Animal House

My dad is becoming increasingly eccentric post-retirement. Over the past five years, he’s gradually built up something of an animal village in his sizeable backyard. I’d never have guessed that this was something he might have wanted back in the day, but I’m coming to suspect that it’s always been on his agenda. He seems to get so much joy from his animal companions.

It started with two rabbits, which surprised me – he’s always put on this ‘tough guy’ front. Why not a pit bull? But it seems that it was all an act – part of being a big-shot stockbroker – and not who he really was. That much quickly became evident when I saw him doting on the bunnies. Next was four chickens, each of whom he’ll fondly describe for you as though he were talking about a favourite aunt.

A couple of years back he acquired two pups from a friend of a friend who’d not had her female border collie desexed. In the course of looking for a pet desexing vet in Moorabbin (not wanting to have to deal with pups himself in the future), dad stumbled on a noticeboard where someone was looking to rehome an elderly cat. Naturally, he took the cat in too; she’s still going strong, and majestically lords it over the household (if not the street).

Over the course of all this, dad has become well known by various local vets. He’s managed to become a minor celebrity at the Bayside-area animal hospital to which he’s had to rock up, on more than one occasion, with a dog that’s swallowed a pair of underpants. On one of those occasions, he came with a chicken in tow as well (Betsy had received a nasty peck on the leg from Gertrude).

Apart from medical support (and advice on how best to get the dogs to stop pinching things from the clothesline), dad’s also availed himself of veterinary services such as puppy preschool, which proved to be a great success (underpants aside).

He’s ‘the pet guy’ now – there’s no two ways about it.