"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 September, 2015

Bernard.

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Looks can be deceiving.

Take Bernard for example.

He looks small and cute, and his mistress is French.

You might think that he lives in a handbag and eats paté all day, but no, he doesn’t. Okay, so he does eat the occasional croissant, and he once licked paté off the floor where some French bloke dropped it while talking to his mistress, but I don’t think that counts.

He does eat snails, but that is a whole other story.

Bernard is special.

All dogs are special, of course, but what I mean to say is that Bernard is especially talented.

You already know that dogs have amazing senses, and the sense of smell is particularly acute.

I sound like I know what I’m talking about, but to be truthful, I only discovered this because my mistress was doing research for a story.

It all started after I caught the murderer in the country house. It was one of my very first adventures. My mistress was very proud of me, and she wondered how I did it. I didn’t think much about it at the time; I just did what dogs do — I sniffed it out. I thought everyone could do it, but apparently not.

My mistress said that some dogs could detect individual ingredients in a pasta sauce. I could have told her that. It drives her crazy that her girlfriend makes a particularly good Napoli sauce, and she is not sure what the secret ingredient is. It’s Turmeric. A very tiny amount. I tried pointing at it in the spice rack using my nose, but she told me off for climbing on a chair. Humans can be very annoying.

Bernard, on the other hand, never gets told off for climbing on chairs. He is treated like a king — a small hairy king, but a king none the less.

His unique skill is finding things.

Rich people pay his mistress large amounts of money to find things that have been lost inside their huge houses, but more importantly, Bernard is asked to find things that are hidden in the houses of wealthy deceased persons — usually by greedy relatives who are sure that their dead uncle has stashed away a fortune.

Bernard comes to visit at least once a year.

His mistress and my mistress have been friends since my mistress was a student in France. She stayed with her friend’s parents for a year, and she says it was one of the best years of her life.

I was expecting Bernard to be a bit ‘up himself’, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was a very down-to-earth dog.

Appearances can be deceiving.

He likes watching soccer on TV, and he enjoys walks in the rain, but his mistress won’t let him. I splashed water on him one time so that he would know what it felt like. He was very appreciative.

I took him down to the local Butcher Shop, just to show him the sights and he had a splendid time. He got dusty, and some sand got stuck between his toes and he said it made him feel like one of those free range dogs. He was kidding himself of course. He wouldn’t last five minutes in the wild, but I let him have his dream. Who am I to step on anyone’s dream?

He told me about life in Paris, and it sounded pretty good.

French dogs are allowed into cafés, but I like it here. I’m too old to learn the French words for ‘walk’ and ‘treat’ and ‘get off the chair’.

I asked Bernard what was the most interesting thing he was asked to find, and he said that it was hard to choose, but it was probably a lost toy.

The toy belonged to a little old lady. She was very old and sick. She believed that she was going to die soon and she had been thinking a lot about her childhood. She had a favourite little doll.

She used to tell it her secrets.

One day, while playing hide and seek with her brothers and sisters, she put the doll down and forgot where she put it. She searched and searched, but to no avail.

She wanted to hold that little doll one last time before she died.

Bernard said that she offered a huge reward, but it would only be paid if he could find the doll.

His mistress brought him to meet the old lady, and they got on very well indeed. Bernard gave her a good sniffing and set off through the large old Chateau in search of the little doll. It helped that he is small because it stood to reason that the doll would be in a small hiding place just big enough to hide a little girl.

Bernard searched all day, and he was beginning to wonder if he might have to come back another day, but just as the light was failing, he wandered into a small room attached to the huge kitchen. It was full of dusty old boxes, and it looked like no one had been in there for a long time. To start with, nothing in the room seemed to smell like the little old lady had touched it, but after pushing a few boxes aside with his nose, he got a faint whiff.

The little doll had been nibbled on by moths and was very dusty, but she was in one piece, and she was exactly as the old woman had described her.

Bernard said that it was very strange, but he was sure that the little doll was calling out to him. He followed the scent and the sound directly to where the doll was lying, but when he got there, the doll stopped talking to him.

