The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Autumn 2016 Results

The Workin' Dog

Copyright © Robyn Osborne 2016

It’d been a long, hard day in the saddle and I was just crackin’ the head off a coldie, when the headlines in the local rag caught me eye; Brain Drain to City. Now I knew just what they was talkin’ about. Seen it all the time. Bright young fellas - and sheilas too, I guess - don’t hang round here no more. Soon as they’re old enough, they shoot through. Can’t say I blame em’ though. Streuth, plenty more opportunities and money in the Big Smoke. It’s a crying shame but, and them pollies in Canberra should be getting’ off their backsides and doin’ somethin’ about it, else there’ll be no bugger left out here to keep the country goin’. We’re always hearing the Prime Minister bellyaching about workin’ smarter not harder. As if a polly’d know anything about workin’ at all, let alone harder eh? Lazy bunch a mongrels.

Anyhows, me thoughts had to go on the back burner, cos just then old Bluey wandered onto the verandah and started yakkin’ to me. Now, by yakkin’, I don’t mean that barkin’ woofin’ stuff that dogs usually do. No, I mean real people talkin’. I might be a bushie from the backblocks, but I reckon I’m pretty up ta date on what’s happenin’ in the world. I know about them cloned sheep and how they stick radio waves through food, so’s it stays fresh, so a talkin’ dog didn’t surprise me too much. No, it wasn’t so much that he was talkin’, more what he was talkin’ about.

“So Bob, as the democratically elected representative of the C.W.U., I’m here to discuss our grievances.”

“Hang on a sec Blue,” I said, kickin’ off me boots and settlin’ me backside into a comfy chair. “What the heck is the C.W.U.?”

“Canine Workers Union. The main problem is the increasing complexity of our job. We’re not just cattle dogs anymore. We’re social workers, psychologists, counsellors. Believe me Bob, with the break up of the traditional herds, cows of today aren’t what they used to be and the paddock has become a stressful place of work.”

He shook his head sadly.

“Working dogs are leaving the industry in droves, or should I say packs?”

I took a long deep swig from the stubbie. Here was a dog with a fair bit on his mind.

“So, as you can see, although our jobs have changed, there has been no appreciable improvement in our working conditions.”

“So, er, Bluey, whaddaya have in mind?”

He nudged a dog eared piece a paper at me.

“Here’s a list of our claims. I think you’ll find them to be fair and equitable.”

I looked down at the sheet and nearly fell off me chair.

“Reduction of workin’ hours? Hessian beds? Bone allowance? Smaller herds? Crikey. Ya gotta be kiddin’ me, Blue?”

“No Bob, we’re absolutely serious.”

“Blimey Blue. Next you’ll be askin’ for ergonomically designed kennels and the week ends off. You know I’m just a bloke trying ta make a decent livin’. This’ll cripple the farm.”

“And we’re just simple working dogs trying to gain some improvements within our difficult and demanding occupation.”

“Yep, take ya point Blue. Only thing is youse are dogs. Aren’t ya sposed to do what ya master says? Man’s best friend and all that sorta stuff.”

“Just the sort of politically insensitive thing Rusty predicted you’d say. You’re just lucky they didn’t elect him. He’s all for ‘vive la revolution’, including giving you the chop. I’m a much more moderate thinking dog.”

Well I never, eh? Always thought that Rusty was a trouble maker. Had shifty eyes.

Bluey scratched his ear and yawned.

“Bob, you’ve got to realise the whole hierarchical master/dog relationship is outdated, passé even. It’s all about equality these days.”

“Sounds like a bit o the old ‘whinging dog routine’ ta’ me. I could sack the lot of ya bludging blighters and bring in a whole new crew.”

“Indeed you could. That, however, would necessitate us adopting our democratic right to strike. And let me say, quite frankly, that I believe the mob would come out strongly in our favour.”

“The mob? Hang on a flamin’ minute Blue. You and ya mates spend all day nippin’ their heels.”

“Quite so, but only in our line of duty. You, on the other hand, send them to the abattoir.”

Now, I had ta admit, he had me on a technicality there.

“Bob, we’re not trying to be unreasonable and a win/win situation for all the parties concerned is what we’re aiming for. It’s just that with my personal friends in the Equine Action Group and the highly influential Farm Animals Federation, I could shut this farm down with a wag of my stumpy tail.”

An uneasy silence followed. A militant unionist talkin’ dog is one thing, but one that’s threatening strike action quite another.

“Wait up Bluey mate. Mustn’t make any hasty decisions. I’m sure we can come ta some sorta agreement that’ll keep us all happy.”

I persuaded him to let me sleep on it. I was dog tired and needed time to think things over. Not often a man has to consider an industrial issue presented by his smart alec talkin’ dog. O’course, I blamed them obedience classes me misssus had taken Bluey to. Give a dog a bit of learnin’ and next the blighters get all uppity and think ‘emselves.

Next morning I wandered out to let Blue know I’d agreed ta their demands.

Well, had ta really. Either that or go down the gurgler. They had me over a barrel and I knew it. Damned hard to get good staff at anytime, let alone when we was right in the middle of a muster. Trouble was, the cheeky bugger had cleared out and left me a note.

Dear Bob
Couldn’t wait for your decision. Working in the country has gone to the dogs. Off to the big smoke to pursue a career in politics. They reckon I’m a natural.
Your clever canine,