Hari meets the local cattle herd, rus in urbe.
It’s hard to get bored on a morning ramble with Hari, around St Albans (Edgeware now to some). He’s never bored and like any Jack Russell, ready for the chase, the scraps on the pavement, unwary neighbourhood cats and any sparrows silly enough to ignore his approach, straining on his lead. His muscles bulge as he hauls the expandable towrope out to full stretch, his Hari-named harness, Union Jack-patterned to salute his origins, threatening to choke him huffing and grunting.
Hari (it’s Māori for happy, joyful) lives up to both his name and his namesake’s breeding line, the Rev Jack Russell, who in 1814 named a terrier bitch Trump (unfortunate these days, but hardly the poor dog’s fault). The English clergyman was looking to breed foxhunting dogs, and Hari – with no fox in sight around here – carries on the tradition with anything that moves. Sadly, that has included our other four-footed furry whānau member, Mako, a gorgeous short-haired black and while cat who came to us as a stray, around a year before Hari’s puppy entrance to the den last year. By rights, possessing ahi ka roa (territorial rule by prior occupation), he should be in charge.
Mako up in the nectarine tree in pre-Hari days
Hari, of course has never recognised this and once he clapped eyes on Mako, chased him, as Jacks do. This has necessitated the installation of a second cat door at the front of the house, the old entrance into the living area (where the dog now rules) having become a no-go zone for the cat. This situation has resolved itself – if such a verb is appropriate – into a feline-canine standoff, where our house now functions in something resembling the city of Berlin before Mauerfall in 1989. We live in hope, as did the Berliners, until the wall finally came down.
The early days of confrontation.
So it remains essential – especially in these dog days of Covid-19 Lockdown – that I get Hari out of the house for his exercise and my own sanity. To say he loves it would be failing miserably to convey the intensity of his bursts of joy, as we exit the gates twice a day and head off to the park, or down to the river. The gates, by the way, are part of a fenced-off property necessity for owners of Jack Russells and JR-Fox Terrier crosses, like our boy. These dogs are diggers and escapologists, the complete package, the whole ninety-nine yards, and suffer a very high mortality rate as road-kill if they escape and charge off to terrorise any small animals that heat up their radar. What sight is to us, smell is to Jacks and Hari is onto them all, in a flash.
This morning’s ramble had us going round St Albans Park, where owners are routinely ignoring new signs to keep their dogs on leads, to avoid engagement with other owners should the dogs get involved with each other, as they do. We’re talking a scrap here, or a tangle. Hari loves chasing the swallows that swoop low around us and drive him mad, when the lead snaps to its end and he can’t pursue them further. I hate having this restriction on him, but it has to happen.
I’ve seen him chase a magpie in another park (in the days when I used to let him off the lead) and unless the bird had got pissed off and landed, and faced him down, Hari would have raced across a very busy Ilam Road. When his blood gets up, he won’t come back. Yes, yes, I know, I can sense the JR Advisory Group out there telling me I’m doing it wrong, but the statistics are my guide. I’m hanging out for the re-opening of the fenced City Council Dog Parks, like The Groynes near Casebrook and Victoria Park up in Cashmere, where you can take your dogs and let them go.
Hari puts Escape Plan B into action by the cabbage tree.
But today, it’s Level Three and we’re doing the wander around the blocks, down side streets – Canon, Purchas, Packe Street (to the lovely semi-wild park) – crossing the road to avoid other dogs, giving approaching walkers their space. While Hari sniffs and chases shadows, I listen to the cries of spur-wing plovers out there somewhere, muse on the sight of a harrier hawk over St Albans Park, inner city flyers all, and the legions of finches and all small birds chasing the seedtime harvest of autumn here before winter sets in. Yesterday a pīwakawaka flew right down to me and circled my head. Hari went nuts of course, but I rejoiced, the fantail a sign to me that life – not death – is ascendant, and the faith that resides invisibly in my heart – battered, triggered, PTS-deed-off as I am – will keep me in this moment, for one more day.