One of the problems with having a dog as a friend you tend to start thinking like one. Well no, not to the extent that I could say to Rastus “Hey, look at that bitch do you see the way she walks! Let’s go and smell her.”
This was mainly because he tended not to look at bitches that way any more since the big snip. However in my mind he would reverse the conversation and encourage me with looks or a change of direction to check out any likely birds for me to inspect. Well that is what I thought. He was in all probability getting his nose to home in on the possibility of free food. Now you might think that all food for a dog was free. You are so wrong there. Being owned entitled a dog to be fed something akin to wages so the regular meals at home were his due. You wanted me so there is wage to be paid. Rastus was very keen on overtime and being paid accordingly. He was quite adept at doing this, cocking his head to one side with a quizzical look, fetching things like the local paper that was thrown over the front fence and by chasing rats in the back garden. I don’t think there were any rats but he certainly made it look as there were. He would stub his nose against the back door, utter an excited whine to be let out and then go flying up the garden on patrol duty seemingly just missing out on catching the sneaky rat. I was not fooled. It was all part of his wage negotiations showing how valuable he was and therefore should be paid more in the way of Schmackos or liver treats. I swear he would try to look thin on a walk to attract sympathy from other humans in the park that might want to fatten him up with a biscuit or half a sandwich. Though I must admit he tended to spit out cucumber. I felt him say to me once, “Cucumber is 99% water, if I want a drink I’ll drink out of a puddle.”
Here I must mention liver treats and to warn other pet owners (meaning dog owners) to avoid these like the plague as they smell awful. However, buying these for your pet will show that you really care about them a lot, to give him something really smelly to eat. I put it down to dogs’ development through the ages. We humans thousands of years ago discovered that meat that fell in the fire by accident tasted a lot better than meat that didn’t. Dogs in the same way not being able to strike a match for a fire found that meat that had been dead a few days was easier to eat and had more flavour than food that was fresh. I personally am amazed that supermarkets praise themselves for how fresh their food is, when it would be easier to eat when after it has started breaking down. Cooking just accelerates the decomposition process. However I am digressing.
Now you will be saying, “Well who did Rastus live with? Me or my elderly neighbour?” This was a grey area. Rastus was her dog but there were many times when it was necessary for me to take him in when she was away. At first there were her trips to her children interstate which clearly didn’t do her much good as she was so relieved to be home afterwards Then there were the not infrequent trips to hospital to sort out one thing or another. So Rastus came to regard my home as part of his territory more and more.This was the impetus to fence the veggie patch to ensure all my lettuces and beans were not dug up by my house guest.
As I worked from home this was no problem and even if I had to spend some time out he was quite happy to have a walk first around the neighbourhood to read the dog news at every pole and fire hydrant before I left and there were the frequent trips to the park and the beach as well so he was not deprived.
You are probably about to ask what happened to girl in the park; well some good and some bad. We did meet her again a few times. The interaction was all between Rastus and her with a condescending nod to me now and then. She did however tell Rastus her name which was Penny. Rastus looked at me with that warning look meaning “Skip the joke about a penny for your thoughts” so I just kept dumb.
She did talk to me a little too after that. It was mainly about work or travel or her flat mates. Nothing I could use to get any closer to her, but it was an acquaintance with the tiny solace of her company whilst Rastus got all the petting.
The day came when she came up to us and started the conversation.
“Sorry.” She said. “I am leaving…a transfer.”
I could see the disappointment of Rastus’s face. Whether it was the loss of the free food supply or the knees to place his head on I don’t know which. However she turned to me and gave me a peck on the cheek.
With that Rastus gave out a moan of canine sorrow.
“It’s OK, Rastus” she says as she bends down to pat him showing him her cleavage. “You are still my special boy,” in vindication of his faithfulness.
And then she was gone, but I did get her phone number. She had written it on a small card with "Just in case he needs me" with tiniest of kisses at the end.