Times Past: Pets

Our family always had a dog. From photos and stories I know that before I was born Andy 1 and Andy 2 were part of the family but the first dog I remember was Mick. Dad came back from a visit to my Uncle Geoff’s farm and I can still see myself looking through the car window. Dad told me to look in his pocket and there was the little pup. Mick was a cross between a Border Collie and a Blue Heeler, I thought he was very handsome. When I was a kid most family dogs were “bitzers”, unrecognisable as any particular breed.

Big brother and Andy.

I don’t think anyone got their animals desexed and poor Mick succumbed to the lure of a beautiful white Samoyed which came into the area when market gardens were subdivided and sold off for housing. The fancy Samoyed’s owners didn’t appreciate Mick’s visits and shot him.

Mick playing along with us.

Dad always dreamed of having a farm, that didn’t happen but we did have plenty of animals at different times. Cows, a sheep, chooks, ducks  and geese. The ducks, Lucy and Lucky  were considered pets but for a while my Auntie Myrtle was living with us and she hadn’t been brought up with the luxury of pets. One night Lucky appeared at the dinner table along with carrots, peas, potatoes and gravy!

Lucy with some of her babies. Jayne and Mick in the background.

Our next dog was a Golden Labrador which came from a farm in the Adelaide Hills complete with millions of fleas. We thought she was sick when she wouldn’t respond to anyone and when we hadn’t seen her pee for 2 days we took her back to the farm. On arrival she immediately squatted and relieved herself which seemed to show she wasn’t sick but traumatised by being separated from her family. We brought her back to our place again and she soon accepted her new situation.

Dad also brought home a kitten which was found at his work. Soxy didn’t need any encouragement to stay. One day though she was bitten by a snake and Uncle Geoff who was up visiting wanted to bury the apparently lifeless cat but Mum didn’t let him. It was lucky for Soxy because he recovered and seemed none the worse for his near-death experience.

A Soxy look-a-like.

Another kitten which came into our lives wasn’t so lucky. It was a gorgeous little fluffy, grey ball and I named him Stephelius after a song that was popular at the time. He had a penchant for water. If someone was in the bath he would clamber up and walk around the edge of the tub. It became obvious something was wrong so I took him to the vet. He diagnosed kidney disease and that was the end for the kitten.

A Stephelius look-a-like.

I also had a couple of Guinea Pigs, then a lot more. I think I learnt quite a lot from them including the painful fact that sometimes you need to separate the male of a species from their babies. My youngest sister, Cathy,  also kept some very appealing Silkie Bantams which free ranged.

Eventually we all left home but Dad always had dogs for companionship.

Times Past – Horses

Irene at  Reflections and Nightmares asked for input from fellow horse tragics.

A Baby Boomer I grew up in an Australian city but our suburb and others nearby included some swampy areas where horses were kept.

I’m about 3 in this photo, big brother seems to be in control.

I loved horses and occasionally I was able to go on trail rides through the swampland in an area which is now totally reclaimed and the site of fancy houses, businesses and a large shopping centre. On some of the swampy ground an old man, “Mr Gray”, used to live in a caravan, not the modern type but more like a gypsy caravan, an old wooden one with steps up to it. In a circle around his caravan were low corrugated iron stables, not at all fancy, I think probably cobbled together from second hand sheets of iron.  There must have been about 10 horses. Nowadays,  if kids were going off to such a place alone everyone would be suspicious of the old man’s motives but as far as I know there was absolutely nothing untoward about it. We paid to go on a trail ride which he led and I suppose he and his horses were able to live on the meagre proceeds.

While I was at Primary School every weekend I used to hang around another place with horses, that was near the Breakout at West Beach. People agisted horses on the Breakout and on weekends girls would gather with their horses. I still remember some of the horses. Tiny was 16 hands high, an ex-racehorse and Rita (named after an actress, Rita Hayworth, a redhead) was a chestnut ex-trotter and once I was doubled up on her as her owner tried desperately to get her to break into a canter. It didn’t happen that day, she just trotted faster and faster! There was an old shaggy horse someone owned and you could hire it for the day, 10/-, I think.  One day I was lucky enough to be given the money to hire it and I had a lovely day with it. I snuggled up to its old neck and felt wonderful having a horse all to myself.

After my day hiring the shaggy, old horse I went home happy but later that night I was scratching and scratching. Mum checked my head and said it was full of bugs, I had to get into the bath and have my head scrubbed then submerge myself under the water. It must have been powerful soap because it dealt a killer blow to the lice or whatever they were! After that I never felt tempted to snuggle up to that old horse again.

When I was about 13 I regularly went on trail rides with a girl from school, her mother would drive us across town to the stables. I remember one day being happy to be able to ride, “Ginger” because she wasn’t an old plodder but I discovered she did know when we turned for home. When we reached a straight, dirt road she took off, I had no control over her at all. Luckily there was no traffic on the main road as we bolted across it and I was still in the saddle when we came to a stop. I think terror kept me stuck there because I know I often fell off for no apparent reason.

I only recall one boy having a horse but he wasn’t a regular at The Breakout.

This photo was taken at Uncle Geoff’s  farm, Trixie was his stock horse. Little sister is on board. I remember getting big bruises from that knee pad when I fell off.