Boxers, Flappy Jowls and Canine Friendships

Vader and Brutus, a prime example of a good friendship between dogs – Photograph by Samantha Rose

For those of you that have been following my stories, will know that Vader the boxer and my dog Brutus have pretty much grown up together and have been best friends right from the start. The things that these boys have got up to have been nothing short of entertaining and on occasions, embarrassing – involving snot, farts, belches and lots of mutual humping of each others heads.

Vader like many boxers, is often misunderstood by other breeds of dog and because of his snub nose and noisy breathing, he can sound pretty aggressive when in fact he just wants to play. Except for when he doesn’t want to play and he wants to start a fight instead, totally forgetting that because he doesn’t have much of a ‘face’, he can’t even defend himself when the dog that he is winding up; retaliates.

He has often called other dogs ‘Wankers’ and other such insults and Brutus being the coward that he is, would frequently pretend to be blind, deaf, elderly or just hide behind a tree so that he wouldn’t get beaten up. Of course when they were in the basketball courts in our local park, it was ‘game-on’ because both boys were safe in the knowledge that no other dog could get to them.

This usually ended up with the boys doing some fence-fighting which is actually a favourite hobby for many dogs – it involves dogs from both sides of the enclosure, running up and down the fence and threatening each other while yelling stuff about their mothers being a mongrel with no collar from the streets.

Fence Fighting – you can be as brave as you like when the other dogs can’t get to you Photograph by Samantha Rose
Brutus’s second birthday party with Vader – Photograph by Samantha Rose

Whenever the dogs had time apart or didn’t see each other for a while, Brutus liked to sit right next to the dividing fence where he would find some kind of comfort when he heard his flappy jowled friend snorting or barking from his garden. I have many pictures of Brutus sitting by the fence like a stalker, the photo below is just one of them.

Pic taken a few years back now but this is Brutus sitting by the fence because he could hear Vader – Photograph by Samantha Rose

And then they got old….

The years went by, life happened, COVID and lockdown happened and they didn’t see each other as often as they once did. But on Brutus’s 9th birthday last year, Vader was invited over to our house to celebrate Brutus’s birthday party. Well I say birthday party, it was a party for two because Vader and Brutus didn’t need anyone else as a third dog would have just messed up the dynamics.

Brutus and Vader at Brutus’s 9th birthday party in Nov 2021 – Photograph by Samantha Rose

Brutus had been ready for Vader’s arrival for ages. He had checked himself in the mirror three times, smoothed down his grey muzzle and had tried to put black shoe polish on his face to make himself look younger. Once he had heard me bring Vader through the garage door and into the back garden, Brutus impatiently wagged his tail and started doing his high pitched squeals that he has never grown out of doing when he gets excited.

“Vader!” Brutus grinned and went to body slam his old friend as he hadn’t seen him for a long time. “Wanna pee on my head?……” Brutus’s voice trailed off as he saw his mate limp slowly over to him and acknowledge him with a feeble wag of his tail.

“What’s happened to you?” Brutus barked in shock and double checked that it was the same Vader – his oldest and ‘bestest’ friend in the world.

“Old age and illness, that’s what!” Vader puffed and then suddenly looking confused, he said “Where am I?” before slowly walking over to the grass to have a crap.

Brutus laughed, “What do you mean? You know where you are! You are funny Vader, I have missed you. Fancy a game of chase on the limestone wall for old times sake?”

“What’s that over there?” Vader growled at some leaves in the corner.

Brutus frowned, “Are you OK?” At 9 years old himself, he was no spring chicken but he still could run fast, jump and pull magpies out of trees (yes, that was not his finest moment).

Vader looked up and grinned, “I am OK, let’s play!” But as soon as he had said it, he took a deep breath and then cocked his head to the side. “Where am I again?” He muttered at no-one in particular, “Oh look – there’s some poo on the grass, is that mine? It’s massive!”

Desperate to play with his friend, Brutus kept nudging him to react.

But Vader just stood over the water bowl by the garden tap gulping down some water, only occasionally looking up at a crestfallen Brutus who simply could not understand why Vader didn’t want to play with him.

Vader – Photo taken November 2021 – Photograph by Samantha Rose

“Hey do you remember when we did a fence fight with those two husky dogs and they threatened to eat us?” Brutus barked excitedly. Vader said nothing, his cloudy eyes stared vacantly up at the sky.

Brutus tried to think of happy memories to tell Vader to try and make him remember things. “Do you remember when we got arrested with a violent gang of whippets and taken to the police station for robbing the pet store?” He said desperately. This wasn’t going the way he had planned, Vader was behaving so oddly that Brutus didn’t know what to make of it.

“That didn’t happen, did it?” Vader suddenly piped up, momentarily remembering where he was.

Shrugging, Brutus said that no, perhaps it didn’t, but it would have been fun had it really happened. He was clutching at straws now, wanting to have the Vader back that he knew and loved.

I could see how frustrated Brutus was. He kept nudging him, pawing him, gifting him his fluffy snake and when that didn’t work, he brought out the rubber pig – he never brings out the rubber pig.

Vader’s breathing was strained as he bent down, had another big drink and then stared up at the sky as he once again had checked out of reality while the water dribbled out of his mouth. Brutus was quick to wash Vader’s face as he always had done in the past. The two boys would often clean each others faces and enjoyed doing so as well.

A good jowl cleaning for Vader – Photograph by Samantha Rose

And once Brutus realised that Vader wasn’t well and not up to playing, there was no consoling him as he barked frantically and circled the grizzled elderly boxer dog. In the end he was so upset that I had to put him inside and take Vader back home.

14th December 2021

Brutus was in the garden laying on his bed. The sun had warmed him up quite nicely and he was enjoying reading his favourite dog magazine ‘Naughty Whippets with No Collars’. He was about to turn the page when he heard a husky voice say “Hey Brutus, are you there?”

That was Vader! He must be feeling better Brutus thought. He felt immense relief just to hear Vader’s voice. Maybe he could come round for another playdate?

“Are you OK?” Brutus whispered through the gap in the dividing fence. If he squinted, he could just make out Vader’s cloudy eyes staring back at him,

“I’ve just farted.” Vader snorted and then after a few minutes straining, Vader pushed out another loud fart, causing Brutus to laugh and let out a fart as well. And just for a few minutes, things were back to normal and the worries about Vader’s confusion and sickness were forgotten as the boys enjoyed some ‘toilet humour’.

