May 10, 2014 by Whispering Smith
IT’S A DOG’S LIFE…
It was windy, cool for July, but the rain had passed. I watched a buzzard being mobbed by crows driving the big raptor high and away over the glasshouses of the market gardens below Highdown. The old hill fort seemed deserted when, out of a small copse of scrub timber by the old chalk path, a tall man dragging behind him a handsome but reluctant yellow dog. The man jerked the long lead every time the dog stopped, gently cursing the animal under his breath more in frustration than in anger. I though perhaps an admiring word about the dog might slow him down and maybe encourage him to appreciate the black eyes, the lovely lines of yellow fur ruffled by the breeze. ‘He taking you for a walk,’ I said, ‘lovely looking animal?’
The big man stopped stared at me long and hard. ‘What?’ He said.
‘Lovely dog.’ I said, hoping I had not picked on the wrong moment to interfere.
‘You like dogs?’
‘Yes, who doesn’t…’
‘Do you have a dog of your own?’
‘No, no I don’t have one at the moment.’
‘Would you like one?’
‘Yes, I guess I will get one eventually.’
‘Here have this one, why wait?’ He tossed me the leather end of the long lead, took one look at the dog and marched back the way he had come towards the trees.
‘Hey,’ I called, but he did not turn his head, just waved dismissively over his shoulder and disappeared into the scrub. I stood there staring after him and then at the dog who was staring up at me. Then we both looked over to where the man had last been. Confused, uncertain, I picked up the leather end of the lead, and looked again at the dog. ‘Bit of a turn up.’ I muttered to myself, then thinking it through and looking again to see if the man was on his way back. ‘What’s you name, boy, I wonder?’ I said aloud, looking down at the yellow dog.
‘Sarah,’ said the dog, ‘and just for the record, I am not a boy, I am a bitch.’
I am sixty years old, seen it all done it all and I have the tee shirt to prove it, but I have never heard a dog speak before and I was not going to let it faze me now. I looked around, I had seen such spoofs on television, make a fool of some poor sod then pop out of the woodwork, reveal the trick and get the victim to give permission to air the footage or run it on Youtube. The victim rarely refuses. The hill was still, deserted, no place to hide a camera crew. Nothing. Nada. I looked at the dog again.
‘Sarah, you say?’
‘You don’t like the name, we can change it?’
‘No, no, I like it fine,’ I said. ‘It’s a nice name, it’s just that…’ I faltered, I didn’t really know quite what that was.
‘Me talking? That what bothers you?’
‘Not bother exactly, you have a nice voice…’
‘Look,’ Sarah interrupted my mumbling, ‘I am yours now or you can take me to the pound or have me put down, your choice, I don’t really have a say in the matter but I will make a good pet. I am chipped, fully house trained, I don’t smoke, drink, chase cars, bark at the postman, like loud music or lick my bum in front of people. However, to be honest, I do have a couple of habits that may not give you pleasure, for example, I do like to roll in smelly dead things and I do have a bit of a wind problem from time to time.’
‘I walked over to the dog, knelt down and stroked it. The fur was soft, the black eyes were alive, I could feel the heart beating, it was a real live dog.
‘I’m real. Satisfied?’
‘Just checking. How come you can talk?’ I asked.
‘I listened, I learned.’ Sarah said.
‘How come he is giving you away instead of selling you, you must be worth a fortune?’
‘I only talk in front of the person I want to hear me and he knew it. Tried to sell me many times, but I kept shtuum.’
‘But why get rid of you anyway?’
‘He had his reasons I guess.’
‘Uhmmm…’ I muttered.
‘Look do you want me or not? I only have few demands. A couple of yearly visits to a grooming parlour to have my coat trimmed and my nails done. I need to see a vet I will tell you. I do need to sleep in your bedroom and not in the kitchen or the hallway, I like company in the night. If you have a girlfriend for a sleepover, no worries, I won’t watch, listen or pass comment, I am not judgemental.’
‘Good to know,’ I said my tone belying the words.
‘And I don’t like sarcasm.’
‘Good to know also,’ I said
‘So, what do you say, we a couple or not?’
‘I’m thinking about it,’ I said, thinking about it. ‘Do you know something, Sarah, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’
‘Casablanca,’ Sarah said, ‘hated that movie, Bogart loved Bergman, he would never have given her up, not in a million years.’
‘Uhmm,’ I said again, loosely holding the lead and setting off back towards the carpark. ‘Are you sure you don’t know why he wanted rid of you?’
‘He said I talk too much and that I am argumentative.’
‘Do you? Are you?’
‘One other thing,’ Sarah said, ignoring the question, ‘don’t ever say heel to me, I hate that, I really hate that word heel…’