Until last summer’s Black Saturday (the worst bushfire in Australia’s history), I’d always stayed close to home on days of high fire risk.  Now I like to be as far away from the bush as possible.   Rather than stay to defend our property on dangerous days, we’ve boosted our house and contents insurance.

When a “code red” or “catastrophic” fire warning was recently issued to parts of Victoria, I knew Lila and I would be heading to the haven of a city office. The temperature was tipped to hit 43°C and drop only slightly at sunset, resulting in Melbourne’s hottest night on record.   By the time I’d packed our things (and please do not underestimate how many toys, treats and other comforts a pampered pup requires!), I wanted to weep.  There’s something profoundly disturbing about not feeling safe in your home.  Disturbing and disorienting.  [read more below]

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We made our escape with the car’s air conditioner going full blast.  Despite her ongoing difficulties with motion sickness, Lila put on a brave face and kept her breakfast down for the duration of the trip.   She’d never been to the city before but, when we arrived, she handled all the traffic and noise with equanimity.  The footpaths scorched her paws and shade was hard to come by.   The tap water tasted funny, but it was too hot not to drink.   And we couldn’t throw a ball in the office.  She never complained.

We eventually found ourselves going for a walk in a filthy park.   Negotiating broken beer bottles with the wind driving hot heavy air into our eyes and mouths.  I pleaded with Lila to please do whatever was required before one or both of us keeled over from heat stroke or worse.   Perhaps she was dehydrated because it took her forever.  Afterwards, we slogged to an outdoor café for refreshments.  With Lila doing a little window-shopping along the way.

Thankfully, no big fires had broken out during the day so we slept in our beds that night.  Exhausted from our wanderings.  And feeling more certain than ever that there’s no place like home.

[If you have received this post by email, please click “dog downunder” or “lila the labrador flees the fire zone” in order to view accompanying video in a web page.]