I saw her most days.
Just sitting and staring out the window.
Her house was on my regular route.
I say regular, but that depends on my mistress.
She doesn’t like me ‘wandering around’ as she calls it, so I only get to sneak out when she is busy. She sits at her desk and writes on most days but sometimes she gets wrapped up in her work and she even forgets to stop and eat. On these days I know I can go for a long walk and most likely I won’t be missed.
The lady in the window is Mrs Norris. I guess there must have been a Mr Norris, but I never saw him.
She seemed sad to me, and I know what sad looks like, but it was more than the way she appeared it was the way she looked, as though she was waiting for someone.
She rarely went outside and on the few occasions that I saw her, she barely noticed me, which is unusual. People want to pat me all the time. They say things like, ‘Aren’t you cute, and who’s a good dog then?” I’m not sure if I’m supposed to answer or not so mostly I just wag my tail.
Old ladies are the worst.
They come out of nowhere and start patting me before I know what is happening.
I’ve got a friend, a white Maltese named Zed and he tells similar stories.
The difference with Zed is he collects little old ladies. He just stands there and looks cute, and the little old ladies sneak up on him and pat him. He lets them come in but on the way out he gives them a nip.
He keeps count.
So far this year he has cleaned up 17 little old ladies, and it’s not August yet. You might think that he gets into trouble, but he doesn’t. His owner says, “Serves you right for patting the dog without asking permission. He’s wearing a bright red lead that says CAUTION. If you can’t be bothered to read the warning, then it serves you right.”
So far no one has complained to anyone and Zed reckons he can hit 30 by the end of the year, especially if the tourist season is a good one.
I took Zed to visit the lady in the window, but I made him promise that he wouldn’t bite. He said that he only bit little old ladies, it was a matter of principle, so she was safe.
Even with a cute white fluffy friend, the lady in the window did not pay us much attention.
She always smiled at me, but that seemed like as much as she could manage.
Once or twice I sat next to her in her garden. We sat there for ages; not saying anything at all. I think she enjoyed my company. I wanted to make her feel a bit better. I don’t know if I succeeded, but I didn’t make her feel any worse and sometimes that is as much as you can ask for.
I went past her house again today, and there she was, in the window, just looking. I wonder if she will find what she is looking for? I wonder if what she is looking for will find her?
I’m only a dog, so I may never find the answers to those questions, but that does not matter. Today is what matters; right here and right now. I’ll do my best to keep an eye on the lady in the window, but in the end, her happiness is up to her, all I can do is be there.
When my mistress lets me, that is.
Having a Blackbird for a friend is a little unusual.
I know it.
I’m not ashamed, and when you know how it came about I think you will understand.
Her partner disappeared in the middle of last spring and she was left to bring up her two chicks all by herself; not an easy task.
She managed it very well and they flew off into the world happy and healthy and a little bit wise. Not too much though; you know how young ones are.
She had been mated to George for several years and each spring he would risk his life to bring back enough food to feed his insatiable family. I couldn’t understand why they did it, year in and year out; it seemed like such a hassle.
I’ve seen exhausted blackbird parents run into windows and get hit by cars. Blackbirds seem not to care about their own safety when they are feeding their little ones.
I don’t have any pups; at least, not that I know of.
I’ve never been partnered up with a bitch; I’m a love ‘em and leave ’em kind of dog.
Mind you, I nearly settled down with Sophie.
She was a gorgeous little blond Maltese and she lived quite close by. Her mistress wouldn’t let her out of the yard but I often went around there anyway.
We would sit by the fence and I would imaging making love to her, doggy style, of course.
She was up for it.
That’s one of the good things about being a dog.
If we see someone we REALLY like, we suggest it, and if she is willing, we get stuck in, so to speak.
I don’t have to buy her dinner and she doesn’t expect me to call her the next day but she does expect me to find a good, juicy bone and bring it by.
It’s the least I can do for a pretty bitch.
But, there was none of that with Sophie; I just couldn’t get at her. It was driving us both nuts, but I was too short to get over that fence, so now I just dream about her.
Her mistress moved away and Sophie went with her.
That’s life I guess.
I suppose you are wondering about the blackbird I mentioned earlier. She was different to all the other birds.
For starters, she didn’t steal my fur when I was sleeping in the sun.
She would fly down and sit on that plant pot that is just by the pond and tweet very softly so as to wake me up gently. “May I please have some of your old fur so that I can line my nest?”
