Dogs: Jesse (1997 – 2009)

Jesse, Half-Staffie/Half-Australian Shepherd, loyal friend

Despite reading many wonderful novels with dogs and other animals as important characters, I didn’t try to write dog characters until I had raised a dog myself. That was Jesse, named by my son after one of the dogs in Footrot Flats by Murray Ball, a popular comic strip in the newspapers in the 1990s.

Our Jesse was a medium-sized half-Staffie/half-Australian Shepherd, according to the farmer who we bought her from. The Staffie part was dominant, except when it was a case of her habit of herding the poultry we also had at the time.

The first dog I wrote about was Jesse herself, for she was still a pup then, and I just described her and how she fitted into my life at the time.

Jesse lived just on twelve tempestuous years. Human mothers and fathers of dogs will know what I mean when I say that your children grow up but your dogs will always stay two and a half years old. A toddler, needing just as much input and supervision.

The times that the human parents relax their attention will be time when the dog suffers a collision with a moving car; or get a tick on her; or take fright at a Little Athletics starter gun when out walking; or, or, or … All these things happened to Jesse.

She broke her shoulder joint while still little more than a pup and was forever crippled. Mea culpa. She almost died of a tick that I didn’t find until almost too late. Due to the accident with the car she was always frightened of loud noises. The starter gun incident caused me—walking her in the wrong place at the wrong time—to be pulled to the ground and dragged behind her, clutching the lead.

When I finally was able to get to my feet, we returned home along the fastest way possible. Running along a creek bank, away from any activities by human people, in fact. After I had secured her in her beloved old laundry, with her head under her blanket, I had to go find my spectacles, lost from my face while I was on the ground.

She herded chickens, as I said. The little black bantams however were her equal, and would not be scared into running. The white silkies ran, here and there, and sometimes crashing into fences and gates. They hated it. Small children were herded without them realizing.

In 2003, Jesse’s favorite person in the whole world left home. He was eighteen, and needed to find casual work, get trained and then find permanent work. Even if he hadn’t been keen to leave home, our town of five thousand people was too small to support 300 school leavers every year.

Tibby on Jesse’s bed, establishing her dominance

From then on it was Jesse, me and the cat jostling for the top-dog-position. When the cat decided the dog’s bed would be hers, Jesse decided better make friends with the biggest person and we could fight the monster together. Our good times started then.

Jesse’s absolute favorite activity were our walks by the sea, though she mostly ran or swam. The Brunswick Heads Dog Beach was a 400 meters length marked out along the bay, south of the Surf club and ‘Main Beach’.

At times there were a hundred dogs there, playing together, socializing and generally racing around.

Jesse did not socialize—she had no patience for other dogs—and would snarl or snap her teeth at them to warn them away. Her work at the beach was to chase her stick into the waves, bring it out, drop it at my feet, and grin and wag her tail to encourage me to throw it again. I was very fit in those days bending over, picking up the stick, tossing it as far as I could.

We did low tide, high tide, storm tide. Even when the tide was so high that there was barely a beach to walk on, we were there, at our work. While swimming, Jesse’s crippled shoulder did not seem to bother her and she was as good in the water as any other dog. I always thought she must have some water-dog in her. A touch of Labrador genes, maybe.

Her end came more suddenly than I expected. She developed hiccups. They didn’t stop whatever I, or the staff at the vet clinic, tried. After twenty four hours, she was worn out. I let her go. The diagnosis was a brain tumor.

Thirteen years later, I still regret that I couldn’t bury her in our backyard. We lived on a floodplain and we were having a very wet year. The yard was a sea of water and mud. The vet took her away in a body bag.

Favourite Reads: Dog Boy

My favourite novel about dogs

For a long time the novel-version of The Incredible Journey (1963) was my favourite ‘read’ about dogs. Then, 2009 or there abouts, I was at The Writers Festival in Byron Bay. Heard, or heard about Eva Hornung’s then new book, Dog Boy. Bought it after the segment to leaf through it while taking time out, and lunch, in my car.

I’m not a fan of events with 45+/- thousand people … probably not that many … but enough that I didn’t meet any friends or acquaintances] Read about 60 pages, kissed the Festival goodbye, drove home and read the rest.

