There’s a few hazards (quite a few, actually) involved in doing remote fieldwork in Central Australia. Some of these are obvious: driving long distances (800km in one day), breakdowns, vehicle rollovers, flat tyres, getting bogged and occasionally, getting lost. Others are not so obvious: drunk Traditional Owners (Aboriginal people), groups of fighting Traditional Owners, humbugging (that’s when Aboriginal people ask you for things like cash, cigarettes or a lift – no, I don’t smoke, BTW), the challenges of sleeping in noisy Aboriginal communities, other organisations that try to act as gatekeepers to communities, and … dogs.
Not just any dogs. No. Let’s be clear here: cheeky dogs.
The term ‘cheeky’ is Aboriginal English for any living creature that’s harmful, misbehaving or downright dangerous. Thus, some snakes are called cheeky snakes (a Western Brown Snake, for example, whose bite can kill) as opposed to ‘quiet’ snakes (Central Australian Carpet Python, whose bite is just a bite – no venom). Some dogs are called ‘cheeky’ dogs because they’re snappy, vicious or aggressive.
Thursday, I was out at Hermannsburg (about 120 km west of Alice Springs) visiting people who I know very well. I’ve been to this house dozens of times, and the three dogs are always very quiet. However, after I’d been there for a half hour or so, chatting away, I got up to leave and walked past the place where the dog’s puppies were hiding.
There was no growling, no aggressiveness, no warning whatsoever.
The dog bit me just above the ankle. I had two shallow puncture wounds on one side, and on the medial side a 6 cm gash that was pouing out blood. Needless to say, I jumped straight in the troopy and went to the clinic. I was patched up, finished my consultations, and drove back to town. The next day, I had to see my own doctor for a second opinion (no stitches for dog bites unless they’re really needed, just lots of antibiotics and a tetanus shot).
To summarise, I can’t run, can’t walk, can’t really do much at all for the next couple of weeks. I hate not being able to exercise!!!
Moral of the story: complacency is not a good thing around any dog!