How could I refuse such a polite request.
“Sure thing lady. I’ll try and keep the bits that fall out in one place, and if that isn’t enough, just let me know and you can have a little bit of the fur that hasn’t fallen out. But just a little, mind you.”
“That won’t be necessary. The bits that fall out will be sufficient for my needs.” She spoke beautifully.
I could tell that she was well-educated.
It was sad when George didn’t come home that night.
She waited for him for days and days.
She must have been very hungry but she was frightened to leave the nest in case her chicks got cold.
In the end, I had to do something, so I stole one of my mistresses wooly socks.
The nest was not too high up but I can’t climb for shit so I yelled out, “Hey lady. Take this sock and put it on your chicks and then go and get something to eat while you still have enough energy to fly.”
I pushed the sock as high up the trunk of the tree as I could but she was too weak to fly with it.
Fortunately, it was late in the day and the flock of cockatoos was close by. They come our way late in the day. They make a terrible noise and I tend towards the school of thought that says we should bark a lot and frighten them away, but today I needed help.
The problem with cockatoos is that they all look the bloody same, and I needed to find one particular cockatoo.
Jeremy wasn’t born in the wild.
He escaped from a backyard cage and joined the flock a couple of years ago. He told me all about it one sleepy Saturday afternoon and it’s a hell of a story but I don’t have time to tell you that one just now.
It took a little while but I eventually found Jeremy.
I told him what I was trying to do and he said he would help.
He’s a big bird so getting the sock up into the tree was no bother for him.
He’s a bachelor, like I am, so he doesn’t get the whole ’family’ thing but he’s a mate, so he doesn’t mind helping out.
When he first escaped he didn’t know much about looking out for himself and he got pounced on by a large tabby cat.
He lost a few tail feathers and was putting up a pretty good fight when I stepped in.
Cats don’t mess with me, they know I mean business.
I’ve got a reputation.
Jeremy was a bit embarrassed about the whole thing and he said he could have taken that cat on his own, but he did say thank you, and we have been friends ever since.
I introduced him to the flock.
They don’t like me much due to all the barking and the chasing, but they took him in anyway; which was good.
The sock did the trick and the Blackbird got stronger and the chicks got bigger.
You can still see that sock if you look really carefully, it’s way up on the right; in that fork.
Do you want to know the nicest bit?
She brought me the longest piece of red thread, just to say thank you.
I don’t know what I’m going to do with it but I was very touched.
Maybe I’ll loan to her so that she can dress up this years nest, and if she doesn’t need it I know this Robin who collects red threads.
By now, you probably know that Rufus has an interesting life for a small black dog. He has been on many adventures and you can find some of the here…..
A while back I posted a photo of a white ribbon that I had placed on a young oak tree. When Oaks drop their leaves in Winter it is hard to see their branches in the dim light. The little white ribbons were meant to stop the humans from getting poked in the eye.
It’s now more than two years later, and at least, one of the ribbons [there were many] is still attached to the tree. The branch has grown several inches past the point where the ribbon was attached, and the ribbon is a little worse for wear. The green tinge is moss and mould [we live in a temperate rainforest, so it rains a lot].
In the background, you can see Zed patiently waiting for me to finish so that I can play with him. He loves being outdoors and often stands on the back deck and barks at me so that I will go outside. Consequently, a lot of writing is done on our back deck, under the watchful eye of Zed the dog.
The small white van dropped her off with the following instructions.
“Make sure that the children turn left and head for the top of the hill.”
This was Sarah’s assignment.
The one she had been training for.
If the emergency arose, all the children were to be taken to safety.
Taken to higher ground.
Volunteers had been called for.
“DO YOU WANT TO HELP YOUR COMMUNITY?”
Sarah did, so she came forward.
When the van left she was the only adult for miles. Sarah had not been an adult for very long. She felt the weight of her assignment.
The children must make it to safety.
The corner she was on stood at a reasonable altitude but the children needed to be higher.
By the time the van had dropped her off there were children all over the place.
It was a bit of a mess.
All day long she said the same words over and over. “Turn here and head to the top of the hill. Good people will be waiting for you.”
The same words again and again.
From her elevated aspect she could see the rising water off in the distance, and every child who went past her and made the correct turn was one more saved.
This went on all day.
