All three dogs are a problem, my own, and the two guests. They are problem dogs individually and collectively. This is what I think on a bad day anyway, when I've just nodded off to sleep on a peaceful afternoon only to be wrenched awake by Heidi, (miniature daschund), yapping relentlessly at some innocent passer-by on the road half a mile away. Or when I'm trying to clean a pile of dog shit off the Persian carpet, (Woody's - a huge, boofhead of a dog, who bounds like a reindeer and shits like there's no tomorrow.) Or when Bella, (Siberian Huskie/Border collie cross) tracks me from room to room as I move about in the house, staring through the windows at me, stressing because she wants to be inside in the same room as me, and will not SETTLE THE FUCK DOWN.
Woody does not understand what fences are for. They are just barely noticeable little obstacles that momentarily impede his way as he's bounding along. Bella, on the other hand, knows exactly what a fence is for, and has found numerous weak points in the garden fence that can be exploited at a moment's notice if the opportunity arises; but she is usually happy to hang about and be in the garden within sight of me. Unless her friend Woody comes to stay. Then it seems that everything she ever learned about How to be a Good Dog goes out the window.
There is so much trouble that a couple of dogs determined to whoop it up can get into out here. They have no idea! A big male kangaroo can suddenly turn when its being chased and disembowel a dog with its massive back leg. It can also lure a dog into the middle of the river and then clasp it under the water until it drowns. A wombat has a spine like a steel plate, and if a dog follows it down its burrow it can suddenly stand up and crush the dog against the roof. Several neighbours have shot guns, and are not interested in the difference between wild dogs and just plain naughty domestic dogs at lambing time. (It is lambing time now.) And the river is flooded, and the edges very unstable.
I keep a close eye on them, while I set about some gardening jobs. They're so happy to be outside, Woody ecstatic to be off the chain. He tries to get Bella to play, but she has a better idea - Let's obsess about the rat in the old garage! He is interested for a few minutes, eager to please her. I keep looking up, and see two tails wagging from under the garage door. They've dug under it as far as they can go. Heidi is content to watch this caper from the verandah out of the wind.
Then I look up, and there are no tails wagging. It's been barely 30 seconds since I last looked. I call, - nothing. They've gone.
I walk all round the perimeter of the fence, calling, looking. There is a pretty unimpeded view across most of the property. No dogs to be seen. I get in the car, drive up the drive to where I can see Wombat Central - no dogs. I drive up the road. The cattle are all gathered in the corner, talking to the bull over the road; they haven't seen the dogs.
I drive back home, and decide there is nothing I can do, except wait for them to come back. Or not. I try to read, but my eyes are constantly drawn across the paddock, to the river. Is that a magpie, or a willow branch dipping in the river, or a dog's tail?
It's pouring with rain now. I put on my gum boots and oilskin, and trudge across the paddock. No sign of any dogs. I stand above a massive pile of debris that was washed up in the last flood, and call. 'Woody! Bella!' Suddenly, there he is, right by me, delighted to see me here! He can hardly believe I've come at last to join in the hunt they've been having for whatever it is - a water dragon? a rabbit? a wombat? a fox? Bella appears, filthy, sopping wet, and looking extremely guilty. She knows she's been naughty, whereas Woody doesn't have a clue.
I put both dogs on leads, and take them back across the paddock. They are tired, and I'm too glad to see them to be cross. They get rubbed down with an old towel, and their paws wiped. Heidi does a few little dribbles of excited wee on the carpet, and throws her stuffed toy about.
Woody pushes his head against me, his tail wacks my leg. He wants me to know he's had the best adventure ever. Bella leans on me, wanting a pat, knowing she could have been a better dog, wanting forgiveness. They all settle eventually in front of the fire, and I go back to my book. How good it is to have three happy tired dogs lying at my feet!