By Vyt Karazija
I have felt like a single parent for the last week. My friend Sandy “volunteered” me to look after her dog Bindi while she nipped back for a quick visit to The Great Southern Land.
I know this dog well; we go back a long way. The problem is, I haven’t had much contact with Bindi for a few years. And during that time, she has become older, developed a few medical problems and has even become a bit senile. But she has been a great dog for 14 years, and Sandy has spoiled her rotten during this time.
Don’t get me wrong – I like the beast. In fact, her elderly status, deafness, semi-blindness, incipient Alzheimer’s, stubborn independence and total self-absorption makes me feel quite an affinity for her. We could almost be from the same litter. And so I agreed to minister to the little Jack Russell’s needs for a week. I mean, how hard could it be?
Sandy then delightedly gave me detailed instructions for Bindi’s care, feeding, medication, exercise, companionship requirements and sleeping arrangements. “Wait,” I said – “are we talking about your dog or an elderly relative that you are palming off on me?” ”No, she’s my baby,” was the response. “But she needs looking after.”
I subsequently found out what “looking after” really meant. The unspoken message was that if anything happened to that dog, my life as I knew it was basically over.
So on the morning of the first day, Bindi greets me as I open my bedroom door. Contrary to specific instructions, I did not let her sleep in the bed with me. She’s a dog, a nice dog, but belongs on the fancy dog mat her owner insisted I bring here, not in my bedroom. I mean, I don’t even do the relationship thing with people.
So she walks in, miffed at spending the night alone, investigates the bedroom and promptly exits via the large sliding doors at the other end. Unfortunately, her cataract problem causes her to walk straight into the swimming pool, which must have looked to her like an inviting aqua carpet. The filter isn’t on yet, so there are no ripples on the surface to indicate that it is, in fact, water. She looks astonished, but pretends that she meant to go in, then swims a length, executes a tumble turn and swims back. She’s too small to get out unassisted, so yours truly gets drenched in the rescue. Then she runs round the villa shaking vigorously. Dogs soak up a lot of water.
The next day, it’s time to give her the bi-weekly tablet which keeps her Cushing’s Syndrome at bay. The instructions say “Do NOT touch tablet with hands. Use gloves.” If the tablet is going to kill me, what will it do to her? Nevertheless, I wrap the tablet in some ham and give it to her. She spits it out. I put it between two pieces of delectable doggie treats – I used Schmakos, for which it is said Aussie dogs will do anything and which she adores – but she spits it out. I make an incision in a piece of chicken, insert the tablet and give it to her. She spits it out. By this stage, I don’t care if I die; I pick the tablet up with my fingers, put it down the back of her throat and hold her muzzle until she swallows. She gives me a hint of a senile snarl, but at least she is dosed.
I also have explicit instructions to exercise Bindi at the beach. Being a softie at heart, I make a dog carrier for the motorbike out of a foam and fabric doggie bed. Ensconced in this cocoon, Bindi rides to the beach with me, but we get caught in a mammoth traffic jam in a narrow street. The belching exhaust of the huge Jeep ahead, which is actually causing the jam, fills Bindi’s nostrils with diesel fumes. By the time we arrive at the beach, she is so gassed that she can’t walk. Further, my dog-carrying contraption is too snug, so she now has heat-stroke. I give her water, but she lies on the beach panting while I throw a tennis ball, which she completely ignores. People stare. I give up and take her home.
I desperately need some dogless time, so go out for coffee. When I return, Bindi hears the gate open, but because of her hearing problem, she can’t tell where the sound is coming from. I walk through the gate and see her looking intently, not at me, but at my naked-lady statue which happens to be on the other side of the pool. Bindi decides that the stone figure is her beloved mistress, and bounds towards it, yapping joyfully. Naturally, she falls straight into the pool. I get drenched getting her out; she shakes water all over the villa again. When I dry her off, she goes to the pool edge again, staring at the statue. As her muscles tense for another leap, I grab her. I spend the next hour building a rope fence for the pool.
This dog is so spoiled that it is impossible to feed her normal dog food. I don’t believe in any of this pampering rubbish, so there was no way I’m going to let her sit at my table in a restaurant, or whatever her owner does to get her to eat. But after a day of food refusal, I weakened. I almost never cook for myself, but over the last week I have prepared so many cooked dishes for this animal that I could work at a restaurant. I hope she appreciates it.
Bindi has been amusing, albeit demanding, company. But she has made it abundantly clear that I am merely a temporary replacement for her real owner, who looks after her in pampered splendour, far better than I ever could. At least I now know where I want to go in the afterlife. I am definitely coming back as one of Sandy’s dogs.