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Nearly 30 years has flowed under the bridge since I last owned a dog. That doesn’t mean that I’ve had nothing to do with dogs. It means that I’ve had relationships with other people’s dogs as a by-product of the relationship with their owners - some of an intimate nature and some not. But that’s what this series of posts is all about - the behaviour of people and dogs.

The day I met Eddie I had driven about 50 kilometres to Alan’s house on the outskirts of Nowra, a town some two hours drive south of Sydney. I’d been modifying some paint shaking machines for my brother who owns several paint shops. However, I needed  a special machine cutting tool and it was the sort of tool I’d probably never use again and couldn’t really justify its heady price tag. Borrowing was the best option.

Alan was another of those middle-aged men who was trying to get on with life after the trauma of a failed marriage. It’s funny how people wake up one morning in a 25-year marriage to discover they hate each other. Men never know why, women always tell you that the split comes from a lifetime of hell at the hands of an uncaring and self-absorbed man.

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It has always been a mystery to me how women have the amazing capacity  to remember every unhappy moment in a 25-year relationship with such graphic detail. Times, places, exactly what you did, and precisely what you said verbatim. With such a littany of beastly incidents even the most brilliant of men succumb to mind disturbing guilt. The marriage has been rotten, a journey of unhappiness since “you”, not “we”, said “I do” at the altar, they tell you.

When you ask, as all men foolishly do seeking some justification for more than half their life, if there has been even one good thing in a quarter of a century of being together, the answer is always an emphatic, “NO!” This, of course, is the trigger, the shot to the head which melts man’s brain, coddling his reason and sending him on path of self destruction.

This is pretty much the way it goes for most battlers in a marriage failure. It’s the time when men in particular busy themselves setting up an apartment. Yeah, things are great and you can put the furniture anywhere you want. That bloody awful painting she relegated to the garage can now take its rightful place dead centre above the television. Things are going to be different from now on. And, that becomes an understatement.

 

Alan was no different to most, if not all of us. His first months of abject pity and shock of losing one’s “chattel” was limited to explaining in minute detail how much he did for the world’s most ungrateful bitch. In such cases the woman is always the bitch and men are always mongrel bastards.

Regardless of who’s right or wrong the familiar tales of woe are poured upon any poor devil who stands in the same spot for more than five seconds, including total strangers in the supermarket.

Perhaps this new found openness, something which might have served well in the marriage, is the way men try to heal themselves. We blab our deepest woes to the world, women confine theirs to a close friend. And then they both confer a modified, horrific version of events to their respective lawyers. That’s when a psychotic hatred penetrates every emotional nerve centre in the body. A steep learning curve is set in motion for both parties. The results cause changes in the lives of all concerned, forever. Life takes a different course.

 In his working life Alan was a machinist for the telephone company. His garage was always a handyman’s paradise. It contained more tools and gadgets than would be found in most commercial machine shops. You could spend days discovering things both known and unknown.

Huge chests of drawers of the solid wooden type, no doubt long ago wrenched from the walls of old chemist shops, were vaults full of treasure. Drills, lathe tools, reamers and countless other bits.

Nevertheless, the gadget I needed was not to be found. If didn’t want a 3/4 inch adjustable reamer they’d be all over the damned bench.

Before leaving Alan and I were chatting by the car when a bunch of dogs came through the fence from next door. Quite content to chew ears and tails it seemed to be a mother with her litter of three or four puppies. The inquisitive one with huge ears on a tiny head dared to break ranks and sallied forth for a pat. He got his pat and  I got my hand mauled by the razor teeth of an excitable puppy and then off he pranced to further tug at his brothers and sisters.

 

I don’t know why I did, but I dropped the subject in play to ask Alan who owned those dogs and did he think the cheeky, black one was for sale.

“Oh geez, I dunno,” he said, “I know some of em were, but they might be gunna keep those ones.”

I told him it didn’t matter as I wasn’t really interested in a dog, anyway. As much as it might be fun to have a dog, my lifestyle didn’t provide the time needed to properly tend anything more demanding than a pantry mouse.

“Let’s go next door and ask em,” Alan offered.

“Al,” I said, “I spend most of my time behind the wheel. I can’t look after a dog. It wouldn’t be fair to either of us.”

Meanwhile, big ears had abandoned his fun and was now neatly sitting and staring intently at me, as if waiting for a command, or food. “Looks like he was crossed with a fruit bat with those ears,” I laughed and at that he barked at me, seemingly with indignation, and then took off through the fence and disappeared in the bush.

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More next week...... come back for the next installment

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