“You have been my best friend you know, you do realise that don’t you?” Vader barked. It wasn’t a strong bark, but it was his unmistakable ‘rusty dog bark’ that was unique to him.

“Yes and you are mine as well. You were there for me when Rocky died and Gordon the cat too. Mates for life that’s what we are. When you are better you can come round to my house and shit in my garden just like the old times!” Brutus said happily.

Taking a big breath, Vader said, “Well – that’s what I want to talk to you about, while I can still remember who I am of course………”

Later that day

“Brutus, dinner time!” I said to him. Normally he does his own little happy dance at meal times which involves him dancing from paw to paw and throwing in a couple of twirls and some bounces because he gets so excited.

But this time he took his time and walked slowly towards the living room door and ate his dinner before jumping up on to the sofa where he remained for several hours until I had to force him out for his bedtime pee.

His brother Kevin (the bastard) usually takes immense pleasure in winding Brutus up and bullying him from his prime position on the sofa but as though sensing something was up, Kevin sat quietly next to Brutus while just occasionally looking at him to see if he was OK. No words were said between the two of them, but Brutus appeared to be grateful for the little ginger cats company.

15th December 2021

Vader was sitting by the door in his house. He had forgotten where he was again but thought that if he stayed by the door and stared at his human siblings, it might help him remember stuff like who he is and what his purpose is. He loved his human siblings so much – mainly because they fed him their leftovers, but they were his family and he was very protective of them.

Vader does have three cats and a little dog sister called Trixie that he lives with – he loved them of course but not as much as his tiny humans. Even in his moments of confusion there is one thing that always remained constant and that was he knew that his tiny humans needed him and he loved them right back.

He saw both children eating their breakfast and wondered what kind of adults they would grow in to and how many dogs they might have in their lives after he had gone. “Who am I? What should I do?” Vader whispered and then looked up at his Mum Lexie for the answers before silently pleading with her, “Help me, I am done here.”

6:33am – I had not long woken up and was getting ready for work. I heard my phone beep and saw that it was a message from Lexie letting me know that she was sending Vader to Rainbow Bridge that morning and if I wanted to come and say goodbye then I was welcome to go round.

I just pulled on some clothes and as I was about to rush out of the door, I looked at Brutus who was curled up on his bed staring right back at me. He knew where I was going, I just know that he knew.

“He might not know who you are, he is pretty confused.” Lexie said to prepare me. But as soon as Vader heard my voice, he took some unsteady steps to come and greet me.

“Well good morning! It’s a lovely day to be going to Rainbow Bridge don’t you think?” Vader said happily. He looked so old and tired. I allowed myself to imagine his arrival at Rainbow Bridge and how he would be received and who would greet him – maybe even my Rocky dog. Then turning round to Lexie, I started to cry.

“Don’t be sad, I’m not!” Vader smiled and pressed himself into my legs and allowed me to pet him.

“Goodbye old boy, it’s your time now.” I said quietly. Then hugging Lexie, I walked to the front door leaving Vader saying, “Where am I? Am I there yet?”

Rainbow Bridge

Bowie the big white greyhound – otherwise known as ‘The Gatekeeper’ of Rainbow Bridge, sat by the gates with his clipboard while chewing on his pen. “Rex, we have one more coming and then we can knock off!” Bowie spoke in a posh accent and looked down to where Rex was standing.

Rex the Jack Russell, nodded and smartened himself up for the final arrival. He wore a tweed peaked cap on his little head, his tan and white coat glistened in the sun and his blue leather studded collar completed the image. He looked the perfect advert for a healthy dog.

Glancing at a couple of clouds, Rex couldn’t see any signs of the new arrival. But as with all animals that enter Rainbow Bridge, they are often heard long before they are seen and this one was no different.

“Where am I? Am I there yet? What’s my name?” An old croaky voice could be heard from behind the clouds.

“You will find out, just follow me – it’s just behind this big cloud on the left.” A kind and patient voice could be heard talking back to the croaky voice. “Oh Lord, was that you?” The voice coughed and gagged as a loud fart sounded from behind the clouds.

“That wasn’t from my bum!” The croaky voice replied, “What’s my name?”

Rex and Bowie fell silent as the clouds parted and an old boxer dog limped up to the gate followed by a beautiful cream Saluki guiding him. With each step, he farted, laughed and asked where he was and who he was and just who had made that smell.

“Hello, mate – I don’t suppose you know where I am do you or even who I am. I am buggered if I know!” The old dog asked Bowie.

Bowie smiled, “Your name is Vader the boxer – Welcome to Rainbow Bridge. Rex, can you take him through please?”

“Follow me lad.” Rex said in a strong Yorkshire accent. He added, “If we get a move on, you can join in the games on the grass and I believe there are lots of treats, dog beer and sausages for afterwards.”

Vader looked at the dogs having fun in the distance. Some where chasing balls, some were digging holes, others were chasing butterflies and a cheeky young Schnauzer was running along the field with a string of sausages in his mouth while shouting ‘Catch me if you can!’

Cat’s lounged in trees and on benches, some chased rabbits – but never caught them, some bicycled furiously with their hind legs while kicking toys and some just enjoyed being where they were and living in the moment.

It really was a spectacular scene, peaceful, harmonious with each animal comfortable in the company of the others.

“Oh I don’t think I can do that, I am breathless and my joints hurt and I haven’t felt like eating properly in a while.” Vader apologised.

Rex laughed, “Trust me me lad, you are going to be just fine….”

As Vader walked with Rex through the gates to the other side, he found that he could breathe a little easier, walk with less pain and with each step that he took, he became younger and fitter as though he had never been sick. He carried on farting of course, but then some things never change do they?

A little black kelpie had stopped playing with his tennis ball and had started to walk towards Vader. It was Rocky – my dog who had gone to Rainbow Bridge in September 2018.

My Rocky dog – Photograph by Samantha Rose

Let me explain about Rocky and Vader. There was never any love lost between them and they would regularly bark, growl and trade insults from either side of the fence.

They marginally tolerated each other on walks although Rocky did go for a dog that went to attack Vader on the beach one day. So there must have been some low level friendship there. Rocky would go mad just hearing Vader snorting and Vader used to wind Rocky up a treat by fence snuffling or pissing up our gate causing Rocky to bristle with disapproval.

