|Diesel in action|
Fact is I like dogs, especially labrador retrievers, and particularly black ones. Other breeds are available.
Looking after a friend's well-behaved dog for a few days reminds me of something I really miss but also a few things I don't. The company of a loyal, obedient dog is brilliant. The sight of a retriever bombing into a bush and returning, against the odds, with a slobber-covered tennis ball is a wonder of the world. A warm body on your toes is a nice way to watch TV. But dog hair everywhere, cow-pat eating, carrying the black plastic sack of disgust and the lack of flexibility to go out all day - these things are not so good.
Diesel arrived without anything to fetch. No ball. I took his favourite plastic bone with me on the first walk. Its strange shape made fetching a bit complicated as he couldn't anticipate the bounce. After about half a mile he left it for me to carry and disappeared into the bushes. He re-emerged with an old tennis ball. Probs one he had lost last time he was here.
This ball was our plaything for the next few days. In the open fields he fetches it when thrown but then on the footpaths he carries it.
I have noticed that he is much better at not losing it these days. He runs ahead of me, puts the ball down, sniffs about a bit then picks it up as I pass him again and runs off a bit further.
Today is day six. All is going well until he runs up to me without the ball, as if I have it. We have a conversation. I speak fluent labrador:
Idiot man. What have you done with my ball?
(I gesture with empty palms. Diesel dashes back along the path)
(I walk on. Dog returns with no ball)
This is one of your jokes isn't it? Like when you pretend to throw it one way then throw it the other.
(I gesture again. He dashes back and doesn't return)
(I reluctantly walk back to an area of long grass by a ditch. Diesel has been known to get in the ditch, and drop the ball but as it floats he can see it and find it. He is sniffing the long grass where he has obviously left the ball. I try to find it but can't)
Come on. We'll have to leave it.
Are you mad?
(Stern voice) Come on.
Well if you're going to do your disappointed voice I'll come and cheer you up. You haven't heard the last of this.
(Walk proceeds until we get to the point where we normally play throw and fetch again.)
Where's the ball? I want to fetch the ball. Throw the ball. Go on. Throw it. Go on. I'll run a bit then stop. That normally helps you remember.
(I give the empty palms gesture)
You lost my ball!
(I dangle the lead)
OK. I'll just run on a bit and wait for you to remember where you put it.
(10 seconds pass)
Got the ball?
(8 seconds pass)
Got the ball?
(6 seconds pass)
Got the ball?
( I put him on the lead)
How come I am being punished for something that is clearly your fault?
(We return home. I go to the pet shop and purchase two new dayglo balls and, as a treat, a small bone.)
(I hand over the bone)
Open the door.
I'm going out.
This is torture. I'm not allowed to eat bones in the house. It's me that needs to go out; not you.
This house is different. Here. Eat it on your bed.
Are you mad? I'll puke.
(I go out and leave Diesel with the bone)
(I return. Idiot woman had returned first)
Where's the dog?
He's in the garden eating his own vomit. I've cleaned his bed up.
He told me that would happen.
(Idiot woman makes gesture. Idiot man goes to his basket)