He gently carried the little doll back to the old lady. She was sleeping and woke as he jumped up on her bed. She didn’t care that the doll was dusty and moth-eaten. She hugged it and cried. Bernard knew enough about female humans to know that there was a chance that this little old lady was happy and not sad.

I asked him what happened to the doll and the little old lady, and he said that he was not sure. He heard his mistress talking about her a few times, but he did not know what her words meant. He did say that they got paid a lot of money because of his find and they went on a holiday to Trieste, and as a special treat, he got a ride on the famous funicular tramway. Bernard loves trams, and he and his mistress are going to visit Melbourne next year because they have the most extensive system of tramways anywhere in the world, not to mention the longest continuous piece of tram track.

Bernard loves trams.

You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but appearances can be deceiving.


Scamper

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Polished floors and dog paws and you are bound to get a name like ‘Scamper’.

Names are not as important to dogs as they are to humans, but that does not mean that we don’t care about our name, we do, but if you change it, and we like you, we will still come when you call.

Scamper is sad most of the time, but he hides it very well.

If I come to visit, and he is not expecting me, I catch the sadness in his eyes — just for a moment. He quickly pulls himself together and puts on the face that he thinks we want to see.

Scamper underestimates me, just a bit.

I don’t expect my friends to be happy all the time and I’m pleased to hang out with them even when they are a bit down — assuming they want me to, of course.

Scamper is one of those dogs who likes to please everyone, which is an impossible task, but it doesn’t stop him from trying.

He likes almost everyone.

I don’t.

He wants to please everyone and I think that most people should bugger off, but that’s me.

I can be a grumpy bugger.

Scamper’s humans are nice enough, but they don’t understand what Scamper needs. They feed him and make sure that he has fresh water, but they rarely play with him or take him for a walk, “Scamper has a lovely big backyard to play in so he doesn’t need to go for a walk.”

Yes, he does you ignorant humans!

Scamper, of course, would never say anything to his humans.

He just sits there looking sad.

I’ve thought about intervening, but it is not my place — not my journey.

I wouldn’t want you to think that Scamper is unhappy all the time because he isn’t.

He a dog and dogs are famous for being in the moment and finding the fun wherever it may be.

So, don’t feel sorry for him.

There is always the chance that his owners will work it out.

Life isn’t over until it’s over.


Scottie Facts You May Not Know

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The most important fact is that that’s not me in the illustration.

It’s very annoying. People think it is me and it really isn’t.

Those posters are all over the place and my friends keep winding me up about them.

“Nice poster Rufus.”

I’ve given up denying it, now I just give off a low growl.

The female is cute, but my mistress is much shorter and she would never get tangled up in a lead, and I wouldn’t tangle her up in the first place.

Don’t spread it around, but I did do that once when I was a pup. She fell over and bruised her knee. Amazingly, she didn’t shout at me. I was mortified. The last thing I would want to do was hurt her. I licked her knee and she said it made her feel better. I learned my lesson and I’ve been very careful so that it would not happen again.

I’m still trying to figure out what the poster is advertising, but I guess it doesn’t matter. They will take them all down in a week or two and replace them with something else.

My mistress likes the poster.

“If I grew a few inches, that could be me and you Rufus.”

No, it couldn’t.

My mistress has been working on a new novella.

I didn’t know what a novella was, but my mistress explained it to me as though I had asked, which I hadn’t, but I was going to. I like to know everything about her work, and not just that ‘it buys the dog biscuits, Rufus’. That is important, of course, but I like to know about her stories.

“This one is about a young woman who becomes a spy during the war.”

She didn’t say which war, but I did not want to interrupt her.

“She is very brave and manages to smuggle her secrets out from behind enemy lines. But that is not the best bit; it’s how she gets her secrets back home.”

I’d tell you what she said, but that would spoil it for you when you buy the book, but I can tell you that the book is called, ‘Keeper Of Secrets’. It’s very exciting and a bit spooky, just the way I like stories to be.

It was an unusually cold day for Spring and I was sitting quietly on the end of her bed as she read me the novella, cover to cover.

When she finished reading there was a short silence before she asked me, “Well, what do you think Rufus?”

