Department of English and Modern Languages

  • English
  • A Dog’s Best Friend

    by Natalie Mayhew

    It takes a lot to keep a good dog down.

    Mikhail Bulgakov, The Heart of a Dog (p. 6)

    Bark Bark! Hey you up there. Yes you! Hi there. My name is Buckley and I’m two years old, well twenty one in dog years, and a happy-go-lucky Beagle. Well, up until I lost my best friend. Ball-ball. If you see ball-ball please return it to me. It is firm and rubbery and very bouncy and makes squeaky noises when chewed. The more slobbery and smellier it is the better! But nonetheless I am happy, wagging my tail with doggy strides as life goes on.

    I first met ball-ball when I was just a pup. It was my first and only toy. It smelt of dog treats and plastic and rodents and fishy water. It was given to me by Marco and Anna, who kept me in a nice warm cosy place. Once it started to take on the smell of me and my owners and the house I loved it more. I couldn’t play with it that much or fit it in my mouth, so I’d scramble around with it on the floor and gnaw on it as they rolled it towards me. Happy days!

    Then one day a small thing arrived not long after I did. Its noise was excruciating to my over-sensitive ears and near enough the same size as I was. Most of the time when I lazed around it would grab my ears, tugging hard. Having the urge not to snap at its face, I would let out a sharp yelp instead. Quickly, the baby was always removed. Sometimes it would be plonked next to me with a load of toys that played sounds that made my ears twitch. It would attempt to crawl on me as I lay still trying to ignore the little bundle of annoyance. It carelessly rubbed its gooeyness into my hair, screeching with excitement, startling me. It tried to pinch some of my hair too. Luckily my hair was too short. No matter how many times I got up and shuffled away, the baby crawled, following. Sometimes we would wrestle when things got too much. One time it caught sight of ball-ball. It gurgled, it snatched it and tried to put it in its mouth. I just stared.

    DIRTY BALL-BALL

    Ball-ball was rescued by Anna and placed next to me. What relief! The baby started to make a horrible noise. A teat-like object was shoved in its mouth which shut it up. I placed my head on top of ball-ball and it slowly deflated, making a squeaky noise and released some air slowly against my fur which I loved.

    However, there was some inconvenience over what to do with me once the baby started to become a bit of a handful. I never knew looking after a baby and a puppy at the same time was such an incompetent thing for humans, especially as they always do lots of things at once, (something called multi-tasking) and often have squabbles about it. How could they get rid of me? I was no trouble at all. It was the baby that screamed all the time demanding this and that. I loved Anna and Marco. They gave me ball-ball.

    This is where my current owners Deborah and Trevor come in (Deb and Trev for short. It’s easier to bark). Trev is the type of man who buys Deb flowers every time he does something wrong, and I know this because some nights past midnight I hear him coming through the door and I greet him and he smells of all sorts of interesting things called booze and fags and sometimes sweet smelling females which Deb often gets snappy about, and the sweet scent of flowers, although they’re not as fresh as the ones outside, with a tinge of chemical-ness, and he tells me to shh and pats me back to sleep. At least I then know he’s home safe. Deb on the other hand radiates goodness and sweetness and tasty womanly smells. I can’t talk and I don’t understand much but somehow I knew what she was feeling. The power of the doggy nose! But humans are too confusing so I prefer ball-ball. It’s simple. It’s my comfort. My pride and joy.

    So over the next few days lots of people came to look at me. I was surrounded by strange noises too many smells and so many faces. And then emptiness. But when Deb came to through the door it felt different. I suddenly stood upright and we stared at each other, paws tucked in tight and tail wagging softly gently thumping the floor and my eyes wide and head cocked to one side. She wasn’t able to resist. She threw her arms around my little chubby body, kissing and patting my soft head. And me trying to reach up and lick her face but could only manage to lick her hand of many flavours and sniffed her foreign scent. She took me and ball-ball home with her in her scary metal machine which I now know as car and I love it.

    When Trev came home, we both looked at his scrunched up face that emitted disgruntled murmurs, which one day eventually turned into a smile. They talked and looked at me a lot. They said something about can’t have babies, which was good. I won Trev round during TV time, where I sat between him and Deb and snuggled into his side, or sometimes I lay across him so he’d stroke down the length of my body, enabling me to tactfully roll over and get my tummy scratched. I would lounge over his feet when the house was cold. Every morning I brought him his morning paper, quickly learning not to tear it up or get confused by what I should relieve myself on. It was difficult at first carrying the paper as it was just as big as I was, but it got easier as I got bigger. They laughed at my struggles and told me I was cute several times a day. Charm exceeds where yapping fails. Starting to get adjusted to my new home, ball-ball began to absorb new smells of my new kennel and my new family. I did miss Anna and Marco. It was strange not knowing where their smell had gone. Ah well. I still had ball-ball and we were inseparable.