It’s worth all the accolades. Every hyped up adjective. It’s “confronting”. “Highly descriptive, confident and thought-provoking.” “Completely believable. Unrelenting.” “Meticulous research.” “Pared-down, non-sentimental writing.” “A tour-de-force of imaginative empathy.”

In my opinion, it’s the most moving, frightening, heart-breaking story of how a child, to survive, becomes a dog. It’s writing from the soul.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6667541-dog-boy

Words: Dog (Canis lupus familiaris)

Grey wolf, Canis lupus, single mammal on snow, captive

Type ‘dog’ into your search engine and you will get the facts about dogs, their history of domestication, the variety of dog breeds, the origins of the word ‘dog’. Everything you might want to know about Canis lupus familiaris. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog#Terminology.

There are hundreds of dog related metaphors. I wouldn’t be surprised if you know a few more than are described here: https://symbolismandmetaphor.com/dog-metaphors-similes-idioms/

BUT … all the above were not the concepts I had in mind when I started this research. I wanted to know how dogbox, dogger, dogging & dogman fitted into the word ‘cloud’ to do with dog. How these words originated. Have they anything to do with the canine subject of the title?

Apart from ‘dogger’ hard to find.

So. Dogger. Is not originally an English word. It’s an Old Dutch word for codfish. Pronunciation, I assume, is with the Dutch/Scottish -ch-. The boats the Dutch used to go fishing for codfish became known as ‘doggers’; then the place in the North Sea where they usually went fishing got the name Dogger Bank. Now sometimes known as Doggerland. Quite a bit if interesting reading about that: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/aug/01/doggerland-lost-atlantis-of-the-north-sea-gives-up-its-ancient-secrets

Dogbox, dogman and dogging. The only place i found mention of them is in the Australian construction industry.

“To safely sling a load, it requires an understanding of the suitability of the lifting gear, as well as what method of slinging is required. Further consideration of the nature of the load, such as its mass and centre of gravity, is also a factor. The Dogman course teaches you the basics to get the load moved safely.” https://constructiontraining.com.au/courses/dogging-courses.html

At the bottom of that page: “The simple explanation is that a dogman, colloquially known as a dogger, is the person. The actual task – the slinging techniques or guiding of loads mentioned above – is called dogging work.” The basket used to lift a load of smaller items is referred to as the ‘dogbox’.

Finally, back to Canis familiaris, in Australia someone culling feral dogs is also called a dogman.

Any other interesting uses out there of this three letter word?

Intertwined?

Days 4-7 of Inktober 2021, a cultural practice by Rita de Heer

Just how intertwined are we, with Nature?

Here, in this cultural practice of applying pigments to paper, pasting scraps to paper bound in book-form, and drawing over the top with an ink pen made of petrol-based polymer filled with petrol-based ink?

Not much at all. Because cultural practices are part of what we do in the World, right?

Pigments are powdered clays, lichens and mosses, madders and goldenrods, rust, verdigris, pewter and gold. Some of Nature’s bounty.

Bound with gums, latex, and oils.

En-tubed, slopped into pots, or dried in patties.

[Sold, which is a whole other story.]

Livened with water … the best is straight from the deep ground, unadulterated with unnatural chemicals such as chlorine and fluorides.

Applied to papers linens, canvas, parchments; wood panels, bone, and teeth; applied to stone.

Using brushes made of bunching the tail hairs of a myriad of different furry animals, as well as threads drawn from petroleum products such as nylon, rayon, polyesters: all of them products of the sun’s action on eon-old vegetation when you go right to the origin.

Air drying is preferable but takes a long time, so people who can’t wait use hair-dryers that often use a variation on the theme, electricity stoked with coal.

[If framed, that’s another story]

We are intertwined.

World vs Earth …

It’s easy to forget that the “World” we live in, is totally embedded and laced through and through, with the “Earth” system, where the “World” is the cultural system and the “Earth” is the biological system.

I’m calling them both “systems” because neither stand still. They are always moving and always changing. It’s just that we–slow creatures–still, often, think ourselves part of the World but separate from the Earth.

Where I now live … looking out from under my patio roof. Tuckeroo tree to the left, framing my world

Nice place, isn’t it? Gardens, central swimming pool, blocky buildings from the 1980s. Birds, mostly rainbow lorikeets but also Torresian crows, chattering and whistling in the trees surrounding the central grassed area. The place is gated to keep out the riff-raff.

