ANNABELLE HICKSON COMES TO TERMS WITH HER BELOVED DOG MOVING OUT.
“IT WOULD BE easier to live with a horse,” said my husband, slumping his tired shoulders. “Things have to change.” And so, after seven years living the dog version of the life of Riley — drinking out of unlidded toilet bowls, sleeping under the aircon vents, feasting on food the children seem to intentionally scatter on the flfloor — our enormous, gentle Newfoundland dog, Pommes Frites, has been banished outside. She is doomed to peer in longingly through the windows with her hopeful yet non-judgemental eyes, although it’s hard to be sure what her eyes are saying because you can’t actually see them through her flfluffffy black fur. Pommes Frites has always been an indoor dog, much to my husband’s horror. He, like many country boys I know, is well and truly from the ‘a-dog’s-place-is-outside’ school of thought. I have a theory that the further west you grew up, the less tolerant you are of house pets and the people who dote on them. It’s based on a very small sample size, but there’s something in it, don’t you think? Anyway the sheep farmer’s son who I share my life with has never understood his city wife’s inside-dog policy. But in a bid to save his energy for bigger battles, he has turned a blind eye… until now. To give you some background on my dog-keeping beliefs, I grew up in a suburban Sydney house where our golden retriever was one of the family. They (we had two over the years) slept on a lovely bed with an embroidered pillow near the kitchen. They were never fed cooked bones for fear the bone would splinter and get caught in their throat, and they underwent extensive — and expensive — medical treatment at the vet. My father was overseas when old Molly was on her deathbed. He insisted the vet put him on loudspeaker so he could say his teary farewells. This is a man who does not often cry, let alone over a crackly phone speaker with the vet and vet nurse twiddling their thumbs nearby. But I married into a western NSW sheep-farming family with a very difffferent attitude to dogs in the house. To have a dog inside is, in their unspoken (at least to me) view, disgusting. These are kind, compassionate people who have great respect for their working dogs and the animals they farm. They just have no time for slobber, muddy footprints and canine pandering in the living room. I was very new to this country life when I bought Pommes Frites at great expense from a breeder in Adelaide. I had read about a Newfoundland called Pluto, the pet of a Croatian opera singer. He’d dine at the table with the singer and was trained to eat a cooked chicken without dripping anything on the tablecloth. It was then that I knew this was the dog for me. Pommes Frites arrived in our small town by plane (imagine the amount of eye rolling at that — the name and the plane) and moved in (inside) with the family, taking up more room than all of us combined. When I’d do my jobs around town, the kids would be strapped in the back of the car and PF would sit up the front. When my sister-in-law fifirst caught sight of this arrangement, she nearly drove offff the road in surprise. I think I’ve been especially soft on PF out of guilt. Bred for hauling fifishing nets through the icy waters offff the Canadian coast, her genetics don’t lend themselves to life on a hot, dusty pecan farm. She copes by becoming entirely nocturnal. By day she sleeps, shifting between her favourite cool spots: the bathroom flfloor, the shady eastern verandah or the dark corner of the pantry, leaving dirty watermarks around her. And because I am the moron who brought her to live in this climatically hostile area, out of guilt and pity, I let her. At night she wakes and nudges open the door to venture outside to eat and drop her enormous poos under the clothesline. Then she sleeps some more, often at the base of our bed, snoring contentedly. I fifind it comforting — she sounds happy! Ed lies silently next to me wondering how his life got to this, but he can hold his silence no more. And because I am tired of cleaning and I don’t want my husband to leave me, I’m afraid I’m with him on this, Pommes Frites, but not without dedicating an entire column to you fifirst.
Annabelle Hickson lives with her family on a pecan farm in the Dumaresq Valley in NSW. Follow her on Instagram @annabellehickson