My Mum and Dad, who retired to Perth in 1990, are over in Sydney for a brief visit, staying with my aunt in Malabar Heights. We had a big family reunion yesterday and, because Jack (my Jack Russell bundle of canine energy) was home all day while I was at the literary seminar, I checked with my aunt if it was okay to bring the dog with me.
Last time he was there, Jack was on his best behaviour, and really enjoyed playing ball in the backyard and hunting in the rockeries for blue-tongue lizards. This time, however, we both blotted our copybooks. Firstly, I put Jack's plastic bag of doggie accessories very close to a lighted oil burner and almost caused a fire. Then Jack coughed up excitedly - twice - on my aunt's carpet, and accosted my cousins' young children to steal their soccer ball. When my uncle opened a bottle of cold, sparkling red I'd brought, the wine fountained out along with the cork, covering no less than three of my uncles in sticky, blood-red stains. Then the dog went wacko (as in "Wacko Jacko"), desperately looking for the lizards he suddenly remembered sniffing out last time.
On what must have been our fifth visit out into the yard yesterday, when most of the smaller children had already gone home, Jack actually located a medium-sized blue-tongue. I saw Jack pounce, and before I could shout "Not for Jack!" (which usually causes him to "Drop!" the item he's just put in his mouth), I noticed him shaking his head violently, from side to side, ragging the poor lizard, just as he would his stuffed toy tiger at home. But then, just as suddenly, the lizard was gone. What a clever escape artist was that lizard!, I sighed in relief. The miracle of instinct and survival... The choice was "fight or flight" - and the lizard elected to flee.
By the time I reached Jack in my aunt's inaccessible, elevated rockery, he had realized he'd lost track of the lizard, and was now desperately poking his head into every gap, looking for it again. A human voice called up from the lower level of the yard. Whew! The lizard had been found and it seemed to be okay. Somehow the clever little thing had scuttled down onto level ground already, without Jack noticing.
I finally was able to retrieve Jack so he didn't reach the lizard before I got there. With Jack in my arms, still sniffing the air and struggling to keep searching out every nook and cranny, I clambored down. (Strange, I thought. The reptile was upside down, and presumably in shock, but it was still breathing. How did it get down here so fast, I wondered? And why did it flip itself over onto its back, exposing its more vulnerable side in time of still-present danger?) I returned the lizard to a secluded spot in the garden and Jack and I went inside, not sure if I should even admit to Jack's latest indiscretion to my aunt and uncle. Maybe we just wouldn't say anything, particularly after the oil burner, vomit (x2), wine and ball-stealing incidents.
Somehow, everyone already seemed to know what had happened. My Dad asked, "Jack found himself a bird in the garden, eh?"
"Ah, no, he was just hunting for blue-tongue lizards... He remembers he saw one last visit," I said, sheepishly.
"Oh, we all thought it was a bird," everyone said together. "It flew right past the window!"
Oh my. So that's why the dog's head-shaking action had ended so abruptly. Perhaps Jack can stay at home for the next family reunion.