that I could include and use to show myself off. I did not attend the Valedictory Dinner this year, so any awards meant for me would still be at the school.

After calling school reception, I was put on hold for a while and quickly discovered that the school is still advertising the musical production that it put on well over six months ago. This, I thought, was fairly amusing. When I was eventually put through to my year level co-ordinator's office, I was greeted with an answering machine. Fair enough, fair enough. She's got a lot of work to do, after all. I left a slightly frazzled message asking about my awards. I'm not too good with phones.

A little while later, she called back and informed me that I'd earned academic excellence awards in all of my subjects and that I also had a yearbook to pick up. Telling Mum this, we agreed to go down to the school and pick them up as soon as possible. It was no trouble and it would be really great to have academic awards for all of my year 12 subjects in my folder. Plus, I got to sing along to Tokio Hotel for the entire car ride there and that's always a bonus.

We arrived and the car was of course parked on the opposite corner to the one I needed to get to to pick up my stuff. I didn't mind, though. It was cool, walking through the school and knowing I never have to actually use any of the classrooms ever again. I would also never have to wear any of the uniforms of those students again. Quite great, if you ask me. When I got to the co-ordinator's office, I picked up my stuff and was out again in a few minutes. Heading back to the car, I looked over my certificates. She was telling the truth, I had indeed gotten academic excellence awards in all of my subjects.

I did four subjects this year.

I won academic excellence awards in five.

I had become Gary Fucking Oak.

Promptly deciding that this was the best moment of my life, I ran back to the car and showed the certificate to Mum. She said it probably was a good idea to point this out, so back to the co-ordinator's office I ran. The co-ordinator was quite apologetic, but I found the whole affair awesomely hilarious. It is moments like these that reaffirm my belief that I am the Mary Sue centre of the universe, after all. I need my fix of them. She told me to keep the certificate, seeing as my interview was in a couple of days, and that she would print out a proper one in due time.

As anyone would do, I scanned the certificate, posted it on Facebook and bragged for a while. The day seemed to calm down after that.

In the afternoon, as usual, my sister Rebecca and I were walking our doggies. Nothing special about that. We decided to only walk them two blocks today, because we were both tired and it was quite warm. As is usual on our walks, we were just happily chatting (or ranting about subject selection, in Becca's case). We were walking past a woman we didn't know and smiled and said hi, as is the nice thing to do. Suddenly, a tiny, fluffy black streak ran across the road about ten meters away from us. There was a second of dumbfounded silence before I shoved Max's lead into Bec's hand, leaving her with both of the dogs, and prepared to run off after the streak.

"Was that yours?" asked the woman.

"No," I said, "but I don't want it to get run over or anything."

She understood (of course) and after ensuring that I myself would not get run down by any passing cars, I was off. Before I was even across the road, there was another flying four legged puff of fur. This one was white with a tan nose and ears.

Oh dear God.

So now I was running after two dogs. There was an old lady on the other side of the street, so I asked if the dogs belonged to her. They didn't, apparently. She also asked if they belonged to me. I said no, my dogs were over there with the girl who looked like me. After that, I was off after them.

At this point, I'm running at full pelt down one of the sidestreets of Burwood Highway after two puppies that aren't even as big as Max. The white and tan one was closer, so I focused my efforts on it (I never did actually find out either of their sexes, I was too busy freaking out). We played what I can only describe as Life Or Death Giant's Treasure. Every time the doggie turned around, I stopped running and crouched down as if to say 'I'm pathetic, not threatening at all! Please don't run!'. I'm grateful that I can run rather quietly, because loud footsteps might've freaked out the poor thing even more. I finally got close enough to the dog to attempt to grab it, but I realised that if I messed this up, it'd run away and I'd probably have no chance of catching it again.

I needed a bribe. As I was stuck in crouching position because its eyes were on me, I grabbed the closest thing I could find - a dandelion. No, I'm serious. I picked a dandelion out of the ground about forty centimetres to my left and stretched it out to the dog. It seemed quite suspiscious (and I don't blame it in the slightest, to be honest), but it did come over to me and I was able to scoop it up into my arms. It was a placid little thing, so that was very handy.

At this stage, I realised that the battle was not even half over and I was already holding a little dog under my arms. I was so sure the next part would be difficult. My captive's black-furred friend was watching me. It didn't seem too scared, so that was a definite bonus. However, I still took caution in approaching it as I really didn't want to have to run and play chasey with a dog already on my person. I'll point out at this stage that Becca was at least three or four hundred metres away and around a corner with Pumba and Max, so I wouldn't have been able to ask for her help. Luckily, getting close to the black pup was easy and as soon as I got low to the ground to pick it up, it started giving its friend kisses on the nose. Good, they were friendly, that was helpful. I had to try a couple of times to be able to securely hold this one under my right arm, but I managed it in the end.

There I was, a puppy under each arm, feeling like the king of the world. I was sure that there would be no strategic difficulties from this point onwards. That was before I realised the wind was blowing my hat off. My hat, which my aunt got for me from Disneyland in America. My favourite hat in the world, equal only to my black and white fedora. My hat with the Wizard's Apprentice (a cartoon character with whom I can really identify). I was terrified. I didn't want to lose this hat, but I refused to risk letting a puppy escape. My only option was to hold my head down so that I could only see the ground. It was awkward and I had to keep quickly looking up at the world to ensure I didn't run into anything, but at least I wasn't going to lose my hat.