So why am I complaining?

I’m indoors, looking out for 90% of my hours. This isolation caper is pretty boring after a whole year of it already. Numbers in Queensland doubled overnight. [We live in pretty amazing times that most of the world will know what I’m talking about in those last two sentences.]

Our premier is saying this time next year every Queenslander will have had it. She’s of course not forecasting the death toll. Not wanting to be one of that unsaid number, I’m isolating. Again.

I know. I know. Omicron is meant to be mild. Not a killer of healthy immune systems. Ten percent of us are feeling left-behind. We are a long tail about to be shortened. This is biological and indeed evolutionary reality.

In the meantime, I’m going to be talking about the Earth versus the World. How we’ve been thinking about it up to now.

Today …

One of my first paintings, meaning in this instance to represent a drug-addled brain

So. Today. With my wonky immune-compromised health, I decided it definitely wouldn’t do to get sick enough to have to go the hospital, or even to call for an ambulance. What with 30k holidaymakers entering the state every day bent on having their holy holidays, this is no time to get sick. A good time to stay indoors, out of the social scene. Isolating, again. So be good, I thought at the crone. Stay healthy.


She, however, risked her masked-up health and went into her new favourite library, St Vinnies—an Op Shop, charity or opportunity store—and “borrowed” eight old-fashioned print books. This because the local library was shut for Christmas-and-New-Year and the local virtual library not listening to her passwords, library id or pins.


On arriving home, she began reading Phillip K Dick’s Through a Scanner Darkly. Not wanting to stop for lunch she got a bottle of water, and a jar of Pano dark choc bits. Ate the latter and drank the former while continuing to read. Round about 4.30 PM, she remembered the not-getting-sick parameter, and drank more water before making and eating a peanut butter sandwich with blueberries.


Though the read was not all that gripping, she’d decided to read it, so read it she would. If that makes any sense. The title, which an FB friend was attracted to after the crone posted a pic of a bag full of reading matter, sounds like a take on ‘through a glass darkly’ … let me just check that …


OMG! yourbibleversedaily dot com tells her: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. – 1 Corinthians 13:12. Paul’s famously poetic statement about the difficulty of knowing God in this life says a lot more than at first meets the eye.”


Well, it tells her it’s definitely worth it to check references, sometimes only vaguely known. What she has read so far of Through a Scanner Darkly … Yep, yep, definitely shaping up … to Augustine’s interpretation: “For Augustine, we see the image of ourselves clearly, but, as a reflection of God, the image is an imperfect way of gazing upon God.”


All she can think is, thirty or forty pages in, that poor sap. Thinking of the main character. He thinks he’s on top of what he’s trying to do but of course he will come a cropper. I wouldn’t be surprised, she thinks, if there’s a proper death at the end, not just the split-brain drug-addled un-death.


So. She’ll keep reading.

https://blindhypnosis.com/a-scanner-darkly-pdf-philip-k.-dick.html

Inktober, 2021

Day 4 to 7, Rita de Heer

Inspiration is everywhere but I like to start with a scrap of painted watercolor exercise, of which I have many. Tearing and cutting, I lay them out in a collage and hope I remember to glue them down before I start the drawing and sketching.

This page done with a uniball ink pen, which behaves very well on thickly coated mixed media paper. On the unpainted craftbook pages the ink sinks in and often wants to spread.

#inktober2021

Hong Kong Krazy! Original by Melanie Reim of sketchbookseduction.blogspot.com, traced over and copied by Rita de Heer

#inktober2021
Thought I would have a go at this with all the varieties of ink and ways of applying it to paper, I happen to have on hand.

It’s also re-training in fine motor co-ordination and for that reason I began with an ordinary ball point pen tracing an old postcard on Oct 1, and trying to replicate it on Oct 2.

Of course I researched the #Inktober scene after I already began. In the real competition there are topics. The first day was ‘crystal’ and the second day ‘suit’.

Lol, I’m out of it already. Just making it up as I go. If I produce something for the whole 31 days, that will be amazing enough.

