It is Kevin’s second birthday on 10th July and despite the fact he is a feral turd with a liking for playing noughts and crosses on my legs, I have decided to spoil him by making him his own little cake, buy him some toys and video his party for Instagram where he will be joined by his internet cat friends from the Raw Meow group plus maybe some others in Insta. One would think that Kevin would be excited by this but you all know Kevin, he is grumpy floof and is annoyed because he can’t have friends to the house – never mind the fact that he would probably combust with territorial anger if he saw another cat.
This afternoon Kevin was pretty much ignoring me and Brutus and was busy doing his thing in his room. His ‘thing’ by the way could be anything from shredding his cat post, humping Tony Abbott or waiting for tuxedo cat to rock up (he didn’t).
“For God’s sake, he is such a selfish cat. We haven’t had a window fight in ages!” Kevin grumbled loud enough for me to hear him from my office.
I ignored him because I was busy, then I heard a crash from the dining room which jolted me out of my creative streak that I was blissfully in. Now I don’t know about you, but I have learned to tell exactly what my pets are doing judging by the sounds they make.
For instance, certain crashes indicate the air freshener can being knocked on to the floor. Other noises could point to Kevin wrecking the blinds (and he has – all of the ones in the dining room). Or it could be the sound of his biscuit bowl knocked over (he has a bag of Ziwi Peak to try that our friend gave to us, so far he isn’t amused but we keep trying).
Either way, there was a noise from the dining room. Jumping up out of my office, I quickly went to check what the damage was and found the remote control for the roller shutters on the floor. Kevin was looking boot-faced and exceptionally pissed off.
“What is the matter with you Kevin?” I went to stroke him and felt a sharp bite to my hand – the little shit.
“I don’t have any friends and tuxedo cat hasn’t been here for a good window fight in ages. There is no point in anything, no-one appreciates or understands me!” Kevin complained.
“That is because you are a miserable bastard, you threaten tuxedo cat every time he comes to the window and when we try to pet you, you bite us!” I shrugged, “Would you like me to continue?”
Kevin looked somewhat dejected as he started to wash his anus with his ginger hind leg held rigid in the air with his toe floofs on display.
I picked up the remote and went back to my office, followed by Kevin still grumbling about ‘his lot’.
About ten mins later he started meowing at me – loudly. “Yes Kevin?” I asked him.
“If I am going to have a cyber party with my friends from the Raw Meow group, will you brush me out so I look nice – including my pantaloons?”
I said yes, that would be no problem.
“Am I really going to have a kitty cake? Tell me about my birthday cake?” Kevin pestered me.
I watched him as he looked on in wide eyed excitement when I described his cake which is going to have some King prawns on it and whatever other raw delights I can think of. I described the number ‘2’ candle that would be on it – yes, we shall attempt to light it as well.
I told him how we were going to buy him his toys and some treats. But it wasn’t the toys and cake that made his day, oh no – it was the promise of his Instagram party and a video being recorded of him with his cyber family.
“Mum?” Kevin asked me.
“I hope tuxedo cat turns up to watch from the outside so he can come to my Insta party.” Kev said quietly.
“Anyone would think you were getting soft in your old age Kev!” I laughed.
By the time I came out of my office, I found Kevin curled up on the sofa asleep, no doubt dreaming about kitty cakes, Instagram parties and his friend/enemy – Tuxedo Cat.
We have a cat that lives a few doors down from us, he is quite nice and is a black and white tuxedo cat. For some reason he likes to come and sit by our window, stare at Kevin and ask him about his day.
Except that Kevin is not the friendliest of cats as you know and he can swear fluently in several different languages.
So you can imagine his fury when he first saw the tuxedo cat come to our door as though he owned the place. He isn’t an aggressive cat, in fact I have seen him outside his house a few times when I drive by and I swear to God that little cat waves at me and gives me a nod of recognition when I go past him.
A few weeks ago we heard the most blood curdling squeal from Kevin that I have ever heard. Jumping up from the sofa, I ran to the dining room and saw Kevin all floofed up, standing at the window while tuxedo cat sat outside and did gestures with his paws about coming in for a bowl of cat food.
“You black and white tuxedo bastard! How dare you come on to my property! I am going to eat you, crap you out and then eat you again and then I shall use your whiskers as dental floss!” Kevin swore at the glass and proceeded to smack the glass with his paws because he was so furious.
Kev got himself that wound up that he ran over to Brutus and swatted him and Brutus didn’t know where to put himself. “What did I do Mum?” Brutus said looking mortally wounded. Reassuring him that he hadn’t done anything, I told Kevin off for his behaviour.
“And you can bugger off as well!” Kev shouted at me and swiped my leg (His nails weren’t out).
“I say, would it be possible to come in for a cuddle and a snooze on your sofa?” Tuxedo cat shouted to Kevin through the window.
“Piss off!” Kevin bristled back and ran to the window again, whacked his head on it and then grumbled, “That bloody hurt! Mum, he hurt me, did you see that?”
“No Kevin, the only one I can see kicking off is you! He has only come to say hello!” Picking up Kevin, I carried him to his bedroom for ‘time out’ where I could hear him shouting and threatening to call his lawyer and the police if we didn’t let him out to defend his home and family. Never mind the fact he was swatting his family with his huge floofy paws, oh no – he had conveniently forgotten that.
Anyway, it all quietened down and tuxedo cat eventually left after doing a phone gesture with is paws while shouting ‘call me sometime’ or something similar.
Tuxedo Battle Part Two
Kevin has always enjoyed a bit of neighbourhood watch and will spend ages at the window or if he hears anything outside, will run up to the window and stand like this for long periods. This has escalated since tuxedo cat came on the scene.
The other week Kevin was pressing his nose against the glass and keeping an eye on things when he spotted tuxedo cat at the dining room window again. He was sitting there looking smart with his white tux, little white markings on his face – if he were human, he would be a teenage boy called Rupert, all suited up for his first Prom.
“Hi Kev, are you coming out to play? Or I can come in your house to share your humans if you like?” Tuxedo pleaded from outside.
“You are SO bloody needy! Why don’t you get your own humans?” Kevin voiced his disdain and started yowling and spitting.
“Oh God, he is at it again! I am out of here!” Brutus jumped off the sofa.
My husband went to tell Kevin to stop it or at least distract him but by the time he got to the window, Kevin was punching the window like a champion boxer and threatening to call his friends in to assist (Kev has no friends, I think he might need some invisible ones and even then he would hate them).
The insults were traded mainly by Kevin and tuxedo just sat quietly until he got pissed off and insulted Kevin’s mother Daisy. You never insult a cat’s mother, especially Kevin’s mother Daisy – she is disabled with only 3 legs and Kev won’t hear a word against her.
Kevin stomped off to his room with his pantaloons all puffed out and tail resembling a bottle brush. By that time Tuxedo had gone and I honestly thought that I wouldn’t see him again after that incident.
That was until the next morning when I drove to work and spotted him at the end of his driveway clutching his kitty newspaper ‘The Daily Tux’, he gave me a curt nod to acknowledge me and I smiled back. Then when I got to the end of my road there was ANOTHER identical cat just like him, also sitting at the end of his drive and he gave me a curt nod as well. It was like some secret club for tuxedo cats and it was pretty creepy the way they were both outside their properties when I went to work.
Thank God only one comes to the house though – or maybe it’s both of them and they take it in turns to wind Kevin up. Who knows? Not me that’s for sure.
Tuxedo Battle Part Three
It was one night this week and I was watching TV when I heard the sound of Kevin talking – he sounds like the character Mick Taylor from Wolfcreek, imagine him saying ‘What the bloody hell do ya think you’re doing?’
“Have you got a death wish or something? Ya bloody idiot!” Kevin hissed at the window.
Brutus was in the garden so could hear it all and he started to bark at the fence and tell tuxedo to ‘get off his land or he will be sorry!’
Kev was quite pleased with this act of solidarity and growled, “My brother is Brutus will sort you out and he is bigger than you!” Unknown to Kevin, Brutus was at the gate mouthing the words ‘Sorry, only joking!’ to tuxedo, being the gentle boy he is and not wanting to make enemies – especially of the feline variety.
Well I was damned if I was going to pick Kevin up while he was so angry. Once Kevin has gone into ‘brush’ and is all floofed up, you would have to be mad to touch him.
And as quickly as it started, it all stopped. Tuxedo’s owners must have called him for his tea or something because he suddenly turned round and then glanced at Kevin, “See you tomorrow?”
“Same time tomorrow!” Kev nodded back at him and gave him a paws-up to confirm it, no further growling or anything.
Later that night it was all back to normal. Kev was humping Brutus’s beloved doll, Brutus was looking on in disgust and I was wondering if this ‘Tuxedo Battle’ will ever end. Why does this little black and white cat like to sit outside my house?
Last night Kevin sat by the window for two solid hours without moving. “That bloody tuxedo cat hasn’t turned up for our window fight and he promised he would, I mean how rude, he insulted my mother Daisy so now I have to insult his mother, but I can’t if he isn’t here!” Kevin looked boot-faced at the audacity of it all.
Where it will all end is anyones guess but something tells me that the ‘Tuxedo Wars’ will carry on for a while yet and when we are not there, they probably chat to each other and drink tuna beer for cats. That’s what I reckon anyway.
Brutus now has an invisible Kelpie friend called Derek and before you laugh at me, please hear me out.
Now many of you may remember in my stories, that Rocco the Iggy also has some invisible friends that he fights with. All dogs have the capacity for invisible friends because they are ideal to blame when beds explode or things get chewed or holes dug in the garden.
Your dog can look remarkably innocent when you discover stuff that has been destroyed and you can bet your sweet life that the invisible dog has done it. It’s an unwritten rule all over the world that dogs (and cats) will deny any naughtiness even if the evidence is smeared on them or still in their mouths.
Invisible friends are also good if you are happen to be a grumpy non dog social kind of dog and you still like to have a good mate. You can chat to your imaginary friend, you can fight with him/her and no-one gets hurt and just hang out with them when you feel lonely.
Brutus has never needed an invisible friend before because he had Rocky. I will freely admit that since Rocky died, Brutus has been a shadow of his former self and is clearly missing having a companion.
Of course the answer would be to get another dog but financially we are not in a position to do so – you all know how much I would love another kelpie and I can’t even watch Red Dog now because it hurts so much. But that is another story.
Brutus has taken to interacting with frogs, birds – in fact whatever he happens to find in the garden. I have spotted him play bowing to a frog in the garden, play bowing to the magpies and more embarrassingly, chasing a butterfly in the garden and wagging his tail (I am being serious).
So it should come as no surprise that he joined the ranks of Rocco and got himself an invisible friend and this is how it all came about.
The arrival of Brutus’s invisible friend – Derek
One night Brutus was busy filling up his scrap book with cutouts of kelpies. Carefully licking the pictures, he clumsily slapped them onto the book. Tilting his head to the side, Brutus admired his handiwork – well they looked a bit wonky but that was OK, he didn’t mind.
He didn’t know why he was doing it, he guessed it just made him feel better and he would pretend it was his family album to comfort himself. Closing the scrapbook, Brutus grabbed a chunky marker pen and wrote in untidy scrawl ‘My Scrap Book’ and then put the book down on his bed.
He was suddenly brought back to reality when his mobile phone rang, glancing down he saw a picture of an Iggy flash up on his phone, the photo was of Rocco doing a rude gesture with his paw.
“Hi Rocco, what’s up?” Brutus answered his phone while outlining the cover of his scrapbook with his nails.
“You know you wanted a new brother?” Rocco asked him.
Brutus shrugged, “Yes, but you know it can’t happen, Mum said we can’t afford it.”
“Well you know I have an entire group of invisible friends that don’t cost a thing to keep.” Rocco barked excitedly down the phone.
Brutus had never considered having an invisible friend before and wondered if his mates would rip the piss out of him for having one. But then again, Pippin said most dogs have invisible mates, some are just well hidden and there is no shame in it either because it’s jolly nice to have one to bark at the garbage truck with.
