Good grief! The number of ‘blocks types’ available already boggles my mind, and that’s before I’ve invented any because I don’t see any that I can relate to. No, wait! A masonry gallery? What can I do with a masonry gallery? I’ll have to see …
Herewith my so-called Masonry Gallery …
Animals I Have Known. Some were adopted into my family, some were animals I photographed while out walking, and some of the images represent animals I’ve known.
My idea was to have captions. I haven’t working out yet how to do that.
Clockwise from top left: Jesse, at attention; Tibby, saying: “Ha ha, I’m lying on the dog’s bed, get me off if you dare”; Snowy, here as Tintin’s sidekick, dressed in his spacesuit. When I knew him he was the dog of Mr and Mrs Ballantyne, the elderly couple living on my street in Sydney; Shirley Dog, from my home town; Mingey, a fast mover, a friend from walks at the Mullumbimby Cemetery.
The four part program is the kind of reality TV that starts with a litter of puppies. It’s informative as well as good fun. The human handlers have been picked for their variety of work situation for their dogs to grow up in, and their personality and probable bonding with the pups.
The ‘plot’ is that five puppies of great breeding stock are transformed into working dogs in one year! When normally the training is up to three years. The question is, can it be done?
Last night I watched Parts 1 and 2 and saw the puppies transformed into 6 months old triers. Five passed their assessments easily, one having a few troubles including another dog in its pack having to be taken to the vet for snake-bite.
With over three thousand working dogs in Australia, muster dogs helping to manage cattle, goats, alpacas, sheep and even poultry is a reality in this country. Several of the people taking part in this ABC (Australia) series once mustered with humans-on-horseback, humans-on-motorbikes, and helicopter. Now working with up to twenty dogs, they say they’ll never go back.
The animals being managed are quieter, calmer, and not nervous and skittish. Mustering with dogs is time-saving, can be done in one day and can be done without a lot of forward planning such as needed with more people or machinery. Dogs are cheaper to run than helicopters and machinery, and a lot more love-able. Dogs are more sustainable and environmentally friendly as they are not as hard on the land as both horses and machinery.
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.
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.