OPINION: The sun poured through the windows on the loveliest of days, prompting me to open the side door to the lounge to create an alfresco atmosphere.
Ensconced in the favourite chair I was happily reading a book, while, as is his habit, Benecio was catching a few rays, luxuriating in front of the open door.
We were both in an affable mood when suddenly the nastiest of commotions erupted. Benecio doubled in size as his twisted form rocketed across the room toward the hall in a scratching ball of fury that seemed to have gained four more legs. A dog of the most evil character, with a black head shaped like a coalscuttle and a white speckled body, had manipulated Benecio on to his back and, baring its fangs, was about to administer a fatal bite to the neck.
The animal had no collar and I struggled to grip it round the barrel of its stomach, eventually picking it up, flinging it out the door and slamming it behind the dreaded creature.
In the deepest of retreats Benecio had slunk into the bedroom under the dressing- table, his back a high mohawk of fur as he emitted the most primeval growls, the utter opposite of a purr.
Outside I could see the dog from hell parading round the property, strutting up and down the drive and throwing its head round as if was laughing, thrilled to have visited its trauma upon us.
I wished I had a gun.
I wished I had a knife.
I wished I'd kicked him to kingdom come; I raged in a distemper of sickened fury.
With much coaxing, I managed to drag Benecio out of his hiding place to ascertain from the most rudimentary of veterinary examinations based on watching episodes of All Creatures Great and Small, that he hadn't been seriously harmed. On relating the tale later, people wanted to know if I'd rung the pound, the SPCA, the council, the police even. Frankly, I was too busy securing the house and worrying about the cat's health to go after the hound or track down an owner I could give a piece of my mind to.
Half an hour later there was a knock on the door. Still shattered and with Benecio hiding behind my chair, I opened the door a paranoid inch or two, like an urban crazy, to see a friendly smiling couple, the man proffering a hand from which dangled a long black box.
He explained they were friends of a friend, had been reading the column and while passing through on a road trip decided to look me up and bestow a couple bottles of good wine - hence the box.
Immediately I took it from his grasp, after all it would have been churlish to refuse.
They were politeness itself coming in for the merest of minutes, refusing a cup of tea as I subjected the kind strangers to a garbled account of the canine home invasion, while Benecio, usually the most sociable of felines, spat and snarled at them from his corner.
The next day I opened the paper to see on the front page a photo of a salivating hound with an accompanying article about a 10 per cent increase in outbreaks of canine attacks in Christchurch. A city council spokesman believed the reason for the increase was because the quakes had forced people into temporary accommodation where there was no secure fencing.
I'm no dog hater. I don't believe as some cat fanciers do, that canines are members of brute creation and these statistics enabled me to put myself in the dogs' shoes, which of course they don't have, but if they did in the case of this home invading dog would be dirty great steel- capped cloven ones. Dogs live by their ears and nose and like everyone else in the broken hood have lost their familiar stomping grounds, territory, and, to a certain extent, the plot. Try explaining the existential landscape that the central city has become to a dog. As a friend pointed out the other day, what was the heart of the city, is now just a series of nasty stumps and empty spaces. It reminds me of the 1942 film Kings Row starring a very young Ronald Reagan.
He played a character called Drake McHugh whose legs are amputated unnecessarily by a sadistic doctor. When he wakes up from his operation he says: 'Where's the rest of me?'
- The Press