Meet Steve (not his real name). He belongs to my derring-do daughter.
He’s an eleven-month-old puppy weighing in around 40 kilos. He’s the best bitza around, to my mind: staghound mother, Rottweiler father and Labrador paternal grandfather (bits ‘a this and bits ‘a that).
He hasn’t grown up yet, mentally or physically, and his legs are so long he looks like he might trip over them as he runs, but the other evening he proved himself a worthy and protective companion at derring-do daughter’s side.
That’s Steve’s history to date. But the other night he had a first. Derring-do was filling her car with petrol, strangely proud that the four-wheel wonder, her first car bought with her own earned money, had just hit 300k on the clock-ometer and only required an oil change once a fortnight. 40 kilo puppy was in the back seat – his place – lounging on the worn vinyl and no doubt thanking his human mum for the horse & hay aroma in the interior which makes him feel so at home.
Cue louts at another bowser who had just filled the tank of their loutmobile.
“Nice dog. What is it?” said lout boy #1.
“Wouldn’t mind one,” said lout boy #2.
“Not sure,” said derring-do, glancing at them and keeping her answers to a minimum. “He’s a rescue dog.”
“I want one,” said lout woman who’d just got out of the loutmobile.
Yeah, right, thought derring-do.
All three stepped closer, and derring-do felt the claustrophobia of their intent to cause trouble. What kind, she didn’t know. Just pests wanting to pester and scare? Probably. Steve, the big pup who lets kids rumble with him, prefers most of the bed space to just his half and who gives derring-do a quick, soft bark if she sleeps through the alarm at dawn, started growling, and she didn’t tell him to stop.
She toyed with the pump, taking her time as she finished the job, giving them extra minutes to leave. They didn’t. The woman stepped closer to the car and Steve growled deeper. Derring-do pretended to fiddle with something in her car, pretended to look for her bag and her money. But they didn’t leave, so she went inside to pay for her fuel.
Steve breaks free and reaches mum who holds him by the collar. Now he’s home. Now he knows what he’s supposed to do! He barks, then some. Add the growls at the base of the barks and suddenly the 40 kilo puppy is learning how to be a grown-up. Derring-do is using all her strength to hold him. She’s reasonably tall, and slight, but she works with horses and that means hauling hay bales and wheelbarrows full of whatever's needed. She's been prepared for bush fires, she's helped rescue horses from bush fire vicinities, and that takes muscle and brain. She’s strong enough – just.
“Come here, doggie,” says lout woman, getting agitated and scratching at the track marks on her arm as the boy louts move closer and back her up.
Derring-do tells her where to go. An older woman at another bowser is looking shocked (wouldn’t we all) and the fuel guy from inside has come to the door. A sensible derring-do girl knows trouble when it’s facing her. Steve is barking, and some. Derring-do is holding onto his collar, the tenacity in her nature coming to the fore. All that effort of getting up at 5.30am to sort out half-ton animals since the age of fourteen is instilled in her psyche. She knows that sometimes, you have to be tough and the only way you’ll be tough is if you’ve worked hard, mentally and physically, to get to that place, but it’s still an enormous shock to be confronted in this manner.
Lout woman didn’t get any of this. She got angry, using mature language, or in this case, immature.
Adrenalin thickens derring-do’s throat, but she’s not giving up her dog. “I’ll let him go,” she tells lout woman. She said later that she had no intention at that moment of letting him go because she didn’t know what he would do. This had never happened to either of them before. He might go for lout woman, or he might charge her, knock her over and then run off down the busy road never to be seen again, or worse, cause an accident. She also said later that if there’d been a brick in her hand, she would probably have thrown it as they continued advancing on her. I would have done the same. "Hey! That's my daughter!"
All this happened in seconds. Then, suddenly, the louts decided they’d had enough, got into their loutmobile and drove off without paying for the now nicked full tank of fuel.
Derring-do daughter asked fuel guy if she could take Steve inside to finish paying for her fuel, and retrieve her keys and bag.
Steve hasn’t grown up yet; it’ll take another three or four years for him to reach doggie manhood. In that time, he’ll be treated with respect, love, and will be taught his manners and how to behave. But a warning to every lout with intent, don’t mess with my daughter because Steve will be at her side or on the back seat of her car, and believe me, once he’s reached full potential, an itty bitty lout, no matter how muscle-bound or aggressive, isn’t going to stop him from at least attempting to protect his mum.
And if Steve’s not there, or if you do harm anyway, you’ll then have to face me and all I can rain down on you.
There’s a lot of trouble out there for our puppies and our kids. It doesn’t always hide in tall grass and behind a clump of trees, or in alleyways and bad suburbs. It’s on the streets, everywhere, all neighbourhoods. Our good, hopefully mostly respectful, hard-working young people have to face much more than most of us did at their age. They’re partly used to it, because that’s what the world is like now, but there are shadows on all corners, even in daylight, that can still shock and hurt.
I say we teach our puppies and our kids about life, and also let life teach them, so that they’re at least reasonably prepared for the day they might have to run, shouting and creating as much fuss to get noticed as they can.
The Turnaround Treasure Shop, book #4 in Jennie's bestselling Swallow's Fall series will be released 22nd May 2015.
Will she be using an adaption of this tale on one of her next books?
Photos author's own and Pixabay.com