“Tell me more, but I am not sure I can believe in this so I am making no promises!” Brutus sat on his bed and made himself comfortable.
And as Rocco explained how it all worked, he frequently stopped talking to Brutus so he could tell his invisible mates to stop interrupting or he would bite their arses off.
Brutus wasn’t convinced, I mean how on earth can you form a bond with something you cannot see, let alone make friends with it?
The Next Day
Brutus got up as usual, had his breakfast and went out into the garden. He had forgotten his conversation with Rocco the day before and was busy sniffing every single blade of grass to check that nothing had moved during the night.
“Excuse me, am I at the right house? Are you Brutus?” A posh public school English voice shocked Brutus out of his morning garden ritual. Quickly turning round, he spotted a middle aged red cloud kelpie with ginger tufts above his eyes and a patch of ginger fur in the shape of a huge bow tie across his chest (kelpie owners will know what I mean by that).
The kelpie clutched a kelpie briefcase and wore a pair of round kelpie spectacles on his head. He looked pretty smart and Brutus instantly knew that he had been to kelpie university because his briefcase had the same emblem on it that Rocky’s had.
“Who are you?” Brutus frowned, but wagged his tail at the same time. It made a wonderful change to talk to another dog in his own garden instead of a frog, parrot or butterfly.
“The name is Derek, pleased to meet you. I am your new brother!” The red kelpie nodded to Brutus and held his paw out for him to shake, “Is this my new garden? It’s jolly nice I must say.”
Brutus looked puzzled and looked round for his Mum. She was busy washing the car and didn’t even notice the handsome kelpie in the garden.
“She can’t see me old chap, only you can see me. Oh and maybe your friends, but only if they want to. Invisible friends take some getting used to and some dogs don’t feel a need for it really.”
“My goodness she must love you judging by the amount of fur you have left on those car seats.” Derek burst out laughing, he was standing on his hind legs peering through the rear window and looking at the fur on the seats.
Brutus remained where he was and waited for his Mum to notice Derek who was now busy rifling through the toy box looking for one of Rocky’s old tennis balls that his humans did not have the heart to throw away.
“Tennis balls! My life is complete!” Derek grabbed a tennis ball, threw it into the air and watched with delight as it bounced past the car on the pavers.
Brutus’s Mum looked up just in time to see the tennis ball roll past. She looked at Brutus who was standing near the grass, that was strange as Brutus has never been one for tennis balls and never plays with them.
“That’s funny, that sounded just like what Rocky used to do – throw his tennis ball down the driveway.” She said wistfully and picked up the tennis ball and threw it back in the toy box.
“I know Brutus, I miss him too.” Giving Brutus a pat on his rump, she picked up the bucket and car wash stuff and made her way back into the house to make a cup of tea.
“Fancy a game of chase round the car?” Brutus grinned at Derek.
Derek wagged his tail, “I thought you would never ask!”
As Brutus did laps up and down the garden, he realised that Rocco was right, these invisible friends were good fun and he was already looking forward to stealing Kevin’s food and blaming it on Derek.
Because that’s what friends are for (well, invisible ones anyway)
You may remember from my previous stories that my old dog Rocky went to university where he studied ‘sheep herding and the modern day kelpie’. Rocky was well educated, wore round gold-rimmed kelpie spectacles and usually carried a copy of the ‘Kelpie Times’ under his arm.
Now for a dog to get into university they have to be pretty smart. These places are usually filled with working dogs – kelpies, blue heelers, border collies, sniffer dogs in training etc.
Brutus you may have gathered by now, is not the smartest dog in the world but probably smarter than he realizes. He doesn’t like to be reminded of the time he attempted to jump in the air to catch a helitac during a bushfire and there are heaps of other examples and we certainly won’t talk about the ‘Tony Abbott doll incident’ either.
Kevin as you may know, is our ginger cat – the one we adopted a week after Gordon crossed over to Rainbow Bridge because quite simply, we could not be without a cat and our little home was incomplete without one.
For those of you that haven’t read that blog entry of how we said goodbye to Gordon and how Kev came into our lives, the link is here:
Well he is actually rather magnificent and at the time of writing this, he is 1 year and 9 months old and weighs 7.5kgs. He is a feral bastard – which is why we call him ‘Kevin the bastard’, a title that is more than fitting of his personality.
Kevin attacks my legs, he bites them when he wants attention, he bites them when he is pissed off and he bites them, well just to tell me that he loves me and I now have brown scars all over my legs comparable to a game of noughts and crosses.
Kevin has also turned out to be a bit of a pervert. No, he does not have his testicles as they were removed over a year ago but he still seems to have ‘needs’ and these ‘needs’ involve humping the dogs toys.
He humps the toys while clutching his goldfish fishing wand in his mouth although sometimes he likes to hold the squeaky squirrel but the fish is his favourite ‘sex toy’ which he drags round the house until he finds what he wants to hump. We did try removing all of the dog toys which was not fair on Brutus, but he ended up humping Brutus and of course, Brutus was shocked and disgusted and so am I because this afternoon (8th May 2019), Kevin was rubbing his face on my husbands shoes while trying to hump my foot.
“Mum, can you please get Kevin off my Tony Abbott doll!” Brutus protested once while Kev went at one of the Tony dolls like a champ. “That is disgusting!” Brutus added. I gently reminded him that it wasn’t that long ago that he (Brutus) used to try and hump my arm when he got overexcited while holding a Tony in his mouth.
“But that was different!” Brutus blushed. He was right though, Brutus wasn’t trying to get his ‘jollies’ so to speak but Kevin does (we have to wash the toys once a week now).
The squeaking from the toys grew louder as Kev worked his way round them and he even sorted the gingerbread man out. “You are just jealous!” Kev sneered at Brutus. Brutus turned away because he couldn’t think of a suitable reply.
This went on for quite a while but actually it is a daily event and we just try and ignore him. Well I say ignore him but I shall admit to taking several videos as Kev now has his own Insta account and I post the videos and photos on there and Kev is getting quite a following. Here is the link if you are interested – http://@Kevinthebastard
Kev admired his nails and said sweetly, “Do you like your legs?”
Stupid me didn’t even realise what was about to happen, so I pretty much deserved it really, “Yes Kevin, I like my legs, why do you ask?”
“No reason.” Kev grinned and took a swipe adding to the already growing collection of scars that make me look as though I have been hurting myself on a regular basis.
Another time he got turd caught up in his pantaloons – and for those not in the know, pantaloons are the back end of a long haired cat. If you check out their floofy legs, they actually look like baggy pantaloons – have a look for yourself if you don’t believe me.
It was no mean feat to clean those shitty ginger trousers and I had to wrestle 7.5kgs of angry semi feral cat who was insulting me and threatening to eat myself and my family in the night and even when I told him that my family live in the UK, he still threatened to eat them.
Kevin is so difficult to handle that he has been prescribed a sedative from the vet to enable me to bring him to the vets or if I need to trim his nails, so please don’t be fooled by the cuteness of the floof because he really is a bastard and lives up to his name.
Kev is a highly strung, nervous semi feral cat who gets upset if his routine is even slightly out of sync. If we are late putting him to bed (yes he has his very own bedroom), he starts to knock things off the TV cabinet – mainly the modem but will graduate to whatever else may be on there or the coffee table.
One time we had pest control come to do a termite inspection and we had to shut Kevin away. After the guy had gone and my husband went to let Kevin out, Kevin panicked and scratched the crap out of my husband. He did say sorry afterwards and begged for forgiveness, but that was only because prawns were involved.
My House – My Castle!
Kevin is highly territorial and doesn’t welcome other animals into his house, especially cats and he even gets upset if he can see them outside the house through the dining room window. We had a bit of an incident one Sunday with the tuxedo cat from down the road calling round to see us. He often knocks on our front door and asks to come in for a chat – you know me, I would happily chat to him but Kevin said that hell will freeze over before that happens.
This cat is quite cute and I sometimes see him on my way to work sitting outside his garden doing cat stuff. He waves at me and always says ‘Good morning’. Unlike the horrible tabby tom cat complete with testicles that used to piss up my windows and door and call my old cat Gordon a bastard and threaten to shit on my car.
That all ended quite abruptly when I purchased some citronella crystals from the vet to scatter by my door. The last I saw of that tabby cat was him stomping off down the road with testicles and attitude, saying that I had ruined his life.
Anyway, back to Sunday. I was curled up on the sofa watching a movie. Brutus was on his sofa in the dining room and Kevin was being a nosey bastard at the dining room window. Quite suddenly I heard Kevin make a blood curdling screech and his language was pretty ‘choice’ as well, some of it I can’t even repeat.
“Oi! What the hell do you think you are doing? Sitting by my window like it’s yours!” Kevin screamed so loudly that I jumped up off the sofa to see what was going on. I was greeted at the sight of Kevin in full ‘toilet brush’ where his fur had floofed up so much that I could have used him to clean my toilet.
“Let me get that cheeky bastard, I shall kill him with my own paws!” Kev hissed and spat as he attacked the window and flipped the bird at this other cat.
The tuxedo cat outside did not move an inch. He sat there grinning at Kevin while making gestures with his paws and shouting something about ‘no need to be so hostile’ and ‘could he possibly come in and share a bowl of meat or something?’
This of course ended with Kevin getting so upset that he told the tuxedo cat to piss off, then ran over to poor old Brutus who was on the chair, smacked his bum (Kev didn’t have his nails out at all), then chased Brutus into the living room, swiped my legs (nails still not out thank god) and chased me around the house.
Tuxedo cat shook his head and merely walked off down the garden while doing a telephone gesture at Kevin saying ‘Call me’. Kevin who was in more states than Australia, went to his litter tray to take a piss and angrily kicked his litter everywhere to prove a point.
“Well I don’t know what that was all about but I am the goodest boy ever!” Brutus mumbled, still alarmed at why his bum was swatted with Kevin’s huge paws when he was indeed ‘the goodest boy ever’ and rarely if ever did anything wrong.
“Two words” I said to Brutus, “Tuxedo Cat”.
Brutus sighed and muttered something about never understanding cats and especially never understanding Kevin.
I will admit to that tuxedo cat being a bit odd though, he reminds me of something out of a horror movie where these mysterious cats keep appearing just before something happens. He keeps coming to my door despite Kevin threatening to take him out and shit down his neck and each morning I see him sitting outside his house waving to me in the car. I reckon he has another tuxedo friend or brother because at the end of my road, there is another identical cat who also sits outside his house and stares like he is judging my life choices.
It’s almost as though there is a secret tuxedo society that watch my every move and speak in their own language and it is their sole aim to antagonise Kevin and taunt him to watch him lose his temper. Or perhaps I am being paranoid – who knows, not me that’s for sure and don’t ask Kevin, he still hasn’t recovered from the other night.
So What Makes Kevin So Special?
Kevin is feral, aggressive, hard to handle – impossible for the vet to do anything with unless sedated. I think in the wrong hands, Kevin would end up back in rescue. He only just tolerates children – providing they don’t touch him and completely ignore him. If he escaped, there is no way he would be caught. Which is why we are so vigilant with him and actually put him before any visitors that we may have and we would never have children staying with us because we can’t trust kids with him and we certainly can’t trust Kev with kids.
At the time of writing this blog, Kevin bit my hand and latched on, he didn’t draw blood but it really did hurt. He did this because I had shut him out of my office so I could concentrate on my writing and by the time I got out to see him, he was sitting on the kitchen counter looking boot-faced and furious with his pupils dilated in a ‘I am going to kill you’ kind of way. I had upset his routine, his evenings with me and had left him alone in the living room.
With Kevin, we work with what we have, we read his signals or at least try to. We make the most of his good points because when Kevin does allow you to cuddle him, he will ever so slightly relax in your arms and you get the slightest and faintest purr from him and occasionally he dribbles and when you get that kind of affection with him, it’s like you have won the lotto and not just his love for that moment.
