The locals are restless. The roads are full of camper vans. There are so many people going up Mount Roy and Isthmus Peak that toilets have been put on the tops, to be helicopter serviced at our expense. The final blow, they’ve put trial traffic lights on Albert Town bridge over the Clutha. When you see traffic lights you know things have gone to the dogs. Even my dog, Gozzy, knows you can have too much of a good thing.
Gozzy’s a Blue Merle Cardigan Corgi, which means she has blue eyes, big ears, a woolly coat, a big bushy tail and the body of an Alsatian on stubby legs. She would be hurt to be mistaken for one of those famous Bedford Corgies, even if she tends to act a little queenly herself at times.
Gozzy has perfected the world’s most effective reproachful stare. She holds the stare, unblinking, for as long as it takes. When I can’t stand it anymore and turn away but I know she’s still staring, her reproach burning a hole in my back. I usually give in.
“Okay! Okay! Get your lead.” Then she leaps about like a puppy. But mostly she walks off the lead, through the cut-over plantation or further, down beside the water race, exploring, in and out of the Kanuka. Wonderful, you might think. What dog could ask for more? And that’s the way it used to be. Gozzy would streak off after a rabbit, come back, flop down exhausted then throw herself in the water and be off again on a mad chase after the next rabbit she sniffed out.
But that was before the place went to the rabbits. It’s not only the people population that’s exploded down here. Wherever you walk you see rabbits; big rabbits, baby rabbits, whole families of rabbits, scattering in all directions. Gozzy’s no longer the great hunter streaking after her sniffed out prey; they’re everywhere. The excitement’s gone out of the game.
The thing is, in all her eight happy years of chasing, she’s never actually caught a rabbit. And she doesn’t want to. She was designed for nipping at the heels of cattle to move them on, not killing rabbits. Rabbits are for fun. But she has her pride and now she can’t even pretend. It’s hard trying to look fierce when the damn things are hopping all over as if they own the place.
This morning she was ambling after a young rabbit (trying not to catch it) when the rabbit stopped. Gozzy paused. What do I do now? Until the rabbit made up its mind to go under the fence. It’s all so demeaning. What’s she’s hoping for now is a terrible winter combined with a rabbit virus, to kill off all but the toughest, fastest rabbits. Then Gozzy’s day will come again.