Dogged

Basil had been a dog groomer going on 20 years. He had started out on human heads but finding them taxing and too talkative he took a short course to up skill. He was inspired after a drunken house party where someone had brought their new Pomeranian and were worried its fluff was getting beyond control.

‘She just keeps getting stuff caught in it’ was the owner’s complaint.

‘Basil’s a hairdresser’ the host told said owner. ‘I bet he could come up with a fresh new do’.

Basil was gathered, along with some clippers and fine scissors. Being buoyed by vodka and sheer idiocy his nerves were non-existence. But, to his credit, the owner was overjoyed with the outcome, despite the dog now looking like one of those weird shrubs your mum likes.

He found it quite different from cutting human hair. The texture, for one, slowed him down a bit. However, Basil was somewhat intrigued by his client who, except for the occasional stealth lick, was very calm and didn’t burden him with its life story.

When he woke up next morning he wondered to himself, as we all sometimes do, ‘Shit did I really do that?’.

Instagram confirmed that he had indeed done that plus #dogsofinstagram #pomeranian #doggrooming had garnered him a considerable increase in followers.

By Monday word had spread. Unfortunately some of that word had reached Basil’s salon, a low class high turn around joint on a certain long shopping strip.

His boss was livid.

‘Basil I’ve been in this industry a long time and have seen A LOT of things. But I’ve never seen something so irresponsible’.

‘I am sorry, it was just a spur of the moment thing’.

‘And what if you had of snipped the dog?’.

‘But I didn’t’.

‘Do you think this is a joke Basil? Because you won’t find OH&S so amusing when you’re out of a job’.

Basil slinked away. His books were full that week and he had been fielding enquiries from dog owners who were impressed with Frou Frou’s new do.

Walking home from work dogs seemed to be everywhere and in differing states of hair. Some were groomed top to toe. Others were more casual.

He got home and had a chat to his mum, who was unusually supportive.

‘Love if that’s what you want to do, you know I’ll always be behind you’ (this wasn’t actually true, she could be pretty lax as a parent).

Basil took this as a sign and, as mentioned, enrolled in a short course where he could study and practice at night. Within no time he had graduated and told his boss he would be retiring from human heads. A farewell party was had, glasses were raised and Basil was on his way. It seemed like yestermaday. But it was 20 years ago.

Basil now commanded his own salon with an exclusive range of clients – AFL and WFL wives, monied gentry, professionals with no time and a lot of money – the usual. No matter what was happening in his private life Basil would put on a cheery face and convince people that working with doggos was all it’s cracked up to be despite the nips and stage mum parents.

And then Toby walked in. A French poodle, Toby had a haughty and entitled attitude, much like our federal politicians.

‘He’s very particular about his fur and we were told you were the man to see. His last groomer unfortunately just committed suicide’ Toby’s mum told Basil.

‘Since then he’s not let anyone go near his fur and now I can’t even walking him for fear of embarrassment’.

‘Well’ Basil said cheerily, ‘Let’s try and put the spring back in his step’.

Basil washed Toby, who made several grunts at him. He was perky whilst trying to be soothing. So far so good.

‘There you go little mate, we’ll have you back on top in no time’.

Basil turned away to reach for the conditioner (it’s vegan, obviously – all of the range at Basil’s salon was). When he turned back Toby was looking straight at him.

‘Look here chap’ Toby said, ‘I’m not used to amateurs but I heard from the King Charles down the road that you know what you’re doing. So have at it and I’ll make it worth your while’.

The bottle of conditioner fell from Basil’s hand and onto the floor where it bounced a few times for dramatic effect. He looked around the salon. Surely this was some kind of prank?

‘Yes, you dimwit, I’m speaking to you’ said Toby. The dog let out a sigh and appeared to roll its eyes.

The next few minutes were taken up with the usual ‘dog starts to speak’ conversation. Toby had learnt English from his old hairdresser but yes it was a secret and no his masters didn’t know of his propensity to speak.

The rest of the appointment went along silently.

As Toby left he winked at Basil, who was wondering if he should up his meds or reduce them. He definitely could do with a Xanax and a lie down either way.

Toby and Basil continued to come together on a regular basis, with Toby bemoaning the stupidity of the human race and how one day he would bring it to its knees.

‘You will be spared for your skills’ he told Basil, who was becoming very uncomfortable.

One day Toby’s mum came in alone.

‘Oh is he sick?’ Basil said hopefully and then regretted thinking so cruelly.

‘Well he’s not fine, but he appears to be physically healthy. I just want to know; have you noticed anything unusual? He’s been avoiding me lately’.