He follows me everywhere, to the bath and even to the toilet and it breaks his ginger heart if he can’t find me which makes me feel awful when I have to shut him out of my office because he won’t let me work.
We can never be complacent with him because he can be quite affectionate one day and almost like a normal cat but if something upsets him then he can be spooked and aggressive the next. One funny little indicator of him being upset is that his little nose puffs up and turns what I call ‘electric pink’, we can always tell when he is upset just by looking at his facial expression and in particular, his nose.
So why did we pick Kevin?
When we first adopted Kevin and brought him home, I recall him smacking his legs to the floor, hissing at me and taking a swipe at my hands. He was 7 weeks old when he did that and we knew that he was not going to be an ordinary easy to handle kitten.
He was ginger, he was feisty, he had no fear and he marched up to my husband like a short man with a purpose. I knew he would fit in with us and I knew that he needed to hold his own because at that time, he would be living with two big dogs.
Not all cats are loving, gentle and easy to own. Some of them are nervous, aggressive and need to be accepted as that way which is exactly what we have done. And when you take on a cat like that, you commit to him/her no matter what but most of all, you need patience and lots of it.
Kevin is a young adult cat now, he humps toys, he steals things, he bites, he gives the occasional magical head boop which is often followed by a bite on the nose and he knows exactly what he likes and doesn’t like in his life and relies on us to look after him and protect him.
To have that kind of understanding and mutual communication with him, means we need a certain level of trust between us and him. I think we have that now but he is still a work in progress and we can never drop our standards in care for him and let our guard down.
Kevin is a character, we have never owned a cat like him – ever. He makes us laugh, he makes me cry – especially when he bites my legs and I truly mean it when I say that you have to meet him to believe just what a character he actually is.
Why Kevin when we could have had a ‘normal’ cat? Well why not? He belongs with us, we are the ones that know him best and love him the most.
He is a bastard, but he is our bastard and we think he is pretty darned awesome.
Dedicated to all carers of feisty feral cats in the world – wherever they may be
Before I adopted my dog Rocky, I knew very little about kelpies but what I did know, was that the tiny pup with the massive ears advertised on the Pet Rescue site, looked very nice and so we adopted him.
Rocky chewed, dug and smooched his way into our hearts, minds and lives and it wasn’t too long before we realised just how smart and intuitive he was and managed to teach me the true meaning of trust, loyalty and friendship between a human and a dog.
What is it about the Australian Kelpie?
‘There are dogs and there are Australian kelpies’ – someone said this to me many years ago and I have never forgotten those words. Now don’t get me wrong, ALL dogs are special in their own way but for some of us, we might just have a breed or type of dog that we favour above others. After all, we are all different and it’s those differences that make the world go round.
They just know stuff….
A kelpie can see right through you. It knows if you are hiding that tennis ball or toy and you will be met with gentle punchings by his nose to your leg or arm, in a desperate and persistent bid to gain your attention. There is no ignoring him/her because kelpies seem to have a ‘kelpie degree’ in knowing how to get you to do what they want you to do.
If you have had a bad day, your kelpie will stare you down with eyes of magic and realise that things are not quite right. You can ignore him/her all you like and pretend that you are OK, but your kelpie will know that you are lying because they are clever like that. I have always said that kelpies probably go to a secret kelpie university where they all sit at the front of the class and study stuff like that.
Your low mood will be treated with a nudge of a wet nose, shoving your hand high in the air so you have no choice but to acknowledge the firm chiselled snout of your dog and in turn stare into his eyes that see everything.
A few pokes by the paw later and your hand is draped round your kelpies neck as you subconsciously stroke his thick double coat and before you know it, you are cuddling him. That is if he hasn’t migrated to your lap first where you will go what I term ‘full kelp’ which means you have your entire kelpie on your lap before you even realised what he was doing let alone remember that he shouldn’t be on the sofa anyway.
That is when you breathe in his scent because each and every dog has his/her own special smell that is unique to them. And you enjoy the warmth and comfort of that solid little body of the dog that has made it his mission to make you feel better without you even having the need to explain yourself as you would with humans.
Because with dogs, we don’t need to explain ourselves and isn’t that a marvellous thing to not have to do that and to be understood without opening our mouths?
A whole lot of positivity and sensitivity in one smart dog
The days start ridiculously early with a kelpie and it starts with tennis balls, running, swimming or something equally exciting. Mornings are greeted with big ears, bright eyes, expectant face and a heart full of hope that the day will be fantastic. If kelpies were human, they would be positive, energetic, impossible to ignore and have a dash of naughtiness thrown in for good measure.
It doesn’t take much to upset a kelpie. You only have to raise your voice and he will think that his entire world has ended, that you don’t love him any more and his kelpie heart is breaking into a million pieces. If my dog Rocky was ever told off, he would turn round and face the wall with his back to us, giving out loud sighs of exasperation that screamed ‘I am misunderstood’. The sulking could go on for an hour or at least until his fluffy penguin was brought out for a game of ‘fetch’ and that was enough to make him forgive us for telling him off for having a go at the cat.
Driving anywhere is good as long as it’s with their favourite humans
Car rides with a kelpie are special and something to be treasured. If my Rocky could have done, he would have driven my car for me and even collected me from work. He loved the car and he loved road trips even more and was the perfect dog to travel with.
When we went down on road trips down South, Rocky would start crying from the moment his seat belt was clipped in, right up until we reached our first coffee stop and only then would he stop. Next time you see a kelpie in the car, observe the sheer joy in that dogs face, in fact if you look closely, you will probably see it telling its human how the car should be driven. Or even shouting ‘Are we there yet?’
Kelpies – the ‘sensibles’ of the dog world
Nobody does sensible quite like a kelpie. Yes, they tend to have LONG puppyhoods which seem to go on forever in terms of digging or making beds explode but once they do mature, they can give you a look that could rival that of your mother glaring at you because you have been naughty in public.
I can recall being drunk and crawling on the floor with my friend while pretending to be a sheep and my kelpie giving me the most withering look I have ever seen. Then there were the times where I would sing in the car to Usher and Rocky would look absolutely horrified and embarrassed.
Kelpies – strong and brave until the end
Kelpies can run for kms, they never seem to tire and would appear to have a bottomless pit of energy to use up. Even when injured or unwell, they will do their best to keep going and when they get too sick to do that, then you know something is really wrong. They rely on their owners to know when they are crook because they can’t rely on themselves. They are the kind of dog that would say ‘It’s OK, I am fine, I will be fine – where are those sheep/tennis balls?’
And when that time does come when they no longer enjoy their life be it as a pet or as a working dog, trust me when I say that your kelpie will tell you when he/she has had enough, you just have to be receptive to understanding them. They will tell you with their body language, with their heart and with their eyes and whilst those signals may be silent, they are the loudest you will ever hear and it is your duty to listen to them.
Because when it’s time for a kelpie to leave this world, it should be with a calm, quiet and peaceful dignity that this dog (and any dog) deserves because anything else is unfair.
So I repeat, what is it about the kelpie that is so special?
A kelpie is your dog, your worker, your protector, your mate, your driving buddy, your snuggle buddy, the one you can trust with all your secrets and the one that understands you better than you do yourself.
Everything is special about them – absolutely everything and once you have been owned by a kelpie, you will never be the same again.
Dedicated to kelpies everywhere – especially my darling Rocky
You may remember from my previous stories that my old dog Rocky went to university where he studied ‘sheep herding and the modern day kelpie’. Rocky was well educated, wore round gold-rimmed kelpie spectacles and usually carried a copy of the ‘Kelpie Times’ under his arm.
Now for a dog to get into university they have to be pretty smart. These places are usually filled with working dogs – kelpies, blue heelers, border collies, sniffer dogs in training etc.
Brutus you may have gathered by now, is not the smartest dog in the world but probably smarter than he realizes. He doesn’t like to be reminded of the time he attempted to jump in the air to catch a helitac during a bushfire and there are heaps of other examples and we certainly won’t talk about the ‘Tony Abbott doll incident’ either.
So my darling Brutus could not get into university because not only did they not have a course suitable for him; but he didn’t meet the criteria to get in.
That’s OK though because university is not for every dog and for dogs like Brutus, they have special dog schools with courses like garden digging, how to make your bed explode and how to pull washing off the line when your human isn’t looking.
Cats have a similar kind of schooling system and many cats go on to be superior creatures and acquire enough knowledge to make their human into their own personal servant. But if we are discussing Kevin the cat, he has been in and out of kitty prison for doing unspeakable crimes with a squeaky stuffed warthog, several blankets and my leg.
Brutus had always admired his kelpie brother Rocky, right up until the day Rocky crossed over to Rainbow Bridge. Sometimes Brutus would borrow Rocky’s kelpie spectacles and one of his sheep herding books and sit on the sofa pretending to read them. Rocky never had the heart to tell Brutus that the book was upside down or back to front, he just allowed Brutus to have his moment.
It never stopped Brutus dreaming about going to university though and in the privacy of his room; he had made his own certificate complete with a ‘Passed’ stamp out of a potato and some ink he obtained by breaking several of my biro pens.
One day at Pippin’s House
Brutus was at Pippin’s house having lunch. It made him feel grown up to have lunch with Pippin. Pippin was sitting in his favourite chair reading the newspaper, occasionally taking a dainty bite from a dog treat that his Mum had bought for him from the markets.
Pippin smiled at something he was reading then picking up his handkerchief, he dapped his pointy snout a few times and followed by taking a sip of his tea. He could feel a pair of eyes on him and could hear the sound of heavy breathing from Brutus.
He sighed, put the paper down on the side of the chair and turned round to where Brutus was standing. “Are you OK Brutus?” Pippin raised his eyebrows at his giant friend.
Brutus’s treats remained uneaten. Crushing bits of biscuit with his paws, Brutus struggled to find the words to ask Pippin a question. “Pippin?” he eventually asked.
Pippin peered over his spectacles, “Yes Brutus?”
“Rocky went to university and made something of himself didn’t he?”
Pip nodded and agreed that yes, Rocky did go to university and achieved great things.
“So is there any reason why I can’t do the same?” Brutus questioned him.
Pippin puffed air out of his cheeks before responding; “I think dog universities have a criteria that has to be met and that maybe it would be a bit tough for you Brutus.”
But Brutus wasn’t interested in how tough it was. Ever since Rocky had gone, Brutus wanted to stand for something (other than for food in the kitchen). He longed to reach the giddy heights of university and be able to have awards in his living room and have his degree framed on the wall to show off to everyone.
Pippin tried to pacify Brutus by saying that he was smart in other ways and wasn’t that enough?
Except that it wasn’t, not to Brutus. Because he had decided that he wanted to be just like his big brother and he would not give up until he had exhausted all avenues of trying. If he had to write to the Queen herself then that is what he would do.
“He’s going to get hurt Pippin, you need to fix this and quickly.” Bronte said firmly to her brother who didn’t reply but inwardly knew that she was right.
A Few Hours Later – Back at Brutus’s house
“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” Kevin the cat growled impatiently. He was trying to watch TV and Brutus was rummaging around in the cupboard and impatiently chucking things on to the floor.
Muttering something about ‘university stuff’, Brutus trotted off into the dining room where he spotted something on the table. It was Rocky’s latest quarterly university magazine – the subscription hadn’t yet been cancelled.
“That’s the one!” Brutus said triumphantly. Grabbing the magazine in his mouth, he walked off to his bed to read it. Which may well surprise you because if you remember from my book – ‘Planet Iggy’, that Brutus actually has dyslexia and at one point, couldn’t read at all. That was until Bronte the Iggy assisted him with various coping techniques and although his reading wasn’t nearly as good as the Iggies in his group, he could get by and if someone drew pretty pictures for him then he did even better.
Kevin stared at him intently stopping only occasionally to wash his anus, chew his nails and pick a fight with the cushions. “Why are you reading Rocky’s magazines? It’s not as though you could go to university is it, I mean don’t you have to be smart to go there?” Kev laughed at Brutus and then proceeded to kick the shit out of the cushions with his hind legs bicycling furiously and snagging on the fabric.
