A SHAGGY DOG STORY

 Monty the Stones Corner dog 1

A Shaggy Dog Story 

Down at the local shops in the shabby, run-down, inner-city suburb of Stones Corner, there’s a statue of a dog with a shopping bag in its mouth. It’s a friendly looking dog, a Labrador in fact, carrying an old fashioned straw basket in its smiling jaws.

His name is Monty.

Like Monty’s more famous cousin, the statue of “The Dog that sat on the Tucker-box, five miles from Gundagai“, there is of course a story attached to this statue. It is a story both heart-warming and melancholy, and which also strangely illuminates the way Australian Society has been changing in recent decades, and the tensions that have arisen from those changes.

Its important to remember that dogs have played an important part of the Australian psyche in the past. In a hard land with a laconic outlook, where self-pity was fatal,we allowed ourselves to sentimentalise the Dog, perhaps because it possessed that one trait admired above all others in the Australian Culture of Mateship and that trait was loyalty.

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Early Australian folklore abounds with tales of loyal, heroic dogs. Henry Lawson’sThat there dog of mine” is the quintessential example of this genre. (Henry was a maudlin drunk and really knew how to churn out the tear-jerkers and I defy anyone to read this story without getting a trifle misty eyed.) That story used to appear in every Aussie school-kids first reading primer as I recall, but sadly these days Henry is probably better known to school kids for appearing on a bank note. Still you can find it online at..

http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/12032/

I was thinking about all this recently while watching a lovely little Australian film, “Red Dog” (featuring Koko the wonder dog). Red Dog is the story of one of those, intelligent, independent, social dogs that like to roam and have many friends. In time in fact became, the Community Dog.

I knew a dog like that in my childhood, who coincidently, was also called “Red”. Red was owned by the local electrician and loved kids. He wandered over three suburbs and had friends everywhere that he used to visit. He always got on with other dogs too and was a regular visitor to my family’s home.

*

But that was back when kids roamed free until sun-down and registered,well behaved dogs could quietly wander streets unmolested

Now there are leash laws, and fencing laws and anti dog regulations everywhere. They cannot run free on beaches, parks,camping grounds or the streets. These days the city is no place for a dog. Admittedly there’s less dog shit on the streets, but has cleanliness cost some of our soul?

 

stones corner dog 3

And what of the Stones Corner Labrador you ask? Indeed, it is a good spot to end my rambling, for in a sense it is a modern version of Henry’s story, but with a somewhat different ending.

Most of Brisbane’s inner-city suburbs have been gentrified in recent years, but around the Stones Corner-Buranda-East Brisbane area, hemmed in as it is by highways, hospitals & car-workshops and with a concentration of Housing Commission flats, a little pocket of the underclass survives. The Stones Corner “shops” have thus kept something of their old working class character.

But times perhaps are even harder now, for half of the shop fronts are empty.

All the useful little businesses have long gone of course, the green grocer, the butchers, the hardware shop, even the pawnbrokers. They’ve all been swallowed up by the Big Companies-the Woolworths, Bunnings and Cash Converters of the world- who put them out of business and left the area nothing.

Then the Urban Development idiots thought a bit of street landscaping would turn the place into a “Fashion Shopping Precinct“-resulting in a row of tacky “Marked down to $20” dress shops. Most of these have since gone belly-up. Only the pub continues to thrive.

But back in the Eighties this was where the locals came to do their shopping, and Monty the dog, being a local, did likewise.

You see, Monty’s human “owner” ( Dave, I think it was) was a nurse up at the Hospital, working late shifts and sleeping odd hours, as nurses do. Man and dog were a well known and popular sight down at the shops, as Monty liked to help by carrying the shopping basket in his mouth and as Monty was an intelligent beastie, Dave would often send him down there by himself with the basket and a shopping list.

The shop owners would fill out the order and Monty would dutifully carry the groceries back home. I’m not sure what the payment system was, and whether Monty carried the money as well or whether his human settled up later, but at anyrate the system worked well for all concerned.

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Indeed, as Monty was a sociable and independent dog, he also took to visiting his human friends down at the shops when Dave was at work. Everyone in the area knew Monty and his basket. Shopkeepers, old people, little kids. They all loved him. Monty’s local fame was such that he even appeared in the local paper in one of those “feelgood” feature articles you get on the weekends.

As is the way of these things, Monty had become the Heart of Stones Corner. So much so that a statue was paid for and raised by the local community, and the local councillor, eager for a photo-op, got it approved. It was dedicated with great fanfare, but dark clouds were looming on the horizon.

For as fate would have it, soon after, the Brisbane City Council passed the towns first restrictive dog laws. No longer were dogs free to roam the streets unattended. They now must be kept on a leash or in a fenced yard. Didn’t matter if it was a Chihuahua or an elderly Beagle, all were treated like savage junkyard guard-dogs.

Then one day the unthinkable happens. Monty is picked up by the dog van on the way to the shops and taken to the Pound! A Local sees it happen and spreads the word. Dave bails him out and is warned not to let Monty go down to the shops unattended again or he’ll be taken away permanently.

There is of course Community outrage and petitions and letters to the paper and appeals to the Council. I think there was even a rally in Monty’s cause. He was a special case, it was argued, he wasn’t just any dog, he was the Community’s dog as much as Dave’s dog it was felt. He had a statue for gods sake!

Time to cue Happy Ending and syrupy strings..

 ??

But alas this is not a film. This is not “Red Dog” or “the Castle.”

This is the real Australia. The underdog doesn’t win. The Bureaucrats don’t bend. Rules are always rules, there are no exceptions, and dogs must be kept off the streets. Even Monty. There is no place anymore for a “Community Dog” in todays well ordered world.

Dave is disgusted and announces that he and Monty are leaving. He goes to work in a regional hospital in a small country town where big-hearted dogs can still roam free. The Council left the statue there, but it was a hollow gesture,

they’d ripped the heart out of the community.

So today the statue of Monty the dog

looks down an empty street of boarded up shops

and wonders where his friends all went.

stones corner with Monty

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badseed birthday

***

!!!

The Reverend hellfire is a practising Performance Poet, Secretary of the Kurilpa Poets and an ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanists AND the Church of the Universe

His Achilles heel are his feet of clay.

***

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~ by reverendhellfire on May 26, 2013.

2 Responses to “A SHAGGY DOG STORY”

  1. Good story. Annoying writing style

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