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Open Features: Phosphorescence

...We are a bit of a pack, the neighbour's magnificent, pure white husky, my son and I. We have spent six years pounding the suburb's pavements together on our daily walks...

And the husky could be a life-saver, even in sunburnt Australia, as Jean Cowgill's story reveals.

I was struggling on behind as usual, the ageing wolf mother, battling to keep up with the alpha and beta males striding out ahead. We are a bit of a pack, the neighbour's magnificent, pure white husky, my son and I. We have spent six years pounding the suburb's pavements together on our daily walks.

Late on Tuesday afternoon we tried out a new route along the access roads which run beneath the huge electricity pylons, up in the bush. The husky's fur was so dazzling in the sun that it reflected a sort of halo of light around him. His coat is so delectably thick and soft that you can sink into it as if it were a brand new pair of sheepskin slippers. Being the intellectual powerhouse that I am, these thoughts triggered a memory of a poem I once read. It went something like this, "Mary had a little lamb, it ran into a pylon, 10,000 volts shot up its spine and turned its wool to nylon." I instantly reminded my son not to allow the dog to lift his leg on any of the electrical hardware.

The irony of having a dog, which is so perfectly designed for the snow, living in sunburnt Australia is not lost on me but on this particular day his protection from the elements was about to prove a blessing. Ominous, black clouds suddenly blew in on an icy gale and within minutes large drops of rain were falling with increasing intensity, turning the dusty fire trail which we were now running on, into slippery clay.

I, being the mountain goat that I am, tripped on a tree root and almost fell. The husky was momentarily alarmed and turned to check on me. My loving son totally ignored me and kept on going.

"You might notice that at least the dog checks on me when I stumble, "I called out to my son's back.

"You are so unco (which is teenage -speak for "uncoordinated") that over the years I have learned not to concern myself about your progress," he replied, without even turning his head.

Well, I know which of the two of them I'd prefer to be stuck with if I was ever in serious trouble. He may not have hands or a mobile phone but I'm certain that he'd stand over my limp body or keep me warm by lying next to me, for days if necessary, and summon help by reverberating that mighty husky howl of his across the valley.

I can say this with conviction because once before the husky had proved his loyalty to me. It was back in 2008, when I had a year of being ill. During a dog walk, I felt faint so I decided to briefly lie down on a grassy pavement. To my surprise, the husky became quite agitated. At first he licked my face. Next he urgently and firmly nudged my side with his nose, trying to persuade me to stand up. When I remained horizontal he protectively stood over me while I recovered. I was deeply touched by his devotion.

We now had a small problem of a different sort. We were still quite far out on the trail and it was rapidly becoming very dark. Not only was it the evening of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, but the sky was extra black because it was filled with ash from a Chilean volcano which was erupting half a world away. The ash cloud was so bad that flights in and out of Sydney airport had been cancelled for the day.

Two of us were wet and shivering and beginning to worry about how we were going to navigate our way home. As the last smidgen of light disappeared and our eyes adjusted to the change we made a remarkable discovery. We were saved. We had our very own light source. The husky's luxuriant fur had absorbed so much radiation during the day that we were now being powered along by a glow-in-the -dark wolf.


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