this (ca­nine) life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Re­view wel­comes sub­mis­sions to This Life. To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, the work must be orig­i­nal and be­tween 450 and 500 words. Sub­mis­sions may be edited for clar­ity. Send emails to this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au Lucy Fedrizzi

We were never al­lowed to have a dog. There was no dis­cus­sion or ne­go­ti­a­tion. That’s just how it was. Ap­par­ently, Dad didn’t like dogs be­cause of a bad ex­pe­ri­ence with a ger­man shep­herd dur­ing the war.

Like many dads, mine mel­lowed with age and when I moved home for a year in my early 30s and was of­fered a free puppy, he raised no ob­jec­tions. Some­thing about that cheeky kelpie caught my eye. He looked so cute and vul­ner­a­ble and I loved his rusty brown colour­ing. I named him Leo and we stayed with my folks for a year.

When it came time to move back to Dar­win, Mum wouldn’t hear of let­ting Leo go.

“You can’t take a dog to Dar­win,” she said. “It will be too hot up there for him, and what if you live in a flat? What will the dog do all day while you go to work? Why don’t you leave the dog here?”

It was set­tled. Leo would stay with my par­ents. My dog would be­come theirs. Leo went up to their farm each week and kept Dad com­pany. He chased kan­ga­roos and wom­bats and barked at the pos­sums. He started life as an out­side dog but even­tu­ally Leo was al­lowed in­side the house.

He once killed the neigh­bour’s cat, af­ter it mis­tak­enly wan­dered through his ter­ri­tory. “Oh well,” said Mum as she re­layed the news on the phone. “I guess the cats won’t be ven­tur­ing into our yard in the fu­ture.”

But as he grew older and more frail, in­side the house on his blan­ket was his favourite place to rest.

Mum rang early one morn­ing, and said: “Your fa­ther’s gone.” I stupidly asked where he had gone at such an early hour — it had been a cou­ple of years since my sick and frail Dad could go any­where un­ac­com­pa­nied. He was dead. I took an early flight next day, ex­pect­ing to find a dis­tressed Mum and the ail­ing old dog, but Leo had other ideas. He dis­ap­peared the night Dad died, never to be seen again. The gate had been left open and he was gone.

We searched ev­ery­where: neigh­bours’ yards, sur­round­ing streets, the nearby park, even the fu­neral par­lour where my Dad was. We made sev­eral trips to the pound.

Leo wouldn’t have been ca­pa­ble of walk­ing far on that stink­ing hot sum­mer’s night — he could hardly walk or bark.

The dog had wan­dered off to die. The pair of them had known death was wait­ing for them for some time. Both were old, plagued by ill­ness, frail and weak.

That was more than two years ago and they are both still sorely missed. Hav­ing kept each other com­pany un­til the very end, they de­cided to go to­gether.

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