Samuel Bailey knew just how he liked his dogs - hungry, mean and obedient to a glance. This ballsey old yellow dingo, his shabby white blaze from fang to arsehole, had two of the former blessings but none of the third, deferring only to the girl.
It seemed the dog was forever between Bailey and Moennan until kicked aside. A protective barricade ringed the two of them. He'd seen her lay the dog on his back, smear fat in his ears to rid him of ticks, take an ember so close to his old balls and burn the parasites off, the shock scent of singed fur, the dingo's sulky submission to her administrations.
The Van Diemonian women laughed at her indulgences. They called him Taraba, painted ochre stripes over his haunches, adorned him with their necklaces of tiny white shells. He was old and bore the humiliation well. His teeth were worn down to stumps and brown like a seal's teeth. Part of his chest was heavily scarred from cornering the wrong kangaroo. He'd been slashed by the violent brilliance of an angry and doomed young buck backed against a tree.
On their way to the island, the dog growled at Bailey for the last time. Hardly a raised lip but enough. Bailey looked over to the girl, grabbed an oar and it fell behind the strength of his rowing arm across the nose of the yellow-eyed cur, a killer blow for the old dog who fell to the bowels of the boat, silent, his gnarled paws twitching.
The girl shrieked and went for Bailey, pulled on his rough shirt and bloodied his nose, whilst he was one-armed trying to stow the oar. His fleshy thud into her face flew in amongst all this. A creamy slop rocked the boat, broaching it sideways. The Maori Hook fell to starboard against Thommo, who swore at him, trying to bring the boat about and head back into the chop.
The little whale boat fairly throbbed with grunting, shouting men, the bloodied girl and the dead yellow dog.
"You ain't nobody's dog but mine now," Bailey said to the girl.
p.s. from sarah toa: Does anyone know if kangaroo ticks were introduced? And the pic of the whaleboat is courtesy of Albany History Collection.