State-of-Being

Back Into the Ooze,
watercolor and black marker pen by Rita de Heer,
what I thought was going to happen to me.
You’ll find me diving down into it mid-painting

Up until September 14 2020 I lived in New South Wales, in Australia. On that day, a friend drove me to the adjoining state Queensland and negotiated with the border police to get me through the Covid 19 barrier between the two states. I was sicker than anyone guessed.

My friend took me to hospital where I was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. Treatment began right away. Chemo. Six cycles of R-CHOP at three weekly intervals. Then four lumbar punctures with same drugs and a rituximab (monoclonal antibody) chaser. My last treatment and PET scan in February. I’m in remission.

Long time readers will say that I’ve said all that before. I have. I wanted to feel what it felt like now, to look back on it, six months down the track.

At first, being in remission was the most frightening place on Earth. The reality of dealing with the after- and side-effects of both the chemo and the lymphoma on my own was pure anxiety. Luckily there’s a really good support group on FaceBook that we haunt, all of us in the Downunder Lymphoma boat, and I’ve only had to call the ambulance twice. So here I am, six months into the remission journey.

What with Covid lock-downs and a really low immune system … like, no B cells! … I’ve been pretty well housebound except for food shopping, doctors appointments and walks. So I thought I’d get back into writing reading knitting music pretty easily. Lots of time after all.

I’d be lying if I told you yes, really easy.

Early on I spent most of my time sorting through the stuff that came with my decision to stay in Brisbane. I had a lot of books, not all of them fit on the shelves I now have. Clothes, the same. Textile crafts, the same. And I’m still at it, every so often. Divesting myself of my old life to be able to fit into my new life.

I’ll write that sentence again and even bold it. Divesting myself of my old life to be able to fit into my new life.

It suggests my new life is smaller. I’m not talking about its length, more what I can do in my days … and so also today, this minute, I need to stop this meandering. More on this as time permits.

Fiction: Avatar Remaindered, 22

Sard’s Sky by Rita de Heer, mixed media

The Last Straw

When the life-suit gripped him—like it shrink-wrapped him—how he’d always imagined it might feel—Sard closed his eyes ahead of being forcibly cowled with the mask. The suit expanded again and he relaxed into it. Shrinking. Easing. It was like part of a rhythm. Like breathing.

He shoved up the mask. All he could see was darkness. Not the seven wooden drawers of his boyhood above him. All he could feel, above him—with his hands questing—was rock, a handspan above his face.

Searching down by his left side one-handed he found the rounded curve of the ceiling meeting the back of an overhang. With his other hand he found flat pavement. Exploring upward with that hand, he discovered the ceiling at maybe knee-height. From under the stairs in the limestone house back into the stony overhang atop the plateau … he’d had no sense of the transfer being a journey.

He rolled from under the overhang. A long way above stood the half-sickle moon in the cold night. Stars, too. Pin-pricks of light that he knew were even farther away. Unimaginable distances. Why I like to imagine that they are beads on a net surrounding the ball that we live on. A star in every angle is enough for me.

< Sit up and stare at the rock-edge. >

Oh right. It tells me to sit up and stare at the overhang’s edge in the dark? To what end?

The suit gripped him with its shrinking-lengthways trick. < I am merely elongating this entity’s muscle fibres. It’s a possibility I’m proud of discovering. The first new thing I caused to happen since I being released from my bondage. >

Sard breathed to the limits of his lung capacity. A fraction of what he needed. He wheezed. “Enough.” The image of the suit as a bio-construct was enough to give him the heebie-jeebies. Life-suits were lab-grown human skins? Couldn’t be. What about all the tech they also had? They couldn’t be. He’d lived in a large tech-construct all this life. Couldn’t live in bio-construct and a cramped little one at that.

The suit relaxed, but only a little, obviously expecting resistance.

“Okay. Okay. Sit up you said.” The gap between the two opposite overhangs was double his knee-length. Or make that the length of his whole leg. Plenty wide enough for him to scrabble to his elbow, push on that to sitting. Stare-at-the-rock’s-edge meant sit with crossed legs and turn ninety degrees.

Slouching somewhat, his eyes were level with the rock’s edges which were about as thick as his forearm—he pressed his arm along the ledge—a thick dark line separating the very dark below from the dark sky above. “Staring,” he said. Reporting for action. Yes sir. No sir.