It took a few seconds for Vader to notice Rocky who like every animal at Rainbow Bridge, was young, fit and healthy.

The two dogs squared up to each other and held direct eye contact. Tails erect, body posture stiff as they sniffed the air around them.

“Ey up Bowie, I think it might kick off over here with the boxer and the kelpie!” Rex said to Bowie on his mobile (yes they have special doggy mobiles at Rainbow Bridge).

“No they won’t.” Bowie said confidently, “They will find their dynamic – just leave them.”

“Are you sure?” Rex asked in a concerned voice.

“Absolutely.” Bowie replied and ended the call.

“Vader!” Rocky said without taking his eyes off him.

“Rocky!” Vader barked right back.

The two dogs gave each other a couple of shoves – as if testing their strength while Rex nervously watched on, still clutching his mobile phone.

Then as quickly as it started, the shoving stopped and both dogs started to play-bow to each other with their tails wagging high. They pranced, jumped and played together for a few minutes before Rocky said, “Fancy chasing some rabbits?”

As they walked off leaving a relieved Rex to report back to Bowie the greyhound, Rocky could be heard saying, “I never really hated you Vader.”

“I never hated you either, in fact I missed you when you left…” Vader admitted.

“Friends?” Rocky declared.

“Friends!” Vader barked back, “Now let’s go and chase some rabbits!”

Brutus

A couple of hours after Vader had left, Brutus dutifully took position by the dividing fence where once he realised that Vader was no longer there, he proceeded to cry for quite some time.

“Brutus?” Kevin asked him later that evening.

“Yes Kevin,” he sighed.

“Rainbow Bridge must be a pretty cool place to be.” Kevin said matter-of-factly.

“What makes you say that?” Brutus said sadly.

“Because we all go there eventually!” Kevin replied cheerfully and started to wash his bum.

And although Brutus was upset at losing his best friend, he knew that Kevin was right.

Kevin gives Brutus his words of wisdom – Photograph by Samantha Rose

The End

Dedicated to Vader the boxer

This special dog found a way into my heart the very first time that I met him. Brutus and I would call round to Lexie’s for our evening walks and the boys would come back exhausted from their escapades.

They were also regulars on the lure coursing field at Guildford Polo Grounds. They never won of course, they were too busy play fighting on the field to win anything. Vader’s jowls flapping in the breeze like inflated shopping bags as he ran. While Brutus thought that everyone was there just to cheer him on. It kind of became a highlight if anyone managed to get a photograph of them.

Brutus and Vader lure coursing – well trying to. Photograph by Studio Joy

I could always hear Vader before I could see him, his snuffle breathing, snorting and his farting. We had a standing joke that when he came to my house, he would do at least four shits in my garden. Lexie would even send him over with a supply of poo bags. I never knew how one dog could hold so much turd and save it up for my garden, I could imagine Brutus proudly cheering him on while doing it.

Vader didn’t like men, he was nervous of them. We would laugh at him barking and growling at my husband who was minding his own business in the living room. Vader would be in our garden, wiping his snotty nose on our window thinking that he owned the place – he did really, well at least in his eyes.

Anyway, I have only just been able to write this blog and even then I have cried while writing it. In case you didn’t know, Vader was actually in my book ‘Planet Iggy’. he inspired me to write so many chapters and played starring roles in some of the short stories.

I honestly believe that had I not met Vader and Lexie, I would never have met the Italian greyhounds and their lovely owners. Which means that I would never have written Planet Iggy either, as Vader’s antics with Brutus fired up my imagination in such a way that it made me look forward to escaping into my own magical little world of talking dogs.

This blog is dedicated to Vader the boxer – the Goodest Boy in the Land

Vader the Good Boy – Photograph by Samantha Rose

Samantha Rose (C) Copyright March 2022

Petunia – Run Free and Climb High

Petunia – Photograph by Julia Sowula

Petunia the Persian has been through some pretty serious health struggles in her short life and had managed to beat a horrible disease called FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) and everyone was so proud of her for doing so.

Her humans had bought her a wonderful cat tree and Petunia had been learning to jump to the top. Not blessed with the agility and fitness that most cats have, even getting to the top of her tree was a huge achievement even if it did take her several attempts to do it.

Petunia had a long-distance boyfriend which is my cat Kevin. Kevin had been obsessed with the beautiful little Persian cat and had taken to calling and messaging her every day to see how she was going. And before you laugh, yes – cats can do stuff like that and have active social lives like anyone else. You just have to believe in it, that’s all because once you start believing in your animals, anything is possible – just you ask my Kevin.

Anyway, one day Petunia hadn’t been feeling very well and had been suffering from breathlessness. She had been on the phone to her mates in WA and had told Oliver (the CEO of Raw Meow) all about it.

Oliver – the CEO of Raw Meow. He just knows stuff and is an educated cat Photograph by Emax Photography

“You do know you need to go and see the vet don’t you Petunia?” Oliver said firmly and then added, “And you need to do this quickly.” Oliver is always the voice of reason and he just seems to know about stuff.

Petunia sighed and replied that a vet appointment had already been made by her human for later that day.

“Look, I had better go Oliver, I need to call Kevin and let him know.” Petunia sounded breathless.

“Ah yes, Kevin – good idea.” Oliver replied.

And as Petunia ended the call, she composed herself and found Kevin’s number on her mobile. A picture of Petunia and Kevin flashed up under his name. It was taken last Christmas when Kevin had a party at his house and Petunia had ended up joining them. 

At Kevin’s House

Kevin and his canine brother Brutus were playing a game of cards. Kevin being a dab hand at card games, always manages to beat Brutus which makes Brutus cry and demand a rematch which of course he never wins.

Brutus is no ‘card shark’ Photograph by Samantha Rose

“It’s your hand big fella but if you could hurry up because I know I am going to win so we may as well get it over with!” Kevin smirked at Brutus who was wearing a baseball cap back to front and a satin waistcoat. The silly dog had been told by his boxer friend Vader, that all serious gamblers wore satin waistcoats and baseball caps back to front and Brutus believed him as well.

Before Kevin had chance to say anything else, his mobile phone rang. Glancing down, he saw Petunia’s picture flash up on his phone.

