The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - Ann Prescott Re­view this­life@theaus­tralian.com.au

“It is just a prac­tice run, Mum,” I said. “I have rung and they have three small ones. We should go so we know the ropes, when the time is right. We can have an ice cream on the way home.”

At the res­cue home, there was only one small dog ready for view­ing. “It’s just a prac­tice run,” I re­minded her. “We’re here to find out how the process works.”

We were shown into a small area with a high fence and a small dog with wavy white hair was brought and put in the cage with us.

Her hair is just the same colour and tex­ture as Mum’s, I thought. Her name was Betty we were told.

Betty looked at me and then looked at Mum. She turned and turned about and then ran across and leaped into her lap. “Good choice,” I thought. About 30 min­utes of cud­dles fol­lowed. When the at­ten­dant re­turned, Mum ex­cit­edly said: “I’ll take her!” It was love at first sight.

“You can’t have her,” said the at­ten­dant. “This dog has spe­cial needs and we will be ask­ing for three ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est over the next two weeks for peo­ple who want to own her and we will be vet­ting the ap­pli­cants.”

Oh no, I thought. Only a one-in-three chance that Betty will come home with us, and ev­ery other dog we see from now on will be less cute, less cud­dly, older and less love­able than Betty.

“It’s just a prac­tice run,” I re­minded Mum again. We re­solved to fill in that ex­pres­sion-ofin­ter­est form.

Our fam­ily had moved house, city, state or coun­try on aver­age ev­ery two years, chas­ing worth­while work, and it had not been pos­si­ble to have an­i­mals. But Mum had won­der­ful mem­o­ries of a child­hood full of cats and dogs. We filled out the form as best we could, sell­ing our cre­den­tials hard and hop­ing for the best.

An anx­ious three weeks passed, with Mum ring­ing reg­u­larly to see if a de­ci­sion had been made. Af­ter about 20 days, an of­fi­cial came to check out the house, gar­den, gates and fenc­ing and Mum in situ. Re­sult: we could come and col­lect the dog the next day.

Mum said Betty was no name for a dog. She would call her Bet­sey Trot­wood, from Charles Dick­ens’s David Cop­per­field.

And so Miss Bet­sey Trot­wood came to stay. Ev­ery day the neigh­bour­hood can see Mum and Bet­sey strolling down to the park and back.

It seems such a poor ex­change — a small fluffy dog as sub­sti­tute for Mum’s friend and hus­band of 70 years.

But it has been five years now and Bet­sey has been a much-loved ball of fluff, a lively pres­ence in the house, and a con­stant com­pan­ion for Mum. Truly, a gift from the uni­verse.

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 Which Aus­tralian state was the last to re­move the death penalty for mur­der? What are the two main in­gre­di­ents of tra­di­tional In­dian cha­p­atis? Ear­lier this year, who be­came Aus­tralia’s first in­dige­nous fed­eral min­is­ter? The part of the hu­man body called the hal­lux is bet­ter known by what name? Who wrote this year’s best­selling novel

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