I pulled up by a house where two old ladies sat in the yard under a very large gum tree. The full heat of the day has not come down on us yet so I’m still out working in the community. I am doing house inspections this week and it is a slow go with the heat wave and so many of the people headed to town where relatives have air conditioning. The rest are scattered to the few houses that have any kind of air conditioning here in the community. Most of the air cons are ancient artifacts from the 70’s, covered with dust and non-functioning for the last decade or longer. A few houses have ceiling fans or small fans sitting on tables.
I got out of the 4-wheel drive and walked to where the ladies sat on blankets in the shade. Six or more dogs are sprawled here and there in the shade. They glance at me and go back to sleep. I chatted to the ladies for a few minutes only to find the house they are sitting in front of is not theirs, it just has a good tree in the yard. One lady lives four houses away, across the road. The other lady is from another community, just a visitor. The people who live in this house are in town. Town is a 5-hour drive from here so they are gone for days or even weeks, probably staying with relatives and not likely to come back until it cools down. That could be April so I’m not going to be inspecting this house.
Saying goodbye to the ladies I walked back to my vehicle and got in. I noticed the dogs had gotten up and started barking at me. They didn’t bark when I came in or when I stood talking to the ladies but now that I was in the vehicle I had their attention. It is the age-old fun of chasing a car. I started the vehicle, put it in gear and started to pull out toward the road. The barking continued and suddenly I felt a thump and panicked … oh no I’d hit one of the dogs! I stopped moving and listened for a shriek of some indication … nothing. The dogs were barking like mad now and jumping around the vehicle.
I started forward again and felt two more thumps and then I remembered the stories I’d heard from other workers who had gone out in the communities. The dogs love to chase the 4WD’s we drive, mainly Land Cruisers and Prado‘s with big mud flaps. It has become a real sport with some of the dogs to grab the mud flaps and hang on for a ride. I’ve never experienced that game so didn’t know what to expect.
The thump I’d felt was a dog latching on to back mud flap or maybe even two dogs! Realizing what was going on I just kept driving and got onto the paved road and accelerated on with dogs dropping off the flaps and chasing me for a short distance before turning back to the shade tree and more naps. I drove down the road with that song, “Who Let the Dogs Out” spinning through my mind.
When I got back to the accommodations where I was staying I went around to find out what damage had been done to the mud flaps. There were new holes in them from the teeth and a large split probably from two dogs pulling in opposite direction. But then I noticed where a piece of the body of the car had been pulled loose.
There is a small section of the body about 2 ft. by 2 ft. that is separate running from the back bumper around to the tire and up joining with the rest of the body under the fuel flap area and running under the tail lights. It is secured to the larger body in a fairly inadequate way as typical of everything made now days. There is a plastic strip with holes that hooks out of sight between the two plastic body pieces. The body part also runs under the vehicle and attaches to the large mud flap. With two or more dogs hanging on the mud flap the weight had pulled the smaller body part away from the strip that held it and it gaped out about six inches on two sides, away from the vehicle.
When I showed it to the other staff working with me this week he was able to push it back in to where it looked almost normal. However after driving the over 50 miles on a very rough dirt track to get to the main highway it had jiggled back out. So a trip to the body shop is in that Prado’s near future.
When I told the story to my work partner we started visualizing how it could have gone. The more we enlarged our story the more we laughed and started singing, “who let the dogs out.” If the dogs had been able to dislodge the body part they would have ran across the space between the houses dragging the whole piece with the other dogs running behind them barking. They would have been joined by other community dogs and it would have been a huge party for them all. We have witnessed the dogs getting a prize, like the metal lid off a bucket. The dog with the lid ran like mad with the number of dogs adding up as he ran until there were over a dozen barking dogs of all sizes chasing the one with the bucket lid.