Water the Dogs

Long ago, back where January meant sunshine, the Mothership was slumped in her armchair. At her feet was her school basket, stuffed with Christmas gifts from adoring students – padded coathangers, Cadbury Roses, pot-pourri. Beside her was a pile of romance novels with heroes named Thorne or Lord Swarthy. A great deal of her summer holidays were spent in that chair, drinking tea and consuming all the trashy books she didn’t get time for during the year.

It was an exhausting business. Before long she’d nod off, book splayed out the armrest, fingers still curled around the mug. Soft snoring was our cue to run amok. But her Scary Teacher Radar was always at work. Just as we’d tiptoe past on our way to the fridge, she’d give a mumbled order without even opening her eyes: “Put the kettle on,” or “What about those dishes” or “Water the dogs”.

I hated Water The Dogs. We had six of them on our farm, all stationed at different points around the base of a hill. Lugging buckets of water through waist-high dry grass filled me with both fear and apathy. I’d ponder the probability of the dogs’ water bowls being empty on a 40’C day, versus my untimely death by sunstroke or snakebite. I had imagined conversations with the dogs to ease my conscience, “Hey boys, do you need more water?”, “Oh no, we’re fine! We’re just snoozing here and enjoying this sultry day. You stay inside!”

Just when it seemed my laziness would prevail, The Mothership would stir and give a one-eyed glare, “I thought I told you to water those dogs.”

January afternoons were long and dull. Once we had built a Lego city in my room, a Lego city in Rhiannon’s room, and a connecting freeway down the hall complete with truck stops, what else was there to do? We sprawled out on the carpet and bitched about Town Kids and how they could go to the pool. They had bikes that they rode to corner shops to buy ice creams.

We had no pool. Just a dry creekbed choked with mosquitoes. We had ice creams, but they were Home Brand Choc-Coated Ice Creams and only distributed for good behaviour.

“Our life sucks.”

“I know.”

“Do you want to nick a Choc-Coated Ice Cream?”


We sneaked down the hall. The Mothership was most definitely asleep. Her head rested on her shoulder, mouth open. We noted the rise and fall of her stomach, the china rattling softly in the cabinet as she snored. The coast was clear.

We made it into into the kitchen. The lid of the freezer gave a tiny groan as we prised it open. We carefully rummaged through the great chunks of ice and onions until we found the booty. We cackled quietly at our genius.

But just as we were making our escape, delicately tearing the generic wrapping from our frozen treats, The Mothership gave a sudden twitch and opened one eye.

“Get me one.”

About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

Find out more about me and how we can work together – I’m now booking for January 2022.

13 thoughts on “Water the Dogs

  1. What is it about teachers? My Mum was the same (minus the “Water the Dogs ” instructions).

    And what is it about home brand choc-coated ice creams… the chocolate was always… well… cheap I guess… never REALLY chocolatey enough.

    And you must have had buckets of Lego – I was lucky if I could build a 4 storey house with mine (but I could pull together a mean spaceship!)

  2. Oh where do I find they, of the other persuasion, that indulge in Lego?

    Great post, oh the imagery.

  3. By an astonishing coincidence, when I was about nine years old, I was also commanded to “Water the dogs” by Ol’ Man Hank (aka The Big Bastard). The Big Bastard wasn’t actually very big. It was the threat of him that made him gigantic. He was more of a gaunt, wizened dude, with bloodshot eyes, who lived in a ramshackle lean-to, and spent most of his time rocking on a squeaky chair, taking frequent sips from a jug in a bulky brown bag. But make no mistake: we were terrified of him.

    We were afraid. Afraid of the Big Bastard’s lack of teeth (and the rickety remnants he used to bite down on stale pita bread), his abrasive manner, his “Bahs” at almost anything, and most of all afraid of his dogs. He had two German Shepherds that he kept behind a chainlink fence. They would howl at the top of their lungs at any slight sign of movement. There was a rumor going around that the Big Bastard fed them rats. As I learned later, their names were Benito and Genghis.

    Now one time my friends and I were playing ball. Stickball in the street. And I swung quite a homer. The ball goes traveling onto the Big Bastard’s property, and it’s enough to get the Big Bastard out of his chair, grabbing his malacca cane and clutching the ball in his skeletal hand. The Big Bastard confiscates it. And we ask if we can have our ball back.

    “Bah. Ger away,” he says.

    Please, sir, we’ll try not to hit it so far.

    “Yer wantcha ball back?”


    “Bah. Gah. Okeh. Yer gotsta water the dogs.”


    “Yer wants yer ball, yers waters the dogs.”

    We asked him what he meant by this. And then he unzipped his pants, and squeezed hard on his penis. Then he urinated right in front of us onto the edge of his creaky veranda.

    “Waters the dogs, like that. Now go and der it to Benito.”

    Needless to say, we let him keep the ball. To this very day, I have avoided the sight of nude men whenever possible.

  4. I never got ‘water the dogs’ – I got ‘feed the cat’ and ‘set the table’. Argh.
    [protects eyes]
    Am getting flashbacks.
    —actually, my current situation is one of hot weather, no pool (though everyone around us seems to have one, judging by the squeals and splashing sounds, but maybe they’re all just holding boom boxes behind their fences and laughing evilly – I’m not sure) and copious amounts of mozzies. There is something about stepping out of the shower, all clean, and then coating myself in flyspray that I just can’t get accustomed to….
    Caught and froze my first cane toad yesterday – my first karmic point gained with Queensland native wildlife….huzzah!

  5. Beautifully written, Shauny. I can relate.

    My parents can hear the sound of laziness being committed suburbs away.

    Truly uncanny.

  6. I’m pleased to see that all Motherships are built in the same way.
    I got your email, but it’s been the Week From Hell (TM) round here, but I will reply asap 🙂

  7. Heh, mothers-who-are-teachers, scary breed.

    And YOU got snow. Where’s my goddamn snow! Harumph … mutter … East Anglia … mutter … harumph …

  8. Oh god, there was nothing as terrifying as a sleeping parent! My auntie had an outside toilet, and I used to stay over when my mum was working. The outside toilet was so scary, it’d involve waking both my cousins up (usually by lifting up their eyelids) so we could all creep hand-in-hand out of the house. Invariably, after we’d spent 10 minutes negotiating the hallway, swimming through pools of black, as soon as we’d painstakingly opened the back door, there’d the the tiniest creak to give us away. My auntie’s voice would boom through the place “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU KIDS CREEPING AROUND FOR?” We’d apologise, call out “We just need to go to the toilie!” and scamper outside noisily.

    I bloody hated that outside toilet!

  9. I got: ‘walk the dog’, ‘feed the cats’, ‘do the dishes’ and…oh hell, I got everything as I am an only child! Pity me. (actually, don’t it was fine, a little under-the miscroscope/in the spotlight-y but fine.

  10. Wow, I love the Mothership. I also love that I am constantly being commanded to “water the dog”. I always want to correct my father on that and say, “No, no. Tell me to get the dog some water, I’m not watering her, she’s not a plant. Christ.”

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