After considerable pressure from animal lovers God relented and began to allow pets in heaven – provided of course that people cleaned up any mess.
“Let this be a lesson to all,” declared God, “that I am open to hearing prayerful petitions from good people.”
What excitement ensued! Lillian McPherson got her eleven dogs in a flash, to say nothing of Christopher Flannery’s seven cats, and Josephine Williamson’s seventeen rabbits.
The pets increased the delight of heaven even more than previously. Many an angel bent to pat a cat, and many a cherub gave dog-owners a break by taking the dog for a walk. All was wonderful for several years; all faithfully cleaned up after their pets.
Then suddenly Eleanor Whiddleworthy died and entered heaven through the pearly gates. While on Earth Eleanor Whiddleworthy had been a note-worthy person. She had spear-headed the fight to rid the world of plastic, she had spearheaded the fight to save planet Earth’s forest. Upon entering heaven she gathered like-minded people about her.
God was petitioned: rid heaven of plastic and stop the cutting down of forests. After considerable pressure God relented and banned plastic bags and the felling of trees to make paper bags and other wood-based commodities.
Poor pet owners! Oh the smell with no bags to gather poo!
422 Stanley Road, Stratford, Taranaki, New Zealand
November 2017 –
We had been looking for a home for some time. We had a list of necessary attributes a rental house must have. For example, allowing tenants to have a dog automatically cut out 95% of the houses. It must have space for a garden. It must have access to the internet. It wasn’t an impossible list, but it was impossible to find!
A house for rent came online. It was near a town called Waitara. It seemed to fit the bill. We expressed interest and drove the four hours to see it. Contrary to what the photographs conveyed, you had to turn sideways to squeeze past the dining table to reach the front door. And then the crunch came: of course the owners will be storing their furniture in the garage. Uh-oh! That was a warning sign. This would be a fleeting and temporary abode. We began the long journey home.
As we passed Mount Taranaki near a town called Stratford, Eric commented that in all the searching over the years for a place he had never once seen a house come up for rent from Stratford. Travel-weary, we decided to stay in Stratford for the night. The motel had a complimentary “Village Newspaper”. In it was an advertisement for a house to rent. We drove for a look. It was perfect. The next day we went to the rental agency. The woman who had responsibility for the house was away. We filled out an application form and left.
Not long after arriving home the phone rang. It was Maureen from the rental agency. The house we applied for had already been rented out, but she had another if we cared to come for a look. We arranged a meeting time and once again began the long journey in our old ute.
Maureen wasn’t there at the house. We hadn’t come all this way not to look so we went around the house ourselves. I remember commenting, “If they knew we were coming for a look you’d think they could have made the beds.” We went back to the ute and phoned Maureen. “Where are you?” she asked. “We’re here,” we said. Except – we were at someone else’s house on the wrong road!
Quickly we made it to the correct house and loved it. It filled all our conditions, except it didn’t come with any land for a cow. It had room for a garden. It was a fairly new house on a beef and cattle farm. It had a double garage, three bedrooms, and a spacious open sitting-room-kitchen-dining-room. It had a log burner. We said we’d take it, and would move in after the current tenants moved out in a month’s time.
So that is where we are today – four years later and the longest we have lived anywhere! Much has happened over that time. COVID19 struck and the business collapsed that Eric had spent years building up. Clients went from 112 down to 2, and those 2 didn’t pay. We were not an essential service. Friends helped – even blogging friends helped out. Yvonne from Australia for example sent a gigantic box of wine! What a wonderful thing to have done! We have survived! Linda and Barry, our wonderful landlord-farmers, said if things get tough forget the rent for a time and we’ll sort things out down the line. So far we have managed to pay each week if sometimes a little late!
I have never in my life had anything published and then out of the blue, resulting from the blog, two publishing companies – one in Britain and one in the States – asked for poems to go into anthologies. I am a published poet! Not many from New Zealand seem interested. In fact, as far as I know, the only person from New Zealand who follows my blog is Sylvie from Nelson – and Sylvie is French!
About two years ago our wonderful Springer Spaniel, Bubble, developed epilepsy. How terrifying to see such a lovely dog throw an uncontrollable fit. He went on medication which controlled the epilepsy. Then one Friday night he had a seizure. And another. And another. We phoned for an animal vet. Didn’t we know it was the weekend? Animals don’t take ill on Saturdays and Sundays. No vet was available. The next ten hours were the longest ten hours of my life as Bubble had over forty seizures. And then he died. We buried him in his favourite garden spot where he liked to sit and watch the farm animals pass by.
