A COLLECTION OF STORIES BY LUKE TAGG
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SMOKE: Dog Day Diaries

Originally published: 11 May 2005

Dogs are either total idiots or exceptionally gifted - I'm still trying to figure out which it is.

Millions of little old ladies will assure you that the latter is true ("Ooohh - who's a clever little doggie then?") and I'll confess to having had moments in which I've allowed myself to believe - if only for a fraction of a second - that the reason my dog is staring up into my eyes so intently is because she loves me.

Foolish moments, those - she's only staring because she wants something and if it's not those Alpo Husky Meaty Bites (lamb flavour) then I'll be darned.

I've spent the last five years watching That Bloody Dog grow from a wee pup that fitted snugly into the palm of one hand to the obese criminal she is today, and I think I can pretty accurately sum up a day of hers. It goes something like this:

06h24: Has a long, quiet, slow fart in the bed, before stretching noisily and flexing her toes in enjoyment. Goes back to sleep, licking her chops with unnecessary pleasure.

09h15: Alarm goes off. Dog doesn't move, hoping to convince one and all that she hasn't heard it and that nothing has changed and that it's totally unnecessary to get out of bed. Nobody listens.

09h18: After an experimental bounce sideways down the corridor to test the perkiness of her legs it's off to find a spot of morning sun somewhere while everyone else prepares for the day. Dreamily sits and stares at the grasshoppers flicking through the grass and plots early strategies on how to get that bird that sits low down in a bush.

09h36: I open the sliding door and the dog carefully pokes a snoot out, testing the waters, before gingerly venturing outside as though she's at the north bloody pole. Snaps lazily and with misdirected slothfulness at a passing fly, sniffs high into the breeze in case anything unusual is on the go, then hops off the porch and into the dewy grass to find a suitable spot for a morning ablution.

09h39: Takes off down the alley that runs alongside the house, to go sniff under the front gate. Her nose fits nicely into a groove beneath the gate, which puts her eyes at street level and offers a panoramic view of the road and sidewalk. Strangers are assessed; number plates noted in a little black book and occasionally - just so everyone knows who not to fuck with - she lets off an experimental bark. Only one. More than one leads to severe recriminations.

10h07: The morning upload is done and I arise to make more tea, which prompts TBD (who has returned and is sitting morosely in the study, contemplating another gruelling day ahead) to rise with me and hurry through to the kitchen, where she sits expectantly as though I'm about to give her something to eat. I'm not, as she always discovers. Can't figure out why she persists.

10h21: Having given up on the breakfast hustle she makes her way to her basket to get some early accounting done. Falls asleep doing it.

10h29: Starts twitching and dreaming. Heels start drumming against the edge of the basket. She starts squeaking and yelping and I invariably have to rescue her from a dream which is no doubt filled with an army of Stern Dads chasing her down a dark corridor that never ends.

11h03: Gets up, stretches, yawns, stares intently at me for a moment or two next to my chair, then deciding nothing is likely to be forthcoming she makes her way through the house on a leisurely sniffing tour. Disappears for about 20 minutes, no doubt sunning herself somewhere.

11h05: Or so she'd have you believe. What she's actually doing is calling up her mate next door and arranging for a 16h40 Mass Barking Action. Speaks in code and spends most of her time sniffing the receiver, trying to work out where the muffled grunts on the other end are coming from.


11h27: Returns to the office to catch up on some overdue paperwork but falls asleep again, one leg sticking out from under her Pink - an old, discarded duvet under which she slumbers. Twitches slightly as she hits the event horizon, but this time her dreams are always happier. She's dreaming about 16h40, when the neighbour gets home and barking becomes a "legitimate" excuse.

12h07: The noon upload is completed and I arise to make tea. TBD arises slowly from under the Pink, stretches, yawns, shakes and follows. This time around there is an air of expectant finality as she sits down with a sigh at the threshold to the kitchen, because this time she knows she will be given a bowlful of Beenos (steak flavour).

12h08: I fill her water bowl, empty the Beenos into her bowl and set it down. She doesn't move until I've finished making the tea and left the kitchen, and then she gets up and retrieves one Beeno gingerly, which she takes and dumps in the hallway just outside the study.

