Why I believe dogs are man’s best friend

Man and dog on still water

Dogs are man’s best friend.  We hear this saying time and time again and very few people would disagree.  Dogs of all shapes and sizes share our homes  and are much loved family members.  They are our best friends.  Once we’ve had a dog in our life, it is very hard to imagine life without them.

There are of course just as many people in the world who think that cats should stand on the podium as the number one pet.  My own family is divided on this point and we have had both cats and dogs.  However, in this post I really want to talk about dogs.  They are my personal favourite.

Dogs come in all sizes
Mutts of all sizes

We miss our furry friends

At the moment Greg and I are dog-less.  Our last two dogs passed away three years ago.  They are both buried under the Jacaranda tree outside our bedroom on our Australian property.  Every morning as we look out the floor-to-ceiling windows we are reminded of them.  And of how much we miss them.

We miss being woken up in the mornings by wet noses pushing in under the doona, telling us it is time to get up, time for breakfast.  We miss wagging tails meeting us at the gate when we come home from work.  We even miss the muddy paw prints on recently cleaned floors.  Or being soaked to the skin as they happily shook the water off their long coats after a bath.

Dog - Man's best friend
Dogs – Come play with me

Dogs were my favourite animals from a very early age

As a child, I always wanted a dog.  I think I asked my parents for a dog as soon as I could say the word.  Unfortunately my parents, and especially my mother, did not share my passion for animals.  So there was zero possibility of a furry friend ever crossing our threshold and sharing our lives.

Instead, I had to be satisfied with walking other peoples dogs.  I planned on how I would have my very own dog one day when I was old enough to leave home.   That promise to myself was fulfilled very early on.

Girl with man's best friend - dog
Best friends

I was given my first dog as a birthday present, a beautiful three months old Afghan pup.  Until that day (when I found my surprise present whimpering in the bathroom) I had always planned on owning a German Shepherd.  Whatever possessed my husband to buy an Afghan dog I will never know, but I have now owned five of them.

It really doesn’t matter what kind of dog you own – pure bread or mongrel, big or small, long or short haired – they are all characters in their own right with the ability to enrich our lives.  They stay by our sides no matter what and all they ask in return is to be part of the pack.  It doesn’t matter that they are last in line, they are happy to follow the leader.

Dog playing with family on beach
Family and their best friend on the beach

If it wasn’t for the fact that Greg and I will be returning to Papua New Guinea very soon, we would already have a couple of furry friends around.  Due to security issues, walking a dog in Port Moresby is out of the question.  So having the company of a four-legged friend (or two) will have to wait until we are back in Australia on a permanent basis.

There are too many dogs in animal shelters

The reason I’m talking about dogs are the numerous posts on Facebook from various animal shelters trying to find forever homes for their dogs.  It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who mistreat or abandon their pets.  What’s wrong with people?

A dog (or any pet for that matter) is not a disposable item.  To be purchased as this years fashion must-have only to be discarded when the fad passes.  Or when they are getting older and maybe need visits to the vet more often.  Even moving home is sometimes given as a poor excuse for leaving a dog behind.  I know circumstances can change but, as far as I’m concerned, very few genuine reasons exists for leaving a member of your family behind. Very few!

Small dog in shelter
Dog in shelter

I didn’t start to write this post to vent my anger with people who mistreat or abandon their pets.  But I do want to highlight the wonderful work animal shelters do and the endless task they have trying to find homes for all the dogs they take in.  Most shelters are staffed by volunteers and often they get no or very little help from governments or local authorities.

Pure bred dogs Vs the “bitser”

I have always owned Afghan dogs, pure bread and purchased from reputable kennels.  Both Greg and I love their temperament and the sheer beauty of this ancient  breed .  We would happily have another two.  But when next we buy our dogs, we will have a look at the local shelters.  We might not find Afghans but we are sure to find the perfect companions to suit us and our life style.

Beautiful Afghan hounds
Afghan hounds

I know we will definitely buy two dogs when the time comes.  This way they will have a friend to keep them company when we are out of the house.  But they don’t have to be of the same breed or even pure bred, “bitsers” are just as good.  Mixed-breed dogs wag their tails equally as good as pure bred dogs and they give the same love and companion ship.

I have always felt a bit sorry for people who don’t like animals, be it dogs or any other kind.  They miss out on so much.  Animals have the wonderful ability to be funny without knowing it, they can have us doubling over with laughter just by being themselves.  By doing what comes natural to them.

