I’ve never gone mushy at the sight of babies, but with dogs, it’s a different matter. If I see a puppy in the street, I can barely keep my hands off it.
When we were away from home for seven weeks, I honestly missed having a dog more than I missed my kids. Of course I love my kids a hundred times more than my dog, but I can communicate with them whenever I want to. Life without a dog, however, has a hollow, empty feel. I miss her welcome, I miss her zest for life, I miss the doggy smell of her and her warm little body in my arms.
When we were travelling there was the constant excitement and stimulation of being in a new place, so I didn’t exactly pine for Fifi, our Jack Russell. Nonetheless, wherever we went, in the UK and Europe, I found myself drawn to any canines in the vicinity, like an almost-reformed nicotine addict to cigarette smoke.
When I am at home and she is away, it’s worse. I find myself staring hungrily at dogs I see in yards and in the park. A mate and I met in our local café last week and my heart leapt as I saw two dogs in the back courtyard. ‘We’ll go where the dogs are thanks,’ I said to the waitress, and proceeded to get my dose of doggy company while pretending to pay attention to my friend.
Because for the last fortnight Fifi has been back with the country cousins she stayed with while we were away: kelpie-crosses Neville and Nutmeg, along with their owners, our daughter Tess and her partner Will. They loved having her so much they asked if they could borrow her for a little top up and we were happy to oblige.
Fifi is happier on the farm in North-East Victoria than anywhere else on earth. In Melbourne she is confined to a medium sized back yard, with owners often at work, circumscribed walks on a leash in a city park and a diet of dried dog food. In Beechworth, she has the run of a massive, complicated paddock complete with dam festooned with ducks to chase, two dogs to play with all day long and raw rabbit, freshly shot for her dinner. She becomes a pup again, swimming laps of the dam in a futile attempt to catch the ducks, racing through blackberries flushing out rabbits and possums, revelling in the plethora of enticing country smells.
Plus, she has fallen in love. Will is a tall, understated guy, strong, quiet and utterly capable. As you’d expect from a dog with a name like Fifi (a name we didn’t chose), she is the opposite - petite and girly. She is also a bit of a princess, and can be a grumpy old lady to boot, but she and Will have become besotted with each other.
As it happened, we have been having some work done on our house, with tradies coming and going, and not having a dog was convenient this fortnight. But we’ve just returned from an idyllic weekend in Beechworth to retrieve her, during which we spent hours on their verandah, just watching the dogs and laughing at their antics. Their personalities are so distinctive and their interactions as intriguing as a well-written play. It’s every bit as entertaining as watching a batch of toddlers, with none of the anxiety. Sure beats television.
So now we have her back. And despite the need to walk her at the end of a long day at work, her slightly neurotic, irritating yipping to be let in, and the carting around of small plastic bags to pick up her poo, despite feeling mean for tearing her away from her new beau, our household feels complete again.