Kora

By JULIE SMITH | Published: March 13, 2009

“Nope, no dogs.”

“Can I just have your attention for one minute, please? Mr Edwards, my Koolie Collie comes with two recommendations; one from a prominent dog trainer and another from the dog-wash man who is a J.P.”

“I don’t want it pissing all over the house, barking and upsetting the neighbours, Ms Ridgeway.”

“I understand. She wears a barking collar when I’m gone. The place has hardwood floors and I’m the one with the expensive throw rugs. I’ll give you an extra $1,000 on top of the deposit.”

“It’s also the fleas. Terrible to get rid of.”

“She takes tablets for fleas and worms and another medication for heartworm and ticks which costs me near enough to $500 a year. Plus, I’ll get a pest exterminator in at the end of my lease.”

Just at that critical moment which seems to lean in my favour, Kora starts to bark at a truck that’s passing by…just a soft “woof”.

“Nope, no dogs or cats”, he stated emphatically.

“It’s just me, a single woman and a 4-year-old dog. Do you have any idea what a mob of children would do to your floors, not to mention the walls? Talk about wear and tear.” Now I am so obviously desperate it’s embarrassing for both of us. Edwards shakes his head and starts down towards the shed and I follow pensively. Money, common sense, excellent recommendations…I wonder what could change his mind? Things were getting desperate and being December 2007; it was the worst year in history to find a rental, particularly acreage in South East Queensland which allows pets.

Kora the Koolie Collie bounds down in front of Edwards, tail wagging and looking just like ‘man’s best friend’. She turns around and it is at this time I look away knowing full well what is coming up; her attention to male detail. She jumps up, her front paws hitting dead smack on the family jewels.

“Kora!” It couldn’t get any worse.

Edwards turns around and gives me a scowl while he subtly pockets his hands and tries to ease the pain. I try and look for something in the sky to point out…maybe rain coming or a flock of birds…anything. This is hopeless now.

Reaching the shed, he bends down to open the roll-a-door. Kora growls and lets off a rip-snorter bark sending birds into flight and my adrenalin pumping at the speed of light. This is really out of character; something is wrong. What is it? I run a few paces to where she is concentrating and bend down. A 3-foot Brown snake is coiled two metres from Edwards’ hands and four feet from my nose.

“Don’t move. Brown snake to your left”, he softly stutters.

With Edwards bent over and me next to Kora, she thinks it’s party time; attention and show-off time. As I slowly back away, she bounces around the snake, wagging her tail thinking this is a fun game. The snake strikes out but she dodges it and runs around in her typical, anti-clockwise circle. It takes every ounce of willpower to stop from shrieking and grabbing her. She looks at me and I whisper, “Come.” Snakes can’t hear so I don’t know why I whisper; must be instinctual. I’ve owned her since she was a pup and the first two commands which are not disputed are “come” and “stay”. Kora has turned into a rebellious teenager and to my horror, ignores the command.

“I’m stepping back slowly”, Edwards says in a trembling voice. “Go into the shed through the side door and grab a shovel. Easy does it.”

I step softly around and open the door and see the weapon. I grab it starting a domino effect, knocking down a rake, hoe and broom shattering the silence with a crescendo of clattering. Then I hear Kora barking outside. No yips or hurtful tones. I’m shaking so hard I need two hands to carry the shovel out, again knocking it against the frame. I hand it over to him and with two hands and he takes it like the Queen receiving a sword for a knighting.

Kora innocently draws the snake’s attention away and taunts it down the hill towards the burn-off area. Perspiration is dripping from Edwards’ face onto the dirt creating a small ochre puddle. All I care about is her not getting bitten and the odds are rising in the snakes favour as the seconds tick by.