Dogs playing on beach
Dogs having fun

If we are sad or upset, a friendly lick seems to say “Cheer up, you’re not alone”. Happiness is greeted by a dog dancing round our feet, wanting to be part of the merriment.  And it is almost impossible to be upset when your dog looks at you with that “Who, me???” look.  All the while you survey they carnage done to your newly purchased shoes.

Dogs also have an uncanny ability to hone in on our emotions.  Sometimes they even feel things before we ourselves do.  They detect seizures, they are our eyes and ears, our protectors and on farms they are our work mates.  But most of all, they are our loyal friends and companions.  Come what may.

Soldier with dog
Man’s best friend

Dogs give us so much more than they take.  All they ask in return is to be included in the pack, your pack.  Treat them well and they will be beside you for as long as they live.

So if you are looking for a dog, please have a look at your local shelter.  There are so many dogs looking for their forever homes.  No matter what breed, age or size you are looking for, there is bound to be one that steals your heart.

Different size dogs
Dogs large and small

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Meat sauce disaster

There are all kinds of disasters.  Some are big, some are small.  Cooking disaters fall into the latter category and today I want to share my latest one – the meat sauce disaster.  Meat sauce disaster???  Yep, meat sauce disaster.

Some days the powers above conspires to challenge us and make us doubt our own abilities.  Even the smallest of abilities.  Like cooking meat sauce. Things we can do in our sleep all of a sudden becomes something resembling rocket science and we just can’t understand where we’ve gone wrong.

It's not rocket science
Where did I go wrong?

Well, a few weeks ago I had one of those days (one of many I might add).

Considering my age (don’t ask!), I must have made spaghetti meat sauce hundreds of times.  And like most people over the age of 15, I can make it in my sleep.  Come to think of it, this time it would have been better if I had been asleep.

Because it’s such an easy and quick dish to cook, pasta with meat sauce is something I tend to cook when I can’t think of anything else.  Personally I prefer the sauce without the meat, but more often than not, Greg’s carnivorous tendencies come to the surface.  And for the sake of marital bliss, his wish is (occasionally!) my command.

What’s for dinner?

This question from Greg was met with a blank stare from me.  On this particular evening, I was not in the mood for cooking anything memorable or worthy of a picture on Instagram.  Some days are like that, both inspiration and motivation are totally missing.  Send out the search party!

I couldn’t even make a cheeky suggestion that maybe he would like to “create” something.  Greg is quite a good cook but he had already done his fair share of cooking for the week. So definitely my turn then, but what to cook?

Light bulb moment    

Pasta, of course! The trusted go-to when all imagination, like Elvis, has left the building.  Did I have all ingredients?  A quick reconnaissance mission to the pantry and freezer confirmed all stations go.  Dinner sorted!  Easy-peasy.

Onions, capsicum garlic

Mince defrosted, onion and other necessary ingredients chopped, paste ready, red wine – darn, drank that last night.  Never mind, it will still be delicious, always is.

Short time later – Everything was cooking away nicely and the house was filled with delicious aromas of onion and garlic.  Greg called out “Just got a text from the travellers, they are on the way back and will stay the night” (friends that were returning to Brisbane after a trip to top of Australia).  My first thought was, “lucky I decided to make pasta, there is always plenty to go around”.

Have I forgotten something?

By now, the visitors had arrived and the wonderful aromas were making us all hungry.  Just a small taste test to fine tune the flavours before we tuck in. Shouldn’t need much.

You know that satisfying feeling you get when testing a dish and establishing it is perfectly balanced?  I’m sure you do.  No salt, no pepper needed, it’s just right. Yum!

Cooking with spice

Well, I tasted my sauce and I did not get that feeling.  As a matter of fact, the small sample I tried gave no clues of taste what-so-ever.  There was no taste.   Zilch, nada, nothing!   How was that even possible?  I can make this in my sleep with one hand tied behind my back (slight exaggeration maybe).

Like a witch before her cauldron, I furiously added more garlic, more chilli, more onion, more paste, more everything.  I think I threw everything but the kitchen sink into that meat sauce.  The wicked witch of the west would have been immensely proud of me.

The witch

Three hungry souls were sitting at the table, patiently waiting and commenting on “how yummy” it smelt.  Wow!  Should I tell?  Nah!  I took the stance they would find out soon enough.

Giving nothing away

I put on my best poker face and gracefully placed the plates of “spaghetti a la card board” in front of them.  To be fair to all parties involved, I advised that salt and pepper might be needed.  And extra cheese. This ensured everyone was forewarned. And, as we all know, forewarned is forearmed.

Dinner is served

To the credit of our guests, they hardly raised an eyebrow. They politely abstained from trying to conjure up flavour by adding spices I had placed on the table.  And they finished their plates.  God, they must have been hungry!

