I love playing with my big black friend Chorny. He protects me from those two very big and fearsome elderly ladies Babe and Beba, who snap at me when I’m just trying to be friendly and help them finish their food.
Chorny and I start off very quietly, but if we get noisy SHE shouts, and then we freeze. Chorny holds me so SHE can’t get at me - as if SHE would. Just for a moment everything stops. Then, when we’ve finally played out our play, we fall asleep, and SHE takes care not to wake us.
SHE’s considerate like that.
Sometimes, Chorny and I are really naughty - or so SHE says - and rip something to shreds. This was only our bed, so we didn’t see why we shouldn’t. But SHE got cross in the usual way. So I pleaded innocence. Moi? Make a mess? While Chorny, being older and by his lights wiser, disappeared. When the dust settled, or more accurately, when SHE’d swept it all up, we made some more mess and went to sleep, and SHE, as always, considerately kept quiet to avoid waking us. You see, I am the sweetest thing on four legs, and I have this situation well under control.
I noticed she does a lot of digging, which is hard work for her, so to make her life easier, I dig holes as much as I can, in case she wants to put something in them. If she doesn’t use them, they’re always good for burying those odds and ends that come a dog’s way when he’s clever enough to look out for things that’ll come in useful one day. But SHE gets cross and shouts. Then, when I saw she’d absent-mindedly dug a deep hole and forgotten about it, I helped out by filling it in - and you should have heard her language! Well, how was I to know the grapefruit tree was going into it? That gaping hole was dangerous to canine and human paws, what if one of us had fallen into it?
When SHE gets angry with me - always unjustly in my view - she shouts. VERY LOUDLY. Clearly her communication skills are deficient. She needs remedial dog-talk classes.
SHE tells me I'm the one who needs training. What an insult. But I like her training methods, so I humour her. She calls me, and I get a delicious biscuit when I run up and sit in front of her looking appealing. She gets a bit confused sometimes, poor old soul, telling me to sit, then to lie down, then to sit again. What can she mean? I wait patiently and look wistful. Sometimes I just go through all the motions quickly as best I can until she makes up her mind which one earns me the biscuit.
SHE’s at her silliest at mealtimes. She gets our plates ready, and then sits down and stuffs her face with a yoghurt or a banana. I bark to alert her to the error of her ways. She won’t listen, but compounds her error by putting down the plates in front of those 3 mutts from up the hill first. I’m last. How can this be? I bark and bark again, and jump up and down, but she does it every time, regardless. When will she learn that I’m the number one, and it’s my right to eat first?
I hear her telling the people who come to visit that they have to ignore me. How stupid, when of course they’ve only come to see me. Most of them, naturally, ignore her and pet me as I so richly deserve, and I reward them by giving them my undivided attention. They sometimes say odd things, like “find yourself a girlfriend”, or “stop nipping my ankles”, as though they can’t understand how I’m honouring them. Odd bunch, these humans, never satisfied. It takes a lot to lick them into shape.
Being a perfect specimen, not to mention handsome, cute and smart, it’s my duty to keep trying. I have great hopes of bringing her to heel in due course, obstinate though she is. She could shape up to be a credit to me, an example of how much a four-legged friend can achieve with even the most unpromising human companion.
You see, I am the cleverest thing on four legs, and I have this situation well under control.
SHE simply doesn’t understand how much effort and energy I expend protecting her. First and foremost from the reckless bad behaviour of those mutts from up the hill. Three of them live with us, though frankly I sometimes think the two black ones should be told to pack their bags, and then be left by the side of the road as I was. That would teach them some better manners and respect for me, the natural leader. SHE says it didn’t teach me any manners, but that’s just her being mean. All that said, Nada is welcome to stay, she’s good fun to play with, and she’s blonde like me, though not nearly as pretty as me, of course.
Do you know, over one Christmas and New Year, when things should have been ultra-peaceful, there was a multiplication of these mutts, five extras piled into the house! We were just overrun with them, tiny ones, young ones, grown-ups, all black or blond, what a mess. It was almost impossible to breathe, and all discipline went right out of the window, despite my best efforts to assert my authority, as SHE had clearly lost her marbles.
Though I have to admit I quite liked having Renči around, who’s mother to almost all of them. I’ve always fancied her, and I’m sure she has a soft spot for me which would surface if only we were ever alone together. But I digress.
As I said, SHE, two-legged ingrate that she is, laughs, one could even say she mocks. She says my legs are too short and my tail too long. She laughs at my style when I run and jump. She laughs even more when I do my best belligerent bark to fend off the enemy who might attack her. She tells me that cars tend to stay on their own pathways, so they won’t harm us if we stay out of their way. Other people who dare to walk down our tracks are usually friends, according to her. If they’re not, she says, she avoids contact, it’s simpler than barking at them. No need to bark. But my duty is to defend her, so I have to give voice when I sense danger.
