Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Smell of Affection: Wet dogs and my neighbourhood.

Kapiti Island lies off our beach. Picture by Jim McIntosh.

That smell is in the air again, sweet and greenstalkish, the residue of the usual neighbours' Saturday afternoon subjugation of Nature, with scything line trimmers and charging raucous mowers.

Selonie is cooking curry. That cloying, pungent sweetness spelling the worst of gas attacks in trench warfare. I look forward to her morning cup of aromatic Gujarati chai though.

Ray's beheaded his captive golden-tressed  damsels of racked roses, their glorious crowns no longer complimenting his terracotta-tiled keep. The best sight and perfumes are last month's siege.

Rudayna, at Unit 10, has already prepared her week's Weightwatchers salad in bulk. That sugary-acid smell of pickled cucumbers hits me. 10 jars covered her table last time I collected the rent.

No 7 is well camouflaged behind rampant 'camo' gear of purple Ake-ake and variegated green and yellow Lemon-wood. I crush a tender leaf and draw in deeply.

5 has trimmed his ranks of eucalypt soldiers to attention. Those volatile oils offer a ketonic nasal assault, clearing any remnant unseen lurkers in my olfactory bunkers.

Lorna, at 3, has tied back her sweet smelling carnations, and put her hollyhocks to the stake. Rampant in colours of white, reds and purples and heady in perfume. Just a whiff gets to me.

Joe is having fresh-picked tomatoes for evening salad. Chives and mint scents waft out his door. I'd add basil and half a chopped chili.

We reach the beach, no exhaust fumes, it's clear of day-invaders with just locals on R and R.  Who wouldn't be, on such a glorious Summer's early evening? Ambushed by pungent smokey-lamb mixed with garlic and rosemary nostril openers, the barbecue is so entrapping. Kids charge from their beach landing-craft in waves, as mum yells like a Beachmaster "It's ready!"

Sand, gritty and chafing in sandalled water-softened feet. Tua Tua and Pipi shells crunching, fragments flicked up and catching between straps, daggering tender skin.

Wave-scalloped, rippled sand patches, and we are walking like giants flattening Namibia's desert dunes. It's a gentle violence though.

Seagulls wheeling, and squealing their alarm above terriers, boxers and mutts chasing nothing in frenzied, unleashed excitement managing to avoid the dive-bombing Stukas' aim. Wet dogs sure smell. How come they always want to jump up on you when they're wet? Or shake the water off and give you a car-wash? Our Lilly is particularly pongy now.  

Salt, seaweed, and decomposing wave-ground detritus aromas mixing like the best Islay single malt nose. The 10 year old Laphroaig, Geoff and I broached last night, will be a consummate pleasure of truce talks after our evening reconnaissance.

We return through reserve land smothered in blackberry and fennel: nothing nicer for apple pie. Blood-red stained hand releases a clutch of juicy Rubus blasted with the overpowering concentrated-coriander smell of squashed vegetable-stinkbug. I wonder if they could flavour Chinese dishes?

In our street, that lingering tangy, sweet cut-grass smell still permeates the evening air, surrounding our patrol's end. It signals the end of conflict now.
It's the smell of love, or the sweet scented signal of caring, the aroma of pride that neighbours have for our beach side community. You hear it first, you see it and then you can smell it.
I surrender to the smell of affection.

For Lilly. 
Our street. Raumati South, New Zealand. Picture by Jim McIntosh.

This little story has sat in unfinished files for too long. I had always wanted to write about our walks, with our dog Lilly, around our neighbourhood.  The evening walks along our beach have always been a simple but immensely enjoyable pleasure for us, more so with a big, smelly mutt for a great enthusiastic companion.
Last Monday on a writing forum, another author posted a topic which spurred me to reply, and I then felt compelled to complete this. I finished it last Tuesday, and uploaded 
it to my writing course blogsite. 
That night Lilly died suddenly. After our glorious evening walk she suffered a twisted stomach, and a late night rush to a vet failed to stop her demise.
The loss makes you realise how much your life can revolve
around a dog. That smell of wet dog is very sadly missed.




Serena Lewis said...

You write so beautifully, Jim. What a beautiful place you live in and your description was wonderful. Of course, being a curry lover, I would have viewed your description a little differently. hehe The part about Lilly had me in tears. I can't help it as I'm such a sap when it comes to animals and, having two fur-kids myself, I know how much you must be missing her presence.

Take care,
~ Serena

Jim said...

Thanks Serena for the positive comments. Been in a travel writing course so the writing has improved somewhat LOL.

RyukyuMike said...

Sorry to hear about your loss, Jim. The writing has always been excellent.

Jim said...

Truly sad Serena to lose one so unexpectedly, right after the most enjoyable romp on the beach. Stomach twisted and too late to get her into a vet late at night.

A sad lesson not to let a dog have vigorous exercise after feeding.
Normally our walk is prior to feeding, but this time we fed her then went out later.

Anyone reading this please heed the warning. Predators such as lions wolves etc have lots of exercise in chasing the kill, gorging, then sleep it off. That's how they evolved.
Feeding then vigorous exercise afterwards can see the stomach- particularly large dogs- twist and strangulate both openings then it fills up with fluids and gases distending and pressurising and cutting off blood supply to vital organs and compacting the lungs. So watch for the signs- bloated, and panting to get air.
Get to a vet quick.

Jim said...

Thanks Michael. Love your photography and writing also!

David said...

Great blog, I really enjoyed it.