Apologies to Henry James! This is a portrait of quite a different Lady.
You see, Lady is our new dog and I’m sure she wasn’t the sort of “lady” novelist Henry James had in mind in his Portrait of a Lady. However, it’s always good to revisit an old classic and add a fresh spin. Mind you, after getting to know Lady a little better, I’m starting to wonder whether Daniel Defoe’s novel: Moll Flanders would have been a more appropriate choice. As much as I don’t expect Lady to be ladylike, after all that’s a very old-fashioned view of women (even female dogs), a bit of added restraint might be in order.
Two weeks ago, we welcomed our new dog Lady, a two year old Border Collie x Cavalier King Charles Spaniel into our family almost with the excitement of a new baby. If you’re not an animal lover, this comparison might seem a bit over the top. However, I challenge you to look deep into those adorable chocolate brown eyes and not fall head over heels in love with our little bundle of joy. I’d be very surprised. Lady is simply irresistible and even better…she doesn’t cry or put us through those dreadful sleepless night either! The perfect baby!
However, the grandparents don’t share our uber-joy about our new arrival. They are yet to photograph Lady and certainly haven’t emailed half the universe proudly announcing the new arrival. Moreover, my mother hasn’t started knitting dog jumpers either…not that she’d knitted anything for the kids so I can’t accuse her of bias. The one concession that my mother has made to the dogs has been bringing over little scraps of ham in what we call “Grandma’s hambag”. Just like lollies with kids, the ham is an instant hit and the dogs never bark when my mother turns up. They both adore her.
This lack of enthusiasm for the latest addition to our family wasn’t just confined to the grandparents. Not unsurprisingly, Bilbo our 8 year old Border Collie didn’t share our enthusiasm either and greeted her with a growl. For a few days, there was quite a standoff between them but there’s something about being stuck in a lift or in the same backyard that draws you together in the long run. After a few week’s together, they have now become “the dogs” and mostly hang out together. They have even survived the long drive to Palm Beach without a growl in a very cramped car.
When you look at Lady and Bilbo together, they don’t immediately strike you as the quintessential odd couple. After all, they do look very much like each other. They’re both black and white with varying degrees of fluffiness. However, their temperaments are quite different.
Bilbo is a rather shy, nervy and introverted dog who takes a long time to warm up, even to regular visitors at our home. He’s become very protective and I know that my ongoing health struggles have stressed him out. Moreover, he didn’t get out all that much for awhile there. This means that he isn’t all that comfortable around other dogs and I’m still not really sure that Bilbo acknowledges that he’s a dog himself. To make matters worse, a dog roughed him up a bit and that set him back as well.
Meanwhile, Lady is your classic extrovert. Go walking with her and it takes at least twice as long to get anywhere. It’s a bit like when you drive a Kombi or some other iconic vehicle and everyone keeps stopping you in the street. Except with us, it’s Lady making herself at home with everyone she meets. Just like me, she is what you’d describe as uber-friendly. I’m constantly apologizing for her enthusiastic intrusions into other people’s space. The upside is that I’ve been meeting quite a lot of people and feeling quite at home in our adopted neighbourhood.
Despite knowing all of this, our walk today was still quite an experience and full of the unexpected.
Ever the social butterfly, Lady invited herself to a couple of picnics and was jumping up on total strangers just assuming they would fall completely head over heels in love with her and didn’t mind a strange dog intruding on their space. You know what dogs are like around food and I couldn’t be sure that she wouldn’t help herself but while I was still getting my head around that situation, she’d moved on.
I’m sure I’d only blinked but when I looked up. There she was up by the road jumping into a stranger’s car. I was absolutely mortified and I’m sure I almost stopped breathing. Thank goodness, she hadn’t strayed into a gang of dognappers. It was just a carload of backpackers who, like yours truly, had made the mistake of buying a Mitsubishi Magna and had broken down. Now, they had Lady leaping up into the car waging and wagging her tail. She just lapped up all the attention. Apparently, Lady just can’t get enough.
