Next stop? Perth, Australia


Posted to the ‘big’ list, Jan 28, 2002.

Some years ago, when my bull terriers Tessa and Ludwig were still this side of the bridge, we always took them on holiday with us. If a place didn’t accommodate them, we’d search until we found somewhere that said “Dogs Welcome.”

Anyway, my parents had a really small holiday house down in Port Elizabeth (on the Indian Ocean coast of South Africa), and we hadn’t much cash for a smart vacation (we’d only been married two years), so we opted to use this house of theirs for a short stay. It was a lot of fun – we took the dogs to every beach in driving distance, generally have a grand time as they explored wonderful rock pools harbouring bad-tempered crabs, and fascinating seashore vegetation that was surely hiding the meanest most ‘chase-able’ critturs in the universe.

My brother-in-law was a marine chief-engineer on the big container ships, and he called us to say that he was docking that week in Port Elizabeth, and would we like to come for dinner on-board? Captain’s table and all.


Oops… Um, whaddabout the dawgs?

“No problem,” says he, “bring them along and they can stay in my cabin while we dine.”

So off we went on that starry summer night down to the docks, two bull terriers in tow… or should I say being towed by two bull terriers… because the smells at the harbour just about drove them nuts, as you can imagine.

We had to wait a while on the actual dockside because we were not able to just walk on-board without permission. “Walk” being the gentle way of saying it, because there was no fancy-pancy gangplank like you see on cruise-liners, only a very steep set of metal stairs that angled diagonally up the side of the ship. Let’s just say my hubby and I were wondering how Ludwig was going to deal with steps like that, cos he loathed steps that had only treads and no risers. Silly boy thought he would fall through the gaps, I suppose.

We got a bit bored waiting for hubby’s brother so we wandered down to the very end of the dock, where there was inky blackness beyond the edge of the concrete pier. Next stop Perth, Australia…

I don’t know what got into my husband, but as we stood there, two metres away from the edge of who-knows-how-deep-it-is, he suddenly said to the dogs “Go-fitch-im” (our shorthand for “Go get it guys!”, normally used when a rat invaded our property).

Ludwig’s ears came up like semaphores and he looked around for whatever it was he was supposed to kill for us… and Tessa just didn’t even think! She took off like all hell and went straight off the edge of the dock! Much like you see in cartoons where the guy races off a cliff, stops, looks down and yells “ARGH!!”

Fortunately she was on a leash, cos my husband hauled back so hard it was like he was landing a barracuda off Bazaruto Island! (All we needed was a gaff.) Tessa reappeared from the blackness…. and I swear she looked embarrassed!

Once we had recovered from our sheer disbelief that any creature would just head off into infinity like this, we collapsed in howling mirth at the edge of the dark deserted dock. And that’s where my brother-in-law found us: two hysterical idiots accompanied by two tail-wagging bull terriers, both delighted to see the brother-in-law.

Needless to say, Ludwig took the ship’s steel steps in his stride – mainly I think because brother-in-law said the secret word for ‘nibbles’ in his cabin. Yes, we cleared the engine-room of staff, with the arrival of the two dogs, but we had to go through there to reach the elevator that took us up to the ‘smart’ part of the ship. The two dogs had a lovely sniff of brother-in-law’s quarters and snuggled themselves comfily on his bed for a good zizz while we dined with the captain and his crew.

(By the oddest coincidence, the pic I found to match this post is of the same ship, docked in the same harbour, however-many years later)


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