This story is about Dash the Italian greyhound. Dash was one of the characters in my book Planet Iggy and his real life naughtiness and escapades have kept his humans on their toes and the vets busy.
A very special little dog deserving of this tribute.
At Dash’s house
Dash and his brother Augie were at home. Augie was lying on his back playing on his mobile phone. He was obsessed with the ‘who’s who on the show circuit’ page, he enjoyed checking out which dogs were doing well and who had the biggest testicles. It made him miss the days when he had a splendid set of gonads himself – those were the glory days!
“I say Dash, have you seen this Iggy, he is pretty new to the circuit?” Augie asked him without even looking up.
Dash didn’t reply, he was busy gazing out of the window. He could just see the BBQ outside and it reminded him of all the times that he had stolen food from it – something he was pretty proud of. Had food theft been an Olympic sport then he would have surely won a Gold.
He hadn’t been well for a while and had been diagnosed with a serious liver issue that he knew would not allow him to live as long a life as a healthy dog. Although he wanted to have a full life with his humans, he knew it wasn’t possible and he was just waiting for the right time to leave them.
His humans had been warned that he may have to go to Rainbow Bridge at any point. It didn’t make it easier mind you, but they did understand and were trying to make each day with Dash count.
“Dash, I am talking to you!” Augie nudged him with his pointy snout.
Giving his head a little shake, Dash turned around and gave Augie a tired smile. “Sorry Augie, what you were saying?”
Augie frowned, his little face looked troubled, probably not helped by him having more grey hairs than Dash, who simply refused to age in both appearance and attitude. “Oh, never mind, it doesn’t matter. Are you OK Dash?” Sitting up, Augie picked up his drink and took a mouthful and dabbed his snout with his handkerchief to remove the coffee froth.
“Sort of, I will be….” He replied simply and then added, “Hey, do you remember the time I sneaked into the kitchen of the dog café when nobody was looking?”
Augie snorted his Dog-o-Cinno coffee through his nostrils. “Do I remember? How could I forget! Do you remember the tomato incident, nobody could believe it!”
“Oh my days! That was talked about for ages afterwards.” Dash laughed.
“Talked about until this very day and will be forever more I reckon.” Augie added.
“I remember how we used to stand on Brutus’s back so that we could reach the café table and steal the food!” Augie wiped his eyes as he roared with laughter. “Dear old Brutus, such a good boy for letting us use him as a ladder.”
“Actually Dash, isn’t there a photo somewhere of you and Brutus getting cosy together at Chewie’s birthday at the dog cafe?”
Dash cocked his head to the side. “Might have been!” he said knowingly. “Photographic evidence is kicking around somewhere I do believe.”
“You haven’t had a boring life have you Dash?” Augie poked him playfully with his paw.
Dash grinned, “No, I most certainly haven’t and I have kept my humans on their toes that’s for sure!”.
“Dash?” Augie asked him quietly.
“Yes Augie?” Dash stared at his brother.
“Are you OK?” Augie asked him again. His eyes bulging, his ears flat back on his head, the tiny Iggy trembled as he asked Dash the question, because he kind of already knew the answer. He was just hoping by some miracle that he was wrong.
Taking a leap on to the sofa, Dash then gestured for Augie to sit next to him. “I need to have a chat….”
“I don’t want to hear it Dash, please don’t make me hear it, I am not ready to hear it!” Augie rushed his words out all at once and spoke so quickly that it was almost hard to understand him. But all the same, he jumped up and sat next to his brother to hear what he had to say.
Dash gently explained to Augie that it was now time for him to go, what was going to happen next and how he was relying on Augie to take charge of the family afterwards. He told him how he was a big brave boy and that he would be just fine.
“Dash?” Augie asked him after a few minutes.
“Yes Augie?” Dash replied.
“Are you scared?” Augie’s eyes stared intently at him.
“No Augie. We all have our time with our humans – be it a day, a week, years – whatever. But when it’s up, it’s up. Besides, I am tired of being unwell and if I can’t steal my human’s food with the stealth and professionalism that I am used to, then that means it’s my time”.
Augie huddled up to his brother. “Will you be able to steal food at Rainbow Bridge?”
“I bloody well hope so!” Dash growled and both dogs burst out laughing.
Later that day….
Bowie the large white greyhound and gatekeeper of Rainbow Bridge stood outside the entrance with his regulation clipboard and a chewed-up pen in the shape of a large bone. It was a bad habit chewing his pen and he knew that, but he still enjoyed doing it.
