Pets of the Humanoid Kind
© Copyright 2018 by Glad McGough
want to tell you about our pet varmints. We live in a hills suburb of
the capital city of Western Australia – nothing too exclusive
about that – except for us, we love it. Although we have houses
next door and both ways along a highly used road, opposite and around
various corners, and behind us is another conclave of houses –
so I guess you could say we live in a built-up area where dogs live
next door and behind us, a stray cat meows past occasionally sussing
out a free meal; but actually, I think she lives over the road, and
at times the bird twittering’s are joined by a rooster’s
crow, so we live in a quiet un-intrusive community, where you would
only know your immediate neighbours, but, yes, we love it and so do
our family of varmints.
One afternoon the patriarch wandered slowly past my glass French door, and caught my peripheral vision as I was busy keyboarding. Gosh! I thought a quokka? The last time I had seen a quokka was on Rottnest Island. The original inhabitant had used its body as a protest for humans invading its land, and had tipped my husband off his bike. Now, we all know that the quokka (Setonix brachyurus) in the only member of the genus Stonix, and that is a small macropod that carries its babies in a pouch, and is the size of a domestic cat. Wrong! Our varmints are smaller, even though they are nocturnal; they certainly aren’t herbivorous and can devour bones to oblivion.
So a quick call to the wildlife sanctuary snuggled up the hill. “No it’s not a bilby (its ears are not longish and pointy) and certainly is not a bandicoot.” Although our varmint could be a member of the order Permelemorphia, its fur is all one colour: brown, but it certainly is territorial.
Even though we built this house fifty-years ago, and are the original owners of our quarter-acre block – meaning we were first residents here – our patriarchal varmints wander freely in the backyard, both sides of the house and through the front garden, usually covert, but they have been spotted at times towards evening. Although we have warned them that the busy road at the end of the front garden is not a good place to investigate we did have inter an incalcitrant member who paid dearly for ignoring our advice.
Then I learned they were not aquatically-skilled, having had to drag the net appliance across the bottom of the pool and retrieve a small version for interment. So far they’ve listened not to go near the water, for even at night it’s a bit tricky seeing where the backyard ends and the water begins.
By now we’re no closer in identifying our resident family, having ruled out quokkas, bandicoots, possums (famous for ceiling intrusions and simply because I could recognise one) and bilbys, we have settled for varmints, although I think wurli might fit the physiognomy of our family. They have two small clawed appendages attached to their chest, which they use in motoring either fast or slowly depending on their mood. They can stand on their two back legs and cheekily survey my domain with bright intelligent eyes. And if I leave the door forgetfully ajar they are not abashed in keeping me company and leave reluctantly. We can have a good conversation and best of all, it’s all one-way. But these little tęte-ŕ-tęte’s don’t last long as they are not toilet trained for house visits and I must admit their toilet habits are covert as there certainly isn’t a nuisance factor in our co-habitation.
How many constitute a family, we have no idea but just glimpse a variety of individual sizes. The nice thing about them, is as long as they are not startled they stay where they are, arise on two legs and share a moment or two of mutual scrutiny.
So finally I consulted Dr. Google and behold, we are told: “If you see an unusual small dome-shaped mound of dead leaves and twigs in your garden, or have small cone-shaped holes in the lawn, you may be lucky to have a local native digger in your backyard, called a Quenda.” Well, our varmints are not the industrious kind; they only dig small holes, indents really, corralled circularly by a neat mound of soil and rather picky, they only dig where the soil is soft.
Informationally Dr. Google tells me our Quenda’s formal name is Isoodon obesulus fusciventer but, being a simple soul, I’ll leave scientific names to the more sophisticated. However, being a bit of a snob I find our family is a sub-species of the Southern Brown Bandicoot and as “bandicoot” has derogative connotations, if or when, referring to humans, “As mad as a bandicoot!” I’d rather it had been related to our Rottnest Quokka.
Well, we don’t have “dense understory around swamps and banksia and jarrah woodlands” at our place, but yes, “they are common in the Perth hills as there is still a lot of sense vegetation to provide habitat.” However, Dr. Goggles continues to say, fully-grown they are about the same size as a rabbit and although “near threatened” un-loyally their home territory can be up to six-hectares.
You might have gathered by now we are not owned by domestic pets. No moody cat to manipulate her every want or distain a loving pat when she is not in the mood, or a dog that needs to be taken for a walk stopping at every upright thing for a sniff or deposit, or, as the fancy takes him takes off in a sudden flight, leash straining in the hand of its almost horizontal owner––nothing like the behaviour of our gentle varmints.
But Quenda? yes. That sounds like our family, but pets? I don’t think so, they are too imperial. In juxta-position I think we are considered their pets.
The author is an 88-year-old writer of non-fiction mainly, and poetry. Studying at Edith Cowan University, Perth WA, she graduated with a BA in arts in 2016.