‘Well he does talk quite a bit’.

Toby’s mum laughed.

‘Yes we all think they’re talking to us’.

‘But I mean…’

‘Yes I know what you mean; it’s like they’re human sometimes’.

Basil decided not to take it any further.

‘I’m hoping it’s just psychological and things will get back to normal soon’.

‘I hope so too’.

She went on her way. Basil looked at himself in the mirror. He’d lost quite a bit of weight and had been self-medicating. When not attended to his hair was showing patches of grey. His hands occasionally went into tremor as though they were screaming out ‘STOP’. He picked up the phone and dialed Toby’s mum’s number.

‘Hi, sorry, meant to say; I’m taking a bit of a break from the business to take my mother on holiday. She’s getting on and I thought we should spend some time together before… well you know’.

Toby’s mum expressed the usual empathetic stuff people express when someone’s mum seems vulnerable.

‘I’ll let you know when I’m back’.

He then went through all his upcoming appointments, cancelling each and recommending another groomer. That night as he shut the doors he felt as though Toby-shaped weight had lifted.

Basil went home, booked a flight to a remote island and packed his bags. He was gone by morning.

A few week’s later at stupid o’clock the phone rang in his serviced apartment.

‘Is that Basil Fankanarkle? This is the police’.

The voice sounded empathetic and Basil assumed that Mother may have slipped away.

‘It’s about your salon’.

‘Oh, is everything OK?’.

‘Well sir, I would suggest you sit down’.

Basil sat down.

‘The premises of your building. Well, they’ve been the site of a bombing. I’m afraid there’s nothing left except a message scrawled on the footpath saying ‘Fight the two legged fascists’. We need you to come in and make a statement’.

‘I’m actually in the middle of a much needed break right now’.

‘Ummm, yes, we’re aware of that. We just need to exclude you from our enquiries. I assume the building was insured?’.

‘Well yes of course, I built that business up over 20 years, of course I insured it’.

He drew a quick breath.

‘Wait – you think I was involved?’.

‘As I said sir, we need to exclude you from our enquiries. There’s also the matter of a missing dog, known to your salon’.

Basil was ready to pass out. The officer continued.

‘He was, or hopefully is still, a much valued pet and he went missing about the time of the explosion’.

‘I’m on an island, I haven’t seen him’.

‘So you know which pet we refer to? A French poodle named Toby?’.

‘Yes, of course. But I have nothing to do with his disappearance. I actually closed the salon just after speaking with his mother’.

‘She came in?’.

‘The day I left. She was having issues with Toby and wondered if I had noticed anything strange about him’.

‘And had you?’.

‘Well yes and I tried to tell her but she thought I was joking’.

‘But you weren’t?’.

‘No’.

‘Either way sir, we need you to come into the station and make a statement. If you can book yourself on the next flight out we’ll get this all sorted’.

‘Thank you officer’.

‘Oh and I am sorry to mention, but your mother was also found dead this morning’.

Basil put down the phone.

He thought about his last 20 years at work and how happy they had been, until Toby. Not only was his business gone, but his mum too.

The next morning he walked into the sea, never to be heard from again. A bit like Harold Holt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hank and Babs do an adventure

The wind had whipped itself up into a frenzy; howling down empty city streets and knocking stuff over like a teenager who was just really really angry with everything, man. Occasionally the howls would wake up the sensitive of hearing. And, of course, dogs.

Hank and Babs were stacked snuggly in their kennel, but awake. They’d tried to rouse the humans to let them inside; the noise was really not fun.

‘I don’t think they can hear us Babs. We’re stuck here until the short one wakes up’.

Babs let out a whine. She was generally, as is in keeping with her species, upbeat and optimistic. But her fluffy, silky ears were over it. Plus, as a puppy (albeit a GIANT one), she was still getting used to the fact that life was not always going to dish out luxuries like time on the couch.

The wind, not having done enough with waking up beings and upsetting bins, decided to up the ante on its rampage and blow a little bit harder and stronger to prove its might.

Hank and Babs’ back gate started to rattle and, having not being replaced since the  ’90s, it gave little resistance. A slight lift under its bottom and then a strong blast pulled the gate from its moorings. Of course it did, how else do you think the dogs are going to go on an adventure? Seriously.

Hank sniffed the air.

‘Something is different’ he told his sister.

They untangled themselves and exited the safety of their cosy bed. Upon seeing the open gate Hank drew a sharp breath which, because of his adorable pushed in nose, came out as a snort.

Babs let out an amused ‘WOOF’. She dropped to the ground, her head on her paws, and stared longingly beyond the gate.