The farm is huge as is the neighbouring farm. During lockdowns we can wander maskless over hundreds of acres. There’s always something new and something different to see and do. There’s firewood to chop and gardens to weed and lawns to mow. There are preserves and jams and breads to make and new recipes to try. There are walks to take and TV and internet to watch. There’s a piano to play and books to read and blogs to maintain. There are poems and stories and music to write. There’s work to do – although sparser than we would hope.
What an adventure it has been! It is a ridiculous thing to ask “Who knows what the future holds?” But there has been a Providence directing these adventures in the past twenty years, and I have no reason to doubt that Providence has further adventures up its sleeve.
We instantly fell in love with this place during the open house that the rental agency staged. Other people attended besides Eric and me so we behaved as super nice as possible to the rental people. In the end we were lucky enough to get selected.
We met the owners. They seemed a nice couple. She was a New Zealander and he was originally from Vanuatu. Their work was one and a half hours drive away and they were tired of travelling. They would rent somewhere closer to work and rent their own place out to us via the rental agency. We signed a year’s contract.
There were several acres of land made up of three paddocks and an orchard, as well as the lawns around the house itself. The owners had half a dozen cows and about a dozen sheep; far too many for such a small property. They would feed them hay all year. Fortunately they took the livestock with them.
Billy the Goat’s house was placed in one of the paddocks and he was very much at home.
We purchased a young Aberdeen Angus cattle beast that we called Blossom. When she reached about eighteen months of age we would call in the butcher. Several months before the butcher’s engagement we bought another young cow, a Simmental, that we called Truffle. Truffle would replace Blossom.
The owners were keen that we keep the place tidy. We were permitted to have a vegetable garden under the tall trees at the entrance gate. It was infertile and shaded. The garden wasn’t overall particularly successful. We did have success with tomatoes however, as there was a concrete path all around the house and about six inches of soil with no grass growing edged the path. We planted tomatoes all along the edge of the path. Not only did the mature tomato plants flop all over the footpath making it impassable, but they produced literally thousands of tomatoes.
It was a very happy year and the translation business was going well. Such was the amount of work required that I volunteered to format the documents to be translated. I still do that to this day.
The house was modern and comfortable. I had taken up practising the piano with a vengeance. The Levin Public Library held concerts every Friday and I was invited seven times to give an hour’s concert. It was great motivation to practise the piano daily. I think the library viewed keyboard works from the Baroque and Classical Periods to be more suited to a library environment!
At one stage I had a heart attack. The ambulance arrived at the same time as the guy arrived to clean the chimney. He said he’d come back later. They put me in hospital for a week or so. The heart specialist said the arteries are so gunked up they couldn’t even do a stent. They sent me home with pills that thus far seem to be doing their job.
We got the ute (pickup) fixed while we lived here. It had become a rust bucket. And what a great job they did! It was cheaper to get it done up and made road-worthy than to buy another.
Usually a Rental Agency will come and inspect a house every three months or so and report to the owners. They were always pleased with the care we took. We signed a contract to rent the property for a second year. The day after we signed, the owners withdrew the property from the Rental Agency. They would look after the rental agreement themselves. There’s a phrase Rental Agencies have for clients who take over a contract once the paper work is done and the contract signed. I can’t remember what the phrase is but it’s not polite.
On the first Saturday after the takeover we had a six hour inspection. Every nook and cranny, every cupboard and shelf, was examined minutely. They left, giving us a list of things to be improved. They reappeared to do a similar inspection the following Saturday – and every Saturday. Eric and I would take the dog and go to the beach for the day. If it was raining we would sit in the car until sunset.
A list on the kitchen bench would greet us on return:
- There are water droplets on the board behind the kitchen faucets.
- The waste bin in the kitchen is in the wrong place.
- There is dust on the window sill in the dining room. (They would have had to have climbed under the table to see it).
- Who gave permission to plant irises in the vegetable garden?
On and on the inspections went and we still had six months to go on the contract. Things got worse. We came home after a day of sitting in the car and they had stripped every fruit tree of its fruit. The orchard was part of the rental agreement. The next thing a lawn mowing company moved in and cut down all the grass in the fields that was intended for the cow and goat. We had to quickly buy some hay. The fields were looking uncut and untidy, said the landlords. We were presented with a bill from the lawn mowing company for $180. The only thing we could do was to rent another house altogether and pay two lots of rent until our contract ran out. We made a submission to the Rental Association who ordered a hearing for the case. We were well prepared. Would you believe? We got the month wrong and missed the hearing.