“Petunia! How are you?” Kevin dropped the cards on the table and gestured to Brutus that the game was over leaving Brutus looking confused and asking if that meant that he had won. Brutus isn’t the smartest of dogs as you may have gathered but he does have a huge kind heart and that’s what counts.

Kevin’s grumpy voice softened when he spoke to Petunia, it always did because he liked her and even his friends Tuxedo Cat, Teddy and Oliver would laugh at him about it.

But whatever Petunia was saying to him, it certainly wasn’t making Kevin smile, in fact it was quite the opposite. 

“You will be OK, won’t you Petunia?” Kevin stuttered down the phone. “Promise to let me know what happens?”

“Everything OK?” Brutus asked Kevin when he had finished on the phone.

“I hope so, I don’t know actually, I have a funny feeling.” Kevin frowned.  Funny feelings are not alien to him as he is an anxious cat and gets upset at most things, but this feeling was different and Kevin didn’t like it one bit.

“Let’s take your mind off it. What do you fancy doing?” Brutus asked him.

“Can you just sit with me and we watch the birds for a bit?” Kevin said as he puffed air out of his cheeks.

“Sounds good to me.” Brutus replied simply and the two of them sat at the dining room window and watched a gang of raucous parrots have a parrot meeting in the palm tree outside.

Brutus and Kevin, Photograph by Samantha Rose

Petunia

Petunia had arrived at the vet and her breathing had deteriorated and the vet had told her humans that she had fluid on her heart. It was decided that she would stay in the vet hospital overnight to keep an eye on her.

With nothing but her thoughts for company, Petunia didn’t even have the energy to call Oliver or Kevin to let them know how she was. She hoped they would understand, she was sure that they would.

As she lay in her hospital cage, Petunia heard a little cough which made her startle.  Looking up she saw a handsome ginger cat with a white bow tie on around his neck. He sat on a trolley outside Petunia’s cage and appeared to be making notes on a notepad.

Gordon Photograph by Samantha Rose

“Excuse me, but who are you?” Petunia asked him politely. 

“The name is Gordon and I have come to see if you are ready, you must be Petunia?” The cat smiled warmly and continued to write things down on the notepad.

“Ready? What for? I don’t understand?” Petunia frowned. Then as though it was all too much for her, she started coughing and couldn’t get her breath.

“Hmm, that’s not good. You certainly sound and look as though you are ready!” Gordon nodded approvingly, “Shall we go now? Come on, time is ticking!”

“Go where? I can’t go anywhere. I am poorly and my human will be seeing me tomorrow and I can’t possibly miss that!” Petunia said with a husky meow as she tried to take a deep breath.

Gordon looked at Petunia’s hospital cage and as if by magic, the door opened all by itself. The big handsome ginger cat winked at Petunia, “Trust me – come on and hold my paw, nothing to be afraid of, I promise!”

As a frail and weakened Petunia stood up with the help of Gordon, she touched his paw as he had requested.  Looking at Gordon for further reassurance, Petunia felt herself go dizzy and the last thing she remembered, was Gordon saying “Come along, that’s my girl!”

The New Arrival

A large white greyhound stood at some huge iron gates. He looked jolly important as he checked a list on his clipboard. He wore a bright purple leather and velvet collar with a brass name tag attached to the collar with ‘Bowie’ engraved on it.

A handsome young tabby cat with a white vest and four white socks, weaved in and out of the greyhound’s long legs, occasionally rubbing his head on him. With his tail held high in the air twitching, the cat kept kneading the grass with his front paws as though he were making biscuits.

“Are there many left to come?” The tabby cat asked Bowie the greyhound.

Bowie smiled, “Just one left. The others came this morning.  You can go and tell everyone to get ready for the last one if you don’t mind?”

The tabby gave a paws-up gesture and ran through the gates to do his favourite part of the job – announce all the new arrivals.

Bowie yawned and did one of those greyhound stretches which looks like a play-bow when they stick their bums in the air. Letting out a quick and unexpected fart, Bowie coughed “Excuse me!” and quickly checked to see that nobody had heard him. 

Suddenly he could hear the sounds of someone arriving. Composing himself, he stood up and straightened his collar and made sure that he was neat and tidy.

“Hi Bowie, this is Petunia. She is the final one due in today!” Gordon gave Bowie a friendly head-boop to greet him.

“I don’t understand, where am I?” Petunia cried as she leaned on to Gordon for support. 

Taking a deep breath, Bowie bent down so that the little cat could see him better. “Hello Petunia, welcome to Rainbow Bridge. My name is Bowie the greyhound and I am the gatekeeper of The Bridge.”

“I am at Rainbow Bridge? But what about my human’s? What about my friends and Kevin?” Petunia cried.

It took a few minutes for Bowie and Gordon to explain to her that her body had run out of time and it was no longer possible for her spirit to live in it. He explained how we all have a certain amount of time with our humans – it may or may not be for as long as we would like, but whatever the amount of time spent with them, is precious and always for a good reason.

But when it is time to go to Rainbow Bridge, that is when you leave all your pain and illness behind and get a new lease of life. A life where you can eat what you like, chase birds and butterflies yet never hurt them. A life where nothing hurts ever again and occasionally, you can take a peak to see what your beloved humans are doing and be able to keep an eye on them until the next pet arrives.

“Do you understand Petunia?” Bowie asked her gently.

“I think so….” Petunia sniffed and wiped her eyes.

“Right then, ready to go through the gates?” Gordon asked her.

“I can’t breathe very well, I not sure if I can to be honest.” Petunia sounded doubtful.

“Try it, you might surprise yourself. I know I did when I went through myself a few years back!” Gordon encouraged her.

Petunia mustered up all of her energy and with a little help from Bowie’s super long greyhound snout, she managed to get up as Gordon and Bowie helped her to get through the gates.

Once she had passed through them, she gasped at what she saw. Cats everywhere, playing with toys, climbing on trees, running through tunnels, chasing rabbits and butterflies and having the time of their lives. It really did look beautiful and the temptation to investigate was almost too strong for Petunia to resist.

“What do I tell Kevin? He won’t understand why I haven’t come back. I know the vet will tell my human, but who tells Kevin?” Petunia panicked.

“You leave Kevin to me, I can sort him out!” Gordon gave a firm nod, “Now go and meet your new friends, it looks like they are waiting for you to join them for dinner.”

