Best laid plans and all that. This column was to have been about our Aussie holiday and the grim warnings about nasty critters in the lucky country.
Don't worry about crocodiles, said a friend, they can't get into your campervan. But snakes and spiders can. Never leave your door open.
But it turns out New Zealand boasts its share of nasty critters – especially if you're a harmless and defenceless sheep.
In the past three weeks, marauding dogs have twice attacked sheep here and the results have been gut-wrenching.
On the day of the first attack, in what could have been a miracle if I'd done something about it, I walked outside just as three dogs trotted down the hillside to check out my horse Pony on a far hillside. She lifted her head, decided to pay them no mind, and continued grazing.
At first I thought one dog might be a sheep with a muddy fleece. It was large and beige. Dogs two and three - one mostly black, the other smaller and pale – looked, even through binoculars, not unlike a couple of the farm manager's dogs. The pale one, like Jas, was separate from the others. That little dog is a bit of an independent thinker.
When the three headed up the hill and disappeared, I figured the farm manager must have called them. And that first creature? It was definitely a dog. Perhaps it belonged to a visitor? Hasn't happened before, but life is full of unexpected firsts.
When I reported what I'd seen to the farmer, he pointed our something I'd known: Concrete was being poured at the shed at the time of my sighting and the farm manager had been there along with his dogs.
Pretty soon they found five dead sheep. They'd suffered throat bites, typical of dog attacks.
Who could the dogs belong to? Perhaps someone had been fishing off the beach and their dogs had galloped off for the worst sort of adventure.
The second attack was nastier. The result: 10 dead sheep. One had been killed in the attack, at about midday last Saturday, while the others were so severely maimed they had to be put down.
This time, said the farmer who'd found the experience distressing, the injuries weren't typical bites to the neck. The dogs had scratched, clawed and bitten. They'd torn skin off limbs, taken chunks of flesh off the sheep as if they were hungry.
It was sobering. At this point the only ones who know for sure the identity of the culprits are the guilty dogs and the sheep themselves, and none is telling.
These aren't isolated incidents. They're the third and fourth attacks in as many years. All it takes is one dog. The problem multiplies fast when there's more. At the Maungaturoto Country Club's 65ha farm in town, dogs have attacked, maimed and killed sheep three times in the last year or so.
A few days after attack two at our place, the farm manager rolled up on his quad, his four dogs also on board. After talking over business stuff, he said, with a glint in his eye, "Are you keeping careful watch for strange dogs?"
"I don't think they did it," I replied, following his gaze.
A woman was walking two dogs on the beach. I thought they were bichon frise, but given the difficulties of distant dog ID, there may have been a thrilling incident with a poodle or terrier in their family history.
The thing is that unless you get a lucky break, killer dogs can be as elusive as the trapdoor spider. These Aussie residents do just as their name suggests. Their underground home has a trapdoor. If you're small, close and vulnerable, out jumps the spider and snap! You're dead.