< Close eyes. Wait for light. >

“That’s hours yet. What will I be looking for?”

< Less than an hour. Places where humans bumped up against these edges. Or scraped by. >

“And then what?”

< You will suck the human substance from these places so that I can discover their DNA. If they are my people—runaways—we will overtake them. We will force them to return to the cave habitat where I need them for the entertainments. >

Sard pulled off one of the gloves and rubbed a rock edge with his bare fingers. Granular feel. Like sandstone. He could almost see the group escaping, running for their lives, resting here overnight. Maybe while it rained and their usual roads, the chasms, flooded. And in their hurry to get to safety, some of them scraping up against these rocks hard enough to lose skin and blood.

Then he imagined sucking on the ledges. Why not just licking? He slopped his tongue over a dark place for a try out. Mmm. Could almost be smooth, sinewy and leather-tasting. He whipped off the life-suit’s face mask to see what he tongued.

With the help of the faint pre-dawn light, he made out a dark handprint imprinted on the stone right there in front of his eyes. The sight burned into his brain. Dried blood? He gagged. Spat saliva. Coughed.

Every little thing he knew and remembered about Ahni reeled through his mind. How the bio-construct was cut out of her—and her just abandoned—and about Ahni’s people running for their lives into the right direction to meet up with the clay-faced slavers. What if this hand-print was of someone who got away?

He found scuff marks, half footprints, a place where five small toes had pressed into the thin sand. Where the basket sat …. Saw all this before the dream. And damn it, I know it better now. None of them would want to be caught. Not one will want to return to CAVE.

And neither did he—as a matter of hoity-toity fact—want to deliver anyone, least of all the Sea-people into that bondage. Which means I shouldn’t follow them. Or it means that I shouldn’t take the life-suit to them. He livened up. Yes. That.

A dozen ideas, things to do, things to achieve, things to watch out for, barged into his mind. Plans. I bared my hand and my face. I’ve started already. There’s been no squeak from the life-suit since then. Such peace. He chuckled. Tore loose the chest piece and loosened the tie that gathered the suit edges over his ribs. Shoved the suit down over his shoulders one by one and pulled his arms free. The dawn air on his bare skin like he was in a cool bath. He crawled to the place where he’d stashed the pack.

Unpacked it to discover what he had that’d help him in the journey he planned.

————

But here he still stood at the end off the channel in the stone platform, taking time to think through what’d happen when he developed sores on his shoulders. Dressed in just his outer wear—shirt and pants—the pack’s straps cut into his shoulders. Plus the sun was rising almost dead ahead, give or take a few degrees, and while the sky there was a glory of red and pink, he couldn’t see anything else ahead.
I need a sunhat and I need more padding. About turn. Leaving the life-suit behind is a dumb idea. The chest piece will do me for a hat. The suit itself folded and stuffed under the straps. Now … no more hesitations, hold-ups or hang-ups brought on by stupid impulsivity.

He strode into the grasses.

Repeat of the country that he walked yesterday. Stony channels between islands of tussock, gravel and sand. Here and there a twisted wind-worn shrub. The plateau, what he saw of it, could’ve been an unending plain of tussocks. But he knew—first hand experience—that it was riddled with chasms. Probably with caves underneath. What did he know. Better to stay at the edge.

Walking, he kept his attention on the ground he covered. Safer. And it meant the sun didn’t shine straight into his eyes because he could angle the life-suit’s chest plate just-so, giving himself a shaded outlook. Which got easier because the sun rose.

Some people, apparently, believed that the Earth spun like a top and turned east day and night. Making it seem like both the sun and the moon rose in the east and set in the west. He never got much further studying how they got seasons and all that. No seasons in CAVE apart from the ones the games demanded and the techies organised.

Uh oh. Careful now. A damned chasm across his path. Lost in my thoughts. He evaded what might have been a sticky end by turning south. Saw it just in time. How far would he need to go? He now resented any foray into that direction. Sun shining on his left side.

Finally the end of the crack in the plateau. Wouldn’t he like to have a drink of cool mountain water right now? Don’t have any water. Not wearing the suit. Need to make camp while sun still shining for getting water from plants. Good old Greg, teaching me that.