    But here’s the story of how I lost ball-ball.

    It started what seemed a normal day.

    The sun seeped through to my eye as I lazily opened it, then closed it again after hearing heavy footsteps rumbling down the stairs. I could hear a distant rustling and murmuring from the kitchen, and I pricked my ears up with every bang of the cupboards. I eventually sat up-right and scratched myself clumsily with my stubby hind leg, eyes slightly ajar whilst yawning. The sound of biscuits clanged against metal as they tumbled down into my bowl. Immediately I lifted my head up. I knew that sound. It could only mean one thing!

    BREAKFAST

    Not forgetting ball-ball, I pick it up with my mouth and leapt up from my rug, skipped through to the kitchen, stretching my legs and paws upwards and outwards along the way. Trev ruffled my head approvingly. I flashed him a panty smile. Putting ball-ball down, I buried my head deep into my bowl, crunching the biscuits into a delicious mush. A bowl of clear deliciousness was placed down next to me. My tongue made clapping noises against the water as I lapped it up greedily. I licked all around my face. Then I spread myself across the kitchen floor to lick my bits, which were fully intact back then.

    Trev took his keys that jingle-jangled in his hands. That sound always intrigued me so I followed him until he got out the door. I hurriedly jumped onto the sofa and watched him leave, wondering where he goes. Getting down from the sofa, I went to go paw at the backdoor whining softly trying to get Deb’s attention as she talked on the phone. I’m not sure why humans talk on those things anyway. It doesn’t even talk back. It just makes noise. I felt like my body was about to burst. Can’t … hold it … much … longer.

    WAIT

    I picked up ball-ball getting ready unable to keep still. She slid the door open and I dashed out before it was even the size for me to fit through. I sniffed for the best spot to relieve myself. That tree was now mine. The grass was fresh and cold and wet, just how I liked it, so I rolled around in it friskily.

    Afterwards I started investigating. Nose in the grass. Tail in the air. I navigated my way around following all the sounds and smells that enticed me that seemed to be coming from beyond the fence. A chunky squirrel was squatting on a nearby branch nibbling on something tasteless. I stared at it. It stared at me. It suddenly moved acrobatically along the entwining branches. Ruff Ruff Ruff.

    STOP THAT NOISE BUCKLEY

    I looked at Deb. I felt something brewing inside. Sniffing around, I found a spot in the middle of some tall grass to deposit my smelly squidgy stuff. No one would find it there.

    I dolloped on the carpet once not long after my arrival as I was scared.

    FOR FUCK SAKE

    Trev grabbed my nose forcefully rubbing it in it, shouting some gibberish I couldn’t understand. I was frightened, struggling to get away.

    BED

    I slumped to my bed and curled up looking confused and hurt. I never did it again.

    COME ON BOY

    Back inside I lounged on the rug chewing and licking ball-ball. The best thing ever! I heard a car roll onto the driveway. Standing to attention I pounced on the sofa, pressing my nose up against the window staring. It was Trev! I turned my head back and forth to Deb barking and sprinting up and down the hallway to the front door. I wagged with excitement until he got through the door.

    He gave me a brand new doggy bone to gnaw on. Messily but skilfully, my slobbery tongue licked out the yummy stuff on the inside. I lifted my head at the sound of my lead calling me.

    WALKIES

    I got up hastily. Bark Bark! Walkies! My favourite thing to do with ball-ball!

    WHERE’S BALL-BALL

    I went to grab ball-ball.

    I realised we were going in the car so I jumped in the front seat. The best spot! As I still had some puppy fat I needed a bit more spring. I was in! The window was down and we were off. I stuck my head out, paws dangling, mouth open, tongue out, ears flapping. I saw the spaniel from across the street. The swish of her tail in the breeze, her long ears flowing and her scent wafting around in the air. She was a beauty. Woof!

    He drove to an unfamiliar place. New sights. New smells. New sounds. It was all too overwhelming to take in. Bark Bark Bark Bark! Putting ball-ball in my mouth, I got out of the car. Trev clipped on my lead and our adventure began!

    We reached a wide open space. I anticipated being let off, whining and pulling to be let free. We walked to an even wider open space! I was finally let off my lead. Freedom!

    GO ON THEN BOY

    Excited, I dashed outwards bounding across the grass in large circles. There’s something about grass outside of the home. It was always different and there’s always so much of it. I rolled in it drooling with ball-ball in my mouth. Ah the freedom to roam! An endless sea of green.

    GIVE ME BALL-BALL

    I looked up at him with ball-ball in my mouth wagging vigorously and dropped ball-ball at his feet and waited.

