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Black Dog in the Mist, Hospital Creek MemorialTo Coral Hull's previous piece

Dogs of Australia

1. rusky & toby made husking sounds on the leash, as they strained forwards on choker chains, pulling my arms out of their sockets, rusky was a black & white kelpie bred from the litter of the local tow truck driver, that lived on the corner with one arm, i asked mum to tell me the story of rusky’s origins, rusky followed dad home one night from work carrying his newspaper, he was called rusky because he came along roughly the same time as me & after the tooth rusks i used to chew on, then dad built the white kennel for him & painted the rippled tin roof red, toby was from the r.s.p.c.a., a gift for my tenth birthday with a pushbike, toby chased cats & panicked if he fell down a big hole or got his legs caught in vines, nanny called him ‘horse’ because he ate alot, toby had a passion for chasing cats up drainpipes & he kept running, so that i was dragged along on my wet knees stained grass green, once he got bigger he consumed the backyard, rusky got older & faded into the background, once during his prime, rusky came home after fighting the big white labrador up the road, when he climbed the stairs to the front verandah, i saw his side fall off like a book opening up, mum pushed it back into place, we took him to the vet & had it stitched back on, once rusky got off the leash & fought prince the labrador, the owners sprayed them with the hose shouting “they’re into it again!”, but it only cooled them off, giving each dog more energy, then blackie in the next street fought rusky whilst i held him on the leash, i fell onto the gutter becoming entangled as the two dogs ripped at each other & trod all over my face

2. cloncurry is a small town in western queensland ‘the friendly hub of the west’, where dogs were not wanted, a caravan park owner warned me, that if my dogs were seen wandering off the leash, then there’d be no more dogs, he told me twice, making his fingers into an air rifle, he did not take into account what i was thinking, that is, it was not what he could do to my dogs, but what i could do to him, then there was the grand poetry & piano night at nimbin town hall, in northern new south wales, town of feral animal haters, ‘feral’ meaning the ones that were born into politically incorrect skin, supported by the ‘i am a human being so my skin is acceptable’ mentality, dogs were not wanted in nimbin, a street dog’s face was ripped open, it was left to die by the piano players & preachy bush poets, words of starry skies & outback mateship, the dogs are left out these days, in touristy outback petrol stations dogs are not welcome, out of cars around the kiosks, or even on the open roads, you’ve got to ‘get that dog on a fucken leash,’ the ruined country is all blamed on the cats & dogs, dogs are not wanted in australia, outback camp dogs are rounded up & loaded into wire cages, an unwanted dog will be shot with the same amount of thought & feeling, as it takes to shoot a tin can off a fence, poor red kelpies are chained to empty ten gallon drums after a hard day’s work, where they are served the property prison slop, their life expectancy lasting as long as their usefulness to the property owner, the working life as long as the dog works, the only dog that is truly tolerated is the stone ‘dog on the tucker box’, on the road to gundagai, where my dogs were caught walking off their chains, which brought the camping ground manager & souvenir shop owner, running & yelling ‘council regulations, council regulations’, all the birds flew out of the gum trees & took off, people were woken up in their tents & disturbed from their hamburgers, cameras were drawn from backpacks from the big touring coach, binda stood dumfounded, his mouth wrapped around the frisbee, he thought he had been free from discrimation, in the land of blue heeler & red kelpie, in the town of gundagai, home of ‘the dog on the tucker box’, with all the commotion coming his way, he stood as still as stone, whereupon he immediately became a more acceptable dog, for australian mythology & for the camera shots

3. there was a big dog bounding across royal park, half saint bernard half wolfhound, its legs hit the ground like a horse gallop, its ears flapping like wet washing, thundering up the grass, it shocked the little birds, that hovered out over their angry territories above its great forehead, suddenly a scream from its owner, “never again, never again”, the dog must have been found after wandering off, the big floppy ears bounded up to her, then came to a standstill, as the woman moved towards it, she started laying into it with her fists, then i saw her kick it in the face, her husband arrived with the leash, i approached them & was told to ‘mind my own business’, i said, “that’s no way to love a dog,” as they headed slowly back to parkville with the mutt, the big old disappointment with the bruised cheek dragging its feet, it reminded me of an abused child with all the childhood knocked out of it