“Hi Bowie, who are we waiting for today?” An important looking Scottish terrier named ‘Bertie McTavish’ asked in his strong Scottish accent. He looked quite dapper wearing a red tartan collar with a whistle clipped to it, which he was not afraid to blow to regain any order should it all kick off with any newbies. Not that it ever did of course but Bertie did like that whistle and the power that it gave him – think about the policemen in the UK when they had whistles in the olden days and you will just about get the picture.
But nobody ever kicked off at Rainbow Bridge and aside from a bit of exuberance when reunited with old friends, there was never any trouble.
“Someone pretty special who is going to keep us all on our toes, that is all I can say.” Bowie gave a curt nod to Bertie.
Bertie who had seen it all before – or so he thought, sighed, “There isn’t anyone we can’t handle here and should anyone be naughty then I have this!” He pointed dramatically to the whistle clipped on his collar.
Bowie raised his eyebrows and smirked, “Are you sure about that?” But before he got chance to say anything else, he could hear a commotion of an incoming new resident.
It’s a great source of excitement for new animals coming to Rainbow Bridge; it’s like being given a new lease of life and getting reunited with old friends at the same time. They tend to make a bit of noise on arrival but it’s all high jinx because they are so happy to be there.
“Excuse me, but where is the food? I am bloody starving!” Dash suddenly appeared out of nowhere. They always do that on entry to ‘The Bridge’. They transition through and appear very quickly. It never fails to make Bertie startle and say ‘Now then, there will be none of that here!”
“Hello Dash old boy, how are you doing?” Bowie said affectionately.
Dash’s tail wagged furiously, so hard in fact that it smacked the Bertie in the face and made him sneeze. “I could murder a chocolate muffin my friend!” Dash grinned.
“Why does that not surprise me?” Bowie laughed, “Let me get someone to escort you through the gates. You are the only one coming in today.”
“Who is going to take me through, I can’t see anyone around, are you going to take me?” Dash asked Bertie.
Bertie shook his head, “Not me pal and I don’t want any funny business from you!” he said sternly and then catching Dash’s worried face, he gave the little black dog a cheeky wink to show he was joking.
“Come on my friend, follow me.” Bowie reassured him.
“Wait a second!” Dash shouted and quickly lifted his leg to pee on the gatepost. Bertie rolled his eyes at Bowie and muttered something about it being ‘highly inappropriate’ and should he blow his special whistle to control the situation?
Dash hesitantly walked through the gates to the other side when he was suddenly bowled over by another Italian greyhound. “Darling, you are here! I thought you would never arrive!”
He looked up and saw Madam Gigi looking absolutely gorgeous with a pair of oversized sunnies and an Italian silk scarf tied around her neck. The two Iggies hugged each other tightly, that was after Gigi had done the European thing of kissing the cheeks of course.
“Follow me, everyone is waiting for you! Fat Harry is eating everything in sight and it’s high time that you came to redress the balance!”
“It’s so good to finally be here Gigi. Tell me, do they have tomatoes where we are going?” Dash asked her.
“Tomatoes? Darling, there are more tomatoes than you would know what to do with!” Gigi barked at him and waved her front legs in the air – Pippin always said that if you cut off Madam Gigi’s front legs, she would be speechless.
The further he walked the more energetic he became and the better he felt until all evidence of pain and illness had vanished. Across the field, Dash could just make out the rotund figure of Fat Harry frantically waving his stuffed hamburger toy in the air to get his attention.
Nearby a black kelpie dog with an Australian neckerchief tied around his neck was sat on the grass reading a newspaper titled ‘The Kelpie Times’. He stopped reading and folded up his paper on his lap and glanced up. With his tail wagging slowly in recognition, he walked towards Fat Harry and said, “Is that who I think it is?”
“Yes Rocky, I think it is! – Isn’t it brilliant?” A huge grin appeared on Fat Harry’s face.
Rocky nodded, “Yes, it is absolutely marvellous. We all meet up here in the end, that’s what is so special about this place – there is no such thing as goodbye.”
“Is that it for today Bowie, shall I close the gates?” Bertie asked him.
Bowie looked on as little Dash was welcomed into the next level and final part of his life surrounded by his friends. “Yes, that’s it for today, close the gates. Oh, and Bertie?” Bowie asked him.
“Yes Bowie?” Bertie turned around to answer him.
