Nessie foiled by a diverse family

Local | Georgina Noyce 22 Jun 2021

Most of the time, peace reigns in our microcosm of the real world, despite the fact that our "family" is mixed in species and individuals joined the collection at different times in their own and each others' lives.

Domesticated animals, like humans are formed by a mixture of nature and nurture. As with humans, however, nothing should ever be taken for granted.

No sane human would leave a four-year-old child to be responsible for the health and safety of a helpless baby, even though the occasional four-year-old proves the exception to the rule and might manage a situation with the abilities of someone five times that age.

Age doesn't always confer wisdom; it just gives more time to acquire the experience needed to deal with life in an equitable manner. Stories come down through the ages, telling of unlikely events between animals of different species behaving in ways that run contrary to knowledge.

Some years back, looking through the kitchen window when a cacophony of squawks, chirps and piercing peeps drew my attention, my eyes fixed on the unnaturally moving grass near the garden pond. Nessie, the red-eared slider terrapin, was on the prowl. The terrapin, as large as a tea plate and weighing in at about three kilos, frequently forages round the garden in late spring and early summer as it stretches its legs after a winter spent dozing at the bottom of the pond.

The noise came from a bevy of sparrows and magpie robins, who were fluttering and shouting round something on the ground a few meters from the rapidly approaching terrapin. Knocking on the window glass had very little effect on the noisy drama, so I headed outside to add my help.

Sassoon, ex-building site mongrel and matriarch of our diverse family, beat me to the door and headed toward Nessie. The dogs know they aren't allowed to touch the amphibian, but they can chivy it to back off.

In the long grass, a baby bird, possibly a sparrow, huddled helplessly, no longer guarded by the two smallest types of birds in the garden.

With a last "harrumph" of admonishment, Sassoon drove Nessie back into the pond and we two disparate females went inside to watch the fledgling, relieved of threat, regain its courage and clumsily fly back to safety. Dog, human, sparrow, magpie robin, working to protect the helpless.

Georgina Noyce is an equestrian judge, and has a menagerie of adopted four-legged waifs and strays.

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July 2021

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