out walking with the dog

She was sitting on the concrete wall outside the parcels bay at the Post Office, smoking a tiny roll-up.  My dog brushed past her, rushing up to the door of the collection office, where we’ve been before.  She reached a vague hand towards him, as people sometimes do.  So I called him back, and got him to stand nearer to her.  It took a little doing, but eventually he was there and quiet.
‘Beautiful dog,’ she said, patting and stroking.  ‘Lovely coat,’ she said, ‘really soft.’
‘He had a bath the other day.’  I felt a need to explain.
‘He’s a . . . .?’
‘Border Collie.  . . .  You’ve got a dog?’
‘I’ve got a Springer.’  Pause.  She was a little, slightly hump-backed woman in a navy body-warmer.  Looked like a hard worker, and her accent was pure Midlands – somehow a very familiar voice, sharp-edged but comforting.
‘But it’s hair isn’t it, not fur?’  I wasn’t too sure what she was saying.  ‘Well – they don’t moult, do they?’
‘Oh yes he does – there’s hair everywhere.  You only have to turn around and there’s huge skeins of it.  Have to hoover all the time.’  (Exaggerating – those dusty skeins don’t get hoovered enough – they roll about the corners of the kitchen like tumbleweeds.)
‘Do Springers moult?’  (My turn to take an interest.)
‘Not much.  Hardly at all.’

 And then her punch line:  ‘We had an old dog used to moult everywhere, trails of it all up the stairs, wherever he went.  And then he died.  But then one time I was decorating and I started to find little bits of his hair.  So I just tucked it under the skirting board.’  (a little sliding, scooping gesture of tucking)  ‘There you are: you can stay there.’

She was showing me a private moment, masquerading as tidiness, when she gently made a memorial to the dog, to the nuisance of keeping a dog, to not minding about the nuisance. There was something slightly wicked in her voice: narrating a secret.

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One Response to “out walking with the dog”

  1. helkyrie Says:

    Amen to nuisance and adoration. What would life be without our four-footed lovelies? 🙂

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