by Joanne Verikios
The year was 1980 and the address was 12 Roberts Street, Macquarie, in Canberra. For those who don't know, Canberra is the capital of Australia, but that is not important to this story. In the back yard were two dogs. The older dog was a pedigreed male Airedale, black and tan, fluffy and enthusiastic but, as seems to be the way with Airedales, not the sharpest tool in the shed. Let's call him Ted. The younger one, according to her accidental "breeder", was supposed to be a Bull Terrier crossed with a Kelpie.
She was smooth-coated, tan with a black muzzle, fiercely intelligent and such a shameless lap dog that everybody thought the second half of the cross was more likely to have been Dachshund than Kelpie. Nevertheless, she was solid, lean and muscled like a bodybuilder.
Her name was Cactus.
On this particular day, we had tidied up the refrigerator, which involved removing a number of interesting biological specimens from its darker recesses. One of these items was a very large, rectangular chunk of cheese that had become hard and green. However, while it may not have appealed for human consumption, it was not so far gone that it couldn't have its green fur shaved off and be served up to the dogs, was it? Waste not, want not. After all, they were both fond of cheese and a dog's stomach is better able to cope with food of questionable freshness than is a human's.
So the cheese was trimmed and halved into wedges. After this operation it looked somewhat more palatable and smelt more like cheese and less like a neglected fish tank. It was ready to be thrown to the figurative lions.
The back yard was reached by a laundry door which opened out onto a small concrete porch, fenced with white-painted, iron balcony railings, from the side of which a flight of steps led down to the ground.
In the style of ancient Romans, we decided to enjoy the sport of cheese eating from this balcony.
With pre-arranged synchronisation (because the dogs were competitive about food and salivating with Pavlovian glee) we each threw a piece of cheese to an eager dog. Ted managed to capture his prize on the second or third bounce, lay down with it between his paws and began to bite off tiny bits with unexpected delicacy. Cactus leapt for her cheese like a Frisbee champion. She twisted in the air, caught it on the full and swallowed it whole before returning to earth. This display of athletic virtuosity, coupled with shark-like gluttony, was shocking enough, but a split second later she staggered a step or two then fell over onto her side, apparently dead.
Out of the blue I was suddenly vaulting the railing and dropping a couple of metres into the yard. On automatic pilot, I grabbed Cactus by her lifeless back feet and - as much to the universe as to any particular person or thing - I loudly announced "You have to swing them by the hind legs". So saying, I swung Cactus around and around as hard as I could. The centrifugal force ejected the cheese from her gullet and she came back to life!
The moment she regained her feet, the little pig tried to re-ingest the cheese but I retrieved it before she managed a repeat performance and broke it into smaller, less lethal pieces.
Meanwhile, Ted worked on whittling down his own treat, oblivious to the atavistic intervention unfolding beside him.
Every dog has their day… in his or her own way.