Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The Art of Sea Doggery #2
The disaster puppy has so far escaped my clearing of the decks, when it comes to pets and extraneous baggage. Originally he came to me when his owner went up north "for a few week's work," one year ago now.
I would ring, usually on days when I'd been to the dentist for a filling and come home to find Digger had pulled down a verandah post, utterly destroyed my favourite chair or dug up and rolled in all those disgusting things that fisherwomen tend to bury in their gardens. "Come and get your fucking dog! Put him on a plane! He's not my dog."
This became my refrain. "He's not my dog."
People say to me, "Oh, he's so lovable and cuddly. He's a good boy"
"He's not my dog."
And they'd look at me with a sly smile and say, "Yeah but you love him, don't you."
I started taking him fishing. He took to sea doggery like a true professional. The myriad of disgusting things he could eat on a small fishing boat probably helped. He'd sprawl over the nets, his puppy guts bulging with rotten starfish and crabs. As he grew, and grew, (Digger at one stage was putting on ten kilos a month = one cup of sugar a day) I watched him develope his attitude towards the sea and its creatures, and I trained him to to behave well while we are working.
Now, he sits on the thwart as we play out net. He jumps down the moment the last buoy is thrown out and noses around for week-old trumpeters lying beneath the nets. (Did I tell you he has disgusting habits and a cast iron stomache?) He totally gets the whole fishing thing. "He thinks we're catching them all for him," said Old Salt. We were out on the channel at night pulling in nets under the fluorescent light. Digger leaned over the gunwale and watched everything that came up, waiting for fresh trumpeter.
He seems so certain that we fish for him alone, and is so robust in his motivation for food, that he has become a grand pelican deterrent. When I take him walking on the beach, pelicans are completely safe from his attentions. On board, picking up nets or crab pots, things are different. Pelicans get cheeky and begin to behave like sea gulls at a beachside barbeque, sometimes resulting in tugs of war over a mullet or black bream. This dog has them sorted. They are his fish thankyou very much, so fuck off! He's gone over the side four times now after pelicans, dived in head first and surfaced like an ungainly seal, spouting brine, watched by a smirking circle of those feathered kings and queens.
Since the last failed attempt at sending him north on a plane, Digger has stopped chewing up my furniture and dismantling my house. He seems to have finished teething, fingers crossed, and is evolving from a disaster puppy who grows exponentially every week, to a giant, solid, rock of a mate. But he's not my dog.
The other day, his owner flew into town and picked him up for a few days. I arrived home to a strange stillness. For a little while, I felt desperately sad with the absense of that joyful, wriggling lump of "Welcome home Sarah Toa! I'm so happy you are back! When we going fishing?"