My mistress always reads her stories to me and this was a long one. I looked her right in the eyes and gave her one loud bark. She knew what that meant.

“Wow, you like it that much?” I gave her another single bark just so she knew that I was serious.

“You are my ‘ideal reader’ and you never get it wrong. Thank you. An extra treat is coming your way.”

I didn’t need the extra treat, her praise was enough, but I wasn’t silly enough to say no.

This all started back when I was a pup, around the time I tripped her up.

She had been writing for a long time before I came into her life, but her books and stories were not selling well enough for her to give up her job.

My mistress was a Milliner. She made hats for all sorts of ladies to wear. According to her, she was very good at her job. She designed, as well as made, those funny little hats that ladies like to wear. She was always tired at the end of her working day, but she always made time to write. Sometimes she fell asleep at her typewriter.

“One time I woke up with the letter ’S’ imprinted into my forehead!”

Her favourite uncle left her some money. She was able to buy our cottage and there was a little bit left over to live on.

“If we are careful and don’t spend too much money we might have enough to last for a year. Someone had better start buying my books soon Rufus or I might have st share your dog biscuits.”

I was more than happy to share my biscuits with my mistress, but it didn’t come to that. She started writing early in the morning and late at night she would read me what she had written. I would give her one bark if I liked it and two if I didn’t. She caught on very quickly and together we wrote her first big hit.

From then on, she read me her work and if I didn’t like what she had written she would go away and write it again.

“You have an excellent ear for good writing Rufus.”

I even got a credit in her first book.

‘To Rufus, without whom this book would not have been written.’

The press all wanted to know who Rufus was, and for a long time she kept them guessing.

“A bit of mystery is good for my image, so don’t tell anyone, will you Rufus.”

I didn’t tell, but they worked it out eventually. My mistress didn’t mind.

‘Author Dedicates Book to Dog.’

“Great headline Rufus. Should be good for a few thousand more sales.”

  


Windy Days

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Someone once said that everyone needs a hobby.

That someone was not a dog.

It’s the kind of thing that you would expect a human to say.

I don’t give hobbies very much thought. Personally I’m way too busy. Life is full and there’s always something new happening.

But, if we must talk about hobbies, I will tell you about Gabby and her mistress.

Gabby’s mistress had a part-time job working at the local bookstore. She didn’t need to work full-time because she had saved up her money, paid off her cottage, and lived frugally. At least that’s what Gabby called it. Personally, I thought that frugally was some kind of fruit salad, but apparently it means that she didn’t spend a lot of money, so she didn’t need a lot of money. She loved books so a bookstore makes sense. But it’s not her occupation that I’m here to talk about.

She had the strangest hobby.

Every day she read the five-day forecast in the newspaper and watched the TV news just to doublecheck. If strong winds were forecast she would make preparations.

As hard as it is to believe, her hobby was leaning into the wind.

Conditions had to be just right. Anything less than 10 miles an hour and it just didn’t work. Anything over 50 miles an hour and there was a risk that they might both get blown away.

They had several favourite spots where they would stand and lean into the wind.

The correct clothing was also important. Gabby didn’t need clothes but her mistress always wore a big yellow dress buttoned up at the neck. Button up boots were optional, but preferred.

Naturally, summer winds were best, but winter gave the maximum number of opportunities.

Gabby’s mistress preferred the town Square, but standing on the pier or the foreshore meant that people did not ask her what they were doing. People often stand and look out at the water, so no one thought she was strange.

I asked Gabby what she thought of their hobby and she gave the kind of answer that I expect from a dog. She said that she just likes being wherever her mistress is and she doesn’t care what she’s doing as long as she can be there. The bonus for Gabby is that the strong winds bring in interesting aromas from far away. Admittedly, most of those aromas concern fish and seaweed, but dogs don’t care. A good aroma is a good aroma, no matter where it comes from.

Gabby once said that she picked up the aroma of a roast dinner. The smell must have been coming from a fishing trawler just offshore. The captain was eating well that night.

Gabby has considered asking for a pair goggles that she has seen dogs wearing on motorcycles. The bugs really hurt when they get in your eyes, especially at that speed. In the short-term Gabby simply closes her eyes and lets her nose do all the work.

After a long day of leaning into the wind, Gabby and her mistress sit in front of the fire and drink tea with scones and jam and cream. Gabby isn’t really a big fan of tea, but she does like scones.

I have some very weird friends; Gabby isn’t one of them.

She’s quite sane, but I’m not too sure about her mistress.


The Lead

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“Lead is one of those confusing words Rufus. It can mean that you are showing someone the way and it can mean the thing that I attached to your collar when we go for a walk. But I sometimes wonder who is leading who.”

My mistress was trying to explain to me why I have to have a collar and a lead when we go walking.

I appreciated the effort, but it didn’t stop me from being annoyed.

Naturally, I preferred to walk along next to my mistress with the occasional short excursion. I need to sniff stuff from time to time, just to know who has been around and how they are getting on.

There are special occasions when I don’t mind being attached to a lead, such as when my mistress is receiving a writing award. She is a very good writer so she often gets invited to award ceremonies. It is one of the few times that I am allowed to attend.

“You are an important accessory Rufus. The photographers love to take photos of you and that helps with my profile and that helps me sell books and that means that I can afford to buy dog biscuits.”

Anything that helps my mistress buy dog biscuits is okay with me.

Even if there weren’t dog biscuits involved I would still enjoy these occasions just because I enjoy being with her. I worry when I’m not with her because it is my job to protect her and I can’t do that if I cannot see her.

Train journeys is another time for me to wear a lead.

The railway people tend not to like dogs and they make a huge fuss if there is a dog on the loose.

I once had to hide behind a pile of suit cases just to get away from an angry stationmaster.

“I’m going to write a story where the murder weapon is a dog lead and I will dedicate the story to you Rufus.”

She doesn’t have to do that, but it will be nice to see my name in print.

It almost makes it okay to have to wear a lead.

Almost.


ALONE

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Alone but not lonely.

Everyone, especially small black dogs, needs time by themselves.

I’m lucky, I live very close to the ocean, so naturally my favourite place to be alone is walking along the beach. Sometimes, this presents a bit of a challenge. Firstly, I have to slip away from home without being noticed. My mistress doesn’t like me ‘wandering around’ as she calls it. Secondly, my friends know I love the beach so they often go there and look for me. I Like my friends, most of the time, but when I need to be alone I need to be alone. I usually have a short conversation and then tell them I need to be somewhere. That way no one gets their feelings hurt.

There is something about the sites, sounds and smells of the beach that puts my mind at rest. I feel like I can walk all day and all night. Of course I can’t, eventually my paws get sore, but you know what I mean.

Sometimes I find interesting things on these long walks.

I’m not really looking, but sometimes these little things find me.

I found a slipper once.

It was a bit soggy and covered in sand, and I wondered where the other one was. Also, what happened to the person who owned the slipper?

As you can see, when I go walking I have profound thoughts.

I played with the slipper for a little while, then I remembered that I needed to travel. That’s what we dogs call it, traveling. Humans call it going for a walk and I think they see it as a burden. We don’t, we love it. It’s not that we need to be anywhere it’s just that we love to travel.

If I have enough time and I know that my mistress will not miss me, I can walk all the way to the rocks at the far end of the beach.

It’s a special place.

At high tide, the waves crash over the rocks and make the most amazing sound.

At low tide, some of the water stays behind in the little pools. Some very tiny creatures like to live in those small pools. I wonder how they survive when the waves are crashing over them. At the very least they must get a headache. Sometimes I worry about them, but then I remember that they have their own lives to live.

I have to be careful when I’m playing on the rocks because the edges can be very sharp. I have cut my paw on more than one occasion and it makes for a very uncomfortable walk back to my home. Of course, I get a lot of sympathy from my mistress even though she is very angry with me for slipping away. I love it when she is in full-on nurse mode. I don’t much like having my paws bandaged, but I do enjoy the attention.