It’s great that she’s so friendly but we don’t want to lose her. Don’t know how I’m going to have the stranger-danger talk with a dog but I guess that’s what leads are for. However, it’s been almost beautiful watching her running free and she just loves jumping up and down the sea walls which are about 2 metres high. She’s a real little canine dynamo and such a happy, happy dog exuding such joy!!
When I give my overactive imagination just a little bit of scope, I reckon all it would take is a Superdog cape and Lady would actually fly! She’s an absolutely incredible dog!
I had just managed to extract Lady from the backpackers’ car when she jumped on top of a lady sleeping in another car with her door open. I was getting quite exasperated by this point. Not to mention embarrassed. Lady might be absolutely gorgeously irresistible but not everybody appreciates a strange dog giving them a big kiss in their sleep. Just when this poor sleeping stranger is dreaming about Mr Right, she opens her eyes. Oh no! It’s a dog!
So far we’ve only been walking for around 10 minutes and already Lady had invaded a picnic, jumped into two strangers’ cars and I haven’t mentioned how she’s meandered in and out of all the yards along the waterfront. Most of these houses aren’t occupied so it’s not a huge deal but watching her jump into strangers’ cars was alarming. I know it sounds like I’m not watching the dog but it’s a bit like when I’m out with the kids. One minute, I’m watching them and they’re right with me. Then I blink. By the time I unblink and we all know that only takes a micro millisecond, they’ve either vanished like magicians or they’re up to serious mischief.
However, while I blink and unblink this time, there was a noise in the traffic. The backpackers are calling out to me and Lady is running off towards the beach with something big and furry in her mouth.
OMG!!! When I finally catch up to her, Lady is eating a rabbit. I’m pretty sure she didn’t kill it herself and that it was road kill. That brought some relief but after watching Lady at work, I had no doubt that she’d had rabbit before and knows how to hunt. After all, in her past life she was a country dog living on a farm, not a city dog used to hanging out at the dog salon or even the local café.
That said, it’s obvious Lady needs a few lessons on how things are done around Palm Beach. I mean, it’s not the sort of place where you can just go and eat any old road kill…especially without a decent knife, fork and a crisp linen napkin. Such primitive behavior is completely unacceptable. Forget what the neighbours or the Joneses might think. At Palm Beach, we have the Murdochs, the Packers and enough paparazzi and do-gooders to really get busted. The last thing we need is Lady’s photo in the press along with the heading: “The Wild Savage of Palm Beach”. Or even worse, featured on the TV drama series Home & Away! Oh no! We don’t need that kind of publicity at all.
I have to admit that I was shocked and disgusted watching Lady at work and yet she was just following through on instinct. A dog is a dog. The rabbit was already dead and she was in effect just taking advantage of a free meal. Waste not want not. You could even say she was cleaning up and as much as rabbits might be cute, they are actually a serious environmental pest in Australia. They have devastated the Australian landscape. So as much as Lady’s behavior gave me the horrors, some would say she was being environmentally friendly.
Meanwhile, it’s been hard for me to reconcile the image of Lady eating that rabbit with the same gorgeous, little dog who crawls into my lap, loves being cuddled and stares at me with those gorgeously huge brown eyes. How can these two characters co-exist in the same dog: the affectionate lapdog and the savage? We seem to classify things into exclusive categories: good or evil. Yet, we know there is good and bad wrestling in all of us and that sometimes, even despite our best efforts, we succumb and require forgiveness… or at least a bit of compassionate understanding. Sadly, these days there’s no such thing as a chance. We’ve all got to get it right the first time or we’re out… at work or play. Clearly, in reacting so harshly, we are not playing fair. Everybody makes mistakes.
But there is such a thing as damage control.
Since the rabbit incident, Lady has been revisiting the road in search of fresh spoils and rather than coming back to me when I’ve desperately called her, I heard cars react. She was definitely on the road. As much as I want to give Lady her freedom, I don’t want her to pay the ultimate price. Now, as we approach the park and the road, she’s on the lead.
Better to be safe than sorry!