"The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's." – Mark Twain, Letter to W D Howells, 4/2/1899

Archive for July, 2015

Patrick.

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If George Orwell had not saved Patrick’s great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather, Patrick wouldn’t be here.

I’ve seen the photograph.

In the background of that photograph, Hemingway is standing and talking to some other soldiers. Patrick loves listening to his mistress read Hemingway so he said he would much rather that his ancestor had been saved by Hemingway, but George Orwell is not a bad writer either.

Patrick is very well read.

I say well read, but Patrick can’t actually read he doesn’t need to, he’s a dog.

But he does listen to his mistress when she reads the classics. Fortunately, his mistress loves Hemingway.

Personally I like detective stories. The Thin Man or any story with a dog in it. When I was a pup Aster was my hero.

I like it when my mistress reads stories where the bloke gets the girl.

It’s not just books that Patrick and I enjoy we love old movies as well. Patrick’s mistress loves old black and white movies and Patrick has a favourite; Rin Tin Tin. As I said before Aster is my favourite.

Unlike my other friend Ernie, Patrick has never actually saved anybody, but he says he is prepared to. He keeps himself sharp and he practises every day.

He is quite sure he could tackle a burglar. He has even imagined himself saving a baby from drowning. Patrick is a very good swimmer.

The truth of the matter is that Patrick spends a lot of his days sitting on the rug in front of the fire. Most of his adventures happen inside his head. But there’s nothing wrong with that. My mistress does that every day, that’s how she makes a living. “An imagination is a wonderful thing, Rufus. It can take you anywhere in the world. You can have as many friends as you want and you can be as bad or as good as you want to be. If you want to save the puppies from the burning building you can do it and not even get your fur singed. You can cross the raging river and save the family trapped in their car without actually getting your paws wet. It’s great fun.” My mistress talks to me like that sometimes.

Usually when she’s come up with an idea for a new story.

I can hear the excitement in her voice and I know she’s going to be happy for a little while, at least until the story is finished.

It’s a whole different story when she’s between ideas. Sometimes she gets very sad.

She sits and stares out the window for hours. On these days, I don’t go for my walks. I stay as close to her as possible, it’s part of my job; I know she needs me. She strokes my fur and I know she feels better. On these days, I try not to bark too much or chase birds.

“You have magical powers Rufus, you always make me feel better.” I like the idea of having magical powers, but really it’s just love.

Maybe love is a magical power.

Patrick’s mistress works in the city and this means that Patrick is on his own for long periods of time. He tries to make the best of it, but he gets very lonely. His mistress usually catches the same train home every night and Patrick is usually at the station waiting for her. Fortunately, the station master is very kind, he likes dogs. If Patrick’s mistress’s train is late, he gives Patrick a snack and lets him sit in his warm office until the train arrives. Trains make a lot of noise and Patrick has to control himself so that he is not frightened. His love for his mistress is greater than his fear of the train.

Dogs have excellent hearing so Patrick can hear the train coming when it is a long way away. The station master is always impressed that Patrick knows when the train is coming. He opens the door to his office even though the train isn’t due for several minutes.

When his mistress gets off the train Patrick runs to meet her. He is very excited but he knows that he is not allowed to jump on her. He really wants to jump on her, but instead he just spins around in circles.

Patrick’s mistress always makes a big fuss of him when she first sees him.

In the winter, they walk straight home, but in the summer they often stop at the cafe in the village and have a cup of tea. The shopkeeper won’t let Patrick come inside so his mistress sits outside at the little table.

This is one of Patrick’s favourite things.

His mistress calls him a Cafe dog. He’s not sure what that means, but he thinks it has something to do with the cups of tea.

Sometimes other people walk past with their dogs and Patrick would very much like to bark at them. Just to let them know to keep their distance, but he knows that his mistress does not like him to do that, so he just growls under his breath. The other dogs get the message either way. When Patrick’s mistress goes on holidays she takes Patrick with her.

Their favourite place to holiday is by the seaside, which is strange because we live very close to the ocean. Patrick explains it this way, “My mistress likes to look at different bits of the ocean, not just the bit where we live.” I guess that makes sense, but I stopped trying to understand humans a long time ago. These days I just go with the flow, it’s simpler that way.

Patrick has an interesting collection of bones and he sometimes shares one with me, which is very kind because most dogs will not share a bone, but then again Patrick is not most dogs, he’s a friend of mine.

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Ernie takes flight.

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I told you a little bit about Ernie and his mistress and her boyfriends, but I don’t think I told you about the boyfriend that had the aeroplane.

