Neither a biter nor a barker be
4 October 2011
“My God, there’s a dingo in the café! Run, run!”
A woman with a baby clutched tightly to her breast rushed out of the Brushtail Café, pushed past me, scurried down Werrong Lane, and disappeared around the corner into Sydney Street.
The whole world’s mad I thought, as I strolled into the café. First they let Nick Greiner head up Infrastructure NSW and now this.
But there was, indeed, a dingo. Or what appeared to be one. A rather appealing cream-coloured beast sat meekly behind the bar next to Joadja.
“Nick, meet Master Jesse Kelpie-Dingo”, she said.
“Ah … Hi, Jesse.”
“What’s the story?” I asked Jo as she passed me a cider.
“It’s a shocking example of mission creep. I started off with the intention of getting a small middle-aged female dog and I ended up with a year-old male dingo.”
“Yeah, that does sound like the Afghanistan intervention. Didn’t you go down to the pound to check it out?”
“That’s not how we do things in the brave new World Wide World. The pound was in West Wyalong and the nice pet rescue lady I dealt with was on the Gold Coast. The game plan started to slip when I decided on a lovely young female kelpie called Rosie but then the website went down for a couple of days and when it came up again, Rosie had been put down and I was shattered and the lady emailed a picture of Dingo here, chained to a cyclone fence said why don’t you take this lovely little lady called Jessie. But then when Jessie went to the vet in Wagga to be desexed and microchipped they, um, noticed that Jessie was a male with an amateur desexing job and Jessie became Jesse. He’s a year old. Isn’t he lovely!”
“Great Mother of Darwin”. I said, “He’ll outlive us both. But isn’t it illegal to keep a dingo?”
“Ah, says on his papers that he’s a kelpie-labrador cross.”
“If he was part lab, he’d have flop ears and be fat already. Why a dog? You know us possums don’t get on with dogs”.
“It’s time you forgot about your father’s death”, said Jo. “All that was a long time ago, and anyway, they were greyhounds”.
“True. But historically, dingos and possums didn’t exactly get along either.”
“Aw, give the poor bastard a break. You speak a bit of dog. Try talking to him.”
Jesse came around the bar wagging his tail cautiously, sat at my feet, and licked my paw respectfully.
“Pleased to meet you”, I said, in broken Dog. “How did you end up in the pound?”
“Wayne pulled up at the Shell Wyalong Truck Stop – the one before town, on the highway – and he went to the eatery and I walked out to the paddock for a piss when I got back he was gone. I fucked up, I’m afraid.”
“Sounds more like the bastard dumped you”, I said.
“No, Wayne would never have done that.”
Just then Bruce and Tarkis from the advertising agency walked in.
“Hey, you’ve got a dingo!” Bruce said.
“Not exactly”, said Jo “ I think he’s a kelpie-dingo cross. All kelpies are part dingo. Anyway, officially, he’s a kelpie-lab cross”.
“We’re going to spend the rest of our lives explaining that”, I muttered.
“Nah, he’s a dingo for sure, what do you call him, ‘Tony Abbott’?” Tarkis guffawed.
“What did he say? What did he say?” Jesse asked.
“He said you look like a mean and brainless attack dog.”
“I do not! I am a working dog of noble breed. The dingo is on my father’s side and from Kosciuszko too. Neither a biter nor a barker be – that’s what my mother taught me. She was quoting The Bard you know.”
“Polonius. Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3”, said Old Possum, who’d just strolled in for lunch and who spoke Dog quite well. “But surely an Orson Welles rewrite. Are you a Dingo?”
“Kelpie on mum’s side. She was a great fan of Orson’s work”, said Jesse.
“Was Wayne into Shakespeare?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“Not Wayne. Mostly he played those noisy violent computer games, and he read Robert G. Barrett sometimes.”