My mistress can sometimes be distracted for a very long time with her work and I get left out. She tries not to ignore me, but she is an artist and artists tend to disappear into their work. I love that she reads me her stories and asks me what I think. I love all her stories so I always bark with appreciation. She says I should be harder on her, but I can’t help it, I love her writing.

As I said, all sorts of things wash up on the beach and not just slippers.

Sometimes I bring things home to show my mistress, but I try to avoid the smelly things because she really doesn’t like that.

The happiest she has ever been was when I brought her home a small bottle which had a note inside.

The bottle had a cork in the top and my mistress said it was amazing that was still there. The note inside the green glass bottle was perfectly dry. My mistress said the hand writing was tiny and difficult to read without a magnifying glass. It was written by a young girl who lives many miles up the coast.

The little green bottle had been bobbling around in the water for more than a year.

My mistress wrote to the little girl and told her that she had found the bottle, which wasn’t strictly true because I found the bottle, but she said she didn’t mention me because she didn’t want to complicate things.

I don’t feel like a complication.

The little girl was very excited that someone had found her bottle and read her message. She was extra excited because the person who read the message was a famous author. My mistress put a special emphasis on the word ‘famous’.

She told me that she would take me to visit the little girl one day and introduce me as the person who found her bottle. I’m really looking forward to that journey and not just because I get to ride in my mistress’s car.

I like little girls.

They are fun to play with except when they try to dress me up.

A dog must have some dignity.

Hopefully, she won’t be that kind of little girl.

I’ve been searching through my collection of found objects because I want to take the little girl something special.

So far I have to choose between a large red button, an unusually shaped piece of driftwood, and one leg off the plastic doll.

I’m having terrible trouble deciding.

If it was me I would like the plastic doll leg, but I’m a dog and she’s a little girl so I’m not sure what she will like.

Maybe if I go for a long walk along the beach the answer will come to me.

Walking along the beach is a great place to think about stuff.

I wonder what I will find today?


EVELINE’S GRANDMA’S MAGIC DINNER

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Eveline isn’t a dog, but we won’t hold that against her.

She doesn’t live in our town full-time.

She comes to visit her grandmother.

All the dogs in our town vie for her attention.

Some humans have that effect on us. We want to be near them and we want them to like us. Evelyn doesn’t have a dog of her own partly because she lives in an apartment in the city and partly because her parents don’t like dogs.

I’ve never met her parents, but I don’t think I’d like them if I did.

I’m not foolish enough to say that all dogs are wonderful.

I’ve known some really terrible dogs, but mostly they got that way because of the way the humans treated them.

The only exception to that rule, that I can think of, is Jeremy.

Jeremy is just an arsehole.

No one made him that way, it was his choice.

He thinks it’s funny.

He likes scaring people. He likes scaring other dogs.

He likes scaring the postman, and I guess I can’t blame him on that one.

But I don’t want to talk about Jeremy, he gives me the shits.

I’d much rather talk about Eveline.

Her grandmother lives in a cottage up on the hill. It doesn’t have a view of the ocean but it is very pretty and it has lots of trees around it. I like trees. All dogs like trees. And not just for the reason that you are thinking of.

We are pretty sure that Evelyn’s grandmother has magical powers, at least where dogs are concerned.

If one of our local dogs get sick we immediately take it to Evelyn’s grandmother. She mixes up all kinds of smelly plants and sprinkles it on dog food. If the sick dog has enough sense to eat the dog food it gets better within a couple of days. But some dogs haven’t got the sense they were born with and they refuse to eat Evelyn’s grandma’s Magic dinner.

These dogs don’t always die, but they do lie around and moan a lot.

We don’t have any sympathy for these dogs.

Eveline comes to visit because she loves her grandma and she enjoys spending time with her. Also, it gets her away from her non-dog loving parents. We can all understand that motivation.

Eveline is learning the secrets of healing dogs with smelly plants. In a quiet moment, she told us that she hopes to open a shop to cure dogs, using smelly plants.

Unfortunately, this shop will most probably be in the big city, which means that we will not see as much of Eveline, but as all dogs know, we must treasure what we have while we have it.

So, we will continue to look forward to Eveline’s visits and we will bring sick dogs to her grandma for as long as it lasts.