"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 August, 2015

Trevor

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I asked him what he thought it meant and he said he didn’t know.

Fair enough; I didn’t know either.

The wall it is painted on is not far from the butcher shop we have raided a few times, so you will understand that I don’t walk down that way too often. The butcher is looking for someone to blame, and I don’t want that ‘someone’ to be me.

Which is funny when you think about it because it is me.

As I was saying just the other day, a lot of people stop and look at the painting on the wall. To start with, I thought it was just us dogs who were fascinated with it, but no: humans wonder about it as well.

Our town has some deep thinkers, and I have mentioned one or two, but by far the best wonderer among us is Trevor.

Trevor likes to work out what things mean. He doesn’t do it to make our lives easier, he does it because he can. He feels like he has accomplished something.

As you know, all dogs have a job, and if by some twist of fate they lose that job they will quickly find another, and so it was with Trevor.

His owner was an old human who lived in a small house on the edge of town. This old human was known as Ted, and he spent all his working life with the Railways. Why anyone would want to be so close to those annoying, loud, messy things is beyond me, but that’s humans for you: inscrutable.

Ted and Trevor were together for many years, and Trevor’s job was mainly to keep an eye on Ted and make sure that he didn’t get lost, or set fire to himself, or forget to feed himself, that sort of thing. Basically, it was a full-time job.

Ted stepped in front of a bus while on his way down to the shops to buy a newspaper. Trevor was distracted for a moment by the smell of a particularly attractive bitch who had recently moved into the area.

Trevor eventually forgave himself, but it took a long time.

The humans buried Ted and sold off all his stuff, but they forgot about his faithful dog, Trevor.

We took it upon ourselves to care for Trevor while he went through ‘a period of adjustment’. Frankly, I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I do know that we kept him well fed and found him somewhere warm to sleep.

Eventually, the bloke who mows the lawns down at the Cricket Ground took Trevor in and made him responsible for keeping the local kids out of the pavilion at night time. Some of the older kids liked to get in there and practise mating, which always seemed a bit strange to me, but then again humans are a bit strange. Why do you need to practise?

Trevor took his new job seriously, and he was quite good at it. The local young people took to going down to the beach to practise, and Trevor rarely had to run anyone off the oval. His easy workload left him heaps of time for ‘wondering’.

The painting on the wall was at the top of his list.

Legend had it that a young human had painted it many years ago in payment for shelter and food. He was travelling through town when the bus driver made him get off the bus and having no money he was hungry and homeless. Two things that no one should ever be.

He explained that he was a talented painter and offered to paint something special in return for paints, room and board.

He worked on it for many weeks, and when it was finished, he asked us what we thought of it. We liked it, but we had no idea what it meant.

During the completion of the work there had always been a dog watching its progress; we took it in turns, so it stood to reason that we would be asked our opinion.

I think that the young artist was a bit disappointed by our confusion, and when the humans were less than appreciative the young man left town on the next bus.

The humans considered painting over it but, when the young man became famous people came from all over to look at his ‘early work’.

So there it sits in all its splendour, and there sits Trevor, wondering.

He has promised to share his thoughts with us if he ever works it out, but I’m not holding my breath.

Frankly, I think that he just enjoys the process, and I don’t believe that it is all that important to find out what the painting means.

Sometimes things just are, and that is fine with me.

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Howling at the Moon.

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I’ve heard it said that humans don’t understand why we do it; howl at the moon. Worse than that I’ve heard it said that humans think it is cute.

Cute!

I ask you?

My ears are cute.

FiFi the poodle is cute, but howling at the moon is heaps more serious than that.

Sorry, I got a little bit annoyed thinking about those ‘cute’ comments.

Ask any dog and they will tell you that it is a solidarity thing and a community thing and a dog thing. I can explain some of it, but some of it only makes sense if you are a dog.

It’s a bit like football and humans.

Everyone knows that football makes no sense at all, but humans get very passionate when they watch it and when they talk about it.

Don’t even get me started on Cricket.

What the hell is that about?

Us dogs don’t poke fun at humans for trying to hit a small white ball into a very tiny hole so why do they pick on us.

Dogs know that somewhere in the world a dog is howling at the moon even as we speak.

