Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Dog and Donkey Show

All my life I have wanted a puppy to call my own. I wanted one that would fit in my pocket, that would follow me around, ecstatic in my mere presence. I wanted a fluffy one, with a round belly and big eyes. I wanted a little dog that was small enough to be an inside pet, one who would lay at my feet and no one would notice.

And what Yours Truly wants, Yours Truly generally gets - that is, of course,  after Yours Truly begs, pleads, cries, whinges, creates convincing Powerpoint presentations, gives the silent treat
ment, stamps her foot, carries out nationwide surveys and calls various radio stations to rally behind her cause.

Never give up on your dreams, kids.

Anyways, that is how The Boyfriend and I ended up bungled into his truck, rattling our way up the mountains to procure the cutest canine ever known to man. I had him all picked out - a white Maltese Shih Tzu cross, the eldest of the litter, a healthy, bouncy cherub of a dog. I could barely contain my excitement. The Boyfriend struggled to steer as I gripped his entire head in a hug of gratitude, weeping tears of joy, praising all the gods I could remember the holy names of.

"This is the best day of my LIFE," I proclaimed, turning down the radio for the seventh time so The Boyfriend could hear me utter these heartfelt promises for the seventh time. "This is going to be AMAZING. He will be the best-behaved dog in the WORLD. I will buy BOOKS. I will buy INSURANCE. I will buy you a PINT."

The Boyfriend's eyes were fixed firmly on the road, his lip set. He'd been uncharacteristically quiet. I felt like he knew something I didn't. I didn't care.

The lady who owned the dogs was enormous, her jovial presence made all the more overwhelming by her protruding stomach. She led us to the litter.

The puppies were about the size of a babies fist, blindly trotting around, bumping into the cupboards, yelping and nibbling at one another's ears. They were the stupidest, most beautiful things I had ever laid eyes on. I glanced at The Boyfriend, whose expression had also softened. My heart swelled - I wanted to take them all home.

I spotted the white one I'd been besotted with. I picked him up and he was pudgy and lovely, but as I did so, a weird little brown and white one caught my eye. His teeth poked out over his upper lip. He walked in a diagonal line. His ears were perky and lopsided.

"The runt," the large lady said, nodding in the brown and white dogs direction "The others won't let him near the milk. He's a bit weaker than the rest."

The breeder might as well have performed a cleverly choreographed dance in a bikini, holding a flashing billboard with my name in luminescent letters pointed towards his little face. The runt was curled in my arms minutes later, a giant hole in my purse and a big smile plastered on my face.
We got home and Alfie - I'd his name picked out for the last two years, which might give you some indication of the extent of my obsession - started to pine. He keened all night long. I woke up and held him like a baby, which didn't help at all. I assumed my lack of fur and excess nipples was doing little to assure his motherless heart, and cried with him.

I cannot imagine that there was ever a more poignant moment in The Boyfriend's life than at half two that morning when he was rudely jilted from much-needed sleep by the dual high-pitched wails of his new tiny dog and his girlfriend, the latter crying rivers through her Sudocrem-slathered face, hair askew, nose running alarmingly. I could see in his eyes he was weighing up the positives for remaining in this beguiling relationship. He closed his eyes, resigning himself and lowered his voice to a whisper.

"What. In the name of God. Are you doing."

"Alf..Alfie m-m-misses his maaaaaaaaaammmyyyyyyy..." My sobs broke anew, making the glass shake in the window panes. "I...I...I'm supposed to be h-h-his mammyyyyyyy....!!!"

The Boyfriend responded by pulling his pillow over his head, not in the mood to deal with that particular bout of insanity. I picked up Alfie in a snotty huff, and stormed down to the bathroom, where the dog proceeded to spray me with the runny excrement that seems to be the token of all new borns.

The first weeks were tough. The regular bowel movements and incessant barking aside, I literally threw myself in front of a car the day Alfie escaped the front garden and tried to scare down a passing 4x4 by plonking all two pounds of himself in front of it and growling. It was a lot of responsibility for a veritable disaster-piece of a human being such as myself but I persevered -under the ever-watchful eye of the well-rounded Boyfriend.

Alfie shat - a lot.

He urinated - more than I thought a dog that size would actually be capable of expelling.

He howled.

He hated his walks, and dragged on the lead.

He was quick to snap at Dobermans and German Shepherds, a lack of unawareness of size and stature only matched by my own idiocy while inebriated.

But even with all that said; even though we had finally been granted our visa, and even though we were finally making the long-awaited plans to get a house of our own with a long lease - Alfie was the first thing that made Australia feel like home.

Discrimination Nation

For our entire first year in Melbourne, The Boyfriend and I had been house-sharing. Privacy was non-existent and when I was in one of my notorious bad moods - which came upon me suddenly and violently, much to the chagrin of anyone within a twenty mile radius - I had no where to vent. I felt very claustrophobic. 

