Before Apollo retired he lived with our ewes, guarding them and their offspring against all threats. He not only spent his days with the girls, he slept outdoors with them as well. When Apollo became too old to chase foxes and the like, he handed the mantle on to Penny, his daughter, and settled down to a life of easy retirement in our house yard. Being a Maremma, he knew that he needed to protect something from the evils of this world and as we humans insisted we didn’t need his protection in our own back yard, Apollo took the only course open to him and undertook to guard the toilet in the laundry.
From then on Apollo spent his time BB (Before Billy) divided between sleeping on the laundry floor, up close to the toilet when the weather was too hot for a large white dog to bear, and snoozing in the sun on cooler days. He slept most nights on the back porch eschewing the thick, warm blanket we had provided for his comfort (didn’t we know that Maremmas are used to living tough!?) and rising at dawn to meander off to have his morning exchange of insults with the working Kelpie types who live outside the house yard, before returning to the laundry toilet for guard duty.
For the first few days AB (After Billy), Apollo saw no reason to alter his routine. It then dawned on him that while he was whiling away his hours in the sun and indulging in a well earned snooze, that upstart Billy was indulging in his own, less well deserved snooze on Apollo’s laundry floor! Within half a metre of the vulnerable, unguarded toilet!! Apollo considered his options.
Option 1. He could ignore the blatant grab for this prime piece of real estate and tell everyone (especially Billy) that the weather had cooled down enough for him, Apollo to leave the laundry and spend his days and nights under the stars – it wasn’t as big an imposition to him as it might be for a certain, less civic minded, pampered dog who’d never guarded a sheep in his whole worthless life, naming no names (but it begins with B and rhymes with silly).
Option 2. He could stand his ground and insist on possession of what was rightfully his and therefore be required to participate in a number of possibly bloody skirmishes.
OrOption 3. (and Apollo’s favourite) Give his humans that long suffering look he’d developed and taken to an art form, sigh heavily and then limp painfully down the back porch to try to find a comfortable spot in the whole uncomfortable back yard (making sure his martyrish behaviour was keenly watched by his human family).
Not only was this option Apollo’s favourite, it was also his most effective for gaining possession of the coveted laundry floor. No sooner did I see Apollo limping uncomplainingly away from the laundry after slowly climbing up the back steps, hobbling towards the laundry only to gaze disconsolately at Bill sprawled out in the laundry doorway (Billy tends to overflow the laundry – he just can’t fit all of him inside when he lies down), than I turfed Billy out of the laundry and invited Apollo to enter paradise.
Apollo walked regally into the laundry, stopping first to sneer at Billy, who was being held back by his collar to prevent the inevitable skirmish for possession of the floor. Apollo took his time finding just the right spot to lie down, greeted Shadow as a welcome guest (Shadow had sole possession of the laundry before Apollo’s retirement), shut his eyes on Billy’s indignant face and indulged in the sleep of the victorious. From that day on Billy vowed to make the laundry his own. Shadow didn’t really care who thought they had the deeds to the laundry, because both Apollo and Billy magnanimously allowed her to take out a tenancy agreement for her little patch of the floor (complete with her own quilt, dog dish and water dish). I have a sneaking suspicion that both large boys know there’s no way they are going to be allowed to turf the Silky type out of the laundry, and that she wouldn’t go quietly anyway.
The ensuing battles were quick and decisive. Each morning as Apollo left the laundry for his morning constitutional and insult swap with the Kelpies, Billy would be waiting at the door ready to claim the coveted prize. Apollo, on his return, curled his lip, slinging an insult or two at Billy. Billy, who couldn't believe his ears, retaliated by going for Apollo’s throat. Apollo in turn snapped and snarled and bit any piece of Billy he could reach and a tournament to the death was in play. This of course brought all humans present, to the scene of the battle with plenty of yelling, tugging and not a little in-fighting between the assembled humans. In the end, the canine combatants were separated; Billy removed from the battlefield and given a strict talking to about appropriate behaviour towards one's elders. Billy always adjusted his features to register a combination of regret that such an incident had happened, shame that he had given in to his baser instinct and just a touch of, “I could have taken him down if you hadn’t interfered”. He then stalked off and found some other, less desirable spot for his morning snooze. Thankfully no real injuries were incurred by either dog during these tussles for supreme rights to the laundry. I wish I could say the same for one of the poor human referees.
It was during one of these heated exchanges, when I was the only human for miles around that I sustained the worst war wound to date. I was trying to come between the two combatants (I can’t haul either of these large boys off each other) when Apollo’s canine tooth connected with my arm instead of Billy’s body, producing a deep hole that penetrated right into the muscle of my forearm. After the dogs were persuaded to go their separate ways, though still swearing under their breath at each other, I retired to the house to tend my wound. The next day my arm was sore and swollen, but I had expected that. What I didn’t expect was what happened that night. All I needed was an anchor tattoo for my left arm to look exactly like Popeye’s! The brilliant red colour didn’t seem right either so Graeme drove me to the hospital where I was given a tetanus injection and antibiotics for a particularly nasty infection. My arm mended nicely and each day saw the swelling go down little by little.
It was after this that Billy found the most blatant racist law ever had been invoked at Spring Rock! The laundry was hence forth off limits at all times to St. Bernards. While Maremmas and Silky types were free to come and go as they pleased, St. Bernards were totally banned. Why wasn’t the United Nations informed!? Where were the economic sanctions against these cruel, racist people and their modi-coddled dogs? Billy wasn’t going to take this lying down (if you’ll excuse the pun). He’d fight the good fight (and if the occasion called for it – the not so good fight too). He’d never let an opportunity pass that he didn’t try to claim his rights of equality and make a stand for all St. Bernards wherever they were, and get into that laundry!
The one good thing that seemed to have come out of my pain and injury is that Apollo and Billy seem to have lost the taste for battle. Neither has ceded rights to the other where the laundry floor’s concerned, but they have agreed to find another way to sort out their differences. At the moment studiously ignoring each other seems to be the tactic of choice. Miette has lodged a protest because she enjoyed watching the battles, now sadly a thing of the past. Miette’s philosophy on life is “You can never have too much strife or violence!”
Apollo, now assured of sole possession of the laundry if you don’t count Shadow’s portion (and he doesn’t) has returned to his BB routine and enjoys quiet days of soaking up the sun and warm, comfortable nights sleeping in his laundry to the sounds of Billy’s snores on the other side of the door (and oh sweet victory, not in the laundry). Billy is welcome to Apollo’s shunned blanket on the porch because we bought Apollo two fluffy bath mats with rubber backing so that his old legs have no trouble with slipping on the tiles. Billy refuses to take Apollo’s cast offs and once again the blanket lies ignored on the porch floor.
Billy now claims the front veranda as his very own and spends a good part of every day dozing on the cold concrete in the overly cool shade. The front of the house doesn’t catch much sun, so while it’s a desirable location in the summer, it’s far from a sought-after spot in the cooler weather. Billy, if you were to ask him, would tell you that his ancestors are from Switzerland and Riverina winters are no more than a nice summer’s day in the land of his ancestors.
While the battles have ceased and Apollo and Billy have learned to studiously ignore one another (I think Apollo took lessons from the ferrets here). They are never to be found in the same part of the yard at the same time. Billy hasn’t given up his quest for the laundry floor although there has been a hiatus in the push for possession. One day he’ll arise the victor of oppression and again lie in the laundry (or all of him that will fit anyway) and claim the tiles, for all St. Bernards everywhere!!