Message to said guests: “Sharon and Greg (friend Greg, not hubby) if you ever read this, I am sooo sorry, please come back next time you’re passing, I promise to feed you something that is actually edible”.

In stark contrast, both my better half and I sat there playing with our food.  I couldn’t finish mine and I’m not lying when I say, it really was like eating card board (I am still pondering how this was possible).  And of course, since none of us had seconds, there was plenty left. Where were the dogs when you needed them?

Was it really that bad?

The following morning, instead of greeting me with the usual “morning darling, did you sleep well?“, Greg’s first words to me were “morning, what the hell did you do with that pasta yesterday?“.  This was obviously his gentle way of letting me know, yesterday’s meal wasn’t my finest culinary moment. As if I needed reminding!

So there you are, meat sauce disaster according to Harriet.  A culinary disaster that indeed does exist. At least in our house hold. This kind of disaster doesn’t happen that often, but when it does, it always strikes at a time when there are people other than family present to witness it. This ensures the incident is never forgotten and can be brought up time and time again when a dinner party is in need of a good laugh.

Up side to all this?  Next time I don’t feel like cooking, I’ll tell Greg I’m cooking pasta and will defrost the left over meat sauce (white lie, I threw it out).  Then I’ll sit back and watch him cook up something utterly delicious.

Chef

Have you ever cooked something that turned out to be a disaster?  If you have I’d love to hear your story.

 

 

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The side tracks of life

Before I even opened my eyes this morning, I could tell when I finally decided to do so, I would be met with clear blue skies and bright sunshine.  And it was a glorious day out there, a day that deserved a quick exit from bed and a deliberate effort to join the day.

Tree against blue sky
Blue skies

Just one problem, it was Sunday.  And Sundays are for laying in bed with a coffee and a good book, or catching up on the week’s news on TV.  Sunday is the one day of the week you don’t need to do anything, other than being lazy.  Permission granted, 100%.

That’s why it’s sometimes so satisfying waking up to dark skies and rain smattering on the roof.  No guilty feelings then if you decide to stay in bed till 11 am.  However, as I said, today was not like that.  This early Sunday morning promised a picture perfect day.  And the guilt feelings were already sowing their seeds, Sunday or no Sunday.

Gorilla lazing in the sun
Permission to be lazy

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Far North Queensland, I should point out that most mornings in Cairns are met with sunshine and blue skies (except during the wet season).  But we have had a series of wet and windy days lately, this is unusual during the normally dry winter months. The return of blue skies this morning felt like a long lost friend returning, a friend who’s return needed to be celebrated with some sort of outdoor activity.

So to break with our household’s usual  Sunday tradition, coffee and breakfast was consumed with seldom seen speed (albeit still in bed).  The second cup of coffee however,  was actually had out of bed, outside on the patio.  Just look at that sunshine!

Listening to the birds chattering away I felt inspired to get out amongst it all and I announced to my other half “I want to drive out and have a look at the Clohesy River fig tree”.  His reaction? “You want to have a look at another tree?”  “Look around you, you’re surrounded by trees!”

Rainforest trees
Trees all around

True enough, we live on the edge of the rain forest and our property has beautiful large trees all around.  But I felt I needed an excuse to venture out past the front gates, and this seemed like a good one.  This tree I wanted to see is a special one, a large strangler fig.  There are others up on the Tablelands and we have been to see them several times, but we have not been to this particular one.  And it is practically around the corner.

It’s funny how we often travel longer distances to experience new things but forget to explore what is really close by.  Treasures are not always at the end of the rainbow, if we look hard enough they might just be at our own two feet.

Since Greg loves the Australian bush as much as I do, it didn’t take him too long to get into the spirit of things.  His earlier smart-alec comment was obviously due to lack of caffeine, the second cup fixed that very quickly.

Morning coffee

There is something truly unique and magical about the Australian bush, it looks and sounds different from anywhere else in the world.   And as we turned off the highway onto the road leading into the national park, we were instantly surrounded by these unmistakable sights and sounds.

Bitumen soon turned to dirt and, as we drove with the windows down to get a real feel for the bush, the dry landscape peppered with Eucalypt and beautiful grass trees, was suddenly transformed into thicker rain forest.  We went from bright sunshine into a much shadier environment.

The grass trees mentioned (only found in this country) are a amazing, they are beautiful, very slow growing and can be several hundred years old, some have been reported to be up to 450 years old.  Peppered throughout the landscape, they look like glittering green pom-poms gracefully swaying in the wind.

