My brother Bix died a week or so back, copped a snake bite, so The Boss said. I could tell he was upset when he heard about it; he likes hearing from the owners of Queenie's pups now and then - but not this sort of news. Bix lived on an orchard on the other side of the river.
We get a few snakes coming up off the river flats from late August on so he keeps me locked up during the spring and summer days - we have our walk early in the morning when it's cool and he'll take Queenie and me down to the river for a swim after a hot day but he calls us into the yard after that - reckons the snakes move around on a warm night and we'd best be out of the way.
On really hot days we can get a Brown snake up on the terrace - they're out of their comfort zone, maybe looking for someplace cooler and they look like they're trying to get into the house. They're pretty wild on days like that, with the front third of their bodies whipping around like a cat o' nine-tails and he treats them with respect.
The Tigers move a lot more slowly. Queenie and I spotted one last year slithering past our yard; we barked a lot until the Boss came out. He likes to chase them out into the paddock when he can - he says the Browns will poke their heads up and watch, so he gets around behind them and shoos them off.
Mostly it works but a Tiger will sometimes sit there. He doesn't mind dealing with a Tiger, even though they are more poisonous than Browns; the big Browns are lightening-fast and you don't want to rile them up.
A few years back, before I was born, he was walking Queenie and the Golden Leave-it-There down the track to put the garbage out and a big Brown wriggled off the track - the Leave-it-There chased it with his tail wagging, with The Boss yelling at him so hard he went hoarse.
Luckily the Brown had somewhere to go - this white fluffy thing after him must have freaked it out and it snuck under a log. The Boss reckons if it had happened when the snake was backed up on the terrace the Leave-it-There would be dead meat.
He says the trouble with hunting dogs is that they're always nosing around picking up scents and moving quickly from one opportunity to another, and getting bitten on the nose or face or tongue is a sure way to get venom back to the heart in a hurry. A leg isn't so bad.
Around 3000 people get bitten by a snake every year in Australia but rarely does anyone die. Dogs are different altogether. The vets reckon they treat around 20 dogs for snakebite for every human in the area - so about 60,000 dog bites occur each year, across the whole country, they say.
Because it's usually a nose or face or tongue, the survival rate is around 80% for dogs - they need to get some antivenom in them pretty quick, if they can. But that's 12,000 dogs a year dying of snakebite.
Makes you think. Makes even me think - and The Boss says I don't think much. He says Queenie is very touchy about unfamiliar movement and won't get bitten but he's not so sure about me. He says I'm dumb or curious, or both, but it's a bad combination. As for the Leave-it-There - he's given up.
This year, oddly enough, we haven't even seen a single snake. The Boss says the floods and all the rain since have probably bred up enough frogs and lizards to keep the snakes happy down on the floodplain without having to work too hard. But Bix was unlucky.
The Boss says the snakes will start breeding in February and they're just as active in February as they are in the Spring - a good time to freshen up on what to do.
Just one of those things we have to live with in these parts I guess - but it's a sad time. Here's to brother Bix - Bix Lives! Woof.