Her biggest problem is her failure to understand how fierce I sound. She scoffs, making rude insinuations about my “high-pitched trilling”. She even says I shouldn’t bark when I go out in the garden. Doesn’t she know how many potential enemies are lurking around waiting to pounce? Well, I realize it’s a small and peaceful, trouble-free place, but who knows what crimes might be committed if I didn’t forestall them with my fiercest barking?
She nearly split her sides in the fields one day when I spotted a real threat and went into the attack, barking and charging. I admit I did feel a bit silly when she pointed out it was just a rotovator which was left in the neighbouring field to finish churning over the earth ready for the new season. But, it looked just like a Weapon of Mass Destruction in the twilight, and it was clearly my duty to protect her from same while she toiled away digging around her precious olive trees. Act first, time enough to think later, or we might regret it.
Some weeks later, I met a new experience, a challenge which caused the fiercest barking. The whole place had changed, it was all cold and white. But I knew immediately it was done for FUN, so I set about playing, finding my buried toys, I mean essential work-tools, and re-burying them.
Needless to say, those mutts, not to mention HER, didn’t venture forth. Yet again, I showed them who’s TOP DOG.
EATING - INS AND OUTS
Frankie is a fine fellow, generous to a fault. He loves animals, but of course I’m his favourite, even though he keeps that a secret between us so the others don’t get jealous. He’s ultra-considerate like that, although personally I think it would do them good to know how important I am. Frankie has a lot of important friends apart from me, but of course I am his Top Dog.
Frankie and his dad Ivica run one of the best restaurants around, just down the road from us. It’s called the Dvor Duboković, a grand name because they come from a grand old family. They serve up fine food. I know, because Frankie is often kind enough to bring round the bones, which are apparently the leftovers, but which make a fine meal. Or at least they would if SHE would give them to us. Instead, she cooks them up into a soup, and serves it up with our dry food or rice. It’s very delicious, but then who gets to crunch the bones? They seem to disappear, just when we’re all getting ready for the main part of the feast. What does she do with them?
Sometimes on special occasions at the Dvor Duboković Ivica and his friends sing - they’re pretty good singers, I know, as she tells me they’re often invited to sing in other places and even in foreign parts. Frankie often sings in the group, which is called Klapa Bagulin. Sometimes he does duets with special friends like Kevan. She loves the singing, and always goes when it’s on. She talks a lot about the place, so I know that she had a splendid evening there one time with ten young friends from her other country, and one of them was so drunk that he insisted on dancing with her! It quite turned her head. I wouldn’t have allowed her to make such a fool of herself if I’d been there, but this happened before I was around to control her unseemly frivolity.
And here’s the main point. I’ve never been to the Dvor Duboković. She won’t take me. Now I can understand that she wouldn’t want to take those three mutts from up the hill, as they’d definitely lower the tone. But ME? The cutest smartest thing on four legs? I’d be a real asset to the place, people would come from far and wide just to see and hear ME. I’d be such a good host, welcoming all the guests as they arrived. I’d sit quietly under each table and keep the floor clean if anyone happened to drop their food. My handsome presence in the beautiful garden would enhance the magnificent view. I’d also sing along with the harmonies when there’s a party - my shrill trill, as she so rudely calls it, is actually a fine high tone which would really complement those deep male voices.
And when I wag my tail and look ultra-appealing, I’d be the perfect mascot, and we’d all be famous. At the very least, it would be worth a plateful of real food for me, and extra helpings for HER. But she won’t hear of it. She tells me she doesn’t think people would be glad to have me greet them. IMPOSSIBLE, who could resist the sweetest thing on four legs jumping up to gaze lovingly into their eyes, tail all a-wag? And she has the gall to say she doesn’t trust me to be peaceful and calm during my under-table duties, she seems to think I’d nibble ankles, jump on laps or snatch food from the waiters. ME! MOI?? As if I would.
This is a difficult challenge, and I’m working on it. When my friend Frankie comes up with my hoard of bones, which I so generously share with those mutts from up the hill, I ask him to intercede. I know he sees my point of view, as he’s always been terrific at drawing people to the restaurant: they come from miles around, and they all come back again and again, so he understands marketing. I’d be the icing on the cake, the perfect assistant promoter. But he shakes his head and says SHE is so old we have to listen to her - even when her ideas are close to barking mad. Well, he doesn’t say that last bit, but I think he would if he wasn’t always so genuinely nice to everyone, even when they’re being pigheaded and stupid.
She’s let slip that there are often weddings and birthdays and festive fine meals at the Dvor Duboković, and it’s always lots of fun. I also know that other four-legged furries go there, some of them on a regular basis. That's so unfair. I just HAVE to be there. PLEASE, someone, persuade her to take me.
© Rocky, as told to Vivian Grisogono, 2014