Grass tree
Like dancers with hula skirts they sway in the breeze

Before reaching our destination we crossed several crystal clear creeks,  and since this is the dry season, crossing them was no problem (to my husband’s disappointment, he loves 4WD adventure). The track we were on is a 4WD track, but in dry conditions even our old Mitsubishi work horse could easily make it.

The excuse for our outing, the Clohesy fig tree, is an amazing sight. It certainly is smaller than the other two well-known ones on the Tablelands, but it is none the less an impressive sight. The other two receive thousands of visitors a year, whereas this one (due to it’s location off the beaten track) stand in relative solitude most the time.

It’s base is humongous, so large you can walk inside a hollowed out part of the trunk.  The roots reaching from the top to the ground have twisted and strangled the original tree, from far it looks like one big tangled mess of string thrown away by some disgruntled giant.

Fig tree trunk
Enormous!

It’s hard to imagine that long ago this magnificent sight started out as a small seed germinating on top of another tree, sending out roots to the forest floor.  Mother Nature really is a wonderful artist!

Sights like this is of course something that brings out the photographer in all of us and I am no different.  Dozens of photos were taken, the only problem being that with something so tall it is almost impossible to capture with a camera lens what the naked eye sees.  But never let it be said that I didn’t try.

Fig tree
Magnificent giant

Getting to a destination is nearly always half the fun and this little outing was no difference.  The fig tree was magnificent, but had we not reached the destination, it wouldn’t have mattered.  The fun was getting there, enjoying the new scenery and wondering what we would find at our intended destination.  A bit like life really, the journey, not the destination, is the best part!

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Will you still need me … when I’m 64?

Yesterday morning I came face to face with a 64 year old woman.  I walked into our bathroom, looked in the mirror, and there she was, looking right back at me.  Wow, where did she come from?

Where did the fresh-faced 20 year old girl with the velvet hot pants, short skirts and over-the-knee boots go?  Fashion wise, she would be right at home in today’s world.

Or, where is the busy 30 year old, trying to juggle being a mum to two young step children (talk about steep learning curve!) while building a business together with her new husband?

Where did the 40 year old disappear to?  She was just getting used to living in a new place again and making lots of new friends.  Starting all over had never been so much fun.

Family with Nissan Patrol
Family fun

And for that matter, what happened to the 50 year old? It really wasn’t that long ago since she was here.  A few wrinkles and grey strands of hair had started to make themselves known, but that wasn’t a worry.  Life was good!

The woman staring back at me in the mirror didn’t look too bad for her age really, a few wrinkles here and there, thick hair that now needs a bit of colouring to hide the grey and a waist that seemed to have spread a bit (OK, quite a bit).  Not to mention the effects of gravity.  Gravity wants to take over and it’s a battle to get things to stay where they are supposed to be!  All in all though, not too bad.

Frog reflection
64 years old and still looking good

But exactly where did those previous versions of me disappear to?  My husband’s comment to this was “Send out a search party!”

Yesterday was my birthday, and as you’ve probably guessed, I turned 64.  That used to be thought of as old and in fairness, to a 10 year old, I’m probably ancient and ready for mummyfication.   But I certainly don’t feel old.

Someone once asked “If you didn’t know how old you are, what’s your age?”  That’s such a good question!  I really had to think about this. How old do I really feel?

Do I feel 20?  Definitely not. Though I wouldn’t mind getting that 20 year old body back!

30?  No, not really.  But I still get the same buzz from new business ventures and trying new things.

40?  No. However, the love for new places and making new friends still remains.  And adventures are still high on the list.

Maybe I feel 50?  No, not even 50.

The woman I met in the mirror yesterday looks a little bit different than the younger versions I remember from decades earlier, but the 20 year old is still there. As are all the other versions of me.

Young to old
Every age is beautiful

So how old do I feel?  The simple answer – all of the above, all rolled into one. I feel like I’m 64 years old (or should that be 64 years young?).  Who actually  dictates how a 64 year old is supposed to feel?  Is there a golden rule?  And why are we so scared to admit how old we are.

Age is just a number and as the saying goes “You are only as old as you feel”. Well, I feel 64, and in answer to that famous Beatles song of so long ago – my husband still loves me (still needs me, still feeds me and always sends me birthday cards) and, as that other song goes … I’m feeling good!

Here’s a snippet of the song  When I’m 64 (just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about)    PaulMcCartney – When I’m sixty-four

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The law of Murphy

Why is it that as soon as you think you are organised and ready to go with a new project, Mr Murphy (of Murphy’s Law) comes knocking on your door and totally upsets the apple cart?