As I came closer to the corner, I saw that Becca had walked up to the edge of the road.

"YOU NEED TO TAKE MY HAT," I shouted. I don't think she understood me the first time, but I know she saw both of the dogs under my arms and was obviously in awe of my macho manliness. I quickly checked for cars and ran across the road.

"You need to take my ha-" I started, but was interrupted by Max trying to bowl me over. 'OH MY GOD FRIENDS' he seemed to say. This wasn't exactly what we needed. I jumped out of puppy firing range with my charges and turned to face Bec. "We need to take them to our place," I said. We discussed this for a while and decided that yes, this was the best idea. The collars did not have phone numbers on them. She did manage to get my hat off my without any Max-related mishaps though, so that was good.

I had to walk a fair way in front of Bec and our doggies, because they so desperately wanted to investigate the moving balls of fluff in my arms. They weren't aggressive or anything, but they were scaring the ones I was holding, so that wasn't good. It was a fair way away, but it was a straight road home with only a couple of roads to cross, so there was nothing difficult about it. At least, not in the cerebral sense.

But damn did it hurt. The dogs weren't heavy at all - I have already mentioned that they were quite a bit smaller than Max. For those of you who know Max, you'll understand when I say that these were very little dogs. Pomeranians tend to do that. However, I was carrying one under each arm for a very long way and this soon caused me to decide that I must be Hercules. All the while, I was also trying to reassure them. They seemed remarkably calm considering that a stranger had just picked them up and carted them off, but it didn't hurt to make them feel safer.

Finally, we approached our house. I instructed Bec to stay back with the dogs as I approached the front door.

"Mum!" I shouted, loudly enough for her to hear from anywhere in the house. "I have acquired puppies!"

Now, most people that know me would probably know that if anyone if going to suddenly turn up with two puppies under their arms, it is probably going to be me. My parents know this better than anybody (aside from Bec, of course), but I think I still surprised Mum. She quickly whisked Becca and our two doggies inside (much to Max and Pumba's dismay) and took a dog off of me to ease my aching arms. She held the black dog and I was left holding the tan and white one. We searched for phone numbers on their collars, but were unable to find them.

After explaining where Bec and I had found them (and that no, I did not just decide to take puppies off of anyone because dognapping makes puppies sad, doesn't it Jory?), it was decided that we should go doorknocking in our area to see if anyone was missing their dogs. Rebecca came back out sans Pumba and Max (again, to their dismay. This was a disappointing walk for them, actually) and took the black dog off of Mum and we set off to try to return the dogs to their homes, safe and sound.

We did have a fair idea of which home they might've come from, but we thought it was a good idea to go door to door, just in case we were wrong about which home was theirs. The first house we came to had a door left wide open. We rang the doorbell and just stood there, waiting. We were there for quite a while and rang again. A man in short shorts promptly came to the door and asked us what was going on. Call me judgemental, but I was immediately fairly sure that the dogs weren't his. He looked more like he would own a Blue Heeler or a Rottweiler, or possibly even as fluffy as a Border Collie. Not two little Pomeranians. He was happy to hear someone was actually looking out for dogs, so that was good. He wished us good luck and we were on our way.

The next few houses didn't seem to have anyone home. In fact, we went to about four or five different houses before the next door was opened to us. A mother with two children that Bec later informed me go to her school came to the door. The mother immediately said 'oh, the black one is next door's dog!', but she wasn't right - next door's dog was in their yard, still barking at us. I'm glad she tried, though. Her kids didn't know where the dogs came from either, so we decided to set off towards the house we thought might've been theirs.

The gates were locked. We had no way of getting near the door. By now, we were totally sure that this was their house, as we've walked past there many times and been barked at, but this time, no dogs came to greet us. Yup, we knew which dogs were in our arms right now. We knew where their home was, but were at a loss as to how to get them there. We couldn't just put them over the fence, because it was at least six or seven times their height and they would get hurt.

As a last ditch effort, we went to the neighbour's house and knocked on the door. Instantly, we were yapped at by a dog that sounded quite small. It didn't take long for the homeowner to come to the door. She was a woman who was probably in her fifties. Fortunately, she recognised the dogs instantly.

"Oh, those are next-door's dogs!" she exclaimed. She was quite happy to look after them until her neighbours got home. Actually, she was more than happy. She was over the moon that they were safe. Of course, she didn't know they'd gone missing, so we explained what had happened to her. Understanding completely, she told us that she had two dogs of her own (one of which was a Sheltie, like Pumba) and would be able to guard the dogs until necessary.

So we'd gotten our happy ending. We thanked her profusely and she thanked us for the effort and we walked away, arms aching. All the way back home, we chatted loudly and shouted about how we were basically the best people ever. I declared at the top of my voice that I was 'HERCULES, SAVER OF EVERYTHING' and I'm quite sure I got some strange looks from the kids that were playing in the street at the time.

"It was worth the pain though," said Bec. I agreed. It's worth it for puppies. Always.

When we got home, we were able to explain the situation in full to Mum. I was sitting on the floor as soon as I got inside, Max and Pumba jumping all over me, freaking out because I smelt like other dogs.

Yeah, today's been a good day.