The sock mathematician.

Daisy June 2013

Daisy, what is the likelihood of a satellite falling out of the sky and landing on our house? Daisy: “woof..woof!”  [0.0000000000001%]. Good girl.

Now, if you have 2 dog biscuits, and you share 1 of them with the dog over the road, how many dog biscuits do you have left? “Woof!” We will take that as “2”, because you don’t share dog biscuits. The labrador’s code.

Last question. What are the chances of me walking out the back door and threading my way, in the dark, toward the shed without standing on a Daisy deposit? “WOOF!” Yes, I thought so. No chance at all. All of the statistical probabilities have been covered off there. It’s all about drop zones. Golf course design 101. Sitting at home during the day, Daisy has carefully surveyed the back garden, conducting time/motion studies, stepping out likely paths, calculating “what if” outcomes and then mapping drop zones. The clothesline is another killer location. The sheets hang low to the ground, providing an excellent trust screen. As you duck your head purposefully into the sheet to push your way through to the other side, you know instantly that you have made an error in judgement.

Our family dog “Daisy”, a 10-year-old black (and grey muzzled) Labrador, is comfortable with numbers.

How many black socks can she swallow and pass through her internal workings? 23. This experiment was conducted when Daisy was in the first years of her seemingly endless adolescence. We raced her off to the vet the first time she inhaled a sock, and had her stomach pumped. We weren’t aware of the next few intakes until we spotted elongated deposits on the lawn. I thought very briefly about putting the socks back through the wash and re-using them, but that idea was never going to trouble the patents office. After sock number 3 evaporated and then found itself re birthed and stretched out on the lawn, we added oil to her food and kept all socks off the floor and out of reach. There were clearly serious policy breaches because we counted 23 elongations in total, before she decided that it probably wasn’t a fruitful pursuit, and refocused her attention on drop zone management.

Our two children were both in primary school when mum suddenly appeared at the door of their classrooms cradling a tiny 8 week old, sleepy-eyed pup. I built Daisy a kennel, made from leftover renovation materials so it matched our house. When it was finished, we placed her bedding in the kennel and she went straight in there and made it her sleeping quarters. Soon after, whilst getting all her shots done, we were exposed to the concept of pet insurance. We decided that insurance might be a good idea. That was an understatement.

Daisy is a veterinary frequent flier. She could fly around the world (up the pointy end) and stay in 5 star resorts with her points. She was once awarded the title of “Pet of the Week” at the local vet clinic. If Awards are based on clinic income,  Daisy is a frontrunner for “Pet of the decade”. Labradors eat anything that is not nailed down, and they sometimes even eat things that are. I lost 3 heavy-duty BBQ covers in very short space of time. The plants in our back garden were very nervous in Daisy’s early years. Some of them wound up being reduced to single sticks poking out of the ground. After numerous operations, and 2 weeks in vet hospitals and clinics, the vets eventually found a 10 cm (4 inch) corn cob blocking her small intestine. They also found a bunch of muesli bar wrappers. On another occasion a bone was stuck in her intestine, they unzipped her again for that one. A few years ago she was hit by a car and presented with a fractured and totally stripped foreleg. Throw in a chronic yeast ear infection, several bouts of gastro, and a few other complaints, and it is time to start thinking about a second mortgage. The bills were horrendous, but thankfully covered by insurance. We nearly lost her a few times, but thankfully she has pulled through each time.

??????????????????????????????? Daisy sore leg!

Despite Daisy’s extended adolescence, she has, over time, gradually mellowed into a refined, middle-aged citizen. She sits on the third step of the stairs at home so she can survey all ground floor activity before her, but she is also perfectly placed to hear what the kids are doing upstairs. She sat on that step as a pup and had room to spare; now she has to constrict herself to fit, with paws hanging over the front of the step. Good luck trying to get past her. Often there will be activity in four different rooms in our house, so Daisy does periodical room checks just make sure everyone is okay, poking her head into each doorway, assessing, giving the all clear, and then moving on.

Daisy is a constant. Always pleased to see you, always smiling and wagging her tail, always in a good mood, always hungry, and always ready for a walk to the park. She sits at the front door, willing us to lift the lead off the hook in the hallway. Every time I stand up, she stands up as well, with a quizzical sideways expression, trying to read my face. “A walk?” If I go and change my shoes for any reason, Daisy is there asking the question. “Are we going to the park?”

We have always kept Daisy lean, not over feeding her or giving her scraps. I can’t vouch for the kids, as Daisy seems to immediately hover around them when they near the kitchen. They strenuously deny any dietary indiscretion, but the Pavlov-like behaviour is unmistakable. Daisy’s hearing is not what it used to be, but she can detect even the smallest of crumbs as they find the kitchen floor, swooping in and Hoovering under your feet.