Petunia watched as the group of cats smiled at her and pointed to an abundance of delicious food including sardines, pilchards, salmon, prawns and steak. She had never seen so much food in all her life.

“Are you sure I can do it? Will I be OK?” Petunia asked him.

“Positive and you will be just fine!” Gordon replied and watched Petunia slowly start to walk to where the cats were waiting for her and with each step she took, her breathing got better until not being able to breath, was merely a distant memory.

“Are we done for the day?” Bowie asked Gordon.

“Not quite, I have a quick visit to make. Save me some prawns – I’ll be back shortly.” Gordon said and gave a mock salute to Bowie before disappearing.

While Bowie shut the gates for the evening, Petunia played with her new friends. There was no shortness of breath, no pain or low energy and for the first time in her life, she could not only jump high but she could climb to the top of the tallest tree with the agility of a cheetah.

Kevin

Kevin was in his bedroom. He had felt unsettled since hearing that Petunia was unwell and when he felt like that, he was just best with his own company.

Curled up on the top of his cat tree, he stared out of the window trying to think about what to do. It was an awful feeling of being helpless and even his friend Oliver couldn’t placate him.

Kevin sighed and blinked a few times and yawned. Then opening his eyes, he saw something that nearly caused him to fall off his cat tree as he noticed a big ginger cat sat in his basket like he owned it. 

“How the bloody hell did you get in here? Who are you?” Kevin shouted. He looked out of the window and saw Brutus chasing some magpies, “Brutus help me, there is a cat in my room!” Kevin screeched. Except that Brutus could not hear him or even realise that he was there and no matter how much Kevin scrabbled at the window, he seemed invisible to Brutus in the garden.

“You don’t remember me do you?” The ginger cat laughed and then picked up a tatty old blue crackle mouse from Kevin’s toy box. “This mouse was my favourite when I lived in here and this grey basket is just as comfy as I remember it!” Gordon started to noisily suckle on the old toy mouse and blissfully closed his eyes for a few minutes.

“But I don’t get it…..” Kevin cried, And that is MY mouse you are sucking on!”

Gordon suddenly remembered where he was and opened his eyes. Dropping the now soggy toy mouse on the floor, he explained to Kevin, “My name is Gordon and this was my house before it was yours and when I went to Rainbow Bridge, I guided you to this family because I knew you would be looked after. That is how it works you see, when a human loses one pet, that pet guides the next one and the right one into their lives.”

Kevin frowned but after a few minutes, he smiled in recognition, “Gordon – Oh my God, I remember you now! My humans spoke of you all the time. What are you doing here?” Kevin jumped off his cat tree on to the ground and sat opposite Gordon.

“I have a message for you and it’s about Petunia…”

Kevin started to cry as the realisation of why Gordon was here dawned on him. “No, I don’t want to hear it! I know what you are going to say, please don’t!” Shutting his eyes and shaking his head in protest, Kevin thought that if he stopped Gordon from saying it, then it hadn’t happened.

Gordon sat with Kevin for some time as he explained to the distraught cat about how Petunia had finished her time here with her humans and had to go for a new lease of health and life at Rainbow Bridge. He went on to tell Kevin how Petunia could now climb the highest of trees and eat all the fish and meat that she wanted. Because she had been through so much in her short life and being at such a marvellous place like Rainbow Bridge is what she deserved. And knowing all of that, made it a bit easier for Kevin to accept.

Kevin didn’t remember at what point Gordon left him and he didn’t remember falling asleep, nor how long he had been asleep for. But when he did wake up, he was in his grey basket. It was dark in his room and there was no evidence of Gordon ever having been there.

Opening his eyes and blinking a few times, he wondered if he had dreamt the whole thing. 

Deciding that he was hungry and it was time for his tea, he got out of his basket and took a long stretch and as he did, he felt something wet underneath his paws. “Ugh, did I vomit and not realise it?” Kevin looked down to see what he had trodden in and saw that it was the blue mouse that Gordon had removed from the toy box and had been suckling on earlier.

“It was real, I didn’t imagine it after all!” Kevin thought to himself, then left his room to find Brutus.

Rainbow Bridge

A beautiful white Persian was holding court to a group of cats. Curled up under a tree in various positions, the cats all chatted and helped themselves to the picnic of fish and steak on the sharing plate on the grass. A small kitten bicycled furiously with his hind legs on a toy rabbit while another chased his tail in between eating small pieces of steak.

“Tell us again Petunia about how your humans loved you so much?” An elderly Maine Coon asked her as the other cats clapped their paws together in excitement.

And so Petunia began to tell them the stories of her humans, her life, her friends and about her boyfriend – a ginger cat called Kevin.

The End

Petunia – her time here was short but she left a big impression and many happy memories for her human Photograph by Julia Sowula

Dedicated to Petunia – a small cat with a huge character 

Published with the kind permission of Petunia’s human – Julia Sowula

Samantha Rose – Copyright (C) December 2020

A Dog Called Dash

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.

Dash – Photograh by Samantha Rose

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.”

Dash and Brutus – Photograph by Samantha Rose

“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.

Bowie the Gatekeeper of Rainbow Bridge – Photograph by Fran Forbes

“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.

Madam Gigi – Photograph by Samantha Rose

“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. 

Fat Harry – Photograph by Samantha Rose

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?”

Rocky – Photograph by Samantha Rose

“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’s House

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 – Photograph by Samantha Rose

“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.

The End

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.

Samantha Rose (C) Copyright October 2020

Brutus and the Antique Dog Shop

Rocky – Photograph by Samantha Rose

It’s been almost two years since my darling kelpie Rocky crossed over to Rainbow Bridge – 2 years on 9th September to be precise. I remember that day as though it were yesterday and never did I imagine that losing a pet would hurt that much, it were as though he took a piece of me with him.

Brutus took months and months to find himself after Rocky left before he realised that he could bark at the garbage truck with the best of them. He even learned how to swim in the ocean which is something that we never thought that he would do. Rocky was the swimmer, Brutus was the barker that would give accusing looks if he was made to go in the water. Now Brutus can swim like a fish, although his motive is to catch water birds but that is another story entirely.

So this story is dedicated to the memory of my Rocky dog because this is just what I can imagine him doing.

Sunday afternoon at Brutus’s house


It was a cold, wet and windy Sunday afternoon where most animals would be snuggled up inside their warm kennels or their homes. Kevin was curled up on his cat tree planning on what he would have for his tea. He spent a large part of his day thinking about food and this was a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time for him.

