With all my belongings carefully stored in my station wagon and a full tank of petrol, I drove out of the town only to slow down immediately.
Water was everywhere, as far as the eye could see on the horizon. There was no safe land anywhere to be seen, except part of the road ahead where the floods were greedily lapping at its edges.
This narrow road was divided by a white centre line, forcing the trucks and semi-trailers to drive perilously close to the edge where there could be a deep ditch submerged beneath the treacherous water.
I had no choice but to keep driving as the vehicles behind me were getting impatient. Gripping the steering wheel and taking a deep breath, I drove on. I switched my radio off, as I needed all my concentration to stay on the dry part of the road and to cope with the traffic coming from the other direction, which would submerge me in a wave of water and make my windscreen wipers work more furiously.
I glanced nervously at my watch. I had been driving for about thirty minutes and must be halfway to the town of my destination and became aware that my shirt was soaked in perspiration.
‘How these truck drivers manage to overtake each other in such conditions I will never know!’ I wondered. Thundering along, beyond the clearly marked edge of the road and far in the fields, now covered with water; a motorboat was speeding towards me. Its bow created heavy waves on both sides, ‘is it called starboard and stern?’ I thought to myself. As it came closer I recognised it was a four-wheel-drive vehicle, heading for the only dry ground in this inland ocean.
An incredible sight, I thought, but there was no way I could have stopped and taken a photo of this strange world, with waves as far as I can see, seemingly trying to merge with the sky.
The traffic thinned out with most vehicles overtaking me with breathtaking confidence.
Then I noticed that the water’s edge was starting to invade the road. Tongues of water tried to reach the centre line; waves created by overtaking cars and trucks causing me set my windscreen wipers at a faster speed.
The rising water seemed to abate and the traffic began to slow down. Then I noticed something like a brown lump ahead of me.
‘A mound of soil? I thought. ‘Or a rock?’ dangerously close in the path of traffic? I better keep an eye on this object and try to avoid it, just in case.
At closer observation, I noticed it moving, slowly swaying back and forth and it seemed to be transporting itself along the road. Then I clearly recognised a medium sized, brown dog, was trying to trot with the traffic, God knows where because there was no land anywhere to be seen. The creature seemed to understand that all that traffic was going somewhere and simply wanted to move with it!
Its brown fur was dirt-encrusted, especially on the underside of its body, with grass clumps sticking to it. The legs gave the appearance of wearing boots with thick dirt clinging to the body.
As I came closer to it, the poor creature looked back at me. And there I got my first shock; this beautiful teddy bear-like face had such an incredible expression of tiredness. The normally attentive ears were drooping, the head was hanging down low, and dirt covered its chest which eventually merged with the muck from the underbelly.
‘Had it been trying to sleep somewhere’? I thought to myself.
The dog disregarded my slowing down, visibly not expecting anything from me.
I felt that I had to do something for the poor thing. Freaks of weather can affect us all, some more, some less. And I have always considered animals as the most disadvantaged members in our community.
I overtook it carefully, taking a risk of crashing into traffic coming from the opposite direction. I stopped the car and opened my rear door invitingly, waiting for the dog. As it approached, I noticed again that it was extremely tired and sore. Its movements were slow and forced. I wondered about how long it had been on the road?
With a dripping wet coat, and trying to trot through the water, the dog was clearly spent and worn out, hungry and looking in desperate need of a rest. There was nowhere for it to rest, as there was no firm ground except the road itself, and far too dangerous with the traffic thundering over it.
Lifting its droopy head for a moment, visibly strenuous, it recognised my parked car and the opened door. And in a dejected gesture, it decided to ignore me, continuing as if I wasn’t there.
‘Come on! In you get,’ I encouraged, trying to invite it into my car with a gesture of my hand.
Then I received a shock, the dog growled and snarled with in such a hostile gesture. I never thought a dog had so much control over his face muscles. The normally beautiful, brown eyes were blazing hostility, conveying, what I thought, was the sensation of terrible disappointment with the human race.
This poor creature had been through utter and cataclysmic disappointment and now considered me as a member of a low-life species. Its sense of disgust seemed to penetrate me and reach deep into my soul. What had it been through? What had it experienced? We are certainly not all like that and my help is here now!
Slowly, it moved around my parked car, the extra effort of doing so was visibly draining it more. It could not go on like this much longer.
I started my car again, carefully overtook the creature and stopped again.
Opening the back door of my station wagon again, I quickly threw my carefully arranged samples and other rep’s paraphernalia into the car’s interior and spread the blanket that normally covers everything, inviting the door onto the free space. I felt a wave of anger at myself for not having any food in my car, not even a biscuit or sandwich I could offer. What sort of hospitality was that? And I resolved quickly, that from now on I would always have some sort of sustenance for dogs and cats in my car, together with drinking water and clean bowls. (I had this equipment in my car from then on!)
Now the dog came closer again, seemingly heading straight to my opened backdoor. ‘Come on, in you get!’ I said, following up with a determined gesture of my arm, patting the warm blanket I’d spread out.
As the dog growled and bared its teeth in a very tired gesture, the normally white in its eyes flared with yellow hatred. Hatred against the human race! And without losing momentum it staggered around the car and ahead, looking so very tired, desperate and utterly disappointed.
Since it clearly did not want to have anything to do with me, I had no means of getting it into my car. And unable to leave a morsel of food as a gesture of compassion I drove off to reach the next town, Woolara, where I hoped to get help for this wretched creature.
Narrowly avoiding some accidents, I hurtled along the highway, sometimes torn sideways by the waters, but filled with desperation. This was an urgent matter, since the dog could not last much longer the way he was and surely, it could break down somewhere and eventually be run over and killed.
On the horizon ahead of me, dry land became visible and then a sign appeared, ‘Welcome to Woolara!’ Reaching the centre of the town, I headed straight to the local police station, half-expecting to be brushed off with my urgent concern.
The sergeant looked tired as he sat at his desk, but listened intently and with great compassion. Having just finished his night shift, his leather beaten face betrayed nothing, although at first I was not sure what he thought of my desperate appeal. Then came his short exclamation, ‘These truck drivers are bastards! When they have had enough of a dog they simply kick him out of their cabin!’ Somehow, his voice had the same growl as the dog had.
I ended my report with the urgent plea that something needed to be done there and quickly.
‘Isn’t there a dog catcher in the town to rescue him?’ I pleaded. ‘He looks so terribly tired. If it costs anything to rescue him I will gladly pay for it.’
I could not go any further because the policeman looked up at me and said with red eyes, full of moisture, ‘I will be heading in the direction you came from and will look out for the dog! Just leave it with me.’
Heaving himself out of his chair, he reached for his jacket and for his car keys and quickly headed out of his office to his waiting car.
But there was something in his movements, some determination, something that filled me with the assurance that someone was looking out for the poor creature.