Wally the Thief

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Appointed to a new forest but the start wasn't easy.

Submitted: April 05, 2019

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Submitted: April 05, 2019

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My wish was granted when I was appointed to Naseby Forest after my final year of training, but when I arrived, Jack the boss wasn’t too happy that I’d brought my dog, Wally with me. Jack was taller than me, well most are, so it was easy for him to look down his nose when he growled, saying that if the bloody dog causes a single problem, he’s out. Well, Wally was a Doberman-Shorthair Pointer cross and while he had grown into a large dog, he was still a pup with puppy ways, so I was a bit intimidated by Jack, which I suppose was his whole idea.

Jack was further dubious about my presence because I was the first out-of-training ranger to arrive since the guy who imbibed too much, disappeared and turned up in Christchurch hospital needing his stomach to be pumped out! There was a camp with six huts and an ablution block, but no cookhouse, meals were taken at the pub across the road or if there was an argument, at the other pub down the road. The problem I had, was that I had nowhere to house Wally, so for the first few nights he slept in my little stationwagon.

During the weekend, I visited the rubbish tip in the hope of finding materials for a kennel, but luck smiled on me because there was a rickety old kennel dumped there. I figured that I could rehabilitate it, so I took it back to the camp and sat it beside my vehicle. Gus the forest’s handyman was there at sparrow-fart the next morning to fix the door on the bog-department in the ablution block and he saw the kennel. I was at work but he took it upon himself to repair it and lined it with off-cut timber to keep the frost out. It didn’t please Jack though, he said I had to pay for the timber and the handyman’s time! I never received a bill, so I never paid.

Jack’s wife was a school teacher at the local school and their six year old, Marie was in her class. Four year old Sammy usually went along too, but one day, Jack was in charge of the young fellow. Jack stopped to check on something at the block known as the Black Forest, it was only about twenty acres and not very dense, but he managed to lose Sammy! Twenty acres isn’t too hard to search so Jack radioed us and luckily someone was close enough to the radio to hear. There were six of us and one of them suggested we pick up Wally to sniff the boy out. I wasn’t keen because it would delay us by ten minutes or so, but nobody seemed to be worried and the rest thought it was a good idea. Jack didn’t! He gave me a dirty look and asked what the mongrel was doing there! The block was almost square, near enough fourteen chain square, so we lined up one chain apart and planned to do two sweeps. So in today’s language, we were twenty metres apart.

The others managed to put me next to Jack, who was on the outside and it was he who was calling out the boy’s name. Nearer the end of the first sweep, Wally stood pointing! I expected he was pointing at a rabbit or a quail, as he would do on our evening walks among the old sluicing and along the water race. Sure enough though, he’d found Sammy who was fast asleep among some tussock! After that Jack rather liked Wally and had a bit of faith in me, so much so that when he and his wife needed a baby sitter, I was it.

From the start, I was training Wally, but more intensively after I arrived at Naseby, because Jack’s words were ringing in my ears, ‘If the dog causes a single problem, he’s out!’ The big thing, I thought was whining at night. His kennel wasn’t allowed near the huts, but behind the ablution block in an untended area of ground. I tidied it and mowed the grass. Whenever Wally made a peep at night, I went out and gave his kennel a bang with a rolled up newspaper and had a quiet talk to him, it was a commitment I stuck to.  He improved but still woke me a couple of times through the night, so I stuffed an old pair of my stinking socks full with newspaper and sat them in the kennel with him. I thought it imitated a couple of sleeping pups. Whatever Wally thought of it, or maybe it was the whiff from my socks that made him sleep, but from then on he was no trouble.

Early morning and in the evening after work, we went up to the hillsides where the old timers sluiced in their quest for gold. Some of the relics were still there. The first lesson was for Wally to walk beside me whatever the distraction, I taught him to run out to hunt only when he was told. I actually wanted him to point for deer, but there were none around Naseby, but I wasn’t so keen on him pointing at rabbits and hares, but it was in his breeding so in the end I allowed him to do his thing. I fed him mainly on special dog biscuits, which he learned to catch when I tossed them in the air. For all food including meat, he learned to wait until he had permission eat and I could take it off him at any time. He was an intelligent dog and I put my faith in him – I could rely on him.

One morning I decided not walk among the sluicings, instead we headed towards the small creek at the bottom of the village. On our way we passed through the shopping area where we encountered a black and white cat. Wally, I could tell was keen on a chase and looked up at me for permission. I shook my head and he obeyed. I puffed out my chest, proud of the young dog. Half a minute later, a hawk carrying something I couldn’t identify took my attention and when I looked down Wally wasn’t there.

I thought it unlike him, but I suspected he was after the cat, but there was no yapping as he always did out on the chase! Some cat owner was going to be angry, and I feared the consequences! Next thing Wally came scurrying around the corner of a building with a length of a dozen or so sausages trailing behind him! The building was the butcher shop and the butcher, who was running to retrieve his produce nearly ran slap-bang into me! I couldn’t help laughing, and by this time Wally was half way home! I called out stop, and he did! I called him to me and he brought the sausages with him.

Luckily the butcher also saw the funny side, he’d seen me about the village with my dog, but sternly suggest I buy the sausages and take them home with me. Fair enough and I winked at him suggesting that a lesson was needed. I didn’t want Wally to eat those sausages, so I asked him to dump them with his waste! I didn’t want Wally to become used to feeding on ill-gotten gains. The butcher agreed and chuckled as he returned to the bowels of his shop pocketing the cash.

We grew into a good team and I really could trust him, which was down to the time I was able to spend with him when we both were young..


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