“You can put your whistle away for today, maybe you can use it tomorrow?” Bowie winked at him leaving Bertie McTavish to reluctantly tuck his whistle under his collar for another day.
At Augie’s House
Augie was sat on his bed looking out of the window. He didn’t know how long he had been there for but it must have been a while. Dash’s bright red collar was on the coffee table and his toys were where he left them, Augie stared at them sadly and briefly wondered how he would manage without him. He would of course, but it would take time to adapt without Dash.
There was one more thing left to do and Augie had been putting it off. Taking a deep breath for bravery, he picked up his mobile phone and dialled Pippin’s number.
Pippin had been having a wonderful time lately. His sister Latte had recently had puppies and you all know how Pippin loves his puppies. One time both he and Brutus did some ‘doggy day care’ involving looking after Bronte’s puppies and it all ended in a flurry of talcum powder and diapers put on the wrong way – but that’s another story.
“Pippin, will you stop disturbing the babies!” Latte barked at him.
Pretending that he hadn’t heard, Pippin nudged the puppies with his pointy snout in the hope of waking them up so that he could justify a cuddle with them.
Pippin had actually grown quite distinguished as a senior dog and his grey fur had blended in quite nicely on his face. Unlike his friend Brutus who was looking pretty grizzled with age, but hey, we all get older right?
“Pippin, it’s for you?” Bronte handed him his mobile phone.
Looking boot-faced at being taken away from the pups, Pippin grabbed the phone from Bronte and took it into his office.
It all happens in Pippin’s office – good news, bad news, naughtiness, reprimands and everything in between. The large regal looking chair, the huge leather topped desk, a brown china pot with all of Pippin’s pens and pencils in it and his bright red lounge coat with golden trim, hanging up on the door. This office has seen it all and could tell a thousand stories about the Iggy gang and the life of Pippin.
Pippin sat in his chair clutching his phone and after a few minutes replied quietly, “Thank you, I will let the group know.”
Then as per tradition and the rules of the gang, Pippin sent a group text simply saying, “Dash has landed.”
A few hours later
Latte had just finished feeding her puppies. Pippin was standing behind her watching the babies trying to snuggle up to her.
“I shall miss Dash you know.” Latte said to Pippin, “Will you miss him?”
Pippin gave a little nod, “Yes, I shall miss him greatly. He was a character that’s for sure with all the naughty stuff he got up to.”
“What’s this tomato incident that everyone always talks about?” Latte asked him.
“OMG, Pippin you MUST tell her about that, please tell her – you tell it best!” Bronte barked excitedly.
A smile spread across Pippin’s face as he curled up next to Latte and Bronte and began telling the greatest story ever told about a dog café, a group of Italian greyhounds, a tomato and a little black dog called Dash.
Our pets may not live forever but the memories of their antics and naughtiness will remain alive for as long as we tell their stories.
This blog is dedicated to Dash.
Written and published with the kind permission and blessing of Dash’s human Kylie.
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
After four years (give or take) my book ‘Planet Iggy’ has just been published on Kindle, paperback and hardback will be available soon.
It has been a long uphill slog writing this as my health has been one huge challenge but on Thursday night I hit the ‘publish’ button on Kindle. Right up until the last minute I was contemplating delaying it, getting it checked again, reading it again, paying someone else to check it – again and feeling sick with nerves about errors.
Then came the worry about whether or not people would like a book about talking dogs that have adult social lives, swear, drink dog beer and do human type things. Then came the moment that was somewhat liberating which I will call the ‘Stuff it moment’ which is when you realise that no, not everyone is going to like it and may not like the adult content or the fact that it is a ‘children’s book for adults’ and it is not the end of the world if they don’t either.
I will say that I was at the stage of never wanting to read the damn thing again and when I did hit ‘publish’, I cried – solidly for a couple of hours. I cried because my Mum will never read it.
I cried because the nights spent feeling shit going through steroid withdrawal (going through that again now!) and needing to take painkillers in order to type, and now it had all paid off and it was time to hand it over to Amazon and ultimately out of my control.
The pressure is on for the paperback to get it out for Christmas as I have orders ready to be placed but for tonight, it is going to be the first Sunday where I am not going to hang out with my characters or worry about stuff – aside from the book cover which needs to be adjusted for the manuscript.
The book is for adults or older teens only and ten percent of every book sold will be donated to the Italian Greyhound Club of Western Australia.
Anyway, if you would like to download your copy from Kindle, the link is as follows: