The First Tail
When a very large dog has spent a lot of time emptying himself on to your lawn, you will find large areas of bare brown, dead grass, each with a carefully centred (scented – I love homonyms) turd perched on it. Over time, these deposits dry out into interesting multi-faceted and craggy shapes, which display a huge variety of colours, textures and perfumes. It is very important to remove every single one of them before you mow the lawn. Experience tells me that mowing over a hidden poo can have extremely alarming side-effects, particularly if you happen to be breathing through your mouth at the time.
"Jake," I spluttered, spitting copiously into the mower's grass-catcher. "Why didn't you tell me you'd done one there?"
Jake looked bewildered and his ears drooped sadly at my obvious displeasure. "I did tell you," he said. "I sent you a peemail all about it!"
"Sorry," I said, "but I'm not really equipped to read those."
"Why not?" asked Jake. "All of my peemails are readily available as a streaming service, and you know all about how streaming services work."
"Oh," I said. "You mean like Netflix for dogs?"
"Yes," said Jake. "Except it's for news rather than for movies. Dogs aren't big on movies. They aren't nearly smelly enough. Well, except for the Star Wars prequels of course..."
"I think I see," I mused, struck by the elegant simplicity of the concept. "What software would you recommend I use for reading your peemails?"
"I rather like a program called Yuri," said Jake. "Version N8 is the best one."
"What operating system does it run on?"
"It was originally developed on Yellow Dog Linux*," explained Jake. "But it was quickly ported to Puppy Linux*. So by now I expect you'll find it in the suppositories for all the major distributions."
"OK," I said, intrigued. "I'll try installing it and we'll see what happens..."
* – Both Yellow Dog and Puppy are perfectly genuine Linux
distributions. Go and google the phrases if you don't believe me.
Honestly, I never make anything up and neither do I exaggerate...
When Jake and I go for a walk, Jake keeps a careful eye and nose on his surroundings. He spends ages sniffing at clumps of grass that, to the naked eye, are indistinguishable from all the other clumps of grass but which are clearly emitting fascinating pheromones that the other clumps simply cannot compete with.
"What's so special about that one?" I asked him.
"I don't know," he said. "It just is."
Unlike a lot of other dogs, Jake seems to be quite highly motivated by sight as well as by smell. No matter how fascinating the grass he is currently inhaling, he will always leave it if he spots something moving. Butterflies, helicopters, jet planes, cars, scooters, bicycles, people, cats and other dogs always attract his attention and he flops down on his tummy and stares fixedly at them until they have gone past. Then, reluctantly, he will get up and continue walking with me.
If any people pass us closely by, his tail begins to wag faster and faster and his ears go back. He grins attractively and sometimes he drools. This always acts like a people magnet.
"Can I pat him?" the passing people will invariably ask.
"Yes," I say to them. "He is very friendly."
"Does he bite?"
"No, but he licks a lot."
Nevertheless, they reach out to pat him. Jake always assumes that such gestures are an invitation to slobber all over their hands, and he turns his salivary pumps to full power.
"Ahhh... Aren't you gorgeous?" they say as they surreptitiously dry their soggy doggy hands on Jake's fur coat.
"Yes," says Jake. "That's me. Gorgeous is my middle name. Gosh you've got a lovely face!"
Then he will launch himself in a huge bound up to the person's face so he can slobber all over that as well. This always takes the victim by surprise. When thirty-four kilograms of enthusiastic dog jumps at you, you know you've been jumped at. More than once the surprised jumpee has been knocked flat on their back, thus bringing them right down to Jake the Jumper's level. This makes for easier slobbering and Jake always takes full advantage of it.
In the last month, Jake has claimed four old ladies and six children. Most of them burst into tears from the shock. But the children all laughed and giggled.
It's the ghosts that worry me the most. Every so often Jake will stop and stare fixedly at nothing whatsoever. His head moves, following the track of the nothing as it sidles along. Eventually it slips invisibly out of sight and Jake heaves a deep sigh, shakes his head in a disappointed manner, and we walk slowly onwards.
"What were you just looking at, Jake?"
"That's my imaginary friend," said Jake. "His name is Chocky*. Didn't you have an imaginary friend when you were my age?"
"No," I said.
"What a deprived childhood you must have had," said Jake sympathetically, and he gave me a consoling lick.
* – Spot the reference. No, I don't mean a dog called Spot.
He went out, damned Shakespearian animal that he is. I mean this
tail has just turned into a science fiction adventure, courtesy of a John Wyndham novel.
Do you see what I did there?
Jake, being a dog of impeccable taste, is a big fan of Spike Milligan (tell me, who isn't a big fan of Spike Milligan?). He (Jake, not Spike) follows me around the house, supervising me to make sure that whatever I'm doing, I'm doing it properly. Spike can't do that any more. He's dead. The inscription on his gravestone reads "I told you I was ill!"*
Jake's supervising duties involve a lot of standing in corridors peering at me through the door into the room where I'm doing stuff. When I leave the room, he walks backwards down the corridor staring worshipfully at me with his brimming brown eyes as he backs away.
Under his breath I can hear him humming "I'm walking backwards for Christmas..."
* – I told you, I never make anything up and
neither do I exaggerate... In poll conducted in 2012, the UK voted this
nation's most popular epitaph by a massive margin. About 70% of the votes were in favour of it. Second (10%) was Oscar
Wilde with "Either those curtains go, or I do".
Well done, Spike!
"Let's go dogging*!" said Jake, enthusiastically.
"I beg your pardon!"
"Sorry," said Jake, looking embarrassed. "That came out wrong. I meant let's go logging"
"Have you become a lumberjack to fill up your spare time? Are you OK?"
"Jogging!" said Jake. "Jogging! I meant to say jogging!"
"Of course you did..."
"Let's just stick with 'Walkies!' in future," said Jake decisively. "It's easier to say and doesn't lead to misunderstandings."