William and Thomas used to play on the hill at the front of the empty block that sloped down into a gully on the south side of the beach house. Some local children had built a humpy there with a skeleton of ti-tree and foliage walls. The boys used to take their toys up there, and I would watch them from the front porch over my book or newspaper in the morning sun. Then a bulldozer came in one day in May 2011 and took away the top of the hill, and within eight months a stone and timber house had cascaded down into the gully. The owner built it himself and they were in by November, because they were having a second child.
They also had a dog, a gregarious black and brown kelpie cross. Because her new house was surrounded by paving, Milly adopted our front lawn as her daytime habitat where she would turn large bones into shards, or sleep. Each time we arrived at the beach house Milly would greet us and of course come into the house encouraged by the children. Alexandra had to be taught how to pat and not pull her tail, but you could do anything to her. She was that kind of dog.
We had dogs on the other side of the house. Thomas would open the side gate and let two golden retrievers gallop in and William would hide. Bailey grew so fat he became almost dangerous. He stood on my bare foot one day and he felt like an elephant. We stopped giving him tidbits.
No-one knows who owns the cat, but everyone looks after it. It appears suddenly, out of nowhere, miaowing for food, some time after we arrive. It has been around a couple of years. Illegal, of course; wandering cats are not allowed on the Mornington Peninsula. But dogs are not allowed off-leash on the beach and everyone ignores that. One time the cat slept on William's bed all night. Sometimes it comes in and does its grooming routine in the morning sun at the east window and then disappears. When Milly first moved in, she bounded at the cat jocularly and received a fearful scratch on the nose. Now they kept their distance.
One day late last year, Milly's owner told me they were selling. The cascading house had too many levels for small children. Their two year had fallen on stairs and broken an arm. Another family, with teenage children, bought the place as their holiday house just after Christmas. They have a dog. We haven't met it yet.
Surrounded by animals in town, too. Our house there has two compost bins. The one under the lili pili hedge has been emptying too quickly. Vegetable scraps don't rot that fast. Rats! Tiger, our neighbour's cat, has been spending much time in our garden recently. She's working through the rat family, one by one. Tiger is a grey athletic masterpiece of the species, similar in colour and shape and power to the Jaguar mascot.
That neighbour also has a magpie and a shih-tzu dog. The magpie, Half-beak (because she has a broken lower beak), clops onto our side fence each night for scraps. The shih-tzu, Genie, stays in their backyard and barks every night until about 8 o'clock. It's not loud. It sounds like a lamb sneezing.