The neighbourhood I currently drive in for the interviewer job is down a long no-through road that branches into a network of curvy, secluded no-through roads on the edge of bushland. The suburb is semi-rural with paddocks with grazing horses, cattle and sheep as well as stretches with bush and forest, and no street lights after a certain point. Evenings are dark and quiet apart from the sounds of birds and insects in the forest alongside the road, and the air smells dry and fore-sty.
When I drive out there after dark I actually keep my car doors locked*. I have a strong LED torch handy and have finally unpacked the pocket alarm I got from my employer to carry it with the work equipment. What do a female Scandinavian like me know about Australian stranger danger… The bush is a deep unknown space where people can disappear without a trace**.
The houses sit on large blocks of land behind long driveways and large rugged front lawns; often fully fenced. It doesn’t look like a rich suburb despite the large properties; many houses look old and wooden with DIY extensions, and some have caravans and rusty cars huddling around them.
Here are my assumptions about people who have chosen to settle in this type of neighbourhood:
- They like nature and serenity
- They prefer to be left alone by people
- They have big guard dogs to protect against intruders
Guard dogs is the real potential danger; a highly unpredictable variable. Here are my strategies for minimising dog risks:
Dog Danger Avoidance Strategies
From the perspective of a resident dog, everything is wrong with the presence and behaviour of me entering its territory. Trespassing, snooping around, being a stranger, even nervous (although I try to hide it)… It is its job to keep me out.
For that reason, I’m armed with dog treats when I enter an unknown property (hoping that all dogs take bribes). Before I enter the gate of a fenced property, I whistle and call to lure potential dogs out in the open, and if I see any, talk to them with my most friendly, light-pitched, gentle voice. I continue to whistle and call calmly as I walk up the driveway to show potentials dogs that I am unworried and not trying to sneak up on anyone.
So far it works, but I haven’t yet had to enter a property with rottweilers or one of the humongous sized Neapoletan Mastiff-type dogs I have seen.
Stray dog dramas
On the first few days driving in the area a different type of dog drama came up:
On the second day a couple of stray dobermann crosses appeared from the bush and followed my car. I was driving slowly, looking for addresses with open windows, music in the radio and dog treats in the driver’s door. They disappeared into the bush again after a while.
The next day, when I stopped the car to write an address in Google Maps, a Staffy X-like little dog came over. It had severe Mange with almost half of the fur missing on it back and was underweight, shy and very hungry. I gave it some treats and tried to grab the collar so I could see if there was a name tag (there wasn’t), but it was scared and bolted when I reached out***.