On her birthday and Xmas morning, we give her wrapped presents. She knows exactly what this is all about, trapping the present on the ground between her paws and tearing the paper off, to reveal a new ball or toy. It is extraordinary to watch.

We know that our time with Daisy is only limited. It is almost impossible to imagine living in our house without her. She has been a flawless family member, a great companion and friend to all of us and to our extended family and friends, and the neighborhood. She has watched our children grow up and become adults, and they, in turn, have seen her grow from a tiny ball of fluff into a mature, grand lady. We will cherish every moment that we have with her until eventually that time comes. In the meantime, she has earned some very special treatment.

As I write this, Daisy is coughing and gagging in the hallway. She appears to have swallowed something a week ago and has been to the vet twice since. More flier points. Maybe a quick holiday in Fiji. We may need to take her back again today for another assessment and more medication. I know she gave up socks a long time ago, but maybe she found a really good one?

Anything you want to say Daisy? “Woof, cough, gag, woof!” [I’m fine…now how about that walk?]


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4 Responses to The sock mathematician.

  1. Tricia Fay says:

    Dear Mark, are you going to get another Labrador when Daisy, sadly, leaves your family?
    If so,, my advice is you should buy a puppy now so she or he can be trained by Daisy.
    In the Nolan family traditions.
    I always believed I would get a Labrador, however, for some reason, visits to my sisters home
    while you were young, I realized II would never survive life with a Lab. Due to my health an expenses. (You have not realized Electric driers have saved you a fortune. Sadly, Daisy has missed out on the joy of flying around on a rotary line, teeth fixed firmly into sheets.)
    Mark, I did love your story although I seldom read horror stories.
    You have to really love a dog to cope with the disasters they create, while they believe they are helping or creating. It is hard to keep that in mind each time ,next time, now.

    Must away, have just realized the house is very quite.
    Where the hell is McGregor my Poodle from the McGregor Road Pound.
    Might be getting me a coffee? Love to Daisy, hope she keep well.


    • Nolsie says:

      Dear Tricia, thank you so much for your kind words. I hope you well up there at Rocky Point. It’s a sad day for us today because the cough I was talking about in the story has deteriorated over the past week and the tests and X-ray result were not good. She has lymphoma and tonight is sadly our last night with her. Daisy has been a beautiful friend. We are not looking forward to tomorrow but do not regret a single day of the last 10 years of the fun (and disasters) with her. So yes, when it is time, we will hopefully get a new pup. I actually had been thinking about the family tradition of introducing a pup while Daisy was here – apart from the training, it also gives the elder one a new lease on life. Thankyou for your words because they have made a big difference to me today and they came at exactly the right time! And thankyou for reading. Most of the stories so far have been personal horror stories about the silly things I have done, but I enjoy telling them. I always remember your story about your caravan overtaking you in the Blue Mountains; they are the things that amuse me. I wrote a similar story about my runaway car just recently. I’m running out of self ridicule examples so I move onto other non-horror topics. Sounds like McGregor is keeping you busy too! They are such good company, enjoy! Xx Mark


  2. Michael R. Nolan says:

    Hi Mark and Suzie
    Thinking about Daisy causes a big lump in my throat and a prickle in my eyelids. Your comment about the kennel reminds me of the corn cob incident when we were “Daisy sitting”. When we finally brought her home from the Vet Hospital, we received two instructions a/ Pick her up to get her into the car as she might break her sutures and b/ keep her inside for a few days so that she doesn’t pick up any infection.
    Daisy had her own slant on these instructions. When I tried to lift her into the back seat of the car she leapt out of my arms and lay down on the seat but seemed to be O K. Secondly when she arrived home relieved to be there at last after so long in Hospital, we set up a day bed for her. Jill thoughtfully placed a soft towel on her inside bed to give her more comfort and she had to carefully scratch the pillow out with her paw before she could sit down. She didn’t complain but just removed the offending towel. Then when it was time to go to bed she flatly refused to stay inside and demanded to go outside. We assumed that she wanted to go to the toilet but she went strait to the kennel, turned around a few times, sat down and looked out at us. She was a big girl and it would have been impossible for me to drag her out. We prayed that she wouldn’t catch anything and, of course she didn’t. I loved looking after her but was always apprehensive that we would be tracking up to the Vet in Burke road. Vale Daisy



    • Nolsie says:

      Hi Dad,
      Yes it was difficult to get change her mind on some things! On her last few nights she did stay inside but it took some convincing. She loved having her special friends look after her, being yourself and Mum, Jac and Geoff, and the Coopers (Ashton, Linda & Cooper). She would go quite silly when any of you lot turned up at the house. She received very special treatment from all of you. We were all just lucky to spend time with her,
      Cheers Mark


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