It’s been an upsetting week in my relationship with my dog which has been, until now, extremely close. Currently, we are estranged and we have been since early Friday morning when my husband woke me up by announcing, “Your bloody mongrel of a dog….”
That’s never a good start. For reasons that remain unclear to me, she is only “my” dog when she has done something bad. Gone bin-diving. Weed in the house because it was raining and she didn’t want to risk getting wet by using her dog door to go outside. Chewed up a roll of toilet paper. Jumped up on the kitchen bench to steal food. Eaten a tampon. Chewed up her own toy. Or bed.
But Friday morning was next level.
“Your bloody mongrel of a dog has killed a possum in the night and I’ve just found her eating it.”
It took a moment for this to sink in and when it did I wished it hadn’t. It would be safe to describe me as an animal lover. All kinds. I don’t even squash cockroaches. I trap them in the kitchen in a tupperware container and release them back into the wild. Where they no doubt just turn around and come back inside.
I rescue ants from my shower and bugs from the swimming pool. Possums though. Possums I LOVE.
So upon hearing that my precious girl dog had killed and begun eating one, I leapt out of bed aghast. My husband, hero that he is to me, had dealt with the possum who was now lying in state on the nature strip. “I’ve done my bit,” he said. “But the dog is covered in possum. And you need to deal with that.”
Of course. I’m an adult woman who is responsible and also a feminist.
“LUCA!” I shrieked, waking up my eldest son. “Bella has killed a possum and you need to deal with it!”
And he did. I have good men in my house. A few moments later, there he was, in his underpants, washing the dog who was tied to a pole. I was proud of him and extremely grateful. But I couldn’t look at her. I couldn’t even think about her.
I was shocked. How could my dog do this? The same dog I had been rolling around cuddling on the carpet just last night? How could my beloved dog be a murderous, blood-thirsty killer? Would I have to put her down?
She knew she was in trouble. Dogs do. “You can’t tell anyone about this,” my younger kids said, their voices hushed with the shame I too felt. But I needed to tell everyone. I needed to know if this was completely aberrant behaviour or whether maybe, maybe, someone else had experienced it too. Sure, I’d heard of cats bringing rats and mice and half-mauled birds proudly to their owners as triumphant gifts. But never a dog. Never a friendly, domesticated pet dog. Dogs didn’t kill things! I’ve had dogs all my life and no dog of mine had ever killed a living thing that I knew of. Maybe a lizard? Maybe?
In the meantime though, what to do with my dog. I couldn’t leave her at home unsupervised. Not with the taste of blood in her mouth and other vulnerable possums in the vicinity. I knew we had possums in our roof. Maybe no longer plural……
So without looking at her, I put her in my car and took her to work with me. She knew she was in the dog house. Her ears were plastered to her head and her tail was down. She looked sheepish. Also full.
At work, I started telling everyone in the vicinity. I even made a Facebook live video to share my story and ask for advice. Was my dog a killer? Could I still love her? Had anyone ever heard of another dog doing such a heinous thing?
What followed was a revelation I found both reassuring and shocking. It turns out that Australia is full of dogs who eat small things. And sometimes large things.