12h13: Once I've set the tea down in the study I come back into the hallway, and she's sitting there lopsidedly in front of her Beeno, staring at me. I kick it for her and she instantly fetches it and starts munching. She won't start eating it until I kick it, and once she's eaten the kicked Beeno she'll go back to the kitchen to eat the rest in a hurry. In case they also get kicked.

13h17: Sitting in the middle of the room, squinting at the early afternoon rays just coming through the window, she will suddenly look up intensely, swivel her head alarmingly to look at the door, sit there for a few tense seconds then suddenly leave. Sudden Memory Recall, I call it - she'll suddenly remember a bone she buried in the front flower bed six months ago and go off to fetch it. I have no idea how it works - astounds me every time.

14h07: The afternoon upload is done and I get up to make tea. The dog starts rising, looks at me blankly, then lies down with a sigh of discontent, realising the rigmarole is pointless. Decides to tackle some important correspondence, but falls asleep.

16h37: Rises lazily, checks her watch, stares at me hopefully for a few seconds, wags her tail experimentally and ambles off outside.

16h40: All hell breaks loose as TBD, the neighbouring dogs and a chain reaction of hundreds of stupid canines up and down the road start barking their heads off as the neighbour arrives home. I open a window and scream like a man on fire (which I am), and TBD and the neighbour both shut up instantaneously. But their work is done, because the rest of the neighbourhood dogs keep at it for at least another 30 minutes.

18h30: Rises when I do in the hope of a walk, but invariably discovers there isn't one. Yet. Hurries off outside to see if The Cat is around, discovers it isn't and gets lost lying in the final rays of sunlight by the gate, watching the feet of people going by. Sends text messages to the brute across the way to let it know when someone is coming on its side of the street, so that the monster can give them an almighty fright. It's a Rottweiler - at least 15 hands high - and it's one of those that likes to fling itself bodily against flimsy fences. TBD chuckles quietly under the gate.

19h00: If I haven't walked her yet my every movement is interpreted as a sign that I'm getting ready to, and the irritation of a dog leaping and cavorting excitedly just because I get up to go to the toilet is a vast ocean that consumes me.

19h16: I relent and take her for a walk around the block. She urinates at least eight times, squeezes out a fat, wet, steaming one on any lovely front lawn that has a person standing on it, and drops off propaganda pamphlets in letterboxes informing other dogs of the perils of cats.

19h30: Back home she waits for supper at the entrance to the kitchen and is pleasantly surprised to discover that it's Husky Chicken Meatloaf (for small to medium dogs called Mischka). Gobbles it down, burps audibly and hangs around in the hope of getting more. She never does and eventually hops onto the couch and flicks over to Animal Planet to laugh at all the bad dog actors.

20h31: Retires to her basket for an evening of finance reconciliation - but ends up falling asleep.

23h15: Arises, stretches, shakes, stares at me hopefully, loses hope and goes outside to see what's going on. Spots The Cat across the road from under the gate and stays out for two hours, willing it to come across to her. It doesn't.

01h16: Comes back inside, chilled to the bone, catless and in a bad mood. Slumps into her basket noisily to indicate her displeasure, decides to lose herself in some creative writing, but falls asleep instead.

04h23: Is awakened by the sound of me calling her to come outside for final toiletries, and grumpily acquiesces. She was dreaming of The Cat and it was all good until I woke her up.

04h28: Goes back to her basket to wait while we brush teeth and get ready for bed.

04h36: Comes through to the bedroom and waits on Tashi's side to be invited in. Hops up the moment she is, and quickly gets into position.

04h49: Eases out a long, contented fart, and falls into deep sleep.

04h55: Just as I'm drifting off she starts having nightmares again and wakes me up. I sit bolt upright, chop at her with maximum force through the duvet and invariably chop Tashi's thigh by mistake. She awakens with a yell, the dog freezes into immobility and slowly we all simmer down again. The dog makes no further noise.

06h24: Has a long, quiet, slow fart in the bed, before stretching noisily and flexing her toes in enjoyment. Goes back to sleep, licking her chops with unnecessary pleasure.

Repeat ad nauseam. It's a dog's life. My dog's life.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
Spending time online does bad things to a person, but I'm OK.

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Copyright © Luke Tagg. All rights reserved. A few lefts as well.

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