We had a pet dog when I was a boy. A great,
stupid, soft, shaggy Old English sheepdog. I think
my mother bought him to make up for the regular
lack of husband. I can still remember the smell
of his fur, even now, so many years later, a wet,
sweaty, slightly dirty smell. It’s a long-haired breed,
the Old English. Picks up muck and bits and crap
in its fur like a magnet collects filings. Dopey dog
hated having all the twigs and things combed out,
or maybe he didn’t have the patience to sit around
while we did it. Had the attention span of a small child,
that dog, and the same silly grin, come to think of it.
My mother would come through the door at the end
of the day and the dog would gallop from the back
of the house to the front door like a mad thing
in a dog suit. It bounded down the hall and landed
its brown stained paws on her shoulders and licked
her face with a tongue that smelled of dog food
and slaver and bumlick. She was five foot nowt,
my mother. A pocket venus, that’s what she said.
The dog was a foot taller on its hind legs.
They stood there, both of them grinning
like silly kids. She had a great smile.
She loved that dog.
We loved it too, of course.
You had to love something that wagged
it’s stumpy tail so hard it sometimes fell over,
just because you were you.
It died of a heart attack in the back garden
one day in summer. I came out and found it,
lying there, on the toy-cluttered, unmown grass,
cooling down dead.
Broke my heart.
Never had one since,
dog, or heart.