He had been a flyer during the war and when he got back home no one saw him for a long time. He lived by himself in the hills near Tecoma.

After a little while, people noticed that he had begun to fly again. His uncle had died and left him an inheritance. He had been living on that money, but now he decided to spend some of it on an aeroplane. As he put it, “I’m not much good at anything else so I might as well do the thing that I’m good at.”

Ernie didn’t understand what he meant by that, but he did like that aeroplane, and for a little while the flyer and his mistress were happy together.

The aeroplane didn’t have a top on it, it was a lot like riding in a convertible except that you were up in the air. Ernie used to rush out to meet the flyer whenever he landed in the fields near their house. On a beautiful still sunny day and Ernie heard the magic words, “Let’s take Ernie with us.” These were the words that he had longed to hear.

Wind in his hair and bugs up is his nose.

The boyfriend picked him up and sat him on his mistress’s lap.

Takeoff was exhilarating.

Once they were in the air Ernie could see for a very long way. The world looked very different from up there. They stayed in the air for what seemed to Ernie to be a very long time. It was great fun but as they say, what goes up must come down and as the plane headed for the field Ernie waited for the bump.

It was all over way too quickly.

Ernie jumped out of the plane as soon as it stopped moving.

He ran around in circles, he couldn’t help himself.

He also did a great deal of barking.

The plane made a great deal of noise, which hurt Ernie’s ears, and being hit in the face with bugs wasn’t much fun, but all in all it had been a magnificent experience.

At least that’s the way Ernie tells.

Personally, I like to keep my four paws on the ground, but that’s me.

If God had wanted small black furry dogs to fly he would’ve given them wings.

He didn’t, so I’m staying right here on the ground.


Rufus and Ernie.

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Ernie’s mistress is a writer just like mine.

He gets to drive around with her in her car just like I do with my mistress, but the difference being he’s allowed to sit on her lap while she’s driving.

My mistress would never put up with that.

Ernie is one of the few people I can actually talk to about deep stuff. He’s got those serious looking eyes, and he knows stuff. Our lives are remarkably similar. He spends a lot of time waiting for his mistress to stop writing so that they can be together.

It’s exactly the same at my house.

Ernie is much bigger than I am and he is white and doesn’t have much fur. He eats a lot more than I do. He thinks that he can do a much better job of protecting his mistress then I can. I reminded him that size is not everything.

Another thing that we have in common is that our mistresses drive very fast indeed. I like it, but Ernie gets nervous.

It’s fun to spend time with someone who’s mistress does exactly the same thing that yours does. It saves a lot of time, I don’t have to explain everything.

Writers are unusual humans they don’t do the sort of things that other people do. Sometimes they sleep very late and sometimes they work all night. If you are the dog guarding such a person you have to be flexible, you have to be ready for anything. You have to be ready to go at a moments notice, and be prepared to put up with your mistresses friends, some of whom can be quite strange indeed.

Ernie understands these things.

Ernie is very brave but he doesn’t like to talk about it, and it’s not just his size. A year or two back he was riding in his mistresses car when she lost control and skidded off the road. She was knocked unconscious and so was Ernie, but Ernie was the first to regain consciousness. He tried to wake his mistress up. He could smell the blood coming from the wound in her head so he knew it was serious.

He had to decide, would he stay with her or go for help.

His instinct was to stay with her, but he sensed that he needed to get help quickly. He ran as fast as he could until he came across some humans, he tried to make them understand that there was an emergency, but they were the kind of foolish humans who were afraid of dogs. They tried to beat Ernie with a stick.

He continued running until he found some more humans and this time they were much wiser. They understood dogs and they knew that something was wrong. They followed Ernie until he got back to the scene of the accident.

It turned out that his mistress was not badly injured, just knocked unconscious, but if Ernie had not gone for help she might have lain there for a very long time, and that would’ve been bad. When I asked Ernie about his bravery he just said he was doing his job. I knew what he meant. Every dog needs a job and every dog has a job. Ernie and I have the same job, we protect our mistress so that she can get on with her work.

Work is very important to our mistresses. They love to write. In our small way, we help to make that possible.

Ernie doesn’t remember much about his family, but he does remember his mother. He says that she was very wise and in the short time they were together she taught him everything he needed to know about being a dog.

Ernie’s mistress writes romance stories; you know the ones, all kissing and hugging and people falling in love. The stories go on for pages and pages. Humans are very strange when it comes to choosing a mate. Dogs are much smarter. When we decide to choose a mate we choose someone we think will be good with a family. Families are important.