Brutus was standing by the dining room window. He was bored and rather fancied catching up with Vader and Pippin but he knew that they would be up to other things.
Turning round to Kevin, Brutus shouted “Catch you later, I am just going for a walk!” and before Kevin had chance to reply, Brutus had slammed the door and was trotting down the garden path. Kevin barely looked up, in fact I don’t even think that he heard him. “Yes, I am definitely looking forward to my roo meat tonight!” He mumbled to himself and noticing that he was already salivating, he quickly tried to clean the drool off his face with his paws.

 

Kevin – his life revolves around food. Photograph by Samantha Rose

Brutus didn’t need to go far to amuse himself. He stopped at the side of the road and checked for cars – just like his human had taught him. Straining his eyes to look at the park, he saw that there were no dogs or people there and it was completely empty.

Making his way to the small row of shops at the edge of the park, Brutus thought that perhaps if he checked the cafe out, he might be able to score a snack of some kind. And you can’t blame him for that as any self respecting dog would do the same.

Sighing, he saw that all the shops were closed – except for one and it was a shop that he had never noticed before. All the same, it was open and Brutus thought he would go and take a sticky beak to pass the time. ‘Antique Dog Toys’ Brutus read the sign on the outside of the shop out loud, “How strange, I wonder when this opened?” Then giving himself a good shake, he decided to go in and see what toys they had on offer.

As he walked in, a loud bell sounded to alert the owner. The shop smelled positively delicious to Brutus, it was a mix of cooked beef, bones, Schmackos dog treats and a touch of excitement. “Wow, where am I?” Brutus gasped and as curiosity got the better of him, he started checking out the shop in more detail.

Heaps of tennis balls, old stuffed toys, rope tugs, frisbees to name but a few, adorned the shelves. There was a shelf with an old cash register on top and a bowl of dog treats was placed next to it. On a lower shelf were old smelly bones that may well make a human look away in disgust, but to any dog – it was like the best thing for them to smell. And the older the bone, the better especially if it has been buried for months and then dug up. Just ask your own dog if you don’t believe me.

Brutus gasped when he noticed in the corner of the shop, was a bright red mini lamp post with a small picket white fence surrounding it in the corner of the shop – it was there for dogs to cock their leg if they chose to. Not Brutus though, he still squats like a female dog.

“How on earth did I not notice this shop before? All these old toys, do they belong to other dogs?” Brutus thought to himself. It was true, the toys didn’t look new at all, far from it. They looked chewed, played with, tatty and some might say, ‘well loved’.

Brutus was so engrossed in looking around this little shop, that he didn’t notice the owner sitting in a leather chair behind the counter. A little black kelpie dog sat on an antique leather chair from behind the counter. Wearing a tweed suit with gold half rimmed spectacles perched right on the edge of his snout, the look was complete with a large gold watch on a chain that was carefully placed in the inside pocket.

The kelpie studied Brutus noting his excitement to be in such a shop. His tail wagging furiously like the propellor of a helicopter, he managed to knock a few tennis balls off the shelf.
Feeling his jowls burn with embarrassment, Brutus frantically tried to grab some of the tennis balls in his mouth. Managing to pick up only two of them, he looked up to see the little kelpie peeking over the top of his gold rimmed spectacles and staring at him.

“Oh my days, no way, it can’t be! Is that you?” Brutus dropped the tennis balls out of his mouth letting them bounce on the floor of the shop.

“Hello Brutus!” The kelpie wagged his tail and jumped off his chair towards Brutus who had his tail tucked in between his legs because he was so overwhelmed.

“Rocky!” Brutus yelped and playfully nudged Rocky in recognition, “It is you! I knew you would come back for me!” As the two dogs greeted each other, their tails wagged so hard that they not only cleared all the tennis balls off the shelves, but managed to knock off a few stuffed toys as well.

“Come on my friend, we have some catching up to do!” Rocky said firmly.

“What if someone comes in and disturbs us?” Brutus frowned.

“They won’t, well they can’t actually.” Rocky replied.

Brutus pondered about asking further questions but didn’t. He had never needed to question Rocky because Rocky knew everything – he had been to Kelpie university you know.
As the storm picked up outside and the rain lashed against the windows of the shop, the two dogs chatted without barely stopping for breath. They didn’t even notice the weather outside because they were so engrossed in each other.

A short while later


“So what’s with all of these old toys? I don’t get it?” Brutus questioned Rocky.

“Well, when a pet crosses over to Rainbow Bridge, their spirit remains in their toys, furniture or anything that they may have loved, chewed or loved sleeping on. Take Kevin for instance.”

“I’d rather not, he is a right bastard!” Brutus muttered.

Rocky laughed and carried on talking. “Kevin is sleeping in that old grey plastic bed that Mum bought for their very first cat Bruno way back in 1995 I think it was.
“That catnip blue mouse with the leg chewed off, well the leg that I chewed off. That belonged to Mums other cat in England called Juniper and then it was handed down to Gordon.”

Brutus cocked his head to the side, “Yes, you are right. Mum has the box of toys that belonged to Gordon and she gave them to Kevin and some of those toys were way back from when they lived in England.”

“It’s not just toys Brutus, it can be anything that the animal loved. Take the food bowls that Mum brought over from England – they belonged to Bruno and Juniper. Gordon used them and now Kevin has them.” Rocky added.

“But what’s the connection with these toys in the shop?” Brutus repeated his question to

Rocky, “What IS this shop?” He pulled off his spectacles from his snout and fiddled with them for a few seconds. Then removing his silken red handkerchief from his pocket, he huffed on his glasses and set about cleaning them.

Once he had done that, he looked at Brutus and said matter-of-factly, “It’s a magic shop of memories because every toy in this store is just that – a memory. They have all belonged to a dog or cat that was loved and has now crossed to Rainbow Bridge.”

“Even the tennis balls?” Brutus questioned and looked at the tatty tennis balls scattered on the floor.

“Especially the tennis balls!” Rocky smiled and placed his spectacles back on the end of his snout.

About ten minutes later Brutus reluctantly stood up. “I guess I had better go home now, Mum will be worried about me.”

“Take care my friend and remember that those you love, never really leave you – we are always around somewhere and our memories appear when you least expect them to.” Rocky gave Brutus a friendly nudge. “Now if you will excuse me, I have work to do!” Rocky said with a firm nod before jumping back on his leather chair and fiddling with the cash register.

“Goodbye Rocky and thank you!” Brutus smiled at him and walked out of the door. As the door shut behind him, Brutus realised that he had meant to ask Rocky if he would see him again. Turning round to go back in, Brutus was confused to see that the shop that he had just left, was actually nothing but a vacant building with ‘For Rent’ on the front and not the antique store that it was a few minutes ago.

Sounds of thunder rumbled in the distance and it had started to rain heavily again. Brutus shivered and looked at the shop before running home as fast as he could because he hated storms.

Back home

It was a cold and wet Brutus that arrived back home. His Mum hadn’t even noticed that he had gone and Kevin was fast asleep in his basket.

 

Brutus, always hated the cold weather – Photograph by Samantha Rose

After rubbing his soaking wet body on his blankets to dry himself, Brutus inspected the toy box outside under the pergola. There were dog tugs, tennis balls, Brutus’s old tatty flappy cat which no longer had any stuffing inside, there were cracked rubber dog tugs, old honking pigs without the squeak inside them and a few old scruffy Kong toys that were there before Brutus’s time and had belonged to Rocky as a pup.

Brutus startled as he heard a noise from behind him. Three tennis balls bounced randomly on the concrete – it were as though they had been thrown from the box.

The balls were tatty and fluffed up from where Rocky used to carry them around for hours on end. They had certainly seen better days that’s for sure. But you know what, they were still OK and had some life left in them.

As Brutus carefully picked up the tennis balls one by one, he placed them back in his toy box and went back inside.

The End

Every toy in your pets toy box tells a story and keeps the memory of the last pet that played with it, alive. Especially tennis balls, let’s not forget the tennis balls.

 

Samantha Rose (C) Copyright August 2020

Kevin’s Christmas

This is a story about Kevin’s Christmas – it contains mild adult content and lots of talking animals. You may not believe that your pet can talk in which case, it might be best to leave now because in my little world – animals have active social lives, can talk and even go to work and drive cars. If you are a believer, then pour yourself a glass of wine (or make a cuppa) grab a chair, put your feet up and enter a world where cats talk, swear, smoke catnip cigars and rule the world.

Introducing the following kitties for this Christmas story

Kevin (domestic longhair)

And a Merry Bloody Christmas to You from Kevin
Photograph by Samantha Rose

Kevin is our semi feral, grumpy cat who has a nasty habit of biting/attacking people depending on how he is feeling. 

Don’t get me wrong because despite his behaviour, we do love him very much and there are days where we as his humans just want to bury our faces in that floofy belly and kiss him but that would just be silly because we would probably die, well maybe not die but get our faces shredded. It would be like kitty graffiti – with antibiotics, where he puts his mark on us like some people tag fences and public buildings. Only it would be our face and all the cats in the neighbourhood would know that it was the work of Kevin the bastard.

If Kevin were human, he would be the Christmas ‘Grump’ and be one of those people that would frequently say ‘I bloody well hate Christmas’ and make a huge point of telling everyone that there is no such thing as Santa and no, he absolutely does NOT want a Christmas present from you but then gets annoyed when he doesn’t get one.

Kevin has a pretty impressive set of pantaloons and in case you don’t know, pantaloons are the fluffy area on a cat’s bum which give the impression of wearing pants.

Kevin displays his pantaloons to give you an idea of what they are – in case you didn’t know
Photograph by Samantha Rose

Kevin attends a young offenders program to try and rehabilitate him from biting people. This involves learning new skills and anger management but doesn’t always work and he ends up using our legs as scratch posts.

Brutus (Kelpie/ridgeback mix and the ‘goodest’ boy ever) 

Brutus the Good Boy
Photograph by Samantha Rose

Brutus is Kevin’s brother from another mother. He is a large, clumsy dog with a heart of gold and he hates confrontation much preferring to run away from a fight than towards it. Brutus is not the smartest dog on the block but he has lots of friends that love him for who he is and that is a beautiful smoochy dog that still believes in all things good and fluffy teddy bears. 

In his spare time Brutus likes to chase butterflies and sing in the local dog choir. He once starred in a doggy boy band called the ‘Breeder Boyz’ but that is another story and if you want to read about that, you will have to buy my book titled ‘Planet Iggy’. But I warn you, that contains stories about talking dogs and is even more childish than this one.

Omar (Maine Coon)

Omar is pretty darned sexy for a cat even if I say so myself
Photograph by Stephy Jayne

Omar is the largest cat out of all of his friends and is so big that he even makes Kevin look small. He is a kind boy that likes to pick flowers for his Mum and he assists the elderly neighbours by digging up their weeds for them in return for the odd chicken neck. If he were human, he would run errands for the elderly and visit nursing homes to sing songs for them on a Sunday.

Omar loves to celebrate things, especially Christmas. Well actually, Omar celebrates everything in his life and enthusiastically gives his thanks when his humans serve his food, empty his litter tray and tell him how gorgeous he is.

Omar takes immense pride in his appearance and makes his humans spend hours grooming out his pantaloons. Some say that there are small song birds hiding out in Omar’s pantaloons, but that could just be gossip.

He is a university educated cat and has studied the art of being a good boy and how to climb the Christmas tree without wrecking it.

Oliver (Cream Burmese)

Oliver – CEO of Raw Meow
Photograph by Emax Pet

Oliver is a darling little cat and is employed as the CEO of his Mum’s raw pet food company – Raw Meow.

He is a well-spoken boy and works from his own office at home. He has a computer and one of those year planners on the wall because he is such a busy working cat with a habit of double booking his time.

Oliver takes the orders for his Mum and keeps everything running smoothly. He answers questions about raw cat food and goes to visit kitty schools to talk about the benefits of ‘Kitty crack’ which is freeze dried chicken that cats have been known to commit crimes in order to obtain. 

Oliver is well respected within the kitty community but doesn’t take shit from anyone and if he slams his paw down on the desk and tells you to listen – then listen you must or face a jolly good telling off and a stern look guaranteed to shrivel you up.

