Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

Who, me?

The dry heat of Broken Hill suited Maggie.


Late afternoon walks in the desert were slow and leisurely, as befitted an elderly dog showing signs of arthritis; her gait was stiff, she couldn’t climb into the car without help, and clambering to her feet after a nap took considerable effort. She definitely had arthritis.

It was partly our fault. Maggie was a lean twenty-three kilos when we adopted her, a weight that ballooned to thirty-two kilos within the first twelve months. Neither of us would admit it, but we each had a sneaky regime of feeding her treats. ‘Don’t tell,’ CC would urge as he slipped her scraps of buttered toast. ‘Here you go,’ I’d whisper, letting her lick a bowl of ice cream.

She went from this…


… to this.


Faced with the prospect of cold damp winters in Sydney that would exacerbate her aching joints, we got a grip and Maggie lost weight. We added a daily dose of glucosamine, gave her regular cartrophen injections and her condition improved. Even so, climbing into the car was beyond her, even when parked next to a kerb. Maggie would raise one front leg and bump it clumsily onto the back seat then painstakingly lift the other leg. With her front legs in the car and her back legs on the kerb she would wait for someone to tuck an arm under her stomach and hoist her into the car.

‘Poor thing,’ I’d say.

‘Lazy more like,’ CC would grumble.

Two weeks ago I added blood and bone to the raised beds in the back garden. It’s probably the wrong time of year but I thought it might help the grapefruit tree that seemed to be struggling. While I was at it I added a handful to the roses, the honeysuckle, the bulbs, the late flowering gardenia, the dormant frangipani and just about every other plant in the beds (random acts of kindness that come to think of it probably did as much good as feeding Maggie treats.) I dug in the blood and bone and covered the soil with mulch.


Ever since, I’ve noticed patches where the mulch has been pushed aside. Slight depressions in the soil suggest someone has been eating the blood and bone. A cat? A rat? If that were the case, Maggie would have barked, surely? Maybe it happened while we were out?

I checked more closely and noticed that, sure enough, the garden was disturbed whenever we went out. I found holes in the mud, pieces snapped off the geranium, broken stems on the honeysuckle.

I was forced to consider the possibility that Maggie might have been responsible, but how? Brick walls as high as my knees protect our garden beds and this is a dog with severe arthritis. She can’t even climb into the back of a Ford sedan without help.

Well I would make a rubbish prosecutor – I was looking for means and forgetting the power of motive.

One afternoon this week I went out, realised my purse was still on the kitchen table and nipped back home to find Maggie standing in one of the garden beds, nosing through the soil.


The garden beds are far higher than the back seat of the car, so I assumed Maggie would never be able to jump into them. Wrong. The tantalising promise of blood and bone overcame her arthritic hips and she rose to the challenge. Maybe she’s not so arthritic after all?


I have no idea how she did it and she still refuses to jump into the car. Short of sprinkling blood and bone on the back seat I’ll have to keep lifting her in.

Mind you, there is still some left in the bag, and dogs do respond well to rewards.


If ever I happen to give you a lift, please don’t think that awful smell in the car has anything to do with me.




16 comments on “Who, me?

  1. Hel
    July 10, 2014

    You seem to have forgotten how adept Maggie was at clambering – nay, positively leaping – onto the new sofa when you were out, Sherlock!



  2. She has blackmail down to a fine art!


  3. wingedprisms
    July 10, 2014

    Delightful story! Sounds like she has you trained. 😀
    cate b


  4. Val Lord
    July 10, 2014

    OMG….I so hear you Deb…we wondered why our dogs were getting so fat when they had so much room to run around in at BH…but when someone asked what we fed them…it would be the usual reply from both of us…they get a cup of dry food and 1 tablespoon of wet food, once a day….what we failed to count was the vegemite on toast (1 slice each) that they would have with Andrew before he went to work and then the left overs after our dinner at night….we were their worst enemy! We will see what happens when we return. But like Maggie, they wanted us to put them up into the little farm vehicle (higher than a sedan and lower than a 1 tonne tray back), and we did this a few times, until they realised that we were going without them unless they jumped in..haha…and they did! Love your story! Man’s best friend certainly knows how to wrap us around their paws!


    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      July 11, 2014

      I always admonished CC every time I caught him slipping her a snack, then I’d do exactly the same when he wasn’t looking! Talk about hypocrisy (hope he’s not reading this post.) Vegemite on toast is Maggie’s all-time favourite snack. Or yogurt. Or omelette. No, hang on, cheese on toast! You get the idea 🙂


      • Val Lord
        July 11, 2014

        Oh yes! I get the idea!! Peanut butter on toast is also an all time favourite and how sad is this…so the two kids (our beloved dogs) remember that we are thinking of them, we had the girls drop in some loaves of bread and some peanut butter to the kennels for them to make toast for them!!…never ends even when you are out of the country! lol


  5. wendylockyer
    July 10, 2014

    She has you right where she wants you 🙂 ha ha


  6. candidkay
    July 10, 2014

    LOL. This reminds me of my black lab mix, Bailey. She also needs to be lifted into the car but I know she can jump in b/c she’s done it. And the vet told us she needed to lose 15 lbs:(. So do I. We’re doing it together:).


  7. debhuntinbrokenhill
    July 11, 2014

    Funny how stubborn they can be. Maggie claims she can’t walk any faster than an airport travelator. She refuses to be rushed and looks hurt when you apply pressure on the lead. ‘Don’t you realise I can’t?’ is what she’s clearly trying to communicate. Her bluff is called when a cat appears and she morphs into a greyhound. Good luck with your regime!


  8. nantubre
    July 11, 2014

    I’m a sucker for my 3 schnauzers although it is my husband who is the one who ‘sneaks’ the snacks to them. Me? I give them treats at bedtime – nobody is looking then, lol


  9. debhuntinbrokenhill
    July 11, 2014

    Sneaky Nan!


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This entry was posted on July 10, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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