Ernie’s mistress doesn’t have a mate and neither does mine. We’ve talked about this problem and we both agreed that it creates a lot of challenges for us. If they had a mate our job would be easier because there would be someone else to look out for them as well as us. As it is, we have to be on our guard as each new boyfriend comes on the scene. We have to work out if they are safe and if they are good for our mistress.

This is not easy to do.

We can work out most things about humans by just sniffing them a lot. But when it comes to boyfriends this only gives us some of the information. Dogs have a sixth sense when it comes to people, but this is helpful only up to point. The rest of the decision comes from our experience. That’s why puppies are hopeless in this regard. It takes an experienced dog to really look after a human. You have to have seen a bit of life. Humans can be sneaky, particularly male humans. They say one thing and the dog can tell that they mean something different. Sometimes I wonder why it takes my mistress so long to work this out. “Why do I always fall for the bad boys? Why do I always make the same mistakes with men?” These are good questions but I guess humans have a long way to go before they become as smart as dogs and in the meantime my mistress doesn’t have to worry because she’s got me to look out for her.

Ernie says that his mistress’s latest boyfriend seems like a good one. So far he seems to be telling the truth which is a good thing. Ernie says that his mistress is a very bad judge of men so the fact that she seems to have found a good one takes a lot of pressure off him.

I probably won’t see Ernie again for a little while but when we get back together again I know that we will enjoy catching up and it will be fine to find out if his mistress’s latest boyfriend worked out well.

In the meantime I know he will be on his guard.

He’s a good dog, brave, loyal and true.

I’m proud to call him my friend.


Rufus and the lady in the Window.

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I saw her most days. Just sitting and staring out the window.

Her house was on my regular route.

I say regular, but that depends on my mistress.

She doesn’t like me ‘wandering around’ as she calls it, so I only get to sneak out when she is busy. She sits at her desk and writes on most days but sometimes she really gets wrapped up in her work and she even forgets to stop and eat. On these days I know I can go for a long walk and most likely I won’t be missed.

The lady in the window is Mrs. Norris. I guess there must have been a Mr. Norris, but I never saw him.

She seemed sad to me and I know what sad loss like, but it was more than the way she appeared it was the way she looked, as though she was waiting for someone.

She rarely went outside and on the few occasions that I saw her she barely noticed me, which is unusual. People want to pat me all the time. They say things like, ‘Aren’t you cute, and who’s a good dog then?” I’m not sure if I’m supposed to answer or not so mostly I just wag my tail.

Old ladies are the worst.

They come out of nowhere and start patting me before I know what is happening.

I’ve got a friend, a white Maltese named Zed and he tells similar stories.

The difference with Zed is he collects little old ladies. He just stands there and looks cute and the little old ladies sneak up on him and pat him. He lets them come in but on the way out he gives them a nip.

He keeps count.

So far this year he has cleaned up 17 little old ladies and it’s not August yet. You might think that he gets into trouble, but he doesn’t. His owner says, “Serves you right for patting the dog without asking permission. He’s wearing a bright red lead that says CAUTION. If you can’t be bothered to read the warning then it serves you right.”

So far no one has complained to anyone and Zed reckons he can hit 30 by the end of the year, especially if the tourist season is a good one.

I took Zed to visit the lady in the window, but I made him promise that he wouldn’t bite. He said that he only bit little old ladies, it was a matter of principle, so she was safe.

Even with a cute white fluffy friend the lady in the window did not pay us much attention.

She always smiled at me, but that seemed like as much as she could manage.

Once or twice I sat next to her in her garden. We sat there for ages; not saying anything at all. I think she enjoyed my company. I wanted to make her feel a bit better. I don’t know if I succeeded, but I didn’t make her feel any worse and sometimes that is as much as you can ask for.

I went past her house again today and there she was, in the window, just looking. I wonder if she will find what she is looking for? I wonder if what she is looking for will find her?

I’m only a dog so I may never find out the answers to those questions, but that does not matter. Today is what matters; right here and right now. I’ll do my best to keep an eye on the lady in the window but in the end her happiness is up to her, all I can do is be there.

When my mistress lets me, that is.


Chopper.

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Chopper is as white as I’m black.

He’s the white dog of the family.

No one knows how it happened, and we don’t hold it against him, we are dogs after all, we don’t judge you on the colour of your fur.

If you contribute to the pack we don’t care how big, small, skinny or fat you are. Do your job, stay out of trouble and the pack will accept you.

There were many rumours and some of them were ‘off the wall, bat shit crazy’, but the most logical explanation came in the form of a large Samoid named Killer.