Brutus ignored him and flicked through the pages of the magazine. Beautiful photos of smart kelpies and blue heelers on each page, some wearing their farming collars, some herding cattle and some posing at the university with their teachers, while holding their certificates.
Feeling a huge pang of envy, Brutus berated himself. What on earth was he thinking? Kevin was right; he was no way smart enough to even look at the magazines let alone dream of going to university.
Pulling a face, Brutus nudged the magazine to the edge of his bed but did it too hard so it fell on the floor. He was going to leave it where it was but when he looked down, Brutus saw it had opened up on a page and when he saw what was on it, he bit his lip to try and stop himself from crying.
There on a full page spread was a photograph of his brother Rocky and a tribute write-up. The article must have been done just after Rocky had died to make this quarter for publication.
Rocky looked ever so smart and healthy in the photo. His shiny black coat, his eyes bright, ears erect and he had his university neckerchief round his neck. Proudly clutching his certificate for his degree in sheep herding, the look was finished off with a pair of gold-rimmed round kelpie spectacles (these are spectacles especially for kelpies, a bit like whippet jeans which are jeans just for whippets).
Brutus had been looking for those kelpie spectacles everywhere because ever since Rocky had gone, they held more significance than ever. The trouble was, Brutus just could not find them no matter how hard he looked.
He couldn’t make out all of the words in the article but realized that it was about Rocky and his success as a university educated but disabled kelpie with bad hips, while managing a busy sporting life, studying and living in the suburbs.
The next part of the article was a Q&A kind of thing where Rocky had been asked questions, one of them being did he think that all dogs should have access to higher education or should it be kept elite for the smarter dogs in life. It was Rocky’s answer that took Brutus’s breath away.
‘Intelligence should not be measured by academic qualifications because there are so many dogs that haven’t been to university and don’t have degrees but they are smart in other ways and they should be given the same chance to better themselves as any other dog’.
There was another section about Rocky crossing over to Rainbow Bridge and what a loss he would be to the university and the kelpie clubs that he was a member of. But the most surprising part to the article was a new program called the ‘Rocky Scholarship Program for Alternatively Gifted Dogs’ where dogs that are not academically gifted, could sit a special entrance test with a view to studying alternative courses at university.
They had programs such as how to be a sniffer dog, guard dog training, cat herding, storm prediction, how to protect your suburb from the garbage truck, bushfire prediction and how to protect your family to name but a few.
Dogs would graduate with their degree; they would get their special day wearing their gown and cap, a special university neckerchief, a certificate and a qualification. They would get their day of pride and recognition and would learn important skills – well cat herding is debatable but it can be useful in some circumstances I guess.
And this brainchild was the idea of Rocky. He had come up with the entire thing and had persuaded the university to run the course and had even assisted with planning it all, he really had thought of everything.
The final question in the article was asking why Rocky had thought that setting up the scholarship program was a good idea and this was his reply:
‘My brother Brutus is smart but he just doesn’t know it. He is dyslexic so cannot study in the way that other dogs can but it doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be given a chance. He is kind and even when he is scared of things, he still protects his family from the garbage truck, he loves to learn and his sniffing skills are second to none’.
‘Basically, Dogs like my brother deserve a chance to better themselves’.
The article ended with a paragraph on how to enter for the program and a photograph of Rocky on the day he started his university course.
“I never even knew he had done that, I wonder if he would have told me had he not gone to Rainbow Bridge?” Brutus thought to himself. How on earth would he have known had he not found the magazine? Or maybe he was meant to find it, call it fate if you like.
Putting the magazine neatly on his bed, Brutus could not believe he was even thinking about it. He must be mad, dreaming – or both. Picking up his mobile phone, he called the one dog that he knew wouldn’t laugh at him and would support him – Pippin Potter.
“Pippin, it’s me – Brutus, I need your help but you mustn’t tell anyone……”
At Pippin’s House
“Who was that?” Bronte asked without even looking up. She had heard Pip whispering and couldn’t make out the gist of the conversation.
Ignoring her, Pippin put on his smartest collar, picked up his little bag and diary plus his phone and trotted off towards the garden, “I am popping out for a bit, off to see Brutus about something.” The door slammed behind him before Bronte had any chance of challenging him further.
“Boys and their secrets, probably discussing about those new leather collars Brutus was talking about the other week. Complete waste of money as he always ruins them by scraping them on the wall!” Bronte said knowingly to her sister Latte.
At Brutus’s House
A light tap at the door disturbed Kevin out of his slumber. Having exhausted himself by insulting the parrots in the garden, he had spread himself out by the door and had fallen asleep. Quickly jumping up, Kevin took his position and floofed his tail out to resemble a toilet brush, “I am armed and dangerous!” Kevin shouted from behind the door.
“Hi Kevin, I have come to see Brutus. It’s me Pippin!” A well-spoken clipped English accent could be heard from behind the door.
“Oh it’s you, come in then!” Kevin sighed as he jumped up to swing on the door handle to let Pippin in.
“Hello to you as well Kevin, have you bitten your owner lately?” Pippin said bravely but had to run past Kev pretty quick before Kev swatted his bum.
“Cheeky bastard!” Kevin grumbled, “What are you doing here?”
“Private business, don’t worry though, we won’t disturb you.” Pippin said meekly.
“Bloody good job you are here, he has been acting strange since he saw that magazine.” Kev pulled a face.
Before Pip got the chance to ask about which magazine he was talking about, Brutus scaled the sofa and came charging up to him and licked his face. He looked unusually energetic for Brutus so something was up and judging by the immediate request for help; it was a pretty big deal by the look of it.
Scowling at the two dogs, Kevin decided to go to his room and watch some cat videos on his mobile. There was no way he was going to sit and listen to Brutus and Pippin going on about dog stuff because Kevin doesn’t have much time for small talk unless it’s him that is doing it.
“So Brutus, what is this all about, what do you need my help for?” Pippin crossed his paws and stared at him.
Taking a deep breath Brutus handed Pippin the university magazine which had a piece of tissue marking the page for Rocky’s article, “This!” Brutus said firmly.
Pulling out his spectacles and placing them on the end of his pointy snout, Pippin scratched his nose and began to read the article.
Ten minutes later, Pippin looked emotional and broken at what he had just read. “I never knew he wrote this, I just didn’t know and I know a lot about most things. But how come I didn’t know that Rocky would think of something like this?”
Brutus silently pleaded with Pippin to help him. Pippin kept looking down at Rocky’s picture in the article and back at Brutus. After what seemed like an eternity, Pippin gave a firm nod “OK, let’s do it!”
Brutus’s grey flappy jowls turned into a grin, wiping his eyes he said in his deep voice, “Let’s do it for Rocky!”
“No Brutus, let’s do it for YOU!”
Both dogs hugged each other for a few seconds before they were disturbed by a loud ginger cough from Kevin who was sitting behind them looking irritated because he didn’t much care for male bonding sessions.
At Pippin’s house
Pippin had just got home. Barging through the kitchen door, he found Bronte and Latte curled up together on the sofa watching a DVD. “Where on earth have you been?” Bronte asked him. Her pretty little face creased with concern.
Pippin leapt up onto the kitchen counter to check for dog biscuits, grabbing a couple he then made himself a cup of Yorkshire tea in his favourite bone China mug with Scottie dogs on it and sat on the stool by the breakfast bar.
“Nothing much and please don’t ask me to tell you because I can’t. Now what DVD are you watching?”
Latte looked at Bronte and shrugged, there was no point in badgering Pip because he stored secrets in that brain of his that could rival those of a government agent.
Nothing more was said between the Iggies, there was no need because the girls knew that whatever it was, Pippin had it under control. But when they did find out, it would certainly cause a stir in the Iggy community.
The day of reckoning
Pippin and Brutus stood outside the university where Brutus would be sitting his entrance test. Brutus was wearing a collar identical to the one that Rocky wore – a blue and black collar with a black clip on it and an identity tag. Pip reckoned that he had seen lots of kelpies in similar collars and after all, Brutus was half a kelpie and more than entitled to wear it. It was a smart collar, not too elaborate but perfectly functional and that is exactly the sort of thing that Rocky would wear because he was never a slave to fashion and even purchased his collars from charity shops.
Brutus gripped the handles of Rocky’s old university brown leather briefcase. There were some scratches on it from Kevin but you couldn’t really notice them too much as Pippin had given it a jolly good clean. Inside the briefcase was a pen, pencil, eraser, notepad and the treasured university magazine that Brutus had found with the page folded open on Rocky’s article.
“Look at me.” Pippin barked and as Brutus turned round, Pippin stood on his hind legs and straightened Brutus’s collar. Nudging him with his pointy snout, Pippin whispered, “Whatever happens my friend, I am proud of you!”
Brutus picked up the briefcase and nodded back at Pippin. He was so scared that his legs were shaking and he fought the urge to urinate himself from nerves and farted instead. As Pippin wrinkled his nose to stop himself from retching (Brutus did awful farts), Pippin forced a grin and waved him on but on the inside, Pip was as terrified as Brutus.
A group of kelpies and cattle dogs waited outside the hall where the test was to be held. They looked so confident and smart as they discussed which dog was the best sheep herder or what kind of farm they came from. Brutus didn’t want to walk past them and was certain that his legs might give way but he knew that in order to sit the test then he had no choice but to make that walk.
Nudging one another, the kelpies spotted Brutus carrying Rocky’s briefcase. They knew it was Rocky’s as it had his initials engraved on the leather and it had Rocky’s kelpie emblem on it – an outline of his head that been carved into it.
“You know who that is don’t you?” A red cloud kelpie whispered to the others. A blue heeler frowned and said no, she didn’t recognize the huge brown dog with enormous ears looking more than a little uncomfortable as he made his way to the hall.
The red cloud kelpie removed his biro pen from his collar and pointed it at Brutus, “That my friends is Rocky’s brother Brutus. Rocky went to Rainbow Bridge last year but before he went, he started this scholarship program so that other dogs could apply for university that wouldn’t have otherwise been able to.”
The group fell silent. They took in the sight of Brutus and his clumsy way of walking and how he carried that brown leather briefcase as though it were his most prized possession and perhaps it was because it was because it was certainly carrying his hopes in it that’s for sure.
The red cloud kelpie waved to a group of border collies and then to some more blue heelers and signaled for them to join the growing number of dogs that had started to gather round.
And because the group had got bigger, other dogs became interested and pretty soon there was a crowd of working dogs lined up into two lines either side of the entrance door to the exam hall.
Brutus was dragging his feet, he felt sick with nerves. What on earth had was he thinking? Dogs like him didn’t go to university. They did more practical stuff and left the smart stuff to the others.
Hearing the commotion around him, Brutus looked up and saw the dogs lined up either side of the walkway. Trying to make himself look small which is hard when you weigh 33kgs, Brutus blinked and gave a submissive grin to anyone that looked at him.
“Hey Brutus, you’ve got this my friend – do it for Rocky!” The red cloud kelpie shouted and then started to clap his paws in encouragement.
“Go on Brutus, you can do it, good luck mate!” A red heeler piped up and also started to clap. One by one the dogs began to cheer Brutus as he followed three other dogs that were also sitting the test.
Dogs that he had envied when Rocky had spoken about them, smart dogs with briefcases and university neckerchiefs. He had even borrowed Rocky’s neckerchief once and placed a flat piece of cardboard on his head with a tea towel on top and a towel round his shoulders to make it look like the cap and gown that one gets when one graduates.
Of course this moment was ruined when Kevin said he looked like an idiot but good old Rocky went along with it to make his brother feel special and had presented him with a rolled up newspaper pretending it was a degree.
And now the very dogs that he had envied; were waiting outside cheering him on. A grumpy looking pug in a thick studded collar and holding a clipboard; stood by the door marking the dogs off as they entered the building, “In you go Brutus and good luck!” The pug smiled at him which was a bloody miracle as pugs never smile unless it is for something really special and when they do smile, they usually flick snot everywhere as a party trick.
