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First Person: The Lost Dogs’ Home, A Story about Neighbourhood
14 / 03 / 2013
When receiving articles for consideration for Sheilas it recently struck us that we need a new category! One that can highlight the talents of women as creative writers and story-tellers. We encourage creative writers to consider ‘First Person’ as a way to share their stories (contact Sheilas Ed Sarah Capper for more information).
To kick off this new section which will be called ‘First Person’ (which will come with its own colour co-ordinates and section title in the April edition!), we publish Julie Perrin’s short story ‘The Lost Dogs’ Home’. Julie got in contact with Sheilas when she saw the preview from the last edition to this month’s feature on Firefoxes Australia. She submitted this story which has a connection with the Black Saturday fires. Thanks Julie for being out first ‘First Person’!
One morning in March 2009, just weeks after the Black Saturday bushfires, I was conducting a meeting in my home office in inner Melbourne. Most people who have worked from a home office will know it as a place of convenience and compromise. It may have appeared as though I was having a cuppa with a friend, but in fact we had an event to organize, decisions to make, deadlines to meet – and after all that, I had a dental appointment to get to.
Suddenly my normally placid dog – a Daschund-cross – came hurtling through the house at full tilt and barked furiously at the front door. Amidst the din we heard a knock. I’d like to have ignored it but Oscar had put an end to that. When I opened the door a man was standing there, holding onto the collar of a Golden Retriever. He looked down at my little dog, and asked, “Is that your dog?” “Yes, I replied, “this is my dog.”
“Oh,” he sighed, “I was hoping this might be your dog… or at least that you might know who it belonged to.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “It’s a beautiful dog, but I’ve never seen it before.” I knew a lot of the neighbours and their dogs but I didn’t recognize this one.
“Ah,” he sighed again. “It’s been running around on the road, and I’d hate to see it get hit. Look, I don’t suppose I could leave it with you? I have to get to work!”
I took a breath. “I guess I could put it at the gate on one of my dog’s leads. Whoever has lost it might see it.”
I got a water bowl and a lead and tied the lost dog in the shade at my gate. We resumed the meeting.
Not ten minutes later, there was another knock at the door, accompanied by a repeat performance of wild barking from Oscar. This time when I opened the door there was a woman standing there holding onto the Golden Retriever by – half a lead. She seemed a little disgruntled.
“Is this your dog?” she asked.
“No…” I began
“Well, I thought it might be” she interrupted, “because the other half of it’s lead is tied to your gate!”
I tried to explain, but basically I needed to sort the dog out again, refill the water bowl it had tipped over and tie a knot in the broken lead.
We resumed the meeting.
“AROOOOOOOOOO!” The beautiful dog’s pitiful howling filled the air. All the sadness in the universe suddenly resided at my front gate. The dog did not wish to be tied up and it was letting the world know of its distress at my heartless treatment.
It was impossible to concentrate, to hear or even speak. We abandoned the meeting. Time was against me, the dentist was waiting. But first I took the beautiful dog across the road to my friend’s house.
Sarah has two little pre-schoolers and I could hear them calling out as she answered the door. She looked quizzically at the Golden Retriever.
“Sarah,” I said, “I am sorry to do this to you, but could you mind this dog for a couple of hours? It’s lost and it’s been running out on the road. I can come and take it to the Lost Dogs’ Home when I get back from the dentist.”
“Sure the boys will love it,” she said. And in one easy motion Sarah took the dog and the busted, knotted lead and my dilemma.
Later in the afternoon I returned home. I hadn’t been inside more than a few minutes when there was a knock at the door. It was Sarah. “Oh,” I said with my still numb lip, “I’ve just got back, I was about to come across…”
“Don’t worry,” she smiled, “I wanted to tell you what happened!”
She told me that the boys finished their lunch with the Golden Retriever sitting under the kitchen table. It seemed completely at home there with its head on its paws. There was no more howling. It looked as though this was more the sort of treatment it was used to.
Sarah and her boys decided to make a poster. She took a photo of the dog and put her mobile number underneath the message – ‘HAVE YOU LOST THIS DOG?’ Then they headed up the street, walking the dog up the hill, postering the telegraph poles as they went.
Sarah said, “We hadn’t been going more than 15 minutes when this car pulled up, double-parked and the driver leapt out. “Jessie!” he called and ran over to the dog. He threw his arms around its neck and buried his face in its fur.”
“Well, I guess that’s your dog!” said Sarah.
“No, she’s not my dog,” said the man, “She’s my father’s dog. Dad’s living with us – his house burnt down in the bushfires. Jessie is all he’s got left and I thought I’d lost her! This morning I left the gate open… I can’t tell you how glad I am to see her.”
He looked from the little boys and their posters to Jessie. “Thanks a million,” he said.
“No worries,” said Sarah, “It’s the least we could do.”
Now Sarah held out the knotted old lead to me – “Too bad about your lead.”
“No worries,” I said, “It sounds like the lost dog’s home.”
The Lost Dog’s Home was first published by Melbourne Books in 2012.
– is a storyteller who can be seen performing from stages in town halls and universities and from little chairs in kindergartens.
– she now directs Tellingwords – performing, writing and teaching about oral storytelling.
– for more information, check out Julie’s website.