Seventy-nine steps to freedom. In that seventy-nine steps I stop for a dig in the garden. It’s my garden so although my owners ask me not to do it I do it anyway, spraying dirt everywhere. Then I walk quickly across the bitumen road, a quick stop for a piddle at the telegraph pole and then only forty-eight more steps to release. He lets me off the lead before the dog free sign but I never run backwards. Why would I? On my release I run full pelt towards the river, my long ears flying in the wind barking for the sheer exuberance of it all.
I stop when I reach the T intersection in the path as the gum tree straight in front of me always has new smells for me to sniff at. From there I go left as far as the mown grass. I’d go into the long grass at the edge but I am always called before I can get in there. They don’t like me in there because of the snakes, the sticky grass seeds and because they can’t see me.
Sometimes I’m lucky like today. Today there was a dead bird on the grass which had probably been killed by another bird. It’s feathers were spread all over the place and it’s body had been picked almost bare. It didn’t stop me though. There is nothing like a dead bird or a bad smell that gets me rolling with joy, covering my body with the stench of it. I am after all a bird dog. I have a soft mouth so I don’t destroy them and if I smell like a bird I can sneak up on them in the bushes without them realising I’m there. My owners are never too happy when I roll. They think I smell bad enough anyway because of my sardine diet but they object so much to my rolling pong I always get a wash when I get home.
From there I run along the river. There are three small beaches and at each one I jump down onto the sand and paddle. One day I will try swimming but I’ve never been swimming with my old owner and I’m not sure that I know how. I am eight and a half after all. After each of my paddles I fly from the waters edge and jump in order to clear the eroded river bank. There is a jumble of exposed roots and you have to jump quite wide in order to clear them and hit the solid earth on the other side. Zac, my old pal, can’t quite make it anymore and his back feet often fall down between the roots. He has mostly learnt to leave the beach at safe places but I worry he’ll really do himself an injury which will prevent us from taking our long walks.
There are a few fisherman that use these beaches as well and it is always worth a good sniff as often their bait prawns are dropped. The second beach is best for this as there is a timber pole with a small square platform on the top which they use to cut up the fish and hold their bait. Sometimes if our owners don’t notice Zac and I get a few tasty morsels before we get called away.
There are oodles of people walking in this park because they can let their dogs off the lead. I don’t worry about the dogs apart from a quick sniff but I always sit and look lovingly at their owners from my hangdog eyes, my tail wagging quickly from side to side and they always bend and pat me, cooing sweet nothings at me but at least sometimes I get given a treat that was intended for their dog. I am just irresistable.
We walk down the path which winds its way through the tall trees. There are paper-barks which I love rubbing against as they are so soft and soak up the messages that have been left for me. The grey gums are great shade trees but they are a bit dangerous. One came down in the river at one of the beaches and another when we were in the park, but luckily not underneath it, lost two of its huge branches. It was cleared up fairly quickly but the one in the river is still there looking like a skeleton lying in the river.
If it is a bit cold we walk down the middle of the park which is all grass and with no overhanging trees very sunny. When we do that I usually chase the ball. I try to avoid giving it back as I get sick of running up and down the park. I’d prefer just to pick up my postcards and leave my messages in return.