Killer was one of those dogs who don’t know when to shut up, and who spend all their time trying to show other dogs how tough they are. It gets very old very quickly. Most of us tried to avoid him and his owner kept him locked behind a large wooden fence. Wooden fences a fine, as far as they go, but they get old and the posts rot and the fence begins to sag. Killer had a sense that his fence was on the way out and he worked on it ever day for many weeks. He was a big bloke and just by leaning on the fence he managed to get it to move just a bit each day. Eventually the inevitable happened and Killer squeezed through the gap he had so diligently created and proceed to rampage through our small community. It is said that he mated with every female he could find before his owner caught up with him, and one of the unfortunate females was Chopper’s grandmother.

So now, with each new litter, there is at least one white pup mixed in with all the black ones.

I have a soft spot for Chopper.

He gets lonely and he does not get to visit with my mistress and I very often. When he comes to stay I show him around all the sights. He particularly likes visiting the butcher shop, but that can require a bit of stealth on my part because the butcher hates dogs. I don’t know why and I don’t particularly care either, but I do know that he can be dangerous. The Pomeranian that lives across from the park still walks with a limp, and all he did was wee on the corner of the butcher shop.

Chopper’s favourite thing is sitting on chairs.

I must say that he sits very well and there is even a photograph of him sitting on a chair. His mistress has a large version placed prominently on her piano; I’ve seen it. Chopper showed it to me the last time we went there for a visit. His mistress also carries a very small version of it in her wallet. She used to have a photo of her children in her wallet, but she took it out. Apparently they never call her and she is fed up.

“Just one bloody phone call a week. That’s all I ask. Is that too much, I ask you?” She wasn’t talking to me but if she had been I would have agreed with her.

If my mum was still alive I would visit her every day.

We should always remember where we came from.

Apart from sitting on chairs, Chopper is also very good at carrying stuff. Not big stuff obviously, but small important things. He regularly carries his mistress’s handbag. The bag is nearly as big as he is, but as long as he keeps his head up he can manage it, at least from the car to the front door. His mistress loves him for it and he is very proud to be able to help her. It is very difficult to understand what he is saying with a mouth full of handbag, but it usually doesn’t matter much because Chopper is not a great conversationalist. He mostly likes to talk about things he has seen on television. Strange things like people dancing and singing. It all seems a bit unnatural to me, but Chopper loves it.

The best thing about Chopper is that he takes one day at a time.

I’ve never heard him worrying about tomorrow.

He lives in the moment.

What more could you want from a friend?


Rufus and the Big Black Dog.

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I hadn’t been down this road for a long while.

It’s quiet here and I like that.

When I came around the bend, there he was, sitting on the side of the road; sitting very still. At first I wasn’t sure why he was there and then I noticed the large stick lying on the ground in front of him. I’ve seen this kind of behaviour before.

Hell, I’ve behaved like this before, but usually there is a human involved and usually they have thrown the stick and the dog retrieves it and places it at the feet of its owner.

It’s a game and a damn good one.

When I was younger I could keep it up for what seemed like hours.

Dogs aren’t good at ‘the passage of time’, so it may have been shorter than hours, but it seemed that way to me at the time. I love games, especially when humans are involved.

My theory was valid, but with one exception; there wasn’t a human in sight. I hadn’t seen one on my walk and I had walked a long way.

I carefully approached him, making sure not to make eye contact; this was no time for a punch up.

I sniffed him and he sniffed me back. I could tell that he had not eaten in a long time. His fur was in very good condition and his eyes were clear [I took a quick peek] but his breath said that his tummy was empty and had been that way for several days. He must have been in a bit of pain, but he was doing a good job of not showing it.

The words of my mother were ringing in my ears, “never show weakness, always look like you know what is going on, and give the impression that you are smart and strong, that way they will want you in the pack”. She never explained who ‘they’ were, but I listened and I remembered. I think that this bloke’s mother must have told him the same stuff.

After a little while, I got a conversation going and it turned out that his owner had driven him out here a few days ago and they had been playing his favourite game, ‘fetch the stick’, when his owner said ‘wait here’. He then got back into his car and drove away.

This big black, faithful dog had been waiting here ever since.

I’ve been around a bit and I was pretty sure that I knew what had happened.

I asked a few more questions.

“Has your family added a new small human recently? It smells like powder and milk and it makes a lot of noises?” The big black dog said that they had, and he wanted to know how I knew. I pretended that I could smell the little human on him, but I couldn’t. I’ll bet that they put this big black dog outside and never let him guard the little human.

“Did the male and female human argue a lot and use your name?” Apparently they had and he didn’t know what he had done wrong.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him what had happened so I told him to wait there and I would go and get him something to eat.

