For those who have difficulty with my ‘Strine accent?!? – the transcript –
A Little Honey called Candy
“What a honey of a dog.” I smile too, as I picture that golden puppy as I first saw her, in a pet shop cage.
Many life happenings conspired to create the ten-year gap from when our family dog Kim died, until I could get a puppy again, but finally the time and place had come; we could expand our furry family.
What a roly-poly golden girl Candy was, with huge melted chocolate eyes. Despite starting life as a city slicker, she happily made the ‘tree change’ with us. Framed by the endless horizon of her new great outdoors, she appeared incredibly small and vulnerable.
“But Candy didn’t feel small and vulnerable.” Kanute is looking over my shoulder as I write.
“I know. Funny little girl—she embraced farm-life with gusto, just like she faced everything else in her world.” Her ever-twitching nose showed how much the new smells and sounds enchanted and intrigued her. Every new creature she met became another friend to investigate and play with—and lick half to death.
Candy was no watchdog. Her supposedly warning bark always came with a furiously wagging tail, and the broadest, dumbest grin imaginable. A burglar could have taken everything we possessed, and she would have given him a kiss goodbye.
Following her ‘paws-on‘experience of growing up with her kangaroo sibling Ooroo, Candy decided to co-raise all of my numerous rescues—feathered or furred, two or four-legged; it mattered not at all.
I laugh. “We developed quite a following, Candy and I.” At its largest, I think maybe 14 baby somethings, eager to go with us wherever we went. Getting through the door to our farmhouse—or the famous outside toilet—without them, was quite a trick; almost an art form.
They had no conception of what species they were – dogs and cats, kangaroos and horses, wallabies and chooks; plus lambs, goats, emus, and calves. All simply family.
One fairly ordinary day we travelled to our nearest town 28 kms (17 miles) away for shopping and mail pickup, leaving Candy locked inside, as we suspected she was close to coming ‘on heat’ (the most likely point of her oestrus cycle to mate successfully) for her first time. On the unthinkable off-chance, we put her out of harm’s way, in a room with high windows—my kitchen.
Total chaos confronted us on our return, two hours later.
“Oh no… burglars?” My heart was suddenly thundering painfully, fearfully, in my ears. We truly believed our home had been burgled through the window over the kitchen sink. A dish-drainer full of crockery, cutlery and saucepans had been overturned, and broken china littered the cupboard top and floor like a drunken mosaic.
“Look at the window,” I said. “I didn’t leave it that far open.” It was a heavy casement window that could only slide up and down, so there was no way a sudden wind could have moved it.
“And how about the fly screen?” It was ripped almost completely off. It hung by splintered shreds of frame. “I don’t get it,” Kanute continued. He was frowning and shaking his head in bewilderment. “… a burglary? Out here?”
A burglary would have been novel indeed, because when I suggested the door was ‘locked’, I actually meant ‘closed’. We never locked the house in our time there. Had there ever been a burglar, he needed only to walk straight in through front or back door.
Sounds a bit slapdash in today’s world—but back then it was the ‘norm’. There’d have been nobody except our animals to hear an intruder breaking a window or door down, given the distance to the next farm. Would also have been a long way to travel for a dubious heist! How nice to have lived in days like that—far from city lights and frights.
Our shock and horror worsened as we realised Candy was nowhere in the kitchen.
“That’s impossible—surely a little dog like her couldn’t have climbed up and out of there?” And yet the scattered cutlery and smashed crockery said that she most certainly could.
A quick check through the rest of the house found everything intact. Definitely not a burglar. Some hours later Candy returned, bedraggled and woebegone, with guilt etched deeply into her sweet face as though stamped with the burning brand, ‘Scarlet Woman’. We never discovered who the faceless father of her children was; obviously a total ‘fly by night’ thief who left her to face a swelling stomach and subsequent motherhood on her own.
“He was black, Christine. That much we’re sure of” Kanute’s words bring me back to today.
“Hmm, and not only in his big bad heart.” “The babies’ total blackness was somewhat of a clue. Not a hint of golden hair to be found anywhere.”
What a tough call for Candy and me nine weeks later, when the saga reached its climax. Candy’s restlessness began from early morning; her bulging belly hanging close to the ground.
“This is going to be the day. I’m sure of it.” I felt excited and a bit scared too. It was, after all, a first for both of us. After having already witnessed many sheep giving birth, Kanute was relatively unimpressed—or so he pretended. Not me. I was totally involved in this one. I made up a bed of old jumpers and towels, and Candy scratched them into a rumpled heap. She turned around six times, lay down and got up again—then repeated and repeated this procedure. There was no way to calm her as her contractions escalated into a more rhythmic pattern, coming closer together each time. Poor little mother Candy—she was hardly past her own puppyhood. Far too young for this painful experience.
Finally the first black head appeared – the unknown ‘something’ that was hurting her unbearably. She twisted sharply around, ready to punish the cause of all this angst – and would have succeeded if I hadn’t quickly lifted it out of reach. But already, she was too preoccupied with giving birth to the next… and the next.
“How about her heavy panting in between those deep breaths before each new arrival? Just as though she’d been going to the best pre-natal training classes.” I feel my eyes narrowing. Strange what an animal does instinctively.” Kanute nods. He’s seen that same breathless gasping and panting many times over the years; cows, horses, sheep—all do the same, naturally.
Candy’s full motherly instincts quickly saw her washing those first tiny faces, and clearing mouths and noses with her searching tongue. As another, and yet another baby appeared, it felt like ‘The Never-Ending Story’ would be an appropriate title for this event. Candy’s worried face showed she couldn’t believe her increasing family. Nor could I. Several were already nuzzling her teats as she continued giving birth to more. Finally—eight babies later—Candy could lie back and let them jostle and squeak and feed until they had a bellyful of milk, and fell asleep in a line—mouths still attached to her teats.
“Eight beautiful black babies.”