Whilst on my travels I saw a different attitude towards animals. For instance in the Antipodes, outside of the city cats had a purpose. They were rarely fed 'because it makes them lazy' and they lived largely off what they caught. Dogs too had a purpose. It could be to round up cattle or sheep, or maybe a hunting dog.
In rural communities there was rarely emotion involved like with us Brits, and if a dog turned out to be useless it had to go. There were generally three methods of disposal. You could shoot the dog which cost 25 cents for the bullet. You could get the vet to put it down but that cost $40. Alternately you could palm the animal off on some unsuspecting sucker.
I was to become that sucker in the case of one particularly useless but lovable dog. When I heard of the fate awaiting him what could I do? Very quickly the signs were not good. On the second day a neighbour knocked on my door.
"Your dog has stolen my newspaper"
"Rubbish, why would he?"
It just didn't make sense. The newspapers were delivered in plastic bags thrown onto the lawn, the neighbour lived half a mile down the road. Why would the dog go that far let alone steal a newspaper.
Just as we were about to come to blows, up trooped the dog with the newspaper in his mouth. I apologised profusely and said I would shoot the mongrel but appeased, my neighbour told me not to worry, it was after all just a newspaper. I was glad because I don't know if I could bring myself to shoot him even though it wasn't unusual where I was.
Over the next few weeks the little shit 'visited' all the neighbours and proudly left his spoils on the front door step. When the next morning I am confronted by an angry neighbour the evidence is there in front of us. He stole newspapers, cartons of milk and washing off the line. Each time the respective neighbour would relent and stop me from shooting the dog but I could see their patience was wearing thin.
The final straw came when I awoke one morning to find the neighbour's son's pet rabbit dead on the door step. I knew the angry neighbour would demand I shoot the dog on the spot. On inspecting the rabbit it didn't seem badly mauled although it was muddy. I hatched a plan.
Initially I tried washing under the tap but it just smeared so I put it in the washing machine on a cold wash (didn't want it to shrink). It came out as good as new - except a bit dead. Then I had the dilemma of whether i should peg it out on the line but thought it might leave dents in the ears or worse get spotted, so I used the hairdryer.
That night I sneaked to the neighbour's house and put it back in the hutch - they would think it died of natural causes during the night. Alarm bells should have been ringing but it didn't occur to me that not only had the dog opened the hutch, it had also closed it afterwards. Nor did I notice the hole close by.
I saw the neighbour the next day and he didn't look happy.
"What's the matter?" I asked feigning concern.
"My kid's pet rabbit died" he said "we had a funeral for it and everything, then some sick bugger dug it up and put it back in the hutch"