Brutus took a deep breath and turned round to have one last look at the dogs outside. He gave a feeble smile and a paws-up gesture but as he did so, he noticed a tiny little figure hiding behind the tree. It was Pippin Potter and if it hadn’t been for Pippin, then Brutus wouldn’t be about to sit his entrance test for university.
The pressure was on; Brutus simply could not let Pippin down. He looked at Pip for a few seconds before disappearing into the hall.
Pippin watched Brutus right up until he went in. Then deciding that he would be there for when he came out, he curled up by the tree on the cold damp grass and waited for his friend to finish his test which was to take 2 hours and for Pippin, it was going to be the longest two hours of his life.
In the exam hall
A chunky yellow Labrador with a pen and clipboard was directing the entrants to their seats. The hall smelt of polished floors and you could hear the clipping of nails as dogs trotted up and down.
“Pssst!” A voice could be heard from behind Brutus.
Brutus looked round and saw an overweight pug in a leather waistcoat and a thick black studded collar which was far too large for his neck. He was sitting on a booster seat on his chair and on his desk he had a biro pen, pencil, eraser and a notepad with ‘Pug Life’ written on it.
To Brutus’s left was the boxer he had chatted with earlier. The boxer sat slouched at his desk and nervously clicked his biro on and off pressing the pen on the paper, making a row of inky dots while doing it. With festoons of drool hanging from his mouth, the boxer shook his head causing the drool to flick on to pretty much everything surrounding him.
“Excuse me, do you mind?” An indignant whippet bitch with an overshot jaw and an exceptionally long pointy snout, turned round and squeaked at the boxer.
Forgetting his nerves, Brutus snorted with laughter. The boxer reminded him of his friend Vader and just for that moment, he also made Brutus think happy thoughts.
“Nothing wrong with a bit of boxer snot, it can put up wallpaper you know!” The boxer laughed and winked at Brutus, well you couldn’t tell he was winking as he had more wrinkles than the average dog but Brutus assumed it was a wink as he had seen Vader trying to do it in the whippet pole dancing club one time.
“So what’s making you want to get into university then?” The whippet asked Brutus, “Is it your owner trying to make you into a smart dog?”
“No, it’s not my Mum, she wouldn’t do that.” Brutus shook his head at her.
“I don’t get it, why would you put yourself through this if you didn’t have to, you must be doing it for someone?” The whippet pulled a face.
“Myself, I am doing it for myself.” Brutus said and picked up his pen so he could practice holding it properly.
They were distracted by the appearance of the Labrador as he handed out an exam paper to each of the dogs. “No talking, no helping each other, answer each question, leave the ones you don’t know and once you have finished you can turn your paper the other way and raise your paw.”
Brutus felt a burning need to fart again; perhaps the others wouldn’t mind if he did, surely they would understand? Just as he was about to fart, the boxer also let out a loud one, followed by the whippet and then the pug. Not wanting to be left out, Brutus farted and gave a little snort of laughter and looked at the others.
“Do you all need to use the toilet or can we start?” The horrified Labrador fanned himself with some paper.
“Let’s get this over with!” The pug said taking control of the situation and it was agreed that if any of them needed to go for a poo, then they would all have to wait until the exam was over.
“OK everyone, turn your paper over and start now!” The Labrador barked and then blew the whistle to indicate the exam had started.
Taking a few deep breaths, Brutus turned his paper over and saw that his first task was to write his name, age, breed and date. He gripped his pen as best he could and slowly started to write his details on the paper.
The questions were multiple-choice and would decide where a dog’s potential skills could be. There was no actual writing, just putting a cross in the box.
The boxer, the whippet, the pug and Brutus sat quietly in their seats and quickly became absorbed in their exam. This was the first intake on Rocky’s scholarship program entrance test; the dreams of the old kelpie were hanging on this group – especially Brutus.
Brutus only looked up once and that was when he noticed a picture of Rocky on a large poster advertising the exam, the old kelpie looked distinguished and handsome wearing his university neckerchief. Brutus felt proud because that was HIS brother up on that poster, his brother giving other dogs a chance to better themselves – even if one of them was a boxer because you all know how Rocky hated boxers.
Pippin was freezing cold. He knew he should have gone home instead of sitting outside on the wet grass for that length of time, but this was a huge deal for his friend and however hard it was for Pippin, you could bet your life it was even harder for Brutus inside that exam hall.
Pippin wasn’t entirely alone either because just a little way outside the exam hall, sat the working dogs that had cheered Brutus as he went in. They too sat outside waiting when they didn’t need to, some of them played a game of cards, some of them bounced tennis balls off the walls, but all of them waited patiently for Brutus to finish.
Two hours later
Brutus, the boxer, the whippet and the pug burst through the door, well Brutus burst through the door first, followed by the boxer – the others just ran through before the door slammed shut. The whippet and the pug made out that they assisted in the shoving of the door and even had the cheek to look exhausted. The whippet actually pretended to faint but that was short lived because the pug told her to stop with the dramatics.
Pippin Potter was freezing cold, he had no jacket on and being a slim dog, felt the cold more than other dogs. His paws were wet and he shivered to try and warm himself up.
He saw the kelpies and cattle dogs congratulating Brutus on finishing his test. Pippin was desperate to go and see him but felt too scared as there were lots of big dogs standing round Brutus. But after a few minutes he could contain himself no longer and slowly trotted up to go and meet his big friend.
“You waited!” Brutus looked relieved as he spotted the Iggy standing nervously next to the kelpies.
“Are you lost?” A red heeler asked Pippin.
Pippin dug a hole in the wet soil to try and hide the fact that he was shaking. Prone to bursting into tears at inappropriate moments, he didn’t want to embarrass Brutus by doing that today. Dancing from one paw to the other, the little dog responded in his English accent, “I am Brutus’s friend, I have been waiting for him to finish his test.”
The heeler cocked his head to the side and stared at Pippin for a few seconds, not quite able to believe that this little dog with a snout as pointy as a biro pen and legs as thin as carrot sticks, could possibly be Brutus’s friend.
“Pippin! You waited for me all this time! You must have been freezing!” Brutus’s loud voice drowned out the excitement of the other dogs. They all watched as Brutus ran past them and skidded to a halt when he reached Pip, nearly knocking him over and taking up chunks of turf in the process.
“This is my friend Pippin, isn’t he lovely?” Brutus declared to the bigger dogs that looked somewhat bemused at the unlikely pair.
After deciding that any friend of Brutus’s was a friend of theirs, the usual doggy pleasantries were exchanged and Pippin’s bottom thoroughly inspected and sniffed. Pippin felt his cheeks burning with embarrassment and secretly felt glad that Rocco wasn’t there because this would have been enough to make him shout and swear and even fight with his invisible friends.
“What do you want to do now old chap?” Pippin tapped Brutus on the leg.
Unknown to Pippin, the working dogs had invited Brutus to go to the local dog pub to celebrate, which he would have enjoyed because Rocky would have gone for sure had he been around. But noticing that Pippin was hopping from paw to paw in a bid to warm himself up, he replied simply, “Let’s go back to yours for bones and beer, how does that sound?”
“That sounds perfect!” Pip smiled gratefully and the two boys started to make their way back to Pippin’s house.
“How do you think you did Brutus?” Pippin asked him.
Brutus shrugged and said that he didn’t have a clue but felt super proud for even sitting in the same building that his brother Rocky had studied in, something that he never thought would ever be possible, let alone taking part in an entrance test.
“Who knows, not me that’s for sure but I am glad that I tried.” Brutus replied, “And Pippin?” he added.
“Thanks for waiting for me, I know it must have been freezing for you to wait for so long.”
“That’s what friends are for and it wasn’t that cold really.” Pip nodded firmly trying to hide the fact his teeth were chattering.
“Liar!” Brutus barked and they both burst into fits of laughter.
Back at Pippin’s House
“Where have you two been? Mum has been frantic!” Bronte squealed and jumped off the sofa when the boys came through the front door.
Brutus was about to tell them when he felt a sharp nip to his leg from Pippin who was making a ‘hush’ gesture with his paws.
“Nowhere really, just a walk.” Pippin responded. Chucking Brutus a can of dog beer, he nodded towards the sofa for Brutus to sit down.
Bronte looked boot-faced. They were hiding something and she was sure of it. But Bronte needn’t have worried because she would find out soon enough – they all would.
A month later
Pippin and Brutus had successfully managed to keep the entire thing away from the Iggy club. Partly because Pippin wanted to surprise them and partly because Brutus was terrified of telling anyone else in case they laughed at him, not that the Iggies would dream of doing that to him as you well know.
The day had finally arrived and that was the day the dogs were due to receive their exam results.
On the outside of Brutus’s house, you could see a huge mushy, wet nose pressed against the window. He had been waiting for the mail to be delivered and had patiently been checking the mailbox every hour since 4am just in case the postie forgot where he lived and delivered it to the dog down the road by mistake.
Kevin shook his head at his brother and wondered what was going on to make him show such interest. He never usually did unless it was his food delivery and even then he never got that excited.
Brutus was about to turn away when he spotted the postman on his moped trying to stuff a large envelope in the mailbox. Opening the door, Brutus ran outside to intercept it.
“Excuse me, has that got my name on it?” He barked at the postman.
The postman squinted at the writing on the envelope; which also had a stamp from the ‘University of Working Dogs’ on the top left hand corner.
Brutus could barely contain himself as he watched the postman struggling to read the tiny print.
“Yeah, that’s for you I think, if your name is Brutus that is!” The postman handed the envelope to Brutus who took it in his mouth and without saying another word, ran up the garden and back into the house and in to his bedroom so that he could open it in private.
At Pippin Potter’s house
Pippin picked up his mobile for the umpteenth time that morning and checked for any messages from Brutus. There hadn’t been any, what on earth was happening at Brutus’s house?
“Why do you keep checking your phone Pippin?” Latte asked him.
“I am a busy dog and have to keep up with my business contacts, that’s why. Don’t be so nosey!” Pippin replied curtly in a bid to silence her.
At Brutus’s house
The crisp white envelope was A4 and fairly thick – clearly padded with documents. It had Brutus’s name on the front and on the top right hand corner, it had the stamp of the university on it with a kelpie’s head as an emblem. Brutus felt sick just holding it, let alone having the courage to open it. What if he had failed, what on earth would he tell Pippin who waited for 2 hours outside in the cold? But telling Pippin that he hadn’t the courage to open the envelope was possibly worse than failing itself.
Ripping open the envelope, Brutus pulled out a university brochure, some forms and finally, a letter in the shape of a large bone with his name on it. With his mouth trying to make out the words, Brutus read the letter several times and tilted his head to each side – something he did when he couldn’t quite grasp something. Then dropping everything on the floor and without saying a word, he walked into the garden crying quietly and clutching his phone.
At Pippin’s house
The sound of Pippin’s phone ringing jolted the Iggy out of his slumber. Brutus’s name came up on the caller ID with a profile picture of him dressed as a pop star from when they did the boy band concert.
“Well, what’s the latest……?” Pip asked quietly and after a few minutes of discussion, Pippin ended the call and went back into the house. But before he did, he looked up at the ceiling and mouthed the words ‘thank you’.
Six months later
It was graduation day at the working dog university and the new graduates were ready to receive their certificates in their chosen subjects. The chunky Labrador was bustling up and down on the stage making sure everything was perfectly in place for him to do the presentations. Dressed in what is termed a ‘Labrador suit’, he looked jolly smart – well, the suit was a bit on the tight side but he blamed that on the roast chicken he had stolen the night before.
The pug, the boxer, the whippet and Brutus were wearing their caps and gowns. Brutus’s cap was slightly wonky, the boxer’s cap had slipped down his face and the whippet’s cap was far too big for her. But that was OK because it worked for them and it was their day to shine – wonky caps and all. They sat at the side of the stage waiting for the ceremony to start. A giant painting of Rocky hung on the back wall with Rocky’s name and ‘2008 to 2018, Team Kelpie’ on the bottom.