“I might not be here when you get back if my master comes back and collects me.” The big black dog’s voice did not sound very confident.

“Don’t worry about it. If you are not here when I get back I’ll eat the food myself.” This seemed to make sense to the big fella, so I headed back down the road. It was going to take a long time for me to find food and bring it back to him, but I knew he would be waiting when I got back.

Getting food wasn’t going to be a problem, but working out what I was going to do with this big dumb dog was going to require a bit of thought.

I got a couple of friends to help me distract the butcher so I could sneak in the back door and steal some chops. The bulldog and the Jack Russell from Scotia Street were only too happy to help out. They don’t like our butcher any more than I do.

I’m not very big so I could only carry two chops and that was never going to be enough to feed this big black hungry dog, but it was going to have to do for the moment.

On the way back, I hatched a plan.

Old Mrs McKenzie needed a dog to look after her since Bruiser got hit by that bus.

Bruiser was a good dog and Mrs McKenzie was very lonely since he had died. She wouldn’t take another dog into her house because she was so sad about Bruiser, but I had a feeling that I could talk her into it. Now, all I had to do was talk the big black dog into following me back to her house. It was not going to be easy, he was not going to leave unless I could come up with a very good reason. He wasn’t very bright, but he was very loyal. His owner was never coming back, but he would sit there and starve to death waiting for him.

It made me very mad.

The big black dog was very happy to see me or was it the chops I was carrying? Either way, the food got him to trust me.

It was starting to get late so I had to work fast.

While he was still eating, I told him that his owner had left word that he had been delayed and that he should follow me to Mrs McKenzie’s house and wait there.

The story was a bit too long and he looked very confused, but I needed to keep all the detail, so I just went over it all again and tried to sound like it was all an adventure.

I must have been very convincing because he seemed to like the idea.

I suggested that we get some water at the stream that was close by because I was thirsty after all that walking and I was a bit concerned about the stamina of this big black dog after sitting out in the open for so long without food.

I need not have worried because we trotted along together and he walked slowly because I have very short legs.

When we got to Mrs McKenzie’s house it was still light and I scratched on the back door. It took her a while to open the door, but when she did she recognised me.

“Hello, Rufus. I haven’t seen you for such a long time. I’ll bet you are missing Bruiser too, aren’t you boy?” She was right, I did miss Bruiser, but life goes on until it doesn’t.

“Who have you got with you there Rufus? What a beautiful big black dog you are.”

The big black dog licked her on the hand because he believed that she was a friend of his master so she must be a good person.

Mrs McKenzie looked to see if the big black dog had a name tag, but his owner had removed his collar before driving away.

“You look hungry big fella. Would you like something to eat? I was just making my supper. You are welcome to join me. You too Rufus, if you like.”

I wasn’t going to say no because all the dogs in the neighbourhood know that Mrs McKenzie is an excellent cook.

Mrs McKenzie was trying to decide what to do with the big black dog, but I knew that there was a very good chance that she would not turn the big black dog in to the pound.

“I guess you can stay with me for a while. I’ll ask around and see if anyone has lost a beautiful big black dog. Someone is sure to claim you.”

Not bloody likely.

I told the big black dog that his job was to look after Mrs McKenzie until his owner came back for him. I told him that he was to protect her just like he would protect his owner.

He seemed to understand and he was happy to have someone to look out for.

They would make a good team and now it was time for me to head for home. I would probably be in a bit of trouble for getting home so late but it would be worth it.

I saved someone today.

That does not happen every day.


Not Scared

cfc9330b80975bab4f53ddfa66dbe86c (1)I don’t scare easily.

It’s true that I’m small and black and I don’t weight very much but someone once said that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s size of the fight in the dog that counts, and that’s me.

But then, along comes someone who scares the shit out of me.

Not the dog, but he was pretty scary, it’s the girl.

Dogs know stuff. We read people and we read other dogs. Our survival depends on us knowing where the danger is coming from.

If we were in a pack she would have been driven away.

I knew the first time I smelled her that she was trouble and she had talked that big dog into helping her.

He wasn’t all bad, he was just doing what his mistress wanted him to do; look mean.

I wouldn’t go out of my way to annoy him, but I wasn’t worried about him. He was mostly for show.

She, on the other hand, was nothing but trouble.

Something really bad had happened to her and now she was very angry at the world.

I asked him what had happened to her to make her this way, but he said that she was like that when she bought him, so no luck there.

They are living in the big house down near the bakery. An old lady lives there and she took them in. They must be related. No one would put up with them otherwise.