"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

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Guarding the Reader

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Quite Strange Indeed

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Paperback and Hardback


Postman

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PAPERBACK & HARDBACK


Charlotte

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My mistress has many friends. Some of them are male and some are female.

Her favourite female is Charlotte.

She is very well dressed, at least according to my mistress she is.

But more importantly, she has three dogs and a very nice Jaguar sports car.

It’s a bit of a tight fit, but we can all squeeze into her car.

She drives it very fast and we get bounced around a bit, but I don’t mind, my mistress drives like that all the time.

Sometimes I have to hold on with my teeth to avoid being thrown out of the car.

It’s all very exciting, but sometimes my teeth hurt.

Small price to pay, though.

Charlotte’s dogs are very well travelled, and they tell stories of far off towns and cities.

I try to pretend that I’ve been to all of these places, and I have been to some, but not all.

I don’t want to sound like a country dog who never goes anywhere. 


Doona Day

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It only happens every now and then, but when it does I have a special job to do.

My mistress gets sad.

Not because someone died or anything like that, although she does get sad when that happens. This is an unusual kind of sadness and she has a unique way of dealing with it.

“Today Rufus, is a doona day.”

Even though I know she has that unusual sadness I do get a bit excited; though I try not to show it.

A ‘doona day’ means we are going to stay in bed all day.

We might be sleeping or reading or just thinking about stuff, but one thing is for sure, we will be doing it in bed.

Naturally, I have to go outside and have a wee every now and then, and, of course, there is breakfast and dinner, but apart from that we are in bed.

My special job is to stay very close to her until she starts to feel better.

“You have magical powers, Rufus.” I love it when she says that. I don’t actually know what it means, but it is the way that she says it that tells me it is a good thing.

An added bonus comes when my mistress eats in bed; I get to lick up all the crumbs.

If the ‘sads’ hit during the warmer weather I have to stick my head out to cool down a bit, but it has to be very hot for me to come out from under the covers.

One of my special treatments for my mistress is to lick her toes.

She says that it tickles, but she lets me do it all the same. Licking things makes them better, my mum taught me that. It works when my toes get sore and it works on my mistress as well. Some people don’t like being licked and I don’t understand why, but my mistress explains it this way, “People who don’t like being licked are not worth worrying about.” I tend to agree.

After a lot of treatment from me, and lots of snacks and ice cream, my mistress starts to feel better. The house goes back to normal and I can relax, just a bit.

I’m always on guard.

I never know when my mistress will need me to look after her again.


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.


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.”

  


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.


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.


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.