Coughing to clear his throat, the Labrador tapped the microphone a few times to test the sound. Placing her paws in her ears, the whippet made various grumbling noises about how sensitive she was to sound and did they really have to do that? The pug gave a disapproving look in sympathy and did exaggerated gestures about turning the volume down.
“Are you OK Brutus?” The boxer asked him.
Brutus gave a determined smile and a quick nod to say that yes, he was OK even if he had to keep pinching himself to make sure it was real.
The whippet was delving into her handbag looking for her powder compact. Once she had found it, she opened it and quickly checked her reflection and examined her teeth for traces of Schmackos.
“Well, looks like this is us guys!” The boxer puffed out his chest and straightened himself up.
Brutus turned round to look at Pippin. Nothing was said but the curt nod and proud grin from Pippin told Brutus everything he needed to know.
The Labrador waited for a few minutes for everyone to settle and once they had, he began his speech, “Ladies and gentlemen I am going to start with a dedication to a very special dog that had a great influence on this university.
“Now this dog was a fine senior kelpie called Rocky who believed that all dogs deserved a chance to excel in their chosen area and not be excluded because they didn’t fit the academic criteria to apply to the university.
“And it’s because of Rocky, that we have this new pilot course on offer at our university. It is also because of this course, that we have Rocky’s brother who Rocky believed could be the best version of himself with the right support.”
The Labrador gestured to Brutus to stand up, “Ladies and gentlemen, dogs and bitches and the cat in the front row, I am proud and honoured to call up Brutus!” The Labrador moved to the side to give Brutus the space to come up to join him on stage.
“Did he just say cat in the front row?” A kelpie whispered to a Schnauzer sitting next to him.
The Schnauzer put on his spectacles and frowned while trying to make out if there was actually cat in the front row and spotted an angry looking fluffy orange cat wearing a pair of ginger cat jeans, a leather waistcoat and a white T shirt with ‘Bollox’ on it. The Schnauzer glared disapprovingly at the cat and pursed his lips when he flipped him the bird and mouthed the words ‘shit-beard’ at him.
“Who on earth is that vulgar feline?” The Schnauzer growled in his German accent to the kelpie.
“Kevin”, the kelpie sighed, “And he is Brutus and Rocky’s brother – someone you don’t want to mess with. Rumours have it that he has actually killed several dogs and three humans in his time and dines on the bodies of his enemies – and he weighs 8kgs.”
Deciding that perhaps the kelpie was right, the Schnauzer decided to try to ignore Kevin and pretend that he wasn’t there.
Next to Kevin were Pippin, Vader the boxer, Bronte, Latte, Zara, Nica, Gigi, DJ, Carlo, Fletch, Kaya, Dash, Augie and Rocco. Once they had found out about Brutus’s exam results, they had all insisted on coming to see their friend graduate. Pippin had decided to splash out as it was a special occasion and hired a mini bus to transport them.
Brutus stood up, fighting the urge not to run in the opposite direction, he turned round and focused on his friends for a few seconds and then walked with as much confidence as he could muster on to the stage.
Anyway, back to the ceremony.
The Labrador was about to hand out the first award, “Congratulations Brutus, you have been awarded the Working Dog University Certificate in ‘Protecting your garden, your home and your family’ – graduating with honors.
“You have also been awarded the ‘The Good Boy Award’ – graduating with honors. Well done lad, Rocky would be proud of you!” The Labrador handed Brutus his certificate scrolls tied up with a scarlet ribbon.
If ever there was a dog that shone with pride that day it was Brutus. Standing bolt upright, wearing his very own university neckerchief, cap and gown, Brutus tried to stay focused on the Labrador and not the group of dogs that were there for the award ceremony – many of which had come to support him.
Brutus held onto his scrolls and resisted the urge to look at them, touching the red silk ribbon, he allowed himself to imagine if that was how Rocky had felt when he graduated. He remembered how envious he felt of the little black kelpie when he got his degree and never in a million years thought that he would be standing in that exact same place to receive one himself.
“Are you crying Pippin?” Kevin hissed in his ear.
“Yep!” Pippin exhaled slowly to stop himself from doing that ugly crying you can get from watching soldier homecoming videos.
“How did you manage to keep it from us, from me?” Bronte sobbed to Pippin, “You both did this all on your own and we could have supported you!”
“Sometimes the best things in life have to be kept a secret until they are ready to come out. Besides, we told you in the end and that’s what counts.” Pippin responded.
“Oh, just one more thing lad!” The Labrador said to Brutus. Then bending down to the front of the stage he waved to a red cloud kelpie to hand him a tatty black glasses case with a gold ‘R’ embossed onto it.
The Labrador carefully opened the case and removed a pair of Rocky’s gold rimmed, round kelpie spectacles and gently placed them on Brutus’s face while adjusting the arms to fit behind his ears.
“Now you’re good!” The Labrador winked at him.
“Rocky’s kelpie spectacles! I wondered where they had gone!” Brutus gasped.
“Rocky had left strict instructions that they be given to you on your graduation from this university.”
“But how did he know I would even go to university?” Brutus questioned the Labrador.
“Rocky was a smart dog and he knew you and what you were capable of.”
“The kelpie spectacles, he has the kelpie spectacles, he had looked everywhere for them!” Pippin said to himself.
“I am so very proud of him!” Bronte whispered to Pippin.
Pippin gulped “You and me both Bronte, I just wish Rocky had been around to see this.”
“Well technically he is.” Bronte placed her paw on Pippin’s back.
Pippin cocked his head, “How did you work that one out?”
“Because as you said, this whole scholarship thing was Rocky’s idea and he knew that Brutus would eventually find out about it and apply for it.”
They were suddenly distracted by the sound of ‘Team Kelpie’ that had started off a slow clap of paws until every single dog was clapping and cheering for Brutus – an ordinary mixed breed rescue dog that took a leap of faith and succeeded (with a little help and belief from a good friend).
As Brutus looked across the room to take it all in, he noticed a tennis ball bouncing by itself on the walkway in between the seating. Nobody else seemed to see it, only him.
He looked towards the dogs clapping at him; he looked at Pippin Potter sitting next to Bronte and the other Iggies. Brutus looked at Rocco who was busy clapping and biting his own tail at the same time. He looked at Kevin who was washing his bum to annoy the Schnauzer.
Not one of them noticed that tennis ball and neither did they notice the little black kelpie standing at the back of the hall wagging his tail and waving at Brutus who stared right back at him. Then after a few minutes, Rocky picked up his tennis ball and vanished as quickly as he had appeared.
“I saw you Rocky, I saw you!” Brutus said quietly and then unable to hold his emotion in a moment longer, he leapt off the stage and landed right in front of Pippin where he hung on to the little dog and cried his heart out. He cried for Rocky, he cried because he was so exhausted but most of all, he cried because he was so proud of himself.
It’s amazing what we can achieve when someone believes in us and what others can achieve when we believe in them.
And that goes for our dogs as well.
Samantha Rose (C) Copyright Feb 2019
This story is dedicated to my friend Robyn who was brilliant at bringing out the best in people and believing in their potential. I strongly suspect that she is now hanging out with my Rocky in a place that you and I could only dream about. – Love you always Robyn
You may remember a story that I wrote about the garbage truck and how Rocky would start the ‘Dog Choir’ in notifying the dogs on our street that the evil garbage truck was out to eat all the dogs and their families.
Brutus would wait for Rocky to start and as soon as that pesky truck came from round the corner, Brutus would dance and prance around the garden and give his best bark to assist Rocky in the warning that everyone would be eaten and turned into recycling material.
It was serious stuff and it didn’t matter how well the dogs knew and recognised that this was a weekly thing, each and every time it happened, they would treat it like a new event.
Well since my darling Rocky has crossed over to Rainbow Bridge, Brutus has been lost in a way I have never seen him lost before. Even worse than he was with Gordon, my big brown gentle giant doesn’t quite know what to do with himself.
On the Tuesday after Rocky died, we heard the garbage truck coming and wondered if Brutus would bark at it. But no, Brutus tucked himself away in the kennel and you could just see the tips of his paws sticking out as he pretended that he was anywhere but the garden that provided him with so many memories of his kelpie brother.
Brutus and Rocky in happier times
Well a couple of weeks ago something happened and I am not going to kid you, it brought a tear to my eye and trust me there have been quite a few of those happening to me lately let me tell you.
Brutus was out in the garden just before the garbage truck was due. He really didn’t want to go out at all and I had to force him, after all there is only so long one can hold ones urine for.
‘Let him out, it’s for his own good’, my husband insisted as I was getting dressed.
Brutus looked so pitiful curled up on the sofa – which has now become his bed. Yes I know, it’s a new sofa and slowly getting wrecked by Brutus and Kevin but hey ho, this sofa isn’t a patch on my Rocky dog who will hold far more fond memories and love than any leather sofa ever could.
Brutus in his chair
Anyway, I digress.
Forcing Brutus to go out into the garden for his morning pee, I left him standing outside for a few mins before he walked to his kennel, climbed in and went straight back to sleep (without taking a pee I might add).
You could see his little black eye tufts covering the slits of his eyes as he tried to imagine what his brother would be up to at Rainbow Bridge – playing with Gordon probably, or tennis balls because Rocky’s life always involved tennis balls as you well know.
‘Pssst, Brutus! It’s time!’ Vader the boxer’s voice came from behind the fence.
Brutus ignored him, sighed and tucked his snout up against his bottom.
‘Pssst, Brutus – the truck is on its way, you have to start the dog choir off! We can’t do it without you, it’s the position you see – you are first in line!’ Vader barked firmly.
‘I am scared of that truck, I only barked at it because Rocky did, I can’t do it Vader, just get someone else to do it – you can do it, you have a good bark on you’, Brutus replied just quietly enough so that Vader could hear him.
Sounds of frustrated snout snuffling could be heard at the fence from Vader, ‘Brutus we depend on you bro, you have to sort this garbage truck out, for all of us. Remember what Rocky said about them eating our families and stealing our toys?’
Brutus buried his head between his paws, ‘I can’t hear you so there is no point in asking me!’.
Vader growled in frustration, it was no good, he had to do something.
A few seconds later several parrots jumped on to the fence, a lorikeet landed just by Brutus’s kennel but not quite close enough for Brutus to eat him as a snack which was quite possible.
‘Brutus my friend, you have to defend your garden and start off the suburban dog choir. Our lives depend on it’, the lorikeet said gently.
‘Go away, I could eat you if I wanted to’, Brutus said in a sad voice and he was sad, so very sad.
The brightly coloured bird stretched out his wings and admired his wing span. The lorikeet suggested to Brutus that if he was too scared to start the dog choir and bark at the garbage truck then it was highly unlikely he would be brave enough to eat a small parrot such as himself.
‘If you must know, I am scared to start it off. What if I am not up to the job, in case you haven’t noticed I am not Rocky you know!’
The lorikeet hopped on to Brutus’s paw and stared at him straight in the eyes, ‘We know you are not Rocky, nobody is saying otherwise but this is YOUR home and this is YOUR family, this is YOUR garden and now Rocky is not here, you have to defend it all and by defending your garden, you remind us to defend our gardens!’.
‘I mean how on earth are we all meant to know about everything if you don’t start the dog choir off and protect us from the garbage truck?’
‘Come on Brutus, you can do it!’ Vader shouted from his garden.
‘Come on lad, we are all going to be eaten at this rate, don’t you love your Mum and Dad and Kevin the cat enough to defend them?’ Another dog piped up from a house opposite – he had moved in a few months ago.
The sounds of the garbage truck grew closer and it would have been about this time that Rocky would have gone running round his garden while yelling ‘Save us all, save your souls and save your family! The garbage truck is here!’
