Sunday, 8 June 2008

Tammy-the-rat's Excellent Adventure

Apologies to Bill and Ted. Apologies also to Tammy who actually seems to have more intelligence (but less moolah) than those worthies.

About 10 years ago we had to put down our dog Boney due to kidney failure. As it was becoming increasingly hard to travel anywhere with a dog we decided we wouldn't have one, much as I love the animals. Some fair time after that Hilda, Francie's Mum, acquired Tammy, a small pooch which I quite enjoyed taking for walks etc when we visited Adelaide.

I think as a result of this it was announced that "If anything happens to me Martin will take the dog." One of those statements that cannot be answered in the negative. Now that Hilda has had to go into care that particular vulture has come home to roost.

In fact the dog's adventure started with wings as it was decided that Adelaide was too cold for the dog and it had to be transported to Canberra. No-one was driving over in the near future (and on our next trip we're coming back via Broken Hill and Brisbane). Thus the canine was put on Australian Air Express and sent over to us arriving at 8:30pm. When I tell you that AAE is a joint venture between QANTAS and Australia Post it will be no surprise that it was actually 9:20 when Tammy was passed over to us. Also, since this was at Canberra Airport no-one would be surprised that it was bloody difficult to find the air-freight place after dark because there is only one sign to it!

She is about 20cm long and probably weighs in at 1kg ringing wet so it was a surprise to find her travelling in a box that could accommodate a medium sized pig-dog (plus a small pig). However it did make getting her home easily. She was very pleased to get out of the box and even more pleased to go for a walk around our lawn: on a lead of course. I realised that our lawn is used by kangaroos, swamp wallabies, wombats, possums, rabbits and foxes - none of which are common in Brighton South Australia (except possibly the possums).

When we eventually went to bed she was put in the laundry with some of the stuff she had travelled over with to keep her company. She almost immediately starting yapping - we think it was "I'm excited but lonely." and decided to treat her like a child by ignoring her. To my pleasure it seemed to work: after about 15 minutes she quietened down and we all got a fair nights sleep.

She has continued to improve her behaviour well beyond that which she used to display. After 4 days she generally comes when called (although I suspect that wouldn't apply if she had some wildlife to chase) and is quite affectionate. In her later days at Brighton she was showing no sign of being house-trained but so far, touching wood, there have been no problems in that regard. She seemed to enjoy her day in the vege garden with us.














This update is being composed after the first 10 days. This has not been as unpleasant as we had expected: there is still a bit of yelping at night but we are administering a little direct negative reinforcement and hope we'll break that habit soon. She continues learning (despite being an old dog) although, as forecast above, she shows no sign of responding to commands such as "Come" if something really interesting such as a kangaroo is in the vicinity. On the positive side, she is always pleased to see us when we come home and when I let her out of the laundry in the morning.

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