Starting the year with a heavy heart. Family tears for a little lost dog.

December 31, 2011

This was going to be about fun times on New Year’s Eve. Laughs to end 2011. But laughter is hard to find around here at present.

Coco has gone missing. Our beloved dog. The tiny ball of fluff responsible for so much family fun.

She made the trip with us to the Gold Coast this Christmas. Part of the celebration. Even got a new collar and lead from Santa. With sparkles. That she never got to wear.

One minute she was part of the fun around the brother-in-law’s pool on Boxing Day afternoon. The next, gone. We think she wriggled under a fence.

Coco has form for escaping. Loves the wind in her fluffy ears, skinny legs  hurtling down the road. Always to come home, with a wicked grin.

But not this time. She was in a strange place. Different road. And as much as we adore her, it’s fair to say she is easily confused.

We started searching straight away. The extended family. House by house. Street by street. Into the darkness. Nothing.

Everyone expected her to sprint back in that night, tongue hanging sideways. But she didn’t. There were tears.

We went looking again the next morning. Started the process of contacting the city pound, local vets, and the RSPCA.

I thought about the last thing I’d said to her. She’d been left to her own devices the night before, on the big verandah. This resulted in a barking onslaught at sunrise, aimed at next door’s chooks.

Not what we wanted after a late night. I let her know that, angrily, as I locked her away. It might be the last thing she’ll hear from me. Why does that always happen?

I tried to explain to the girls that it would take some time. That someone nearby was probably looking after her, until the pound re-opened. Possibly trying to convince myself.

That afternoon, we put up flyers all over the neighbourhood. Laminated, with coloured photos. The Teenager demanded only the best for her dog.

The girls were much younger when Coco came into our lives. She made an impact from Day One.

The Treasurer was going away on a business trip. The Teenager and Daughter Two were naturally upset. It was my job to cheer them up.

After leaving the airport, we ate junk food, and bought stuff, and ended up in a pet shop.

The girls explained that they’d been looking at a puppy the day before. The Treasurer had told them they should show it to me while she was away. We could decide later if we wanted it.

This was the cutest mutt I’d seen. Papillon x Maltese. White, with black patches, and tan markings on her face. Normally, I wouldn’t look twice at a dog that small. But there was something special about this one.

It was an on-the-spot call that Dads are famous for. Why wait? What better way to take their minds off my limited cooking ability, than for the girls to have a new puppy at home!

With the boot full of food, bowls, leads and other expensive puppy accessories, we headed home with a new family member. Smiles replaced  tears.

We set up the rumpus room for her, cordoned off with cardboard boxes. She jumped, and played, and did a wee every ten minutes. Something that never changed.

As she grew, Coco played a different role with each of us. She kept the Treasurer company during the day in her office. For the girls, it was cuddling on the lounge, after a hard day of barking at next door’s cat.

My treat was the same each night. When I sat down after work, she would jump on my lap, to have her neck scratched. Always for a few minutes. Then she would take off, looking for dinner scraps, and a mat to pee on.

It’s been five days now. We’re refusing to accept that she’s not coming back.

There is the chance, of course, that someone has picked her up, and spotted what we love about her. Maybe, they’ve decided to keep her.

That would make us all terribly sad. But if we can’t have her, we hope she ends up in a loving home. If that’s the case, here are some important tips.

She’s a fussy eater. Good luck trying to find the right dog food. I never could. Leftover BBQ meat is a favourite.

She’ll enter every part of your life. Nothing is off-limits. You’ll try to section the house off, and it won’t work.

She’ll bark at birds, and cats, and salesmen, and the guinea pig. Until you tell her to stop. Then she’ll give you that “just letting them know who the boss is” look.

She’ll try to sleep on the end of the bed. And will look away when you come into the room, in the hope that you might somehow miss her.

Most of all, she will love you, every minute of every day. Unconditional love. What we’re all looking for, but rarely find. We had it, from a sometimes smelly, always affectionate, four-legged friend.

We’ll keep checking the pound. She’s micro chipped, so that’s in our favour. And her foam bed in the laundry will stay right where it is.

Please come home Coco. It’s not the same without you. The smiles you gave us that first day, are gone. Tears have returned.

We’ll let you sleep on the bed. Bark at sunrise. Wee on any mat you want.

If anyone knows where she might be, please let us know. We want our family back together.

A childhood spent outside. The beauty of having a big yard and a slobbering dog.

September 20, 2011

As a kid, I lived my life outside. Nothing much of interest happened inside. The backyard was my playground. It’s what we did.

Every minute of daylight was put to healthy use. And some moonlight. Mum would call more than once to get me inside for dinner.

People of my vintage tell these stories. The younger generation delivers a collective yawn and advises that we don’t ‘get it’. Which is often the truth.

Something beyond dispute, is the quality and importance of the backyard. The ancient times of my youth is a clear winner.

Blocks are shrinking. More and more places have no yard at all.

Our family moved a few times during my childhood. We lost our first house. Dad’s building business crashed. The bank made him sell the home that he’d built for us. It knocked him around.

For a sports-mad youngster, there was a bonus. Our new rental place, humble as it may have been, had a ripper yard. Complete with Hills hoist and outside dunny. It was long and spacious. The yard, not the outhouse.

During winter, Dad and I would spend hours throwing the footy around. Catching, and kicking, and commentating on future glory. Mum would call fulltime and drag us up the back steps.

But it was summer when our outside arena came to the fore. It was an ideal backyard cricket ground.

Over our fence was a dirt lane, and then a spare block of land, overgrown with grass and weeds. Just the sort of wide spaces that encouraged lusty on-side shots.

We positioned the stumps at the far end, so the batsman had to be careful in his decision-making. To the right, was the dunny, and Dad’s shed. If you hit in that direction, you had to make sure it was along the ground.

The value shot was to the left. Anything loose from the bowler would be dispatched over the fence, into that spare block.

Dad would bowl over after over, in fading light. He’d still be in his work clothes, after toiling on a building site somewhere. But he would send them down, without complaint.

I think back, and wonder how I ended up such a crap batsman in adult years. It was certainly not through a lack of practice. Possibly a lack of talent.

Someone else loved that yard, and those endless summer arvos with bat and ball. Our dog, Tess.

She was a beautiful black border collie. I can’t remember where we got her, or how we paid for her, given money was so tight. But we adored her.

She lived for our cricket games. Our best fieldsman by far. She could catch. And importantly for the weary bowler, she could chase.

Whenever I’d whack one deep into the spare block, she’d be galloping after it. Thanks to her efforts, it was rare for us to ever lose a ball. It would come back covered in dribble, but that was a small price to pay.

After Dad’s death, we moved a few more times. Nowhere was quite like that backyard.

Now, I have a yard that is tiny by comparison. There is a rusting swing set, and a trampoline that doesn’t get used much anymore.

Our dog Coco is only a little bigger than the tennis balls Tess used to chase. I get home after dark, so there’s no bowling to be done. The girls hate cricket anyway.

There is hope, however. Daughter Two is now playing touch football. Finally, a reason for our family to own a footy. And to get outside.

This weekend, we’re going to spend some time in our yard. A short break from laptops, phones, and i-pods.

If we had been given access to so many gadgets all those years ago, maybe we would have stayed inside too. Or maybe not. Tess would never have forgiven me.