Old Wolf, my Mum’s dog, is living with me this week as she is off for a sojourn to the city. He’s getting craggy like the rest of us and not handling Selkie’s wriggling, youthful sexplay all that well. He’s snapped at her often enough to scare her behind my legs and his blunted, worn-off teeth are no impediment to his authority.
Selkie is morphing from what I thought was a Kelpie bloodline to something bigger. The tow truck driver looked at her leaning anxiously from the car as it was dragged onto his truck: “We had a dog just like her. Rotti/Ridgeback cross. She ended up getting arthritis in her back legs. Beautiful dog. So friendly. We had to get her put down in the end. Ahh well, I hope yours doesn’t end up the same way. Now. Where do you want me to take your car?”
She loves fire. I clear the bracken and saplings from around a house that hasn’t been lived in for an age. I clear it with a rake because I’m worried about the snakes, and I hack at the bracken ferns with a dead man’s machete. I lever away the godawful laminate cupboard above the kitchen stove with a pinch bar and throw it onto the pile. Cardboard boxes from the move. Dead wood. Lamp oil. A flame. The dog inches closer as the flames die down. She spends all day next to the fire. When I pat her, her tail sweeps the ashes and bellows the glowing cinders. She hasn’t been burnt yet, this pup. She will learn.
We meet in a park on the outskirts of town. He stands outside my car window. From the back seat, the dog strains past my headrest to say hello to him. He scratches her ear.
At night I hear her worrying at a kangaroo bone. The only other sound is the thump of the swell outside the sand bar. She looks at me, worried about my attention, after all she has a bone. All I can see are her brown points, defining her from the forest floor.
“Those spots above her eyes,” Stormboy told me once, “They are there so when she is sleeping, predators will see those spots and think they are her eyes, that she is awake and watching them.”
This is a good theory, I think. The butterfly effect. Except for the fact that this dog is a passive-aggressive dingbat. She doesn’t depend upon her moth wing eyes for safety. Electric fences, grumpy Wolf and the weekly visit from Boss Dog will send her bulleting to my lap for safety. This is becoming a problem. Selkie’s getting too big to sit on my lap.
Boss Dog usually arrives around 3 am on Saturday mornings. He comes down with his owners from east of here. His first job is to check out our place. He stalks around the house in the wee hours. Selkie starts up her hysterical, panic barking when he gets here.
When I first saw this dog, Selkie and I stayed inside the glass sliding doors staring out at a creature who resembled a lion, circling our new home, grunting and growling.
A day or so later, they’d become best mates.