    FETCH BOY

    He picked it up and it flew, and I flew along with it. This was my favourite thing to do with ball-ball! I could never be bored no matter how many times we’d play. Nothing could stop this feeling!

    We made our way down to a wooded area. It was darker and denser. There was a distant flow of water. I confidently trotted down the path exploring its unexpected twists and turns.

    GO FETCH BALL-BALL BOY

    Ball-ball flew in the air and tumbled into a bush. Don’t worry ball-ball, I’ll find you! My tail swished from side to side as my nose got to work and I disappeared through the bushes.

    BUCKLEY COME

    I watched water gush over jagged rocks. I saw ball-ball being swished and swirled away. I jumped in. I tried to paddle after it, attempting to catch it in my mouth as I got closer to it, but it bobbed further and further away. The current became a bit stronger than I expected. My little self was carried down-stream!

    BUCKLEY COME HERE

    What’s this? My leg was caught between two rocks. I heard Trev in the distance. I couldn’t move. My legs were not that strong. I barked. I yelped. I whined as loud as I could. Water began to bombard my throat as I toss and turn. I was stuck! A shot of panic hit my eyes. My chest pounded.

    HERE BOY WHERE ARE YOU

    Trying to free my leg I felt blood seep out, my limbs started to get tired, I grew weary, I slowed down, my cries for help slowly quietened.

    JESUS CHRIST

    OH SHIT

    I felt my little plump body slumped over the rocks, motionless as cold water poured over me. I felt limp and weak. I heard Trev make his way over hurriedly, wading through the undergrowth, and then sliding down the slippery bank into the water with a giant splash. I felt my body getting scooped up. My limbs hanging. He said something but sounded muffled in my semi-conscious state.

    OH BUCKY BOY

    My pulse was faint. He laid me down on my side, my head facing downwards and water drained out. I smelt fear on his breath. He rubbed me vigorously all over. My coat felt shaggy and ruffled. My leg was stinging and bleeding. Opening my eyes slowly I looked around for ball-ball, hoping it was saved too. It was nowhere to be seen. I closed my eyes.

    He carefully placed me in the back of the car and wrapped me up in a blanket. It was an uncomfortable journey back home. I moved my head up slightly, twitching my ears. I rested my head back down between my forepaws shivering, occasionally trying to lick the blood away as it kept coming.

    Silence.

    I was carried back to the Kennel. Deb rushed towards me and water poured down her face. I was taken to my rug. My leg was soaked in some warm smelly chemical water that wasn’t nice to drink. I was too weak to move as I winced at the pain. My whimpering was soothed by the hush of Deb’s voice and her soft hands. A white bandage was wrapped securely around my leg. But the blood kept coming so I had to have several bandages wrapped every so often. Trev said something about the vets.

    I usually shudder at the word but this time I was too sad – too drained to care. My mind was more preoccupied with ball-ball. I just wanted ball-ball back. Where was it? They gave me a bowl of pedigree chum but all I could do was lick at it off of Deb’s fingers.

    I was stroked to sleep only thinking about where ball-ball was.

    The next day was vet day. I was restless all night and I woke up still feeling a bit disorientated. I had a dream I was running with ball-ball, only to wake up finding it wasn’t there so tried to get up and find it. I realised I couldn’t walk. I just lay there sprawled and helpless until it was time to go to that dreaded place.

    SORRY BOY

    Trev and Deb hefted me up carefully into the car with my lead dangling.

    As Trev carried me in to the building, that familiar chemical smell hit me, harsh to the nose as it was to the memories. I was whimpering and whining as my paws scratched around restlessly on the table top as soon I was put down. Trev’s hard hands holding me down and Deb’s hands and voice soothed me again as a sharp jab was felt from somewhere behind and I yelped. I started to feel numb and drowsy with droopy eyes and a limp body like how I felt before.

    I didn’t remember much when I got back, and the car ride made me feel a bit queasy. The numbness went away and I began to hurt. I had to wear one of those ridiculous things around my neck which luckily wasn’t on for long, and a heavy cast which was on for ages.

    My days were spent being less preoccupied about the loss of ball-ball and more about me. I regained my strength slowly, able to hobble around the house and the garden. Days were endlessly filled with cuddles and tasty treats and lots of left overs and giant bones and more cuddles. I was even allowed on their bed on some nights, but most of the time I lounged on the sofa and even had the time to pay attention to the TV. Warmth radiated from the two of them that I had never felt before, even stronger than the day of my arrival. What more could a dog want?

    We don’t stay puppies forever no matter how hard we try. But our loyalty stays the same. And our love forever grows. And it is now, at this very moment that I realise that these are the two best friends anyone – any dog could ever ask for.

    Copyright of individual works is retained by the authors and reproduced here under license. Please do not republish or duplicate without written permission.