My favourite days have always been Sundays for all the obvious reasons that revolve around resting, relaxing and doing what feels good rather than what’s expected of me. On this particular Sunday, the sun was shining from a piercing blue sky as I lazily lounged in the hammock while my canine companion, George, sniffed his way around the garden. My peace was soon disrupted by my cranky teenage daughter, Matilda with her whining about being bored, trying to lure me into her angsty frame of mind in order that I relent and take her to the shopping mall.
I pushed back. Nothing was going to unravel my feelings of calm gratitude that I felt on this glorious spring day as I sank deeper beneath the brightly coloured cotton of the hammock. The birds were flitting about, gathering bits of George’s fur along with some twigs to build their nests in the trees above me. At one point, George nuzzled into my ear while dropping his slimy tennis ball onto my chest, filling my vision with his puppy dog eyes that begged for attention. In the background, I could hear Matilda huffing and puffing inside the house in between loud comments about the pointlessness of school and unfairness of life.
I felt my blood pressure begin to rise and my mind to fill with a busy-ness that ensured my tranquillity was short-lived.
I called to George, who was by now lying patiently underneath the lemon tree, as I jumped out of the hammock ‘There’s only one thing for it, Georgy Porgy, walkies!’. It always brings a smile to my face and a warm feeling inside when I see his tail wagging and his tongue hanging from the side of his mouth as he tries to catch his breath with excitement. I love how he is so predictable and never ceases to respond with unending gratitude for the attention he receives and the joy he gets from the simplest of things.
As I went to find the dog lead, I passed my daughter sitting on the sofa in the living room with her head bent towards her phone. The temperature outside felt warm and summery, while the living room still clung to the winter with its dull, cold atmosphere. My heart sank as I stopped to watch my daughter with a scowl on her face, missing out on the life-giving light that would surely lift her spirits if she would just give it a chance.
‘I’m going for a walk with George, and I’d really love if you’d accompany me.’ I said as I continued to the hallway to pull on my trainers. ‘It would do you good to get out. I promise you will feel better for it.’
I could hear more huffing and puffing as I tied my laces, but before I reached the front door she was standing there, looking at me with a sad face and asking me for a hug.
‘I’m sorry for being so cranky. Give me a minute and I’ll come with you.’ She whispered as I wrapped my arms around her.
My heart skipped a beat and delight washed over me, for she had listened to me and was even willing to accompany me.
George wagged his tail excitedly as we exited the front door together, patiently standing on the veranda as I locked the front door. With his lead left lying beside him, he could very easily have bolted towards the road or ran towards Matilda who was already walking out, but his sense of belonging and duty kept him close by my side which always fills me with pride.
We had walked less than a kilometre when we were approached by a lady who asked us if we had seen a small dog on our travels. My daughter asked for a description of the dog and the lady told us that it was a neighbour’s beige-coloured French bulldog puppy that had gone missing from their house about 45 minutes earlier. Matilda said she had seen the puppy at the park only yesterday, recalling that it was called Peanut and how cute it was. The neighbour said had been helping in the search for the past 40 minutes and had been all around the neighbourhood. I felt a tremor run through me at the thought of the distraught family that had lost its dog. I imagined the anxiety the owners would be going through. Various scenarios played out in my head, such as the dog being run over, stolen or attacked and all left me with a sense of foreboding. I told the neighbour that we would keep an eye out for the puppy and asked her where we should take it if we were lucky enough to find it. As she pointed out the location to us that was close by, a woman emerged from a house, clutching a phone and looking around as though she was waiting for someone to arrive. The neighbour noticed her too but continued in conversation with us. The thought crossed my mind to ask her if she had seen the puppy, but, given her proximity to us she was within earshot and if she knew something about a missing puppy surely she would have mentioned it. So, the neighbour, my daughter and I continued to discuss the various scenarios. I expressed my concerns about an all-too common problem with dog theft these days, especially with less dogs coming into our state from over east because COVID-19 restrictions. I said that there is big money in dogs these days – a French bulldog puppy can fetch up to $10,000. And it’s not just in Australia. Just last week, a van was stopped in Dublin that contained 22 stolen dogs bound for England.
‘I wouldn’t have a clue,’ the neighbour said. ‘I have two cats and they’re very much house cats. It’s hard to believe that someone would steal someone’s pet.’
I noticed a shiny black ute approaching the round-a-bout near to where we were standing. The driver had his window down and was waving in my direction, mouthing something to someone above me.
‘That’s funny,’ my daughter said as she looked up above me, ‘those girls up on that balcony have a French bulldog just like Peanut.’
When I glanced up, all I saw was the back of two people going in through the door of their balcony. The ute appeared to continue up the street, probably looking for a safe place to stop and the lady with the phone had gone back inside the same property.
‘Are you sure you saw a dog up there?’ The neighbour asked Matilda. ‘I’m pretty sure those people don’t have a dog.’
My daughter said she was absolutely sure she had seen a dog resembling Peanut in the arms of one of the girls. With that, the neighbour turned and headed towards their house to enquire if they had the puppy. We followed suit. The lady with the phone came to the door as the neighbour told her that we were looking for a lost puppy, asking if she might have seen it.
‘Oo err, I’m not sure,’ she said as she went back inside, closing the security screen behind her, ‘one minute please.’
I could see through the screen that two young girls were coming down the stairs and one of them had the puppy in her arms.
‘OMG, you found the puppy!’ We declared in unison.
‘Oh, is this your puppy?’ The girl approached the door, laughing nervously . ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’
We pulled the door open so that she could hand the dog over. I was almost hysterical, calling out that it was such good news that the puppy had been found. The owners of the puppy were in their garden nearby and heard me. They came running around to where we stood and almost collapsed at the sight of their puppy, alive and well. They were a young boyfriend and girlfriend who had clearly been beside themselves with worry. The girlfriend took the puppy in her arms and broke down in tears.
We all walked away together, the guy thanking us for our help as we said our goodbyes. Matilda and I continued our walk in a bit of a daze. We talked non-stop the whole way about what the hell had just happened. While we couldn’t be sure, it certainly looked as though something dodgy had been occurring before our very eyes. I stopped and looked at my gorgeous daughter, ‘Thanks to you, I think we might just have prevented that young couple from going through a very painful experience. If you hadn’t seen the puppy on the balcony, we wouldn’t have suspected a thing!’
I realise it’s just pure speculation as to what was really going on and therefore cannot say what would have happened next, had my daughter not seen the puppy on the balcony. I leave it to you, as the reader, to draw your own conclusion. I will urge you though, if you are a dog owner, to take extra care from now on. Never leave your dog tied up outside a public premises. Always ensure your dog is micro-chipped. And remember, dogs are like little kids – they don’t know any better. Dogs contribute to the health of a family in more ways than we will ever fully realise, and we have a duty to protect them at all times. Their lives are so short in comparison to ours, let’s make sure they are filled with love. Thanks for taking the time to be with me today.