‘Barbara, we can’t. The humans will be sad. They will miss us. Plus we don’t have long until breakfast. Food is your favourite thing; remember?’.

‘Cummmooon, we don’t have to go far. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE? I’ll let you have the ball’.

‘Ahhhhh, the impetuousness of youth’ nodded Hank; ‘the ball you say? For how long?’.

‘Til next breakfast’ Babs offered.

‘Deal’. They didn’t shake on it and stuff because, well, dogs.

Tentatively they made their way towards the open gate, sticking their heads out warily.

‘No cats?’ asked Babs.

‘I think the coast is clear. Let’s go before that big Persian from next door wakes up and tries to kill us’.

‘Good idea’.

They trotted along the alleyway… Well. They would have, but as dogs they had to smell everything. Other than being allowed off leash at the dog park and on the farm they’d never been allowed to explore much without the humans yelling at them to not eat poo or roll in dead bird carci. The alleyway presented a plethora of tastes and smells and they could explore them unfettered. Until…

Hank had been spending a long time in one spot, sniffing his butt off when he raised his head and let his olfactory nerves drink in the morning air.

‘I know this smell’ he told Babs.

They were finally near the end of the alley, which veered off into a main street.

‘This is where they take us on the chains’. He meant leads. He can be a bit overdramatic sometimes. He is French and all.

Babs bounced up and down, then got distracted by her tail and spun to catch it.

When she eventually came up for air she said ‘I LOVE THE CHAINS! LET’S GO WHERE THE CHAINS TAKE US!’.

‘You’re such a weirdo. But fine. We’ll go to where the chains take us and then back to bed. Do you promise to be a good girl?’.

Babs began bouncing again.

‘I DO, I DO!’ she confirmed.

Destination in check they headed for what was, unbeknownst to them, called ‘the park’.

Their propensity for sniffing and peeing on everything slowed them down somewhat. They were also hissed at through a window by a Devon rex named Iggy, which terrified Babs, hiding her march larger frame behind Hank’s reassuring small but stocky figure. But finally they made it.

If they weren’t canines they would have seen the sun rising over the city in golds and pinks, bathing everything in no filter-worthy light. What they did see were the birds. Without warning Babs ran at high speed toward a rather large magpie, making it rise up sharply into the air and away from the shenanigans of dogs.

Babs went after another, and then another, and then another. All this time Hank had been rolling around, having a grass bath, his furry little face in rapture. Until a soft but forceful paw landed on his chest.

‘I’m hungry Hank’ was Babs’ lament; ‘And I miss the ball’.

Both let out a big sigh. Babs dropped to the ground, resting her chin on Hanks’ back. There was always food for them at home, delivered on time with nummy crunchiness. And the ball was just where they left it, covered in dirt in the flower bed. Memories. Sadface.

Back at the house the humans were waking up to a scene that caused their hearts to break. Where were their babies? A plan of action was engaged; call work and delay, each parent to be assigned a direction along the alleyway, head to the park and if that wasn’t fruitful then the animal hospital (please no) and the pounds for a microchip check of their current prisoners. The park was the only place the dogs really knew how to get to on foot. Thankfully they couldn’t drive. Hank would be a terror on the road, running down his least favourite humans; men in uniforms and short men, men with a moustache, men with beards, mostly men who weren’t his dads. That third wave feminism has a lot to answer for. Not.

His beloved dads gave him food and always let him sit on the couch. OK so maybe that last bit isn’t strictly true, but if he pulled a cute enough Hank face he could gain couch access. And with a face like his it wasn’t difficult. Unless of course you were a dog hater with a lump of LNP approved coal for a heart.

Hank was dreaming of the couch as he lay in the park, with poor darling Babs softly crying. She stopped abruptly and poked her brother. He chose to ignore her.

‘HANK, I think I heard something! Wake up!’.

Their names came to them on the morning breeze (the wind had conveniently gone to bed); The Humans!

Jumping up quickly they perused the perimeter of the park. THERE WAS DAD 1! AND LOOK – ALSO DAD 2! Hank and Babs were overjoyed. Because food obviously. They bounded toward their loving parents like a goofy pair of goofballs. Tears were shed (bloody emotional humans), licks generously given, leads attached and the dogs on their way home back to be in the dog house. Like, literally not figuratively. Or so they thought.

The gate wasn’t secured properly yet so the dogs got to spend the day inside with their dads, who had taken a ‘work from home’ day to wait for a maintenance human.

And even though the gate was eventually properly secured, that night Hanks and Babs had a long and comfy sleep on the couch, where they dreamt of their day and adventures yet to come.