Edwards’ Herculean thrust fleetingly reminds me of a fence-post digger gone SCUD missile. The snake is now writhing in two parts, separated with the shovel cemented in three inches of soil. His tries to dislodge the tool but it’s stuck in hard. I don’t know why I grabbed it, but I bent it down and jumped on the handle, breaking it. He looks up at me with another Edwardian scowl and then gazes at the snake parts with hatred; the residue from a struggle between life and death. He goes through another transformation - filled with relief, looking older and tired. As he kicks the snake parts towards the burning pit he grabs his chest. Oh no, not a heart attack! The shock has hit us both. Edwards walks over to the roll-a-door and slumps down, using the handle for support. I slide down next to him and Kora, whose toy has been deactivated, comes over and licks the perspiration off his face. He smiles, pets the dog and looks over at me.

We sit in silence for some time with Kora between us. There is just enough overhang from the shed to give us shade. A butcher bird drops down and carries off one part while two Magpies fight over the remains. The enemy is gone in a matter of seconds.

I laugh and say, “And you are worried about fleas?”

Some important change takes place between us other than the obvious. Kora saves our lives, I am the Keystone Cop-weapon-retriever staying relatively cool and he is the protector. There is a bit of a bond there.

“Do you have a beer?” I ask.

“Yep.”

No need to be too wordy. We both get up like we’ve been picking potatoes all day and move up to the back porch. I don’t drink beer but it tasted better than anything I can remember…and it was cold. We settled down on some chairs and looked out over the paddock. Edwards rubs his chin and turns to me.

“How long you reckon it was?”

“The snake?”

“Yep.”

“Oh, maybe 3 feet, a little over a metre.”

“Naw, it was closer to 5 feet and then some.”

“Ok.”

Confirmed by a witness, his story can be retold about a 6-foot Brown he killed, saving a woman and her dog. Annie, don’t mess this up. He’s got to rent to us now. Just keep your yap shut and wait.

“Well, you’ll be busy packing in the next couple of weeks. Take your time and we’ll sign that lease for a year.”

“Thanks, Mr Edwards.

About four months later it’s a windy afternoon; debris from trees is shooting horizontally through the air and the 150 foot gums are groaning next to the house. I’m tucked in for the afternoon with a good book but it’s hard to concentrate. Kora is quietly “woofing” at the noise. Outside on the gravel by my window I hear foot steps. Kora starts her killer bark and I shush her. She won’t stop. I remember the 3-6-foot snake and sneak to the front room and look out the window. Two men are trying to open the door to my ute! I make the signal to Kora to bark and she let’s loose with everything she has, hair standing straight up on her back. No way was I letting her out. She would lick them and give them the keys and jump in if she could. I opened the door and yelled “Cops are on the way, dog wants to get you, so get the hell out of here now!”

I shut the door and hide in the wardrobe. Pretty stupid thing to do, but where else am I going to panic? Kora is still barking in the living room like a stuck car- alarm. I dial 000 while I hear running footsteps; they leave without the ute. The police arrive 10 minutes later and I fill out a report. One officer is short and the other tall, just like in the movies. Shorty asks all the questions while Tall Boy pets Kora.

“There’s minimal damage to the door lock, is all. They didn’t have time to rip the wiring out. How come your truck’s halfway out of the garage?”

“The back doesn’t fit. I’ll try and get the landlord to take some of the side shelving out.”

The next day I call Mr Edwards and he comes out to “investigate” the problem. Kora is splitting herself with an enthusiastic welcome as Edwards comes through the front door. Before I could restrain her, she targets his crotch/family jewels again, wagging as he doubles over.

“Ya know, you should stop her from doing that.”

“She only does it to men and well… I don’t have that many men visitors.”

“I’ll fix up the garage so you can put your truck all the way in.”

“Thanks. Appreciate it. Police said it would be a wise thing to do.” A long silence hovers between us.

“You want to sell her?"

I smile. “Nope.” He scratches his head and walks out the door.



Comments

1. David Matthew on March 14, 2009

I liked the story, it has humour and also a message........David.

2. Alison Smith on March 17, 2009

Wonderful article!

What a special dog:)

Cheers Allie

3. Lee on March 17, 2009

Terrific story Julie, I loved it!

Any Comments?


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