When we told our girls that we were moving away from Melbourne and all of their friends, we dangled the carrot of a pet as a way of giving them something to be excited about. It worked, and they eagerly anticipated the move so they could choose the new member of our family. They had a few weeks to decide, and after lots of discussion between them, they decided they would like three dogs, some chickens, and two kittens, please and thank you very much.
We were so busy packing and getting ready to move that we didn’t give it too much thought ourselves. Of course, within minutes of getting the keys to our new home, they were keen to find out when they could get their domestic zoo.
We sat on the verandah and watched the beautiful pale headed rosellas that had come in to land on our paw paw tree, and had the sudden realisation that there was no way we could encourage the wildlife and simultaneously own predatory cats. Of course, keeping them inside was an option, but we didn’t feel like that would work well for us. Three dogs also seemed a bit much to take on, so we gently encouraged the idea of a single puppy instead (and we inherited chickens with the land). It didn’t take too much convincing, and our eldest daughter was very quick to research puppies online, and decided that a Pomeranian tea cup dog was just the ticket, please and thank you very much.
After explaining gently that a tea cup dog may get lost in the long grass, or feel just a bit intimidated by our resident nesting eagle, we moved onto the idea of a bigger dog. We were keen to adopt, and warned the girls it might take a really, really long time for the right puppy to come up for adoption. Patience, girls, patience.
Eight short we-hadn’t-even-finished-unpacking-our-container days later, and we found ourselves in the RSPCA picking up Benson, our new 13 week old baby. Some things are just meant to be.
Thanks to Benson, we have had 18 months to further consider the dilemma of pet ownership alongside wildlife conservation. Whilst he might not have the same instincts as a cat to hunt, he is a large, playful, bounding dog, whose very presence sends our resident kangaroos off into a frightened flight response. We used to walk him and wonder why we weren’t seeing much in the way of wildlife...before realising that everything could hear him coming a mile away and had hidden or moved off!
It almost feels like the human desire to keep domestic pets is at odds with our responsibilities to allow our native animals to live in peace. Even if he is too busy chewing sticks, too dopey and too lazy to catch anything (not to mention scared of his own bed), just the mere fact of his existence on our land disrupts the natural eco-system that would otherwise exist.
For us, we can reach a happy compromise and keep him to the private part of our land, and leave the remaining 80+ acres as a wildlife sanctuary for our native animals to benefit from. Our guests will benefit too!