How did your holiday guests behave themselves? If they were like mine they sneaked food that wasn’t theirs, antagonised the cat and weed on the furniture.
Yes, they were four-legged, accompanying their human owners.
First came Cruiser, a small blue heeler, who Zahli took to at once. In between romps she looked on in wonder as Cruiser entertained himself by killing and eating flies on the window pane – a process that seemed to make him wrinkle up his chops in disgust – and dived into the lily pond in search of small golden skinks.
He became quite skilled at spotting them, leaping up on all fours like an Arctic Fox in a David Attenborough documentary, to come down in the brackish water with a splash.
He never actually caught one, but there were quite a few lizards that dropped their tails in a panic.
Zahli was so proud of her new friend that she took him around to meet the next door neighbour. When he was called to jump into the car for the home journey, her tail, up and wagging throughout the visit, slowly drooped as he drove away. Her sorrow at his departure was palpable.
There wasn’t long to be sad. The next car-load arrived with two canine visitors – Lily, a fluffy little rescue dog resembling Greyfriars Bobby, and Odin, an Italian Greyhound.
This is a miniature breed. Odin is tiny, whippet thin, with legs like knitting needles.
His fragile appearance is deceptive – he leaps around the house at high speed, prancing from room to room, yipping and darting at Thistle, and eating any of Zylka and Zahli’s food left lying around.
Zahli saw a potential playmate here, too; at first his owners were afraid that Zahli might damage Odin, being so much bigger; but Zahli seemed to recognise that she had to be careful with the cheeky little visitor. She pranced around him with great care, merely putting out a paw to pin him down from time to time.
That’s when Lily allowed her to. She looks upon herself as Odin’s carer, and set about Zahli from time to time, running at her and showing her teeth.
Odin’s small size meant that he was on nose height with the two Dalmatians rear ends. He had an unnerving (to them) habit of attaching his nose to a spotty posterior and running along behind them – their leaping aside with a maidenly shriek failed to dislodge him. Lily, under the impression they were trying to harm Odin, leapt into the fray and a lot of bad language ensued, until the humans stepped in.
I was beginning to wonder how much more of this I could take when Lilly and Odin’s owners took them to the beach with them.
Odin hadn’t had much to do with large bodies of water before, being based in Queanbeyan, and regarded the ocean with great suspicion. Being so tiny, his owners were happy to leave him in the comparative safety of the towels.
But when they returned to our home, Odin did not resume his prancing, sniffing and playing. He seemed sad, and wanted to sit on laps and hide his head.
His owners had a harrowing night as he repeatedly attempted to empty the contents of his stomach from either end.
It seemed he had spent his time in the towels eating as much of Tathra Beach as his small system could take.
Once he had eliminated all the sand, his jauntiness returned, he came out looking to see what was in the big dogs’ bowls, and attached himself to their posteriors again.
His owners were off out, and I was left to dog sit. Lily and Odin were shut in the visitor’s end of the house. I was assured it was the time of the day when they would sleep anyway, and I would not have to concern myself about them.
Their car drove away, and there was peace for ten minutes.
Then two things happened. Someone started a very loud lawnmower up close by, and Odin started screaming. There is no other word for the high pitched, prolonged yelp on a howling crescendo.
I raced to that end of the house. He threw himself into my arms, shivering mightily, closely followed by Lily, still determined to protect him.
After a while the shivering stopped, and he went back to sleep; Lily sat beside me, keeping a watchful eye on her charge. Every time I attempted to move Odin awoke, and resumed shaking; so I stayed where I was for an hour or more, until his owners returned.
At which he awoke, bounded out to meet them, and shot off with Zahli to be introduced to the neighbours.
My human visitors were a doddle in comparison.