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10 September 2003

"Don't put your backpack there," she said. "That's the dog's couch."

Like the obedient houseguest that I am, I removed my things and moved them to the kitchen table.

The dogs are lovely. Keno (10) and Chippa, who turns 6 today. They are German Shorthair Pointers (or GSPs). They let Peggy live here because she takes such good care of them (and because, with no opposable thumbs, they are unable to write cheques to make the house payments). But it's pretty clear who's in charge.

The lounge area--"living room" to the yanks--consists of a TV, two reclining chairs, the "dog couch," two dog beds (one of which sits squarely in front of the heater (so they can keep warm), and a box full of doggie toys.

Peggy's bed, a queen size, has an electric blanket under the bottom sheet. Her side is set at "1," the dogs' side is set at "3"...they like it a bit warmer. And if it's not warm enough, there are those fleece-lined coats she made for them.

(this is actually Chippa and her friend Khasi)

On my first night here, "tea time" rolled around and it was time to feed the dogs. Out came a plastic container of a concoction she'd made for them and two large bowls. Into the bowls went some kibble, a couple of spoonsful of the concoction, some hunks of "meatloaf" which she cut off of what looked like about a 10 lb. roll, and 2 chicken necks. The dogs leaped excitedly and followed her to the patio, where they slurped up their meal and then came in to get a doggie treat for dessert.

"Are you hungry?" she asked me.

"Sure," I replied.

She began putting something in a pot to warm.

"Wait a minute!" I said. "Isn't that what you just gave the dogs?"

"Yeah," she replied in a tone that asked "and yer point is...?"

It's "dog soup," she explained. She makes it once a week and it consists of bacon bones simmered with so many vegetables that some of them I don't even recognize the names of. Then she tosses in a handful of soup pasta and divides the whole thing into containers for the week for the dogs.

I had to admit it was tasty (though I didn't get a doggie treat when I'd finished).

When we were starting to think about the next day, Peggy, who is not really a big food person (she is that person I admire--one who eats to live, not like me, who lives to eat), asked "what about breakfast? What would you like for breakfast?"

Thinking I'd be very easy and agreeable, I noted that I'd seen some vanilla yogurt in the fridge and that would be fine.

"That's for the dogs," she said. "I mix it with some cereal for their breakfast. But I guess you could have some of that."

Gee. Thanks.

A few more days of this and I might start craving kibble.

Roo encounters #2 and #3

I decided this morning around 3:30 that I had singlehandedly stopped the drought in Australia. It was another monsoon, which not only woke me up, but which apparently knocked out the internet connection, so I was left with only starting a journal entry I could not post and playing free cell. I did both until it was light.

When the rest of the house came to life, we headed off to the park again. I didn't take my camera this time because the weather was iffy and I didn't want to risk getting the camera soaked. I was, of course, sorry for that decision, as it didn't rain and there were many good photo ops.

The first were the roos at the neighboring cemetery. The ones we saw yesterday headed off quickly, but today's lot were just grazing on grave flowers and I could have gotten some good shots had I had my camera.

But we didn't watch them for long because Chippa startled a rabbit and the poor thing was running so fast to get away from the dog (who probably wouldn't have known what to do with it if she'd caught it) came zipping past us, tripped on a rock very near Peggy's foot and did a sommersault before racing off again, with Chippa in hot pursuit.

Being in the bush is really a wonderful experience. Like a wildlife park without a gift shop or ice cream vendor. We saw beautiful pink and grey birds (called Galahs) in a tall eucalyptus tree, watched white cockatoos and a green parrot fly overhead and land on nearby tree branches, and watched black cockatoos flying off to some other destination.

We left just moments before it started raining again, though only lightly now.

Then came the inevitable decision: what to do today?

The choices seemed to be zoo or the new maritime museum. I was inclined toward the museum, given the weather, but Peggy was optimistic about our chances at the zoo, and pointed out that the museum was in Fremantle, and that after we'd walked around inside, we would want to walk around outside as well, so the weather would still be a factor. The zoo it was.

Well, we didn't quite have the blue skies we'd hoped for, but after a cloudburst or two, it was a quite nice, and tolerable, if a bit cold, with intermittent slight showers.

The Perth Zoo is very nice, and nicely laid out. There is an extensive Australia section (not surprisingly) and Peggy talked me into petting a (very wet and not very happy looking) kangaroo (the ultimate Australia experience, right?). I have to admit that after even only two days running with the dogs in the bush and catching glimpses of roos in the wild, it made me sad to see these guys cooped up in a zoo, even if they aren't confined in a traditional cage.

I definitely felt the same way about the caged birds. I'd watched wild cockatoos and Gallahs flying around the eucalyptus trees at the park and it seemed very sad to see them caged in the zoo.

Less sad looking were the koalas, still cute and cuddily looking. There were three and two were curled up tightly against a tree, huddled to protect themselves from the rain, while this little guy was quite active and performed nicely for those of us with cameras trained on him.

We walked around the zoo for about 4 hours, stopping toward the end for lunch. My knee was finally starting to notice that I'd been walking on it a lot the last couple of days, so it appreciated the chance to sit and rest.

We had one last stop to make before leaving, and that was to check on the new rhino baby, born in December. It is always amazing to me that the infant of anything has a softness in its look that makes it cute, even if it's something as ugly as a rhinocerosis. The baby was actually playful, galumphing across the pen, trying to get some response from Dad and investigating his aunt in the next pen. We spent a lot of time watching him until the rains threatened again, and it was time to turn the wheels toward home.

One last stop--the grocers, where Peggy actually bought real food. People food. And she came home and cooked. We had a lovely dinner of lamb chops, baked potato, Greek salad, and sauteed mushrooms. The dogs didn't get any of it, and I didn't have to eat a doggie treat for dessert.

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