This of course would have escalated the whole thing and set Vader off and dogs in the surrounding areas and a whole domino effect would have occurred and all the dogs in the suburb would be singing the songs of their people.
‘I can’t, I just can’t! I am scared! I want my brother, I want Rocky, he always knew what to do!’ Brutus sobbed.
The lorikeet flapped his wings just as a wagtail bird landed by Brutus’s kennel. ‘Well do it for Rocky, if you can’t do it for any of us, do it for Rocky’, the wagtail butted in as he hopped from one foot to the other.
‘Yes, do it for Rocky!’ Vader snorted and one by one, the dogs of the street echoed one another until all you could hear in various doggy voices was ‘Do it for Rocky!’.
Brutus stepped out of his kennel and slowly stretched his hind legs. He glanced around and could hear the dogs barking ‘Do it for Rocky’, he could now see several wagtails, about ten lorikeets, a few black cockatoos plus some doves, three galahs and two Corellas cockatoos in his garden – something Rocky would have gone ballistic over. Birds always did make Rocky furious because they had a tendency to gossip and exclude Rocky from it all.
‘Do you think he can do it?’ Vader asked the dog opposite.
‘Not sure, he seems to have fallen apart since Rocky went!’ the dog shrugged.
And as the garbage truck went past the house, the dogs waited with baited breath for Brutus to take over the warning signal which would in turn, tell them that the awful garbage truck had come to eat them and their loved ones plus steal their bones and toys like a thief in the night.
Suddenly a quiet ‘woof’ sounded, so quiet that you could barely hear it, followed by a slightly louder ‘woof’.
‘Did you hear that?’ Vader cocked his head to the side.
‘No, I don’t think so’, the dog opposite replied.
But before he got chance to say anything else, the ‘woof’ got louder and louder until there was no mistaking it.
‘Come on Brutus, you can do this my friend!’ one of the galahs encouraged him.
‘Is that Brutus?’ Vader demanded and tried to peak through the fence.
For there standing behind the wall for protection, but peaking out just enough to see the garbage truck, was Brutus. He was shaking so badly that he had urinated himself.
The ridge was up on his back as he forced himself to let out a series of barks aimed at the garbage truck.
‘They are here to kill our families, eat us all, take our toys and steal our bones, tell everyone you love, warn them so it doesn’t happen!’ Brutus’s bark got deeper as the truck got closer.
‘The truck is here! It’s going to take us all!’ Vader yelled, ‘Save yourselves and your owners, take your toys and your treats!’.
‘Save our souls! It’s a thing of evil!’ shouted the birds.
Before long every single dog and bird was shouting and chanting about the dangerous truck in the vicinity.
Meanwhile I was inside sorting some stuff out. ‘Did you hear that? I think he has found his voice!’ I said to my husband while trying not to cry. Because believe me when I say that Brutus really has lost himself since Rocky died and in so many ways.
‘Yep, it sounds like he is barking again’, my husband smiled.
‘Well done lad, well done! We all get to live another week thanks to you!’ the dog opposite barked approvingly through the fence.
‘Do you really think so?’ Brutus asked him.
‘Totally!’ Vader wagged his tail and looked absurdly proud and somewhat emotional, ‘You rock Brutus, you are our new hero!’
‘Same time next week?’ the wagtail grinned at him.
Brutus took a deep breath and nodded firmly, ‘Same time next week it is’. Then without saying another word, Brutus got back into his kennel and curled up in a tiny ball – almost as though his sudden burst of bravery had exhausted him.
‘I did it Rocky, I saved everyone and I wished you could have seen me do it’, Brutus whispered to himself.
Brutus the brave
But what Brutus didn’t see was Rocky standing behind ‘The Brutus’ tree (Brutus’s favourite Conifer tree) and wagging his tail. He didn’t appear to have any pain his hips, he looked young, fresh and full of vitality and health and judging by the proud look on his face, he had seen everything.
Picking up his beloved tennis ball from the limestone wall, Rocky gave Brutus one more glance before trotting off and disappearing as quickly as he appeared.
Our wonderful pets never leave us, their habits and behaviours can live on in so many ways and more importantly, our memories.
Dedicated to dogs everywhere – especially those that defend their families against garbage trucks.
It was Friday evening on 7th September, Rocky and I were curled up on the sofa on one end, Brutus and Kev were on the other. I was ruffling Rocky’s neck and tickling his ears when I felt a lump that I had not noticed before, my first thought was a cyst and I had seen many of those in my career as a vet nurse when I lived in the UK. ‘What’s that on your neck?’ I asked him. Staring back at me with his beautiful brown eyes now so cloudy with age, he shrugged ‘You know, I am a lumpy old dog – comes with age’.
With just the minimal pressure I had applied to the lump, I felt warm blood trickle down my hands, feeling somewhat concerned, I cleaned it up and made a mental note to book the vet the next day to get it looked at.
The next day at the vet
‘That’s not a cyst, I don’t know what that is but it’s not a cyst and it needs to be removed’, the vet looked concerned as she told me and after a discussion, Rocky was booked in for the following Tuesday for surgery to get the lump removed and biopsied to see what it was. The vet asked me to check him that evening for any other lumps and bumps so that they could investigate those while he was asleep.
We were both off on annual leave that week so at least we could be at home to look after him, we had plans to go on holiday but had shelved them – thank goodness and that was a decision that was a blessing in disguise because I shudder to think what might have happened had we gone to our usual ‘middle of nowhere’ type of trip.
Either way, it was a strange moment and even stranger feeling that I can’t explain in my usual way as you will probably gather from reading this.
We were in the car park at the vets and I was about to get in the car. Rocky looked at the car and sighed, he looked exhausted as though life had just got too much all of a sudden, or perhaps it had been a while and maybe I hadn’t noticed it. Gently lifting him on to the back seat, I kissed his head, smoothed his erect triangular ears and buckled his safety belt to his collar.
Rocky and I have always enjoyed music in the car so I turned on my Usher CD and made a face at Rocky to warn him that I would probably start singing – badly. He gave a ‘Must you Mum?’ kind of look and we both laughed.
Reversing out of the car park, I was about to indicate right but at the last minute, indicated left and engaged to go.
‘Shall we take the long way home, by the coastal route?’ I asked Rocky. It added about 15 mins on to the journey but I knew he liked it, I liked it too – the ocean always looked so spectacular at that time of the morning, well at any time of the morning really.
‘Lovely day for it’, Rocky said as he pressed his snout on the window adding to the vast selection of ‘nose art’ that I simply could not be bothered to wash off.
‘Lovely day for what?’ I said, not taking my eyes off the road but tapping my fingers on the steering wheel to the music.
Rocky shrugged, ‘I love this stretch of coastline, my favourite beaches and everything. How lucky we are to live here. Do you remember when I was on South Beach as a pup and started barking at that German man’s dog for not giving me his ball and the German man told you to stop me from shouting?’
We both laughed at the memory, it was hilarious and I could still here that miserable bastard saying ‘Your dog is shouting, you must stop him now!’ in his German accent. Of course I didn’t help matters by laughing which made him go bright red with anger, we actually thought that he might explode.
Then after the German guy had gone, Rocky managed to herd up a few other dogs and cause a canine uprising on the beach where all the dogs had refused to go back to their owners, preferring to run into the ocean in an act of rebellion instead.
Happy days they were, naughty days but happy all the same.
‘My favourite beaches!’ Rocky repeated with a smile on his face as he wistfully stared at the beautiful ocean as we drove past.
Rocky’s pained expression at me singing along to Usher
We arrived home about twenty minutes later and I opened the car door for him to get out. ‘Come on Rocky, Brutus is waiting for you and you know how he likes to hear about your car journeys’, I said to him.
He went to stand up in the car that he so easily got into an hour or so ago, he couldn’t get out.
Rocky looked at me all confused as though he wasn’t quite sure where he was. ‘Sorry Mum, if I could just have a few minutes that would be great’.
I could see Brutus’s anxious face pressed against the living room window, his tail which was initially wagging at high speed, slowly dwindled down to a swish. His brown forehead creased with concern at why his brother hadn’t jumped out of the car with the same enthusiasm that he had got in to it.
Initially I had thought he may have wrenched his hip as he has bad hips and so carefully lifted the senior kelpie out of the car where he just stood on the ground and looked at me. He wasn’t really there, it was like part of him had suddenly left me. I grabbed his tennis ball and threw it at him, he half bent down to pick it up and then looked back up at me and said ‘No thank you’ and stood there looking confused in an ‘Are we there yet dear?’ sort of way.
That was when it hit me, he had started to shut down and I shall explain more about that later.
I took him in to the living room where he managed to get himself on the sofa and settle down. He didn’t want his tea which was a first – ever, there was no vomiting, no drinking, no salivating, no diarrhoea, but no appetite either (he did have his breakfast that morning though).
Later that evening
We were all curled up on the sofa – me, Rocky, Brutus and Kevin, all snuggled up under a blanket. As the vet had shaved round the lump on his neck near his gland, I was able to get a good look at it and it looked nasty, it did not look innocent by any stretch of the imagination. It looked as though a hard piece of meat had erupted through his skin and I could see why the vet was concerned.
Now a few months back, Rocky presented with rapid respiration and fast heartbeat and as an ex veterinary nurse, I was quick to ask for Xrays and bloods – all were normal except for an ever so slightly enlarged liver and spleen (as reported by a radiographer), which was listed as unremarkable as that can happen in older animals having general anesthesia. His breathing settled down again and everything was fine – until now.
And it was now that Rocky’s belly looked swollen – not bloat swollen, but like it was ‘full of something’ swollen and it had only just happened on the journey home. He couldn’t really get comfortable. But in hindsight though and in recent months Rocky had started to adopt a strange position on the sofa where he would lie on his chest with his head propped up on the back of the chair, funny to look at but just another Rocky type quirk we put it down to – a bit like him barking at the stars at night for daring to shine in his garden.
‘Mum, what’s up with Rocky?’ Brutus asked me. He looked concerned and confused.
Rocky looked at me and I looked at him, his eyes were changing, it was like he was packing to leave his body, to leave me, to leave us.
Rocky’s eyes starting to glaze over
‘You’re leaving me aren’t you?’ I blurted out at him and then burst into noisy sobs as I clung on to his little body. In between my sobs, I could feel Brutus trying to lick my arms while saying ‘Mum, is Rocky going to wear tweed?’ (animals do tend to wear tweed when they cross over to Rainbow Bridge).
When my husband arrived home later that night, he was visibly shocked at the sight of our little kelpie dog who appeared to be shrinking in front of our eyes.
‘Tomorrow we book him in at the vets’, I said to my husband. ‘I shall sleep in the spare room with him tonight in case he needs me’, I added.
As for Rocky, he gave a tired smile and mouthed the words ‘Thank you’ to both of us.
That night my little ‘beetle dog’ (as I called him), snuggled up to me in the spare bedroom, he felt cold so I covered him with my duvet. As he slept and relaxed a little, I stroked him over his abdomen where to my horror, I could feel a firm lump and the surrounding area did not feel right either. No wonder this dog had been uncomfortable and no wonder he had tensed up on examination but one thing was certain, whatever had happened, had occurred quickly.
Sunday Morning – 9th September
It was my husbands birthday and we had planned to go out for breakfast and then take the boys out. Obviously that had been cancelled and we were now at the vets.
The waiting room was empty except for us and a small dog and his human. The little dog was doing rude gestures at Rocky and barking at various things that had upset him. Normally this would have been enough to set Rocky in to a full on aggression frenzy of rude words and insults, but today Rocky just ignored him which surprised both us and the vet.
I won’t go into the full conversation between us and the vet, it is too painful for me to talk about let alone even think about and go over. But I will tell you that when Rocky had his chest X-rays all those months ago, I made a comment saying to the vet that it wouldn’t surprise me if Rocky had cancer and there was something nasty going on.
Don’t ask me what made me think it, it was a feeling that I had and I have always been intuitive with my animals and those in my care when I worked as a veterinary nurse. Rocky’s gums were a bit pale but his bloods came back normal.
