Sunday, July 15, 2012

Elizabeth Barrett Browning's dog

This romance like so many others in this day and age began on the internet.Love, it seems can use technology.

Six years ago we got Blue as a paddock buddy for our ailing Border Collie, Patch. The Save-a-Dog scheme, (they have a website, with pictures and a biography), billed him as a placid heeler cross. When my sister and I went to the pound to see him we looked up and down all the enclosures without finding him, not realising he was actually corgi. Thinking on it now, we were probably looking at the wrong level. Blue is really a corgi with a heelerish coat and a busy cattle dog brain. He carries himself about on stubby corgi legs well suited to the things he likes in life, like surfing. Interestingly on reading about corgis I found that they are true dwarves. A miscommunication of the genes has produced an averaged sized dog with limbs that are foreshortened. Obviously the Scottish liked this accident enough to breed true from it.

Patsy came along later. Hearing about another heeler corgi (Blorgie), dog made me curious. I went to the pound to look and came back with her. All Pat's hobbies are different from Blue's. He loves the sea - she won't get her feet wet. Blue is not interested in other animals and Pat's lives to hunt. Her Spring through Summer job is catching butterflies and skinks. I take them from her mouth when I can. Sometimes I'm too late and we have a little funeral. Pat's is not invited.Although she has the sweetest temper she is a hunter. She and I have our differences there.

Both Blue and Pats grew on me. It was not love at first sight. It has been a smouldering affair with bright moments, some tiffs, long walks, great company and a shared interest in food.With Fred it was different. I was looking for him for a long while without knowing. There was going to be no fast car or boyfriend in my mid life crisis. But I needed someone new to talk to and do things with and someone to cuddle on the couch, (apart from M). I grew up on dog stories, Lassie, Grey Friar's Bobby, Rin Tin Tin, Call of the Wild...oh I could go on. But Flush always caught my fancy. He was a lady's companion - a poet's companion. He had a book written for him by Virgina Woolf and another by Flora Merrill. There was a stage play later and then a movie. Flush was remembered for himself as much as for his owner - much like Mozart's starling. Good credentials no? A signifier if you will. Flush was a spaniel with long soft ears and a mournful gaze. He was loyal, almost prescient, an ideal escort for a walker and a reader. He was small enough to sit in Elizabeth's lap but strong enough to walk the dales. Flush was credited with curing Browning of an unnamed illness which had her confined to bed in her childhood home. I think I have been saved once or twice by dogs.

Enter Fred. He was surrendered at the Lost Dogs' Home. Not in Melbourne but in country New South Wales. I looked at his picture on their website and read his little biography: Dachshund Border Collie cross fourteen months old, needs supervision, loves people, not good with chickens or cats, desexed, answers to Fred. After two weeks of looking and longing we set off in a storm to get him. When we got Blue he was called Clive. We changed that almost immediately and he seemed not to mind. Patsy was called Patsy and it seemed to suit her. Fred I mused could be changed to Flush. The jury is still out on that.

So far this is what we know about Fred. He seems to like to sit on furniture, often I look about for him and he is sitting at the kitchen table like a person, he loves the Blorgies seemingly equally. He does not like the vacuum cleaner but will happily sit in the bathroom hand basin to have his hair blow dried. He likes to fetch a stick or a ball but will not yet relinquish them, better than this is to chase Blue and take the ball from him. He loves the car and likes to be on the front passenger's knee and watch out the window. He swallows or tries to any kind of foreign object - favourites so far are erasers, shoelaces and fleece pulled from the sheepskin in his basket. He doesn't mind being brushed but likes to help get out any tangles himself. He happily sits on my knee while I type and is there now but prefers to be walking. Whether he can balance on a boogie board or not will have to wait for Summer.

He persists in being called Fred. Perhaps after all he is not Elizabeth Barrett Browning's dog.

Other dogs in thymy dew
Tracked the hares and followed through
Sunny moor or meadow;
This dog only, crept and crept
Next a languid cheek that slept,
Sharing in the shadow.
Other dogs of loyal cheer
Bounded at the whistle clear,
Up the woodside hieing;
This dog only, watched in reach
Of a faintly uttered speech
Or a louder sighing.

from For Flush Elizabeth Barett Browning


  1. Great pictures on this and the clouds post! I like your plate collection. You have wonderful dogs. Until we have a larger space, we "borrow" other people's dogs. We pet them and occasionally take them for walks. I think they look forward to seeing us as much as their people do. :)

  2. Oh thanks Tammy. Can you see I love to shop in the opshop (thrift) shops here? Two of the smaller plates we found in a market in Japan - one is new the others are all penny treasures.
    If I am ever separated from our dogs I have to borrow others people's dogs too. The dogs don't seem to mind. When you get your garden I bet Johann will love having a dog. You too!

    1. You found some great plates. I love going to thrift shops and flea markets to search for buried treasure too. Yes. Johann has wanted a dog since he was 4. When we finally are able to get one, he will be very happy indeed!