Across the River with Geoff Goodfellow | June 21

My goodness, the world has changed in so many small ways over the years, hasn't it? 

Take cats and dogs for example.  

DOG'S LIFE: Things have improved for man's best friend since the days when the tail of a dead dog could earn you pocket money. Photo: Geoff Goodfellow.

DOG'S LIFE: Things have improved for man's best friend since the days when the tail of a dead dog could earn you pocket money. Photo: Geoff Goodfellow.

Lovely pets to be sure if you are that way inclined. But realistically, both can become a nightmare in any neighbourhood. Just ask a council ranger. Managing neighbour disputes over barking and vicious dogs or stray cats noisily fornicating at midnight in someone else's garden consumes much of their working day.

To help manage the problem, I notice our local council has introduced a free cat micro-chipping and de-sexing program for eligible pensioners and low-income earners. 

Now before anyone panics, I should clarify. No, they are not de-sexing and micro-chipping pensioners for free, just their cat.  

However, our local council and the wider community wasn't quite so empathetic about wayward pets 40 odd years ago.

When I began working at council in the 1970s, a stray or dangerous dog only lasted one, or at best, two weeks in the pound, before moving to wherever it is dead dogs go. There were no such terms as euthanased or re-homed back then. 

And the council sure didn’t muck around with cats then either, as an advertisement inserted in this newspaper by my old boss, Harold Jopling clearly shows:

“Residents are invited to bring unwanted domestic cats to the rear of the saleyards in Berrima Road Moss Vale between the hours of 8.30am and 3.30pm on Monday, January 31.  All cats received will be destroyed without charge.”  

Yep, old Joppo didn't pussyfoot around.

If you reckon that was harsh, what about back in 1898, when the Dog and Goat Act made life even more perilous for wandering canines.

“In every case in which a reward is claimed for the destruction of any dog, the party applying for such reward shall produce to such police magistrate or justice, the tail of such dog,” stated the Act.  

Harsh, eh!  

Just find a stray dog wandering the streets, whip off its tail, then around to the police station to pick up a reward. That was probably the way kids collected pocket money in those days. Not sure what they did with the rest of the dog though.

Section 12 of the same Dog and Goat Act provided that; “any person may at any place seize any unregistered dog.”  

If the owner didn’t claim the dog within 24 hours after the service of a summons from a justice of the peace, “the dog shall be forthwith killed.”  

Naturally enough these days most reasonable people would consider the Dog and Goat Act of 1898 draconian, but there was one ray of sunshine for our four legged friends. The Act made it clear that, “every person who uses any dog or goat for the purpose of drawing any cart, carriage, truck, or barrow shall be liable to a penalty of not more than 40 shillings for the first offence and not more than five pounds for the second or any subsequent offence.”  

Compassionate, eh!

And since we are talking about de-sexing cats I must tell you about Dudley's dog.

Old Red was a wonderful dog. For years it was Dudley’s best sheep dog, but better than that, Old Red could play beautiful classical music on the piano.  

It was truly amazing. And what was even more incredible, Old Red composed his own music.

One day Dudley’s mate, Clyde, called in and couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Old Red was sitting up at the piano, churning out a lovely concerto.

“That is amazing,” said Clyde, “and he doesn’t even use sheet music.”

“No, mate,” said Dudley, “He just composes it all in his head.”

“That is a particularly beautiful piece he’s playing now,” said Clyde. “Why don’t you have it orchestrated?”

Immediately the music stopped. Old Red growled at Clyde, leapt off the chair, bolted out the door and hasn’t been seen since.

  – Geoff Goodfellow

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