We even paid extra to have the X-rays reported on by a radiographer and as I mentioned earlier – they came back ‘unremarkable’ – normal, except for a slightly enlarged liver/spleen which can happen when old dogs have anaesthetics. Yet despite those normal findings, my gut instinct and the way in which Rocky was looking at me, told me that something was seriously wrong. We just couldn’t put our finger on it and believe me it wasn’t for the lack of trying and veterinary check ups/tests either.
The tumour on Rocky’s neck looked nasty, his belly was now firm and very sore and when the vet went to palpate it, my husband said his face showed tremendous pain and discomfort.
His eyes had started to glaze over – well they had actually started doing that the day before as the vet had noticed something wasn’t right but again, things had escalated overnight.
Suddenly things had started to make sense, in recent weeks Rocky would go from trotting around to walking oh-so-slowly past the window, looking visibly uncomfortable and I had assumed it was his hips bothering him. His breath had started to smell foul – it wasn’t his teeth because they were excellent for a ten year old kelpie that had 4 monthly checks at the vet for his hip injections, his yearly boosters/health checks – we were on top of that stuff and always had been.
The vet had noticed that Rocky for the first time ever, had ignored a dog in the waiting room and shown no interest in it and more concerning, it was a dog that was barking and growling at him. Rocky usually has to be taken to a separate room when there are other dogs around, but on that day it was like that other dog did not exist, he simply did not see him.
How did we miss it? How did we not see his suffering? Perhaps we did but as the vet said, kelpies are excellent at hiding their illness/injuries until by the time they are showing signs and symptoms, they are at crisis point.
This was a different vet to the one we saw on Saturday but she quickly agreed that the growth on Rocky’s neck (by his lymph glands) had appeared quickly and seemingly at an alarming rate and on closer inspection, did not look harmless.
I will never as long as I live, forget Rocky’s tired expression as he sat in that consult room, how bad his eyes were, his face, his pain when his abdomen was palpated, but most of all, his face the day before when I threw his tennis ball to him and he had decided that enough was enough, no more ball, no more fluffy penguin, no more games – he was done.
My Rocky – ready to cross that bridge
I swore blind that I would be more observant with my pets after letting Gordon go on for longer than was fair to him, I swore and promised that it would never happen again. But my Rocky was so good at hiding stuff and I certainly recall asking my husband last week if we were being cruel with Rocky as lately even since his last vet visit, he seemed to be uncomfortable and his breathing was at times, becoming a struggle again and had started to not want to get off his bed to go out for a game in the garden.
‘Are you coming for a game of ball Rocky?’ I would say to him, he would just blink at me and remain where he was and I would make a joke about him preferring his bed to our company. Why did I not pick up on that?
My head could not grasp how well he could be one moment and then the next, barely be able to walk and look so unwell.
The hardest decision for us but the kindest for Rocky
After an in depth discussion with the vet, we made the heartbreaking decision to let him go. The tumour on his neck was most likely to be cancerous and I think that was just the tip of the iceberg to be truthful. The enlarged spleen/liver although reported as normal, the tender abdomen and the lumps that had been felt, his whole appearance, behaviour and eyes completing the bigger picture. The fact that he had stopped eating, no longer wanted his ball and no longer gave a stuff about a dog having a go at him in the waiting room.
The vet was honest enough and said they could go out to investigate and open him up, remove his tumours – test them, and if required or appropriate, give him chemo – we were insured and even if we were not, we were going to pull money from our house (we have done that before).
I made a point of asking the vet that if she thought it was the wrong decision, would she tell me, be honest with me because although I am an ex veterinary nurse, the boundaries often become blurred when it comes to letting go of your pets when the right time comes and the decision has to be the best one because it is not something you can take back.
The vet agreed that it was the kindest thing to do and she would not even contemplate it had she not believed in it. And looking at Rocky at that precise point, we decided to let him go with what dignity he had left rather than put him through surgery, scans and treatment to extend his life for what? And more to the point, for whose benefit?
Goodbye my beautiful, special darling dog – Rocky
Rocky was taken out the back to have his IV line put in, he willingly went off with the vet, he has known the staff for ten years, they know him well and vice versa. He is more than comfortable with them.
He walked back in albeit a little stiffly, you could see his abdomen was uncomfortable, his eyes were tired, the bald patch where his neck had been clipped to show the tumour from the day before.
Right to the end he comforted me
If you looked ever so carefully and had my kind of imagination, you could see Rocky wearing an old tweed suit, while clutching a tatty brown briefcase and a peaked tweed cap.
My heart was pounding in my chest, I wanted to vomit – dear God what was I doing? Should I put him through surgery, chemo, could I continue to turn a blind eye to his discomfort, how much more should I or could I put him through? I didn’t want him to leave but I knew he couldn’t stay.
The vet had the two syringes in her hand, these syringes contained ‘Rainbow Juice’ which is what I call the drug that sends our pets to Rainbow Bridge. Rocky sat on some comfy soft blankets on the floor and I sat beside him and my husband sat in front of him. This was so we could be the last people he saw, felt and heard.
‘So, this is it then, I must admit that I am looking forward to not feeling quite so rubbish’, Rocky gave a half smile to me. His kelpie spectacles were neatly perched on the end of his nose, his peaked cap and tweed suit looking quite dapper but smelling of mothballs.
‘I am so sorry Rocky, I am so very very sorry I didn’t realise how sick you were’, I cried into his fur, memorizing every single part of him. I had taken photos earlier but now I wanted more memories because in a second they would be all I had.
‘Yeah well, these things tend to creep up on us, tumours are a bugger like that’, Rocky shrugged and licked my face as I cried (see photo above).
‘I love you so much, I don’t know what I am going to do without you, how will I manage without you?’ I stared at him – oh my god, how the hell did I miss not realising how sick this dog was?
‘You are going to have to keep Kevin in line, he is a bully and he walks all over you!’ Rocky laughed. Actually there was no love lost between him and Kevin to be honest. Rocky had gone for Kev a few times and Kev had given as good as he got but that very morning we took Rocky to his final journey, Kevin sat close to Rocky and Rocky allowed him to.
The way Kevin looked at Rocky that morning, he knew he was sick.
I felt his little body start to relax against mine – the ‘Rainbow Juice’ had started it’s journey into Rocky’s body and in turn, Rocky had started his journey over the bridge with the people that he loved the most right beside him – his human family.
‘Oh Mum, look at that – tennis balls and sheep! They are everywhere, can you see them? Oh my god, it’s Gordon, can I go to him? This is fantastic, I feel fantastic! Can you see it all?’ Rocky said sleepily, ‘Can’t you see it?’
But before I had the chance to answer, Rocky had left me and was running over the bridge to where Bowie the white greyhound and ‘Gatekeeper’ of the bridge was waiting to welcome him to a new life of where pain and illness do not exist and animals can have a life that only you and I can dream about.
The last thing I saw before it all disappeared, was my old cat Gordon gazing up at Rocky as they both trotted across the bridge to where a group of sheep were cheering at Rocky’s arrival.
Rocky and Gordon together again
I pleaded with him not to leave me – long after he went. I cradled his little body and broke down. I cried until I thought my heart would break and three weeks on as I write this, I am crying now.
‘Please don’t leave me Rocky, I love you so very much’ I sobbed, but he had gone and it was looking at his worn out and sick body lying on the blankets, that I knew my little old kelpie deserved better than biopsies and chemo/invasive surgery and bad hips.
I don’t know how long I remained on the floor holding my boy, but I do know it was for a while as I repeatedly said sorry to him. I don’t even remember getting up to leave either, but as I did, I glanced round and I swear to God I could imagine that old tweed suit crumpled up on the ground, with the peaked cap and kelpie spectacles on the floor next to the tatty briefcase.
Pippin Potter the Italian Greyhound’s house
Pippin Potter the Iggy – Brutus’s good friend had taken a telephone call. Bronte and her new sister Latte were having coffee in the garden while discussing puppies and stuff.
Suddenly Pippin’s phone rang, picking it up and dabbing his pointy snout, he replied ‘Pippin Potter here’.
Bronte looked up at her brother through the window and saw Pippin take a deep breath and compose himself.
‘I see, yes, we shall be right there’, Pippin said curtly and without saying a word, he and his Mum Denise quickly got into the car and drove off.
We arrived home from the vet and I cannot even begin to explain to you how hard it was to drive back into my garden and see Rocky’s kennel and toys where we left them. The tennis ball that I threw to him the other night when he refused it was exactly where I left it, the garden looked so empty.
Brutus’s face pressed against the sliding door, he looked as anxious as when we had left him. His tail no longer wagging, his eyes frantically darted round to find his brother.
‘Mum, where is Rocky? Where is Rocky?’ Brutus barked loudly again and again.
Getting on to the sofa with Brutus, I clutched my big brown dog as I explained that Rocky had gone to Rainbow Bridge.
For some time afterwards, Brutus searched for Rocky, getting quite distressed when he saw Rocky’s collar and leash. My poor sensitive and gentle dog could not and would not settle and to this very day, he appears lost without Rocky.
Brutus the day after Rocky died with his toy that our friend bought him.
Pippin is the head of the Iggy Club, he runs pretty much everything in it really and if you have followed my stories about the Italian greyhounds, you will know him very well.
Pippin arrived at my house with his Mum, I opened the door to let them in and Pippin took Brutus aside to talk to him.
‘I don’t think I know what to do without my brother?’ What do I do Pippin?’ Brutus said to his little friend. He tried so hard to be a brave dog but a life with Rocky was the only life he had ever known, he did not know how to ‘dog’ without him.
Placing a paw on Brutus’s head, Pippin then bent down and gently licked Brutus’s face, ‘You take charge of your garden and house, you put one paw in front of the other and you slowly but surely carry on. Your Mum needs you’. Pippin said firmly, ‘You’ve got this Brutus, you’ve got this’.
Brutus said nothing, Pippin said nothing but both dogs just sat there quietly while the tiny Italian greyhound frequently touched Brutus with his paw just to let him know he was there.
I’ve got you buddy, I’ve got you
This was taken a couple of hours after Rocky went, Pippin cleaned Brutus’s snout
‘Pippin?’ Brutus asked him a few minutes later.
‘Yes Brutus?’ Pippin replied.
‘How will I know how to protect my house without Rocky?’ Brutus sniffed and wiped his eyes.
Pippin looked at him thoughtfully before responding, ‘One day it will come to you and one day when that time is right, you will do it’.
Nothing more was said between the two boys but Pippin managed to send a group message to the Iggy club saying ‘Rainbow Bridge update – the Kelpie has landed’, while discreetly dabbing his eyes with his silk handkerchief.
The Kelpie has landed
So what now?
The house is different, Kevin seems to have taken over everything and I mean everything. He initially was unsettled, unhappy and more aggressive than normal but is getting better.
He and Brutus play fight more now, they chase each other round the house, Brutus has started to pounce like a cat which is a bit ridiculous and Kevin is back to humping his blankets with his toys in his mouth which is even more so.
Will we get a second dog? No, I don’t think we will. But I would be lying if I said that I miss having a kelpie because that is my favourite breed of dog ever. My health isn’t good enough for two dogs but if (and it’s a massive ‘if‘), we were to get another dog, we would look at a middle aged rescue kelpie in need of a loving home rather than a pup.
The harsh realities of pet bereavement
Losing Rocky has broken me and I don’t mind admitting it. Now I don’t give a stuff if someone thinks it is an over reaction or it is ‘just a dog’ because it is dogs that give us companionship, loyalty, service (as working dogs), and trust, and they expect nothing in return. So I make no excuses or apologies for the grief that I am showing for my kelpie because he was my dog, my mate and I was lucky to have had him in my life.
Thank you to Spearwood Vets (once again), for their kindness, care and compassion that was shown to Rocky, my husband and myself on that day and thank you for the beautiful flowers as well.
Flowers from our lovely vets – kept in the spare room out of Kevin’s reach of course