Friday, 20 May 2011

Dog eared

The power of the Bark Side...

The Garden of Eden had its serpent – Little Bush (it’s the registered name of our block of land, so let's get the sniggering over with now) has dogs. Specifically, farm dogs owned by a neighbour who is surely completely deaf. Farm dogs whose frequent discussions with one another sound like Cujo and the Hound of the Baskervilles carrying out thorough and enthusiastic sound checks on AC-DC’s concert speakers. Quite how they generate the volume they do is still a mystery to us, but we suspect it’s something to do with the placement of their kennels and sound reflecting quality of nearby walls. We’re planning a trip to visit this neighbour, to discuss a drainage matter, and may finally discover how he managed to perfectly position his dogs for optimum neighbourhood misery. Maybe we’ll even discover what they seem to be so unhappy about.

We like dogs. Rose grew up with them and I don’t dislike them - although a couple in the past have certainly disliked me. The most memorable was a hound who took a bite out of the seat of my trousers (and me) while I was collecting for the SPCA.
I’m not holding a grudge; I just don’t see myself ever owning one. Rose and I are now both confirmed ‘cat people’, preferring a sometimes complex, slightly feline-favoured partnership to guileless canine servility in our household pets.
Our last happy home in Wellington was occasionally plagued by ongoing conversations between the neighbour’s dogs on either side of us, goading me to regular friendly visits and less friendly bellowing out the window. Fergus and Chester, you were nice dogs and we know it wasn’t your fault. Maybe you were bored, perhaps not brought up to live so close to other dogs, and maybe you were a little neglected as the children who used to put you at the centre of their worlds grew older and spent less time with you.
Its taken time, but I now no longer feel like howling myself every time I hear a canine long-range broadcast.

Our current situation is of course, a different matter. One of the first things every city dweller looking for a slice of rural paradise should heed is that the countryside isn’t actually that quiet. It is, in fact, a working environment, full of enormous and sometimes mystifying-looking machinery, herds and flocks of large, vocal beasts and, at the heart of it all – dogs. Occasionally you will encounter the Fergus/Chester situation, where a previously urban family will make getting a dog a mandatory purchase (usually a large, loud dog), along with an outdoor furniture set and a ride-on mower. Sadly, it doesn’t always mean that these poor creatures will end up any less neglected.
Farm dogs - working dogs, are quite different. They are deliberately kept hungry and alert, and their bark is encouraged as an essential part of their function. They are also often extremely-well disciplined, but evidently this doesn’t seem to be the case with our neighbour.

Our options for improving this situation are extremely limited, to say the least. We’ve lived in this area for ten years, and know that the very thought of ‘life-stylers’ asking a farmer to keep his dogs quiet so that they can enjoy their glass of sauvignon in peace is a cross-cultural atrocity right up there with running a kissing booth in Dubai.
If we can address our drainage quandary, and establish some kind of friendly relationship with our neighbour, then perhaps we’ll find a way to make some kind of progress. But, on the other hand, because these particular dogs can probably be heard all over the district, perhaps we just need to get over ourselves and get used to the occasional explosion of ‘barking madness’, as everyone else obviously has.

As it has transpired we’ve established a friendly relationship with our neighbour and happily resolved the drainage issue (more on this later). However, he doesn’t actually own the dogs and yes, is somewhat hard of hearing. They are actually owned by his farm manager - another very nice man who I met recently.
The thing is, it’s been weeks since I originally wrote this entry, and Rose and I hardly notice the dogs now. Country living is all about adapting, an ability which is going to be crucial in the months to come...

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