The landlords seized the occasion. They took us to court for abandoning the contract and destroying property. They wanted $6,000 in compensation. They had first gone to another rental agency so that new renters could be found. We had a letter from the new rental agency saying we had abandoned the building and had broken the contract which will now terminate officially in a week. But we still had stuff at the house – such as Truffle the Cow and Billy the Goat! We quickly had to finish packing and moving. Billy went to his new home – to be cared for by one of my brothers.
The sole butcher in town was away on vacation. We couldn’t take the cow with us into town! I found the butcher’s son who could cull it for the freezer before 7 am when we had to hand over the keys. Have you ever held a light for a butcher while he guts and quarters a cow in a field in the middle of the night? Then we had to clean the house. We made it out on time yet still the court case loomed.
What nasty things had we done? “They, your Honour,” said the landlords, “have made holes in the ceiling with a broom handle, all along the corridor. And here are photos to prove it taken during the rental agency’s final inspection.” Eric pointed out that apparently they were not overly computer literate. The date and time is recorded in the photos on a computer. The photographs were taken the day after the inspection and at seven in the evening.
We knew we would get an unfavourable judgement. The judge had been efficient and curt. She clearly didn’t like us. We were dismissed with a wave of the hand and were to be informed of the outcome by letter. The landlord’s son had been murdered several months beforehand in a domestic dispute. We didn’t have such a heart-rending story to sweeten the tale.
It was the day of the presidential election in the United States. Hillary lost to Trump. The letter arrived. We have since referred to the landlord-losers in this case as “The Clintons”.
(Iseult suggested I write a story about a certain topic. (Iseult is into Horror!) Here is my contribution).
It was a route I had travelled almost daily for eleven years; travelled on foot that is. You see every day for eleven years I had taken my dog, Vladimir, for a walk. He was the most loveable dog. Owners would say that their dog is loveable, but none are as loveable as mine!
The tricks he would get up to! Sometimes I think he even tried to talk. I once played a little game with him in the kitchen. I crawled on all fours around the kitchen island. He followed, and half way around, when I was out of sight, I changed direction. He thought that very funny! Half an hour later I looked through the window, and there he was playing the same trick on the neighbour’s dog. Round and around the maple tree they were going!
Anyway, that was Vladimir, my best friend. He was a Chow Chow-Collie Cross. Every day we went for a walk. Not once had we ever used a lead.
Suddenly, appearing out of the ditch at the side of the road was a zombie. I had never believed in zombies. I thought they were a silly literary invention. But I knew, from what I had read, exactly what it was. Vladimir looked but did not bark. Most strange. I was terrified. This was definitely a dead body reincarnated. It was long undead. It was rotting. It smelt like nothing on earth. And it was lunging towards me.
I’m normally quick witted in such an emergency. I didn’t really know much about zombies. Can they talk? Do they kill? Can they understand if I say something. After all, his face and ears were dripping putrid flesh. Could they still function?
I said, “Good afternoon. Oh no, not another. My dog has already destroyed three zombies today, and the thought of having to sit and watch him destroy a fourth is starting to get depressing.”
It was a lie. The zombie knew it. It took no notice and continued to swing towards me. And then it happened…
Without warning Vladimir stood up on his hind legs. His fur fell off like he was discarding a jacket. His face was transformed. He turned into Vlad! Vlad the Impaler, known by some as Count Dracula. He swooped on the zombie and with his teeth gnawed off its head and stomped out its brains.
Next, as if nothing had happened, Vlad became Vladimir once more. You can tell when a dog smiles.
That night, Vladimir jumped on my bed to sleep at my feet as he had done for eleven years. As I turned out the light I heard him whisper, Don’t you ever tell a soul.
There was nothing particularly singular about Janice and Branwell. They lived in a suburb. They had a cat and a dog. The grandchildren would visit quite often.
Usually they took turns in walking the dog, although Branwell had the task of feeding it. Janice was in charge of feeding the cat.
One sunny afternoon the cat was particularly vocal which usually meant she wanted some milk. Janice poured milk into a saucer and placed it on the kitchen floor next to the oven. The dog barged in, which he usually didn’t do, pushed the cat aside and lapped up the cat’s milk. Janice shooed them both outside.
A few minutes later Branwell appeared in the kitchen.
“I just heard the strangest thing,” he said. “I heard it as clear as a bell. The cat spoke to the dog. She said, ‘You shouldn’t do that. You know it’s my milk’.” The dog responded by saying, “Your English gets better by the day.”
