The animals in my life and in my books
On my walk today there seemed to be a myriad of golden ornamental pears on every street.
It made me think about the row of poplars which ran along the driveway to my grandparent’s house in Banbury Road, Reservoir. The house, the driveway and the trees are no longer, but my memories are strong of me running along the gravel as a little girl, tumbling over more often than not, and arriving in Grandma’s kitchen with skinned knees.
I remember well, their dogs, Leo and Titch, Leo was a Kelpie cross and Titch a cute scruffy terrier of some sort.
Childhood memories and the animals which were part of our family when we were growing up, feature large in the lives of writers. I am currently reading Gabrielle Wang’s Zadie Ma and the dog who chased the moon which is dedicated:
‘For Rusty, and all the other dogs who were lost and never found their way home.’
And, glancing at the imprint page of Bob the Railway Dog, Andrew McLean’s dedication reads:
‘For all our wonderful dogs. You can measure your life in dogs.’
While my dedication reads: ‘For Sugar and Cinnamon, waiting where they wandered under the wattles and gums.’
Sugar Maree and Cinnamon William were our pet goats, belonging to our children. We loved them dearly.
The dogs of my childhood influence my writing always – a memory, a look, that furry cuddle – Jip 1 was a Kelpie who used to pull my nappies off the clothesline. My darling dad sold him to a farmer in Kilmore (he needed the space). Jip came all the way home to Reservoir (Dad took him back because it was the right thing to do!) Jip 2 – my Nanna and Pop’s Terrier who looked a bit like Bob the Railway Dog. Then came Happy, my Grandma and Grandpa’s black dog (following Leo and Titch.) Then my Great Grandmother’s dachshund had a litter of puppies, so we got Bluey (half dachshund and half whatever the dog was who jumped over the back lane fence). Bluey kept escaping over our fences and I remember countless nights walking the neighbourhood looking desperately for him.For a while we had a beautiful grey cat called Kitty. She just wandered in one day and then wandered out again. She was Mum’s favourite.
Next came Dino (named after the car, not the dinosaur) which my sister and I gifted to my brother. Dino was part heeler, very loyal and my Dad even bought an old mini-minor especially for him as he didn’t like dogs in his good car.
Later, we had the dog ‘that didn’t work out.’ Benji, who I felt sorry for in a pet shop (and the children were pleading). We didn’t have fences and after the initial shine wore off, I was the one doing all the work. We found a new home for Benji, but of course I will always wonder.
As we lived in the almost-country then, the goats were the perfect pet. Then when Wade left home he and his girlfriend bought Maverick and later Lionel, which of course feature in Lionel and Me.
Last, but not least, there is Harry the Westie – the Collins Croydon Bookshop dog who has featured in Little Dog and the Christmas Wish and Little Dog and the Summer Holiday and of course the Myer Windows (he was literally ‘in’ the windows one morning while they were filming The Morning Show.)
I could continue with all the animals I’ve met while researching and writing my books. Although there were so many I was unable to meet, I met many look-alikes – I spent hours and hours with the elephants at the zoo (Queenie One Elephant’s Story), I sat with many Heelers (Dog on the Tuckerbox) I watched the gibbons at both Melbourne and Adelaide Zoos for days on end (My Friend Tertius), followed Tosca the cat who lives next door and watched the black cat who looked exactly like Trim, who appeared on the doorstep while I was writing (A Cat Called Trim), I met Smithy and Gillie and used their photos for (Bob the Railway Dog) and I had the absolute privilege of meeting the real Subbie and spending precious time with him (Subbie and his mate.)