Steve Hart: The day our rural idyll went to the dogs

By Steve Hart

That's a good dog, but not all are, unfortunately. Photo/Getty
That's a good dog, but not all are, unfortunately. Photo/Getty

A pet dog is like a young child.

Without guidance, discipline, set boundaries and reward for good behaviour, each can go off the rails. Our prisons are full of people who struggle to understand right from wrong and live within the boundaries of what I call 'social norms'.

It's the same when it comes to puppies. Unless their owners teach them how to behave, to come when called, to heel and generally not be a nuisance to other people, our four-legged friends will do as much as they can get away with.

Unfortunately, because one dog owner didn't control their family pet yesterday, I spent last night digging a hole in the garden to bury our chicken. Henrietta (we thought it a funny name) would lay an egg most days and those we couldn't use were given to our neighbour.

I know the difference between a shop-bought egg and one plucked from our hen coop, and you can't beat freshly laid.

Henrietta arrived about two years ago. Back then I thought one chicken would be indistinguishable from another. But getting to know Henrietta's little ways, habits, various noises, and mannerisms, I discovered pretty quickly that she had a personality all her own.

She was smart, always able to dodge a hand coming close to stroke her pure white feathers. She was funny as well. We'd see her sprint across the lawn when we arrived home and then almost screech to a halt to nonchalantly step up on to the deck and casually waddle to one of many feeding bowls. She was good fun to have around.

She preferred porridge oats to the chicken feed we bought from the local farm store. And she'd battle the sparrows for the old bread we tossed on the lawn.

During the day she'd scratch around and when she wanted a rest she'd either nip in to the coop or hang out with our goats. She would often be spotted asleep in the goat house (formerly a children's play house).

She ruled the roost, at least until yesterday.

I knew something was up the moment I entered the drive.

Spotting a few plant pots on their side was the first sign something had happened. They had been knocked over. Turning the corner I saw Henrietta motionless on the lawn. She had been bitten on the neck and left for dead. Clearly something of a skirmish had taken place as Henrietta fled for her life.

It's likely the owner of the offending dog has no clue what their pet has done. Likely never will.

But little Henrietta died a dreadful death while playing in the garden, and we as a family have lost a little friend as well as a regular supply of fresh eggs.

Because we can't rely on other people to control their dog we dare not offer a home to another chicken, so that avenue of country fun is now lost to us. And unfortunately Henrietta is not the first pet we have buried because of an out-of-control dog.

Meanwhile, this week's thoughtless dog owner will carry on oblivious. Shame on them.

* Steve Hart is editor of Herald Homes and lives in rural Rodney, north of Auckland.

- The Country

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