Before we moved to the country we lived in the Sydney suburb of Lidcombe. The first animal that came into our lives was Spotty, a portly fox terrier with the long wavy tail. One day he trotted into our front garden and just stayed. He moved with us to Yerrinbool and lived a long and happy life chasing rabbits, cornering them in pipes which lay in abundance on our property. My father would upend the pipe and next thing the rabbit would be skinned and cooking in a camp oven over a fire. The rabbits were always fed to the dogs as my mother couldn’t bear the smell of them cooking.
Trixie, the tortoiseshell cat, became my friend in a hotel in Cowra. As usual, I accompanied my father on one of his business trips and got to know Trixie so well after three days that I begged to take her home. The hotel owners were glad to be rid of a stray cat. My mother was not so pleased as Trixie was female and produced litters of kittens with monotonous regularity.
Other cats and dogs came and went, usually meeting with their deaths on the busy Hume Highway which ran past our property, but Trixie and Spotty were smart and outlived them all.
My father brought home a newly born lamb he found on the highway. We fed it with an eye dropper and then a bottle with a teat attached. Paddy had a tail which was unusual for a sheep as they are usually docked to prevent flystrike. Every day I would move him out of his cage to a new piece of grass. He became very strong and would pull me over as soon as he was set free.
We had another sheep we called Sputnik because she would run round and round her post until the rope became too short for her to move.
When we moved to the country my father bought hens and ducks. We had to shut them away at night so the foxes wouldn’t get them. The hens were easy to look after and produced eggs which were fun to collect. Once they stopped laying they lost their heads on the chopping block and were transported to the laundry where they were dipped in the boiling hot water of the copper, plucked and cleaned. I was always intrigued and revolted by the varying colours of their intestines.
The ducks were harder to look after as they produced little ducklings which seemed to die at an alarming rate. We took them into the warm kitchen and kept them at the side of the stove in an attempt to keep them alive. The ducks finally disappeared, whether eaten by foxes or escaping from their compound, but the hens continued to produce eggs and obediently hopped on their perches.