It ties us all together.

We know that we belong.

My mistress is very good when it comes to the moon.

“Full moon tonight Rufus. How’s your voice? Ready for a good howl?”

“My voice is very good indeed, and yes I am looking forward to it.”

Naturally, I tell her this with my eyes and not my voice, but she knows what I mean. She is very smart, for a human. Her sense of smell is not as good as mine but she sure can cook, and she doesn’t mind sharing.

I particularly like sausage night.

Not too crazy about the mashed potatoes and peas, but the sausages are excellent, and she doesn’t mind how long I lick the bowl. Sometimes I can lick the bowl clean into another room. Sometimes I do it just because it makes her laugh.

I love to hear her laugh.

It’s heaps better than when she cries.

I don’t know what to do when she cries.

Mostly, I just stay close by and wait until she is feeling better.

As I said, laughter is much better.


Barry.

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Every group need a thinker and Barry was ours.

I say a group, but that’s a little bit too grand for who we are.

It would be more accurate to say that we’re just a bunch of dogs who like to hang out together. Not every day mind you, we all need our personal space and we all need a bit of time alone. That was one of Barry’s great strengths; utilising his time alone.

When we gathered together we would bring a problem to Barry and he would go away and think about it for a very long time. He never failed to come up with an answer. Sometimes we didn’t like the answer, but that wasn’t Barry’s fault.

Barry’s favourite place to do his thinking was in his master’s leather armchair. The leather armchair was heaps older than Barry and Barry felt that that gave him an edge.

“This armchair has wisdom stuffed right inside it,” Barry was heard to say. He said cool stuff like that all the time and if I had been born with opposable thumbs I would’ve written some of it down. Fortunately, I have a very good memory for a small black dog so I remember most of Barry’s wise sayings. Sometimes when we get together and Barry isn’t with us, the other dogs will ask me to quote something wise that Barry once said.

“Never leave your bone out in the rain.”

That was one of Barry’s.

It wasn’t earth-shatteringly wise but was still very good advice. No one likes a soggy bone and sometimes we need to be reminded how that bone got to be soggy in the first place.

“Always look behind you when you’re going on a long walk, you never know who might be following you.”

Before Barry said that one, many of us didn’t look behind us when we went on a long walk, but now you will not see a local dog cover more than 100 metres without taking a quick look behind him.

We call it ‘the Crazy Barry,’ and because of it no strange dog has ever been able to sneak up behind us.

It’s one of the things that makes us so strong.

Someone said that the Russian submarine fleet used to do something similar during the Cold War. But I’m pretty sure that Barry’s move was original.

When the local cats became a real problem we turned to Barry.

Usually, Barry would come up with an answer within a day or two, but this wasn’t just any problem, there were cats involved.

And anyone will tell you that cats just aren’t like anyone else.

They are inscrutable.

I don’t really know what that word means, but Barry said it, so it must mean something.

For about a week and a half, every dog in the area who wanted to look wise said ‘inscrutable’ as often as possible.

I wasn’t one of those dogs.

My human vocabulary is already larger than every other dog in the area with the exception of Barry.

So I have nothing to prove.

I credit my exceptional vocabulary to the fact that I am the dog of a writer, and everyone knows that words are a writer’s tool.

We went back to see Barry after a couple of days, but he said he had not worked out the ‘Cat Problem’.

In the end, it was almost a week and a half before Barry rejoined our group. He had been sitting in that big leather armchair thinking every day since we posed a problem.

Barry had endurance and perseverance, whatever that means.

We all gathered around and held our breath as Barry prepared to speak. You could’ve heard an owner banging a dog food tin 100 kilometres away, it was so quiet.

Barry turned to our collection of dogs, and with those big soulful eyes, he looked at each one of us before speaking.

“My friends you have posed the most difficult problem I have ever had to think upon. I considered many solutions but in the end I rejected them all. There is only one thing for it, we must enlist the help of the Mighty Tiddles.”

Naturally, being dogs, we had heard of the Mighty Tiddles, but none of us had ever seen her in person. Some said she had been dead for many years, and others said that her owners had taken her away, well out of our area. A couple of the crazy dogs said that she had sprouted wings and flown over the rainbow. We tolerate all views in our pack, even to the point of putting up with the concept of flying cats and rainbows. Everyone knows that rainbows aren’t real.

A meeting was immediately held and I was elected to be the dog who would go and ask the Mighty Tiddles if she would help us with our problem.

This was to be the most dangerous adventure I had ever embarked upon.

I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say there were rivers, sharp rocks and strange smelling milk cartons, all of which stood between me and the Mighty Tiddles.

The pack had faith in me, Barry had faith in me, and I was not going to let them down.

After three days of torturous travelling, I stood before our group and introduced the Mighty Tiddles.

Her first words to the group were, “I understand you have a problem with the local cat population.”

We agreed that we did indeed have a problem.

“If you wish to regain control of this area from the cats, you must do exactly what I say, no more, no less.”

We were all impressed with her no-nonsense attitude, and the fact that she hadn’t scratched anybody.

“Go forth into your town and seek out anything that is small and shiny. Gather these things together and bring them here.”

When the work was done there was a huge pile of shiny objects and we stood back and admired our work.

The Mighty Tiddles told us to place these objects in very specific places. No more than 3 metres from a cat door; no more than 2 metres from a front gate, and so it went, very specific instructions.

We had gone to great pains to get the Mighty Tiddles to come, so we would have been foolish to ignore her advice.

I took the Mighty Tiddles back to where she had come from and returned to my friends to find out if our efforts had been successful.

I didn’t even need to ask because every dog I met had a smile on his or her face.

The local cats were completely confused by all the small shiny things, and to this day they are well under control.

There was some talk in the group about erecting some kind of statue or monument to the Mighty Tiddles, but this was rejected because we felt it would eat into our sleeping time.

Someone suggested that we should reward Barry for his wise counsel so we organised a raid on the local butcher shop.

There were some minor injuries, but I manage to get away with a leg of lamb.

Barry was very appreciative.

He said he would not thank us straight away, but instead he would think about it for a while and deliver his thank you at a later date.

He did and it was magnificent.

Barry continues to think in his big leather armchair and we continue to bring him problems to be solved.

Barry never lets us down, but we have never had to solve such a serious problem as the time when the cats got out of control.


Something In The City.

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That was how my mistress described what her brother did for a living, he’s ‘something in the city’.

Like a lot of things that humans say I didn’t understand, but after talking to his dog Maisie I found out that he travels into the city and works in a tall building in a tiny office.

Maisie knows this because one day they had a ‘Bring your dog to work day.’ Maisie said it was a lot of fun, but they’re not going to do it anymore. When I asked her why not she said that a massive dogfight broke out when a Dachsund named Fritz tried to hump a German Shepherd named Daisy. She didn’t like the attention so she bit him on the bottom. Naturally Fritz was none too happy about being bitten on the bottom so he latched on to one of daisies legs and gave it a good shake.

It all went rapidly downhill from there.

Other dogs joined in the fight for no other reason than it looked like fun.

Maisie said they were all rather silly and she’d prefer not to have anything to do with them.

It took some time for the office workers to separate all the dogs and Maisie said that she got an extra treat for not being involved in the fight. Apparently the office manager threatened to resign if they ever had another ‘Bring your dog to work day’.

We only see Maisie and her master once a year at Christmas time.

He is way too busy to travel ‘all the way down to the seaside’ to visit us during the rest of the year. My mistress said he is a very important person. But I got the feeling that she was just making excuses for him. I know that she misses him and loves him very much, and she would like to spend more time with him.

They were great friends when they were children and my mistress said that this is most unusual for human children. Brothers and sisters don’t normally get along that well, but they did. He is a year or two older than her, which is not much in human years. They went everywhere together and had heaps of adventures. He would stick up for her if she got into trouble, and he got into the occasional fight when other boys were rude to her. He even took the blame a couple of times when things got broken during their adventures.

My mistress says that he is the best brother ever.

But she says it with a certain amount of sadness in her voice. I wish he wasn’t so busy all the time because I know my mistress would love to see him much more than she does.

I have an ulterior motive for wanting him to visit more.

I really enjoy spending time with Maisie.

She looks a lot like me only with white fur. She’s a little bit smaller and to hear her tell it, that’s okay.

My mistress had a painting made from a photograph that our stationmaster took last year. You can see me and Maisie right up the front, I’m carrying the newspaper in my mouth. We both have Scottish ribbons around our necks which everyone says looks cute. I’m not really into cute all that much, but one has to make concessions around Christmas time. You can see my mistress and her brother in the background. She had her hair dyed blond that year for some reason. She has let it go back to its natural colour now and I like it much better.

I actually barked at her a few times when she changed it to blonde because I thought she was someone else.

That was very embarrassing.

She laughed, but I felt bad.

It took me a couple of weeks to get used to it.

You can also see her brother carrying parcels and a warm rug. It’s a long journey by train and the heaters in the carriages don’t always work well. I know this from experience. I have travelled on trains with my mistress, although we usually drive everywhere. From time to time she likes to travel by train. I like trains and it is fun, but I’d much rather be in the car.

My mistress had the painting turned into a Christmas card and she sent one to each one of her friends. She has a lot of friends. She says that girls usually have lots of friends. I’m not sure what being a girl has to do with it, I’m a boy and I have lots of friends, admittedly, most of them are dogs, but there are a few humans mixed in.

Christmas is a very happy time and not just because we get to see my mistress’s brother and Maisie. Lots of other people come to visit and there is lots of laughter in the house. I love to hear humans laugh. Sometimes it sounds a little bit strange, but I know they are happy, and I’m a big fan of happiness.

One of my most important jobs is to make my mistress happy, and when she is, that makes me happy.

Humans give each other presents at Christmas time. It’s a bit like getting a really big treat if you are a dog. Last year Maisie and I got a bone wrapped up in Christmas paper. Even though they tried to disguise it with paper we knew what it was, we could smell it from the other side of the house. Humans really are silly sometimes. You cannot hide things from dogs, we will sniff them out eventually.

My mistress’s brother usually goes home two days after Christmas, but last year my mistress talked him into staying around until New Year’s Day. I’m not sure what New Year’s Day is, but I know that humans make a lot of noise in the middle of the night when they should be sleeping. Maisie and I don’t like those loud noises. I tried to be brave, but Maisie hid under the bed. It didn’t matter what I said to her she wouldn’t come out until the noise stopped.

The humans had a party at our house last year for what they called New Year’s Eve. There were a lot of people wedged into our small house, and some even spilled out onto the lawn. A couple of them went to sleep and no one seemed to be able to wake them up. I sniffed them all over just to make sure they weren’t dead. No one likes dead people cluttering up the yard. They weren’t dead and they made terrible snoring noises. One of them even threw up, which is okay, dogs do that all the time.

When the party was over there was a mess everywhere, but everyone went to bed and didn’t care about cleaning it up. Maisie and I were awake very early, as usual, and we had a lot of fun tearing up bits of paper, and sniffing everything just to try and work out what it all was.

My favourites were the paper hats.

They had little bits of stretchy string tied to them, I’m not sure what that was for, but it was a lot of fun to play with.

We found a few almost empty bottles and the liquid that was in them smelled very strange. Maisie licked a little bit of it and she got quite dizzy. Naturally, being a gentleman, I stayed with her until she started to feel better.

We both tried to wake up our owners the same way we do every morning, but on this day they just would not wake up. Maisie’s master even used some bad words while he was telling her to go away. She was a little bit shocked, but she knows that humans can be very strange, so she didn’t take it personally.

A lot of time went by and we were both wondering if we were ever going to get our breakfast. Fortunately, the people at the party had dropped some very tasty things on the floor, so we decided to hunt around and find as many of these tasty things as we could. That way, we would make it through till dinner time.

We hung around for a long time waiting for our owners to wake up, but eventually it became clear that they were going to sleep for a long time. We decided to go down to the beach and see if we could have one more adventure before Maisie had to go home.

That was a lovely Christmas and I remember it fondly.

My mistress says that Christmas is not too far away and I wonder what stories Maisie will have to tell when she gets here.

I’m going to tell her about all the new friends I have made this year.

I hope you will be invited to our house for Christmas because I would love to meet the people who are reading these stories.

Now, if you will excuse me, I will have to get back to my mistress.

I’m pretty sure she’s going to need me today.