I came home from work tonight tired and cranky. Andy is away as always during the week and I knew the fire would have gone out, it’s freezing here, and raining now and I dreaded getting home to the dog feeding frenzy, a freezing cold house, lighting the fire, dinner, kids bath and bedtime. Any me time felt a long way off, and with Tippi sick this week, I’ve been unusually disturbed through the nights so I’m tired. And grumpy.
So grumpy in fact, that I took it out on Andy over the phone. I hated this farm tonight, it got to me as it does sometimes. I fed the dogs with more resentment than usual – no love for them as they wag their tails furiously in welcome – then headed inside to get the fire lit. ABC for Kids was on, but Tippi was chatty and laughing, feeling better after a few days of illness. I just wanted her to be quiet and watch TV.
At some point, I became aware that Jaq, our 3 (4?) year old kelpie was barking more than usual. She is a farm dog; an outside dog mostly, only coming in on occasional nights to sleep on the lounge room floor while we watch TV. She barks a lot – there’s a lot to bark at here. Wombats, kangaroos, rabbits, foxes, feral cats. We’ve got them all, and I go out several times a night to rouse on her and tell her to shut up.
But this was her different bark. I went outside, and here things are hazy. This wasn’t normal. She was under the veranda, scuffling, a high pitched yelp, desperate. It sounded like she was chasing something big. Then to the shed, yelping, banging, what was this creature she was chasing? I’d no idea what was going on, and I was scared. I rang Andy. What was getting her so worked up? I called her, to my surprise she came but she was manic. Under the veranda again, banging, yelping, high pitched, not her usual bark. I called her back again, she came. She was crazy, she was at the front door yelping, begging to be let inside. Andy, helpless from Brisbane, called our neighbour and told him to get over here.
I let her in the house. She ran from room to room, more yelping, she was terrified. Trying to sit, looking at me with imploring eyes; “help me” she seemed to be saying, “help me”. I looked all over at her, there were no obvious wounds, no blood. A vile stench that I couldn’t place. I tried to calm her, but I was scared of the wild look in her eyes. Tippi wanted to pat her, I yelled at her to get away. This wasn’t our dog, she’d lost her mind. Running, yelping, then into our bedroom and … silence.
I tentatively went in, Andy on the line. She was lying on our bedroom floor, still, foaming at the mouth, breathing only just. Then nothing. She was gone. Eyes open, glassed over, the most still she’s ever been. She’d died in that moment, terrified, on our bedroom floor.
I couldn’t help her.
Two hours later, I still can’t really process what happened. Maybe we’ll work it out, maybe we won’t. Tippi, surprisingly comprehending of the finality of death cried and cried. For the first time ever she turned down the icecream I’d dished out. She’s in bed now, fell asleep in under three minutes. Her first experience with loss, they were good buddies, Tippi and Jaq.
Tonight, when the world mourns the loss of a great actor and comedian, we also mourn the loss of Jaq, our very own Red Dog. She was Andy’s dog, and he is alone tonight in a hotel. The loss he must be feeling. I’ve never missed him more.