Friday, August 28, 2009

Dog know-how

The question I'm trying to answer is: Who taught my dog to swim?

It wasn't me. I have no experience whatsoever in teaching animals to swim. Besides, I wouldn't have the financial means to hire a talented swimming coach to give Sophia lessons... which are no doubt highly expensive. The only plausible answer that comes to mind is that my daughter Manya has gone to the trouble—secretly, without ever informing me—of initiating Sophia into this sporting activity.

To be frank, I find that Sophia's style in the water could be improved considerably. For the moment, it's fairly primitive: a sort of paddling action, like a child. I don't think my dog has ever tackled anything in the way of breaststroke, butterfly or backstroke. But I guess that'll come, if she continues regular training.

Suddenly, I'm reminded of a delightful true story concerning a knowledgeable but eccentric lady in Sydney named Beatrice Miles. She was notorious because of countless amusing and less amusing incidents, often involving city taxis. Although "Bea" (as she was called) had inherited amply financial resources, enabling her to reside in the posh suburb of St Ives, her specialty consisted of often taking lengthy taxi rides, and then refusing to pay the fare... for reasons that were hard to fathom. Whenever she was in need of cash, she would resort to highbrow busking, reciting lengthy extracts of Shakespeare on street corners in Sydney.

The anecdote that just sprung into my mind has nothing to do with taxis or Shakespeare. Miss Miles had decided to visit the famous surfing beach of Bondi with a pet sheep. An inspector complained that it was against the law to bring animals to the beach.

Bea Miles: "The sign says that dogs are prohibited. This is a sheep, not a dog. The sign says nothing about sheep."

Beach inspector: "Lady, this is ridiculous. There's no grass here for your sheep to eat."

Bea Miles: "My sheep hasn't come to Bondi Beach to eat. It merely wants to do some sunbathing."

Getting back to my dog, Manya and I noticed that, after a minimum of swimming and basking in the sun, Sophia definitely likes to visit the Bourne with eating in mind. That's to say, she's likely to forget suddenly the chilly stream and the warm limestone rocks, before disappearing into the riverside weeds and bushes and searching excitedly for scraps of food left there by campers and other visitors. She always seems to be tremendously happy to find a fragment of abandoned food in the wilds, so to speak, as if her archaic hunting genes were getting back into momentary action.

It's a fact that Sophia at Gamone, like Bea's sheep at Bondi, likes to spend a lot her time simply sunbathing. And, these days, there has been a lot of sun around. Then, as soon as her internal temperature has peaked, Sophia dashes into the kitchen to cool off by lying on the cold floor tiles.

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