We found an old dog the other night. She got lost in the bush down the hill from my place and she cried until we found her. Selkie and I were sitting in the dark, when we first heard her cry. My dog looked at me. I put on my headlamp. It was raining. The lost dog was soaking wet when we found her.She looked at me, blinded by an LED lamp. Old, lost and wet.
'You're okay. Stay here. We'll get you some help,' I said to her.
Quails scritching scratching through the marri litter. They scuttle for cover as shouts ring out through the forest. It sounds like people are calling for their lost dogs, no doubt on an excellent adventure and not lost at all. When I look over my journal, the last few weeks are nothing creative but quotes for nbn, phone numbers, notes from work zoom meetings, quotes for servicing the boat motor.
Red Robin burrs onto the veranda, snatches a bug and whirrs away. Honey eaters carry on in the banksias. The fishermen are motoring back from picking up their nets. None of them hit that rock to port side of the channel marker. The inlet’s charts are inside their heads.
Selkie barks as a figure steps through the scrub. A young man, eating something. Breakfast. ‘Have you seen a couple of dogs around here?’
‘No, they’ve probably gone off after a roo.’ A pair of dogs will do that. When there are more than one, they don’t need you anymore. They’ve got each other.
I can hear the fisherfolk sliding boxes of their catch on to the trays of their utes, and the crunch of a spade into ice. A motorbike down by the beach. Someone whistling.
I drive to the neighbours at the squatter's huts. It's late at night now. They are getting about with torches, looking for their dog.
'Are you looking for the old girl?' I ask. 'I think she's at my place.'
In my headlights they come rushing towards me, five or six people at once. 'Have you found her?' 'Have you found her?' There are torches going in every direction and I say 'follow me'. They follow my car back to my place, track me through the bush to where the old dog has managed to stand and walk. Someone catches her in the torch light, slinking off like a ghost dog. 'There she is!'
Her owner, a man I've so often thought as loud in his masculine violence (or whatever ...) gathers the dog into his arms. I can see by the way he hugs the old dog, so wet and so cold, that he loves her dearly. He says, 'She can go on the back of the ute. I'll sit by her. Drive.'