4. binda got his leg caught in the old car seat, i wrenched it out, ripping him, blood sprayed across the interior ceiling, it was as though someone had let a hose go, so that it whipped up to the sky in ropes of water, but in this case the hose was filled with blood, the car upholstery thick & slippery like an accident scene, i got to lort smith animal hospital up a one way street, they locked me out of the surgery as i went into shock, binda is better aquainted with death than kindi, she’s smaller, a runt that never grew a full set of teeth, but she sits with her little heart inside herself & will not budge, binda is a little lighter on the pads, like he’s not meant for a long life on earth, i nearly lost him another time as well, behind the swinging doors of the surgery, the vets gathered around, as binda’s irregular heart beat played beethoven’s 5th symphony

5. every spring, dogs die of defender, after eating the bright green pellets, used to kill snails in our gardens, some people, with brains the size of bulbs, would do anything for an insect-free rose, one doberman bitch fighting for her life, in the lort smith animal hospital, her eyes rolled back, the drip in her mouth, “she’s struggling,” they said, her stitched up womb, the nurse hiding an apron full of puppies, “these are hers, what chance have they got?,” trevor turned to walk out the door with the material sack, containing the body of his two year old dog, an australian terrier called fenton, who was also my friend, killed by defender

6. the pit bull is at rest in the front yard, heavy & suburban, blood covered, wintry, coat like a white snow flake, the slitty little eyes buried in the great hulk of head, he was a snow dog, a bully boy, built up into nothing much, by the dirty fibro house & overgrown lawns, the wrought iron verandah, the cactus garden & paspalan, the dog connected to a chain, to a stake in the ground, perhaps feeling sad & sorry for himself, one black eye & his ear half torn, a couple of persistent flies, no food or water, the people were asleep inside, the blinds drawn, the dirty dishes stacked on the sink, the records balanced on the old stereo, the staleness of the house, the wounds creeping along his muscular hide, had he lost or won his last fight?, i noticed him quietly there & went to investigate, the pale dog was calmly on the end of his tether, eyes buried deeply inside his forehead

7. in the small hours of the morning or perhaps in the afternoon, as the sea birds fly over the city, to roost at port melbourne industrial wetlands, someone is bludgeoning into a dog’s face, i wonder what it’s like, to see someone murder a dog, how do they do it without the dog crying out?, or trying to get away?, was he on his leash?, there could have been a few stabbing, say in a group, or maybe just one, from the dark allies, more likely from your average household, who knows, shaun walked into a dilapidated building, following a long long rope through many rooms, the sunlight filtering down from holes in the roof, at the end of the rope, he found a dog on its back, entrails hanging loose & black magic symbols written on the wall, he found the back magic dog, twisted into another gutless act of violence, who are the murderer(s)?, i’m taking down the details of another victim, its dead blood & shaggy flatness, twisted facial features, paws that must have tensed to run, the giant still tail, a big brown dog, found lying in the gutter, in north melbourne, a poster was put up at lort smith animal hospital, requesting details of the incident, did anybody see or hear it happen?, somewhere we sense it happening, & it affects us all, you know, they stabbed it to death in the face & that is what i am left with, in this kind of society, don’t follow the next person home, be careful who you mix with

8. i fed the guard dogs cupcakes, slipping them through the big gaps in the wire, the smell from the bakery that had filled their noses for hours, now making its way into dog saliva, fresh warm cupcakes coming towards them, as if in their dreams those cakes were coming, you must feed them cupcakes, to make them sweet & kind, somewhere a dog lay dying, on a neighbour’s long front lawn, a big german shepherd with a tattered brown coat, an old guard dog that had escaped, i fed him a cupcake as he died, the sweet pink icing around his slobbery old mouth, cake crumbs caught in whiskers to be licked off in a while, he barely had the strength to eat & most likely would be dead before he could digest it, so i collected the green dew off the buffalo grass & dripped it onto his gums & teeth, he had bad sour breath but he was sweet, i held him to me like blanket, before the volunteers came from the r.s.p.c.a., to take him away to be destroyed, a fitting end to a life that had been destroyed, many years before, but somewhere along the line from puppyhood to now, i fed the dog a cupcake, as if even only for a second, it had laid warmly there & melted on his tongue, he must have known that he was loved, at least by one of us, don’t let them bluff you from behind the strange high fences, those ancient guard dogs from the industrial wastelands, with their big old barking & snarly voices, chained by the machinery to the rain, chained miserably to their shaggy lives, visited by flies & mosquitoes, for all of the seasons & years they could have lived, as a dog would like to live, we must feed the guard dogs cupcakes to make them sweet again, to take the fierceness from the growl, wedged in between the gums & teeth, to set the tails wagging, the old hides shaking in the spring, tell them to ‘sit down, good dog,’ then spoil them rotten, the eyes of mistrust will fill with icing

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