I loved all my dogs, but Millie was the best.
For years I was never without a dog – sometimes enjoying two of them. Back then, I had never heard of anyone buying a dog, at least not the kind of ‘bits and pieces’ male dogs I owned. People gave you dogs. “Would you like a puppy”? and if you said, “Yes” you had a dog. Sometimes the dog found me. I’d see an uncared-for pooch hanging around the street. I’d give the mutt a pat and then some morsel to eat and that was it. Then the dog would be sitting on the verandah and next thing riding in our car. They were not allowed in the house most of the time and I seldom tied them up. When I did put them on a lead, they had a collar around the neck, nothing like the multi-strap harnesses so common today.
I never took a pooch to the vet because they didn’t seem to get sick. I used anti-flea concoctions but that was it. Actually, we did take Millie to the vet in her extreme old age, the last time being to have her put down when she was 18. She was so enfeebled and sick, that life was unmanageable for her.
From the very beginning, Millie was different. We had just moved into a house not far from State Highway 2 in the Karangahake Gorge. A local vet posted a note in the community newspaper saying a young pedigreed dog was to be gifted to ‘a good home with children; interested persons please write.’ We did and what we learned was this. An older man’s much-loved Schnauzer had died. Subsequently, he bought another Schnauzer, this time a female pup. Soon after this, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The pup was vigorous and mischievous in a puppy way but with his failing health, he could not cope with her. That is why he decided to gift the dog to a family with a young child. Many families wrote and so did we. The man decided to give the dog to us. That is how Millie became part of our family. Millie had been spayed and arrived with her pedigree and certificates of vaccination.
From the beginning, she made her mark, chewing on shoes and mats and furnishings. A major task was to keep her away from State Highway 2. We had no fences and were loathe to tie her up. With severe talking and some smacks, the message got through. Many dogs in our small community were killed on that highway, but Millie never ventured there.
I read that Schnauzers were suitable for apartment living and as we had no fence we decided that Millie should sleep inside the house. During the day she roamed free in our neighbourhood where she soon became ‘Cock of the Walk’ – kind of boss of all the other dogs. At night she slept across the doorway of our bedroom. There was a dog basket in the lounge but she chose to sleep on the bare boards plus mat at the door of our bedroom. She also looked out for our six year old son. One day, when he became sick with a fever she came into my study and pulled my sleeve and growled alerting me to our son’s distress downstairs, at the other end of the house. And there were other incidents like this. She was a smart, caring dog.
But Millie had one problem. Although she was obviously female she had an uncontrollable urge to hump any other dog that she could easily straddle. This caused me embarrassment with the neighbours and at church picnics. Since then, I have learned quite a bit about animal sexuality, but unfortunately Millie often copped it from me for something she couldn’t help. Millie was not just in love with her own species. Every night she would curl up with Whiskers our cat in the same basket and proceed to lick the cat before their evening sleep, cosy and together.
My son’s apartment in Brisbane is across the road from a beautiful walking track along the banks of the Brisbane River. Most of the walkers have a dog – or two. Occasionally I see a Schnauzer but most of the dogs have no resemblance to dogs I owned. They are often pure white and many are very small – down to rat size. Around here animal health insurance is advertised on large billboards, so I guess the care of these breeds costs a great deal.
Recently, on a news clip from Los Angeles, the reporter took us down some of the city’s inner streets. They were lined with small tents and waist high shelters made of plastic sheeting and cardboard. Some of the occupants, men and women, sat on the gutters, It was a thoroughly depressing sight. What sticks in my mind is the comment of the reporter. He said, “If these were abandoned and homeless dogs, the matrons and beautiful people of Los Angeles would rise up and fund facilities where these poor creatures could be properly cared for. But because they are people, they just drive-past, without a sideways glance.”
Made me think. “Is something out of whack here?”