At one point, I even reminisced about our time with Fat Shite and Sour Puss, entertaining the theory that maybe they hadn't been so bad and that I simply struggled with space sharing. Such was my temporary insanity - I knew I had to get out before before being besieged by similarly ludicrous thoughts.

Fat Shite was, and always will be, a thundering imbecile in all hypothetical universes.

In saying that, The Boyfriend and I began the arduous process of procuring a little house of our own. 

The sponsorship was in the bag - we had four years to work in Australia. The Boyfriend was contracted with the company who granted him the visa, and I was free to try my hand at whatever I pleased as a de facto. We would be able to apply for permanency after two years on the visa, and everything seemed to be slowly coming together. We could enter in to a twelve month lease - a notion heretofore shelved as a mere passing fancy.

I insisted we live by the beach. I wanted sand, sea, and sun; and I wanted it on my doorstep. The Boyfriend brought to my attention other, more affordable, more logistically sensible locations and I snorted derisively, arching my eyebrows to point towards bayside.

Every weekend was spent at viewings. We traipsed through glorious newly-builts, shabby weatherboards and pokey apartments. We applied for every single one that piqued our interest and received tens of rejections promptly afterwards. 

Perplexed, we couldn't understand why getting a house was proving such a challenge. We had full-time guaranteed work and glowing references. We had narrowed our search to pet-friendly accommodations. We offered six weeks deposits instead of the traditional four. We were doing everything right, and still getting knock back after knock back.

I was in work one day. Mr. Delhi was eating his breakfast and I was making coffees for some customers. The Boyfriend and I had put in another house application, and were anxiously waiting to hear back from the real estate agent. 

 The house was a pig-sty; our last resort. It leaned slightly to the right. It was painted a dirty yellow. There was broken windows in the porch, and a shed at the back that the landlord solely claimed for his apparent collection of rusty bicycles. We applied purely out of panic. 

As I steamed the milk, I felt my phone go off in my pocket. 

Ten minutes later, I was smoking a cigarette and cursing everyone who walked by. We'd been rejected, yet again. The landlord wanted someone local.

I've talked to a lot of Irish people who have moved to Australia and the majority have had some complaint or quibble when it came to securing a place to live. Young Europeans have a reputation of being careless backpackers down under, and landlords are reluctant to entrust their property to a couple without roots or ties to the locality. They want long-term renters. It was a desire I can understand now, but couldn't fathom at the time. Homelessmess for The Boyfriend, Alfie and I loomed ever closer.

The Boyfriend's youngest sister and her friend - let's call them Shinaynay and Awnyayyay - were on their way to Melbourne. The Boyfriend's entire family were certain the girls wouldn't make it, such was their lack of faith in Shinaynay's navigational prowess. They arrived, drooping and wide-eyed from the journey. The Boyfriend showed them to their makeshift bedroom in the back porch. It had been erected from plywood and impatience in just under two hours - and it showed.

We planned to get stinking drunk that weekend to gloss over our misery. Beanie Face joined us in our debauchery, along with his brothers - of which they are too many for me to bother naming or completely recall. 

We went to the local station and were awaiting our train towards the city, when we were approached by two burly, gun-toting policemen. 

"Get your feet off that bench," one grunted at The Boyfriend, who had been sitting on the back of the bench, feet firmly planted where one would normally place ones arse. 

The Boyfriend did as much, but the policeman remained steadfast. "There's signs everywhere saying you can't put your feet on the benches," he scolded, hand on his weapon. 

We all looked around for these signs. There were none, and The Boyfriend remarked on their absence. And I don't mean he made a brassy comment highlighting the cop's bullshit. He actually said "Sorry, I didn't see any."

Then, in an act worthy of the badge, the policeman demanded to see all of our passports. He questioned our visa validity. He asked us where we were living, and when we would be "going back home." We were asked to repeat ourselves frequently, such was his inability to distinguish legible sentences through our seemingly incomprehensible accent. 

I was sure we were all going to get shot in defence of a bench. The ludicruity of it all was almost enough to make me laugh aloud. Almost.

Our train rocked up just in time. We bailed on, and left the chuckling policemen at their post, forty kilometres from the city, at a suburban railway station. 

I was seething. The minute we disembarked, I strode right into the closest bar, ordered reams of tequila shots, smoked three cigarettes at a time. I pointed fingers at unknowing strangers, admonishing them for their assumptions, lecturing them on their convict history, dribbling inebriated insults and tarring them all with the same proverbial brush.

Australia is known for being a bit racist, Ireland is known for being a bit drunk. 

That night, both stereotypes were immeasurably justified, by one ridiculous policeman and one equally idiotic Yours Truly. 

Discrimination breeds discrimination - and that's a lesson I'll be forever grateful for learning.