A continuous stream of diminutive humanity. Many holding hands, but not a lot of singing.
Each child was carrying a small box wrapped in brown paper and tied up, rather expertly, with string. If her job had not been so important and if she had not been concentrating so hard it would have reminded Sarah of the line from that song, “and these are a few of my favourite things….’
Just as she was remembering the line, ‘….when the dog bites…’, the little white van stopped and out jumped a dog.
An Australian Shepherd, if she wasn’t mistaken, and she wasn’t.
Sarah wasn’t frightened of dogs.
The van sped off.
No instructions this time.
Sarah thought that they had probably sent her the dog to help her with her task.
She explained to the dog what she had to do and she used the sentence, ‘herd the children up the hill’, because she deduced that the dog would know what ‘herd’ meant and probably had a good idea what a hill was as well.
Dog took to the task with gusto. She loved herding stuff and in the city there were very few things that needed herding.
She had tried herding people but mostly they didn’t like it, and there was a bit of yelling and throwing of stuff. She tried bringing back the stuff that they threw but that seemed to make things worse. Next she tried cars, but they just ignored her and it got a bit dicey a few times so she packed that it.
But here, she was actually being asked to do the thing she was born to do.
She was gentle but firm and on more than one occasion she had to use her nose to make some small human keep moving.
Small humans smelt good, all ‘pockets full of sweets’ and sticky hands, and they didn’t mind if you licked some of it off.
She enjoyed that part but she tried to be professional.
It was starting to get dark and eventually the line of children dwindled down to nothing. Sarah was exhausted but Dog could have gone on a bit longer.
There was a small park on the corner which had running water from a rainwater tank and a toilet. Sarah didn’t fancy going behind a tree but Dog did not mind, but even a dog wanted a bit of privacy.
They slept together on the soft grass, but not before they ate the food that the little white van had provided.
They never saw the little white van again but next morning, at first light, the children started coming up the hill again.
Dog kept things going while Sarah washed up and used the facilities.
“Turn here and head to the top of the hill. Good people will be waiting for you.”
Days turned into a week.
Sarah and Dog survived on tank water and the contents of those little boxes wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string.
Children being children, they would occasionally drop a box and forget to pick it up.
The boxes contained a type of army field ration. Not very appetising but it was food, about enough to keep a child alive, but only just.
If you have ever had a job requiring a repetitive action you will know that after a while your body carries it out without you having to think about it and your mind can concentrate on other things.
Sarah’s mind was thinking about those little boxes tied up with string.
They didn’t look like they had been prepared by a machine so Sarah imagined a long table with ladies loading those tasteless food bars into those little boxes, wrapping then in brown paper and then expertly tying string around them and leaving that clever little bow that acted as a carry handle.
“Who taught them how to tie that bow?” Sarah thought.
Sarah also wondered why the little white van did not have any markings on it and why she wasn’t given one of those cool orange ‘fluro’ vests.
Maybe they had run out by the time they got to her. Maybe her task was not important enough.
They could at least have given the dog a vest.
Maybe they would give her a T-shirt when this was all over.
One week turned into two and Sarah could see that the water was still rising but not as fast. She was tired all the time and her clothes were very dirty.
She tried to wash them, especially her ‘smalls’, as her mum used to call them, but without soap nothing really got clean.
Sarah was not at all sure that she smelt good either, but it was hard to tell with no other adults around and she didn’t want to ask one of the never-ending line of children. Children always thought adults smelt bad, it was part of their thing.
Dog didn’t care how she smelt. All humans had their own distinctive odour, it made them easier to find in a crowd.
Dog noticed that Sarah’s odour was changing.
She was very weak and not very well. Dog worried about her as she was the leader of her pack now and she wanted her to be strong and decisive.
Sarah got weaker and the children kept coming.
There did not seem to be as many of them but they still kept coming.
Sarah lay down next to Dog. She needed her warmth; she was very cold.
Sarah did not wake up the next morning.
Dog nudged her a few times, the way she always did but she knew it was no use.
Her leader was gone.
Dog got up, stretched, went behind her favourite tree and headed off to work.
That night Dog lay down next to Sarah and guarded her body.
It was the least she could do for such a brave pack leader.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS STORY IS NOW THE MIDDLE STORY IN A TRILOGY CALLED ‘And In The End You’ll Hear Me Calling.’ If you enjoyed this story you might want to find out what came before and what came after.