Part 1. As part of the Style Inheritance issue, Robert, the most stylish dog on the planet, recalls his first meeting with the couple, Steve and Danny, who were to become his life. Yes, gay couples often have a dog in their lives. Yes, dogs have memories too! And, yes, remarkably, this one can write!
Excerpt from “Robert. My life. By me.” Scheduled for publication 01.10.2013.
Part 1 of 4: Coming home. (Parts 2, 3 and 4 in Related Stories)
“This is Robert, just arrived, five minutes ago,” explained Muriel, manager of the Battersea Dog’s Home.
“Robert! So cute,” declared Danny, strolling over and bending to pat my head. “What do you think, Steve?”
Steve knelt down, ruffled the hair on my crown, tickled me under the chin and suddenly swept me into his arms. He smelt very different from men I had known before, sort of fresh but also spicy and animal all at once. I knew in that moment that I had found my man.
He held me at arms length and looked into my eyes. I tried to wag my tail, but seemed mainly to be kicking my legs in space.
“Typical. Yet another boy ready and willing to get his legs up in the air for you,” Danny observed over my shoulder.
Quite what this meant was a mystery to me, at least for now. The fact that Steve chortled in response hinted that it might have been some kind of joke. But as Steve returned me to the floor the sour expression I now glimpsed on Danny’s face suggested otherwise. Determined to make my views known, I jumped up at Steve’s leg and pawed the air. This had always proven an effective attention-getting device.
“Well, he’s taken to you all right,” Muriel said.
“Yes, he’s a little charmer, for sure,” Steve replied, “and, of course, he knows it!”
“Typical of the breed, I’d say,” said Muriel. “Well, I was hopeful we would be able to fix you up this afternoon, even before the arrival of Robert. All your paper work has cleared, so it’s entirely your decision.”
“It’s no contest for us, right Danny?” Steve enquired.
“So what’s his story?” Danny asked.
“Born in Scotland end of October. There’s a Kennel Club certificate with his stuff. He spent his last four weeks in Basingstoke with a dysfunctional couple called Tracey and Andy, would you believe?” Claudia volunteered, “Oh, and a daughter called Poppy,” she added with a wry smile. “But he’s house trained, generally well-behaved as far as I know. I guess if you like Westies, he’s really not a bad idea at all.”
Well, Claudia’s “if” seemed like an outrageous slur on my fellow breed members. Surely everybody liked Westies, didn’t they? But the rest of her remarks had been reasonably positive. I decided to let her off without an admonitory bark.
“I think he’ll suit us fine,” Steve announced. “What do you reckon, Robert?”
I opted for a volley of cheery barks, so vigorous that each one had me briefly airborne. Even Danny managed a smile.
“Okay, let’s get him home. He’s had a longish day already. And I bet he’s hungry.”
Steve clearly had his finger on the pulse. He also had my lead around my neck. Claudia stood aside, arms folded, her expression reflecting her satisfaction at a job well done. Muriel stuffed a document in an envelope and handed it to Steve.
“Good luck with him; seems a loveable lad. Bring him back if you hit any snags. Don’t think you will.”
With Muriel’s character reference ringing in my ears, the two men and I left Battersea Dog’s Home no more than twenty minutes after I had arrived. I would never see its interior again. The sleek dark blue sports car parked outside beeped as its doors unlocked. Danny climbed into the low-slung passenger seat. Steve sat me on his lap, patted me fondly on the head, patted Danny fondly on the head as well and made his way around the vehicle to the driver’s seat. I thrilled to the throaty roar as he started the engine, a sound I would come to know, in Steve’s parlance, as the “Porsche engine note.” I settled in for a long trip. Three minutes later I was emerging from the car into an underground car park. I had apparently arrived at my new home.
Steve took my lead, Danny collected the armful that was the totality of my earthly goods and we progressed through a heavy black door to a path that lead to the main lobby of the building. A continuous stream of traffic roared along the road just beyond the path. This was going to be a noise-filled home, surely. That prospect didn’t thrill me at all, not after the tranquility of Lockerbie, or even the relative calm of the Basingstoke townhouse.
The lobby was all polished stone and glass, the only smells reaching me being the petrol fumes and hot rubber from the traffic outside and a hint of disinfectant from whatever had recently cleaned the foyer floor. Steve pressed a silver button and the doors of a lift slid open. In we went, intriguing odours from the spotted carpet giving me an excuse to bury my nose in the corner.
“I hope he’s not about to mark his spot in the lift,” said Danny. Steve pressed the button for the sixth floor and gave a tug on the lead.
“No pissing in the lift, now Robert. Nor in the flat, for that matter!” he added.
The lift halted. We exited and stood at the door to my new home. Steve pulled a bunch of keys from the pocket of his jeans and unlocked the wooden door. He stooped to release me.
“Okay, in you go,” he said.
I peered inside seeing a long carpeted hallway. Light flooded in from the right. I padded in the direction of the illumination. A huge door propped open lead into a long living room. Immediately in front of me four black-lacquered legs supported an enormous piano. Beyond, a combination of seats, a sofa and a wooden table confronted a television perched in the corner. The room was remarkably quiet, all the din of the traffic left behind the closed front door. I made my way to the windows that lined the opposite wall from floor to almost ceiling level. There, right in front of me, a sweeping expanse of water filled my vision. To my left, the room extended parallel with the river for even more yards than the distance I had just covered.
“Welcome to your new home, Robert. Hope you like the view. It’s the Thames,” said Steve.
“Do you plan to chat to your pet, man to boy, on a continuous basis or is this just a temporary settling him in phase?” enquired Danny.
“Oh, don’t be such a pain. We’ll want him to understand our commands. So it can’t do any harm to engage him in our conversation, can it?”
Naturally, I was in complete agreement with Steve, even though he, of course, had no idea that I already understood his every word.
Part 2 in Related Stories below.
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