I started this blog as a bit of a time-filler while Greg and I wait for new work permits to come from Papua New Guinea.  Without them, we have not been able to go back there to work and we have had quite a bit of time on our hands.

After a couple of months of watching morning television, I really had had enough of adverts for “senior’s funeral services”, “air-fryers”, “wrinkle cream” and all those exercise machines that, according to the manufacturer, so handily stores under the bed (?).

Seriously, how much storage does the average couple have under their bed?  There must be a complete gym set up under there, with very skinny fairies coming to exercise while we are all asleep.  According to Greg, “if you want to know where all the exercise equipment is,  go to the fat people” (and look under the bed!).

Under bed storage

Please, before you all start attacking me, this is all tongue-in-cheek, I am not having a go at over-weight people trying to lose weight, I am simply commenting on the ridiculous claims made by the advertisers to get us to buy their products.  And their repetitiveness.  I challenge you to not consider buying something after having watched the same ad over and over for a few weeks.

I have now come to understand who the target market for morning television is;  over-weight, wrinkled seniors who apparently can’t cook.  All they supposedly need is a treadmill, rowing machine, ab-cruncher or even better, one of the new wobble boards.  They can then put on the miracle wrinkle cream, hop on the exercise machine and, while watching television,  in “just a few short weeks” be 20 kg lighter and look 20 years younger (sign me up!) All this, while the air-fryer/deep fryer/or any other fryer advertised, cooks a 3 course meal to absolute perfection.

Dinner’s ready

I got into the habit of turning the TV on at the same time as the coffee machine in the mornings, while we were in PNG.  That way we could watch the Australian morning news while having breakfast.  And that habit came back with us to Australia.  I get out of bed, turn on the coffee machine and then hit the “on” button on the TV.

Morning television doesn’t exactly motivate you and  I needed something to focus on, something new in my life.  Something challenging to keep my poor, almost 64 years old deteriorating (according to the advertisers) brain in top condition.

A blog seemed like a good idea and I finally got my back-side into gear and managed to get my website up and running.  As I’m still on L-plates and not overly tech savvy (read not-at-all but learning) it has taken much longer than I thought it would.  And this is where Mr Murphy comes in (you thought I would never get there, right?).

I really want to give this blogging business a go and I started to think that the delay with our working visas was a good thing after all.  I had plenty of time to sit down and think of something to talk about.  And to continue to learn more about the whole subject of blogging and how to get more followers etc.

But no, no, no.   Murphy’s Law as we all know, dictates that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  So after all my time management planning,  having that smug sense of “I can do this!”, I now find that the schedule can be thrown out the window. 

Deadline

We have finally been notified that our work permits are on the way and we will probably be packing our bags in another couple of weeks.  This is really good news of course, however it probably means that my blogging will not be as regular as I had planned.  And I was so exited!

Instead the time will now be taken up making arrangements for somewhere to live in Port Moresby,  making numerous trips to the embassy to get the visas inserted into our passports (nothing happens quickly in PNG), arrange for tenants or house sitters (decisions, decisions) and do all the shopping for things we need up there.  Shopping we have had over four months to do mind you.

And while we’re talking shopping, I need an exercise machine for a couple of weeks in order to lose the extra kilos that have settled on my hips while I’ve been watching TV and eating those gourmet meals.

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No more wine – I’m trying to write!

This blogging business is hard work!  9.30pm on a Friday night is definitely not the time to do it.  Especially not after a glass of wine or two … or three … o.k., maybe four.  But they were small glasses so the fourth one really doesn’t count.

I have finally come out of the closet (so to speak) and let my friends and the rest of the world know I’m writing this blog.  I’m so surprised and pleasantly surprised at the support, really wasn’t sure anyone would want to follow me.  So a big Thank You, this has given me the encouragement to continue.

As I’ve said in an earlier post, I’m new at this.  And not just new, I’m a virtual virgin.  So heaven help those of you who have chosen to follow my blog.  All I can say is buckle up and tighten your belts, this could be a bumpy ride.  But hey, we could have some fun on the way.  And as long as we don’t take things too seriously, we should be o.k.

I have just realised I posted a photo on Instagram before I had a chance to rotate it, see what I mean, you shouldn’t drink and blog!  But thank you to those of you who still liked it and didn’t say a word, you are definitely my kind of friends.  So just for your benefit, here is the picture, right side up ..

No more wine please!

Told you, the glasses were small!

I’d love to get your input and suggestions, so please feel free to leave a comment in the comments box at the end of any of the the blogs.

For once this is going to be a short post (I can literally hear your sighs of relief from here), I really just wanted to say a big Thank You to those of you decided to go on this journey with me.

 

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