“You’re hearing things,” said Janice. The cat’s been complaining all morning.”
“It was perfectly articulated,” said Branwell, “but, yes, I guess I was hearing things.”
“Exactly right,” said Janice.
The cat and the dog sat outside in the shade. “That was a close call,” they said one to the other – but in French.
Nina-Marie had recently died and was thoroughly enjoying looking down from above at her loved ones. There was her husband Clive, her cat Maisie, and her dog Wolfgang. They certainly missed her.
During life it had always been Nina-Marie who looked after the pets. It’s not that Clive wasn’t interested or didn’t like them; it was just that the task had fallen to Nina-Marie almost accidentally years ago. Nina-Marie fed the cat and dog; Clive brought in and stacked the firewood. They were the two marriage-allotted chores that occurred most days in early evening.
In her last hours Nina-Marie had said to Clive that if she was permitted, if it was at all possible, she would give some sign that she was doing well in eternity. It would be some little thing; some surprise perhaps; something that Clive would recognize.
Upon arrival in Heaven Nina-Marie was informed that she would be granted one request regarding life on Earth; one prayer to answer. Wistfully she gazed upon her earthly family. She didn’t want to waste the single wish she could grant.
I know exactly what it will be, thought Nina-Marie. The little apple tree, the one we planted several years ago, has never borne fruit. This year it shall have fruit. Not too many apples, that would be wasteful, but just enough for Clive to say “Aha! That’s Nina-Marie’s doing!”
Nina-Marie was about to make arrangements for her “miracle”, when she noticed something; something serious. The cat and dog’s water bowls had dried up. Clive hadn’t given them water since the funeral. It was an oversight. This was an emergency. I wish he’d give them water! Give them water!
Goodness, thought Clive almost instantaneously, they’ve run out of water. And that was Nina-Marie’s one miracle all used up.
Everyone’s dog is special. And so is mine! Yesterday Bubble died. He was three weeks short of his fourth birthday.
In late February he began to have epileptic seizures. Medication began and was readjusted during the following months. Yesterday morning at 2.30 am he threw a fit. Fortunately he landed from his chair onto the piano, so it woke me up! Over the next ten hours he had forty or so epileptic fits. Medication provided no relief. If you’ve never seen a dog have an epileptic fit, DON’T!
He died around midday. We buried him on the lawn where he loved to sit and watch the world go by!
Below are two pictures. One is of Bubble and his best friend, the cat. The other was taken a few hours before the first of his final series of seizures, sitting at the wide-open front door in the winter sun letting those of us in the house freeze!
Judy rather proudly proclaimed in her stringent voice (it was actually a private conversation but she spoke loud enough for everyone to hear because she was so pleased with herself) that her golden retriever puppy had learnt to open the bathroom door and then open the shower door and get into the shower.
“Right when I’m having a shower,” she said. “Right when I’ve shampooed my hair and have my eyes shut. The first time I got a huge fright, but I’m used to it now. Such a clever puppy! Intelligent! He loves playing in water. And then by the time I’ve rinsed the shampoo out of my hair and opened my eyes, the puppy’s gone. But he always turns the light on. Isn’t that clever?”
“I thought you were going to say it was the fancy man that visits your house every day around that time,” said Ivan.
“What fancy man?”
Of course, Ivan was making it up, but he hated show-offs.
Gail loved animals, which is why she had so many pets. She had a cat and a dog, a canary and a cockatoo, a couple of ducks, a rabbit and a guinea pig and three mice. They would all run around together, except for the canary of course. The canary couldn’t run around but Gail often let it fly freely around the house provided the windows and doors were shut. And could it sing? My word! What a diva on a sunny day!
Then one day she couldn’t hear it singing. Had it perhaps escaped? Gail checked the windows and doors. Everything was closed, but it must have found an escape route somewhere. Gail opened the house up and left the canary’s cage door wide. Hopefully it would fly back.
It was quite a while after – Gail wasn’t exactly the best of housekeepers – when she was vacuuming under the dining room table that she noticed a few yellow tail feathers and a bird’s clawed foot.
By the end of the year the dog had got the ducks, and the cat had got the cockatoo, the rabbit, the guinea pig, and the three mice.
Gail still loved animals, and continued to pamper her cat and her dog. She replaced her deceased pets with a budgerigar and a cockatiel, a couple of chickens, a hamster and a rat and three gerbils.
These days Gail has a cat and a dog, and has taken up origami as an interest.