By Tim Turner

    Our family hasn’t had much luck with pets. I don’t think we’re irresponsible (although I was not as devoted as I could have been to our guinea pigs) but we just don’t seem to be able to keep them around for very long. Even most of the goldfish ended up disappearing from the small pond outside despite me putting a mesh cover over the top to protect them.

    Pets can give you lots of positive experiences. I’d enjoyed living with a dog growing up and thought it would be good for my own kids to do the same. Who doesn’t like the friendly welcome a dog gives you when you come home (even if sometimes the slobber gets on your pants), the unconditional love (as long as you keep the food coming) and the fresh air and exercise you get when taking your dog for a walk (okay that is sometimes a pain in the arse). Did I mention the unconditional love?

    Despite not having had dogs in her family when she was younger, my partner was very supportive of the idea. As is her way, in no time at all she’d found a socially responsible way for us to own a dog via the pet rescue websites and then found the right one. A young (about 18 months), small, ‘blue’ whippet. Actually she was grey, but apparently blue means grey in the dog world! I really liked the quiet, gentle nature of whippets and their Egyptian hieroglyph-like shape. Whippets are also quite lazy dogs and good for apartment living, another couple of traits that suited me. She was perfect. We called her Misty.

    Whippets were bred for hunting rabbits (be wery wery quiet) and although I was aware of some possible dangers around Stony Creek Reserve, I couldn’t deny Misty the thrill she got at seeing the white flash of a rabbit’s tail and giving chase at high speed. If there are rabbit lovers reading this, remember that they are an introduced species and if it’s any consolation, the rabbits always made it safely back to their burrow.

    Unlike at Cruickshank Park, there’s no ‘dog on lead’ restrictions between 3 and 5pm at Stony Creek. When the kids were at primary school this was the perfect time to take Misty for a walk, after the school pick up and before preparing the evening meal. So, although there is the constant hum of background noise from the rubber on concrete far above the creek, a disquieting buzz from the overhead high voltage power lines and the occasional odd protuberance from the ground as a reminder of the parks history as a dump, I was there regularly in the early evening with Misty. Stony Creek can be a lovely place to walk at this time of day if you narrow your field of view. The late afternoon sun brings out the textures down there (as well as the rabbits). It’s at its best when the pig face comes into flower dotting the area along the creek in pink.

    Misty had been part of our family for a few years and much loved. This particular evening she had been frolicking around Stony Creek and I noticed her worrying some bushes, her head darting back and forth. I assumed she’d spotted a rabbit and thought nothing of it. She continued tearing around the park; I always admired the strength of the muscles in her hind legs and enjoyed watching her run, then suddenly she collapsed!

    “Shit!”… I ran over. She couldn’t get up. I carried her from the edge of the park opposite the Mobil tanks back to the car, parked a few hundred metres away in a side street off Francis Street. I went as quickly as I could with her weight in my arms, stumbling over the uneven ground.

    Misty was yelping in pain by the time I got her home. It was late, but a friend is a vet and I knew he wouldn’t mind me calling. I described the symptoms, he could hear Misty’s agony in the background. “She may have been bitten by a snake.” He gave me the details of the emergency 24-hour veterinary practice in the back streets of Kensington and we rushed her there. They were wonderful and professional and did all that they could.

    Water and rabbits are a good combination for snakes and Stony Creek Reserve has both. I had heard some suspicious rustlings at times during my walks there, but never saw anything. The Council were very responsive when I emailed and suggested that some snake warning signs be put up (I wasn’t laying blame, I just wanted to warn others). I’m not sure if they did it because of my suggestion, but the signs are there now.

    We do still have one surviving goldfish. It has no name, but long may it live.

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