Teddy (British Shorthair)

Teddy – don’t be fooled by his innocent face
Photograph by Ieva Kristine

Teddy is a naughty cat and like Kevin, can be feisty. He is the one that will sit quietly for a bit and then launch himself onto whoever is annoying him at the time and then when his Mum catches him, he will deny all knowledge of wrong-doing.

Teddy enjoys sushi and by that I mean stealing fish from the neighbour’s fish ponds and using two twigs as chopsticks to eat it and pretending to speak Japanese which he does just to show off to the neighbours. 

In his spare time Teddy likes to teach feral kittens how to use a litter tray and on a Saturday evening, Teddy goes to the gym to lift catnip mice to build up his muscles.

Petunia (Persian)

Petunia – a feminine little girl
Photograph by Julia Soul

Petunia happens to be Kevin’s secret crush. Kevin has a photograph of her in his bedroom but don’t tell anyone I said that as he will kill me.

She is a feminine little cat that enjoys her pop music and likes all things girly. She tried to insist that her microchip be pink but the vet said that was not possible. Petunia got so upset that the vet pretended it was pink just to placate her.

Petunia is studying how to meow in three languages and bird watching.

Kevin of course is becoming quite obsessed with her despite Omar telling him that Petunia is too young for him. Petunia doesn’t help matters because she knows how beautiful she is and thinks that Kev is rather handsome. She has walked past the dining room window a few times pretending to go to the mailbox and seductively digs up the soil with her hind legs when she sees him.

Pippin (Domestic Shorthair)

Pippin the tuxedo cat
Photograph by Jazzy Flick Hill

Pippin lives down the road from Kevin and was initially his nemesis because Kevin resented Pippin coming up to his window and leaving ‘bum marks’ on the glass but after Pippin rocked up one day with a dried sardine in his mouth as a peace offering, they became firm friends.

Pippin is a free spirit, preferring to chase parrots, pretend he is homeless and targets old ladies in order to get more food. He claims that he belongs to everyone and nobody and has been known to do busking while singing the song of his people in the form of yowling and screeching outside his house at midnight in return for kitty crack.

Pippin attends TAFE and is studying furniture shredding and hopes to have his own art gallery one day.

Ned (Domestic Shorthair)

Ned the chunky boy
Photograph by Michelle Anne Bullas Au

Ned is a kind hearted chonk and is pretty much friends with everyone. He can’t even walk down the street without other cats stopping him for a chat or call in for a bowl of milk and a catnip cigar.

Food is important to Ned and he has a habit of hoarding it in case Australia ever went to war because he simply cannot cope with the thought of going hungry. He is so convinced this will happen, that he has built an air-raid shelter out of the pillows on the sofa and stashed some catnip mice and kitty crack in there.

He has learned some impressive survival skills and can start a fire using just his nails and two sticks. Ned aspires to be the next jungle cat and in his spare time he likes to hang out where there are trees and bushes. This is so he can jump out and surprise people and shout ‘Caught ya’ which has become his catch phrase. One time his vet popped a thermometer up his bum and Ned squealed ‘Caught ya!’ in a high pitched voice which was better than swearing I suppose.

Diesel (Domestic Shorthair)

Diesel – the tuxedo cat with pantaloons
Photograph by Renee Lee

Diesel is a handsome boy with a busy life. He is always late for things and when he does show up, he puffs dramatically and arrives in a waft of floof, smelling of sexy cat pheromones and his pantaloons all messed up. Omar tells him off for it saying that any cat with pantaloons, should always have them nice and tidy. Diesel likes the wild look and spends ages fluffing up his fur to make it look as though he has a mane.

In his spare time, Diesel attends the local stage school where he hopes to get into acting, in particular for cat adverts. He already has some of the female cats throwing their collars at him and asking him for his ‘pawtograph’. 

Diesel likes to dress up in costume and speak in a fake French accent to give off an air of mystery.

Christmas Eve

It was Christmas Eve and Kevin was sulking because his friends Oliver, Ned, Teddy, Omar, Diesel and Pippin had been talking incessantly about their plans and what they were going to get up to. Their humans were going to buy them gifts, Christmas stockings, treats and probably spoil them with prawns and cold meats. They were bloody going on about it and getting on Kevin’s nerves and Kev was tempted to tell them all to be quiet. Which is why Kevin was at home and not with them joining in the festive banter.

Christmas movies were playing on the TV, with all the usual favourites that people save for Christmas. There were no decorations though as Kevin would destroy them, you should see the fake plant he ruined, oh and the yoga matt as well and whatever he can pull off the walls. That is why we don’t have Christmas decorations. 

Kevin was sat in his usual position by the dining room window. He had been waiting for ages for Pippin to call round but he hadn’t turned up, probably sucking up to his humans to get a better gift. Kevin scowled “I bloody hate Christmas! Brutus do you hate Christmas?”

Brutus looked sadly at his brother and knew that nothing could make Kevin change his mind on this one. “No Kevin, I love Christmas and I plan to have a good one catching up with my friends.” He did as well, Brutus knew that he would get more soft toys, a new collar and probably some nice treats so why wouldn’t he like it?

“Well I am off out, you can keep your Christmas cheer and stick it up yer bum!” Kevin shouted at Brutus and then in a flash, he was out of the window to see whose day he could ruin.

Ignoring him, Brutus carried on watching TV, occasionally farting and wagging his tail because he was so happy.

Once outside Kevin went straight to Pippin’s house and sat outside his window to see if he was home. Lifting his paw up to knock on the window, Kevin stopped when he saw Pippin and his human together in the living room. They were watching a Christmas movie together, Pippin was stretched out like a starfish next to his human and she was stroking his belly. 

“Bloody idiot letting her do that to him. I would hate to be touched like that! That hand would be in pieces if that was me!” Kevin said out loud. He couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about just on that one day of the year. Why the bloody hell did humans have to get so ridiculously drunk and affectionate – declaring their love for everyone after a few glasses of wine? 

Unless of course it was Petunia the cheeky little Persian girl. Kevin had a huge crush on Petunia and he would love to head boop her, except that he didn’t have the courage to tell her how he felt. 

Kevin pushed his face up against the window, he knew that he shouldn’t because it would irritate him all the more but if he was honest with himself, it was also because he felt a bit left out of this ‘Christmas cheer’ when all of his friends were enjoying themselves. He didn’t see the point in it and found himself feeling isolated and lonely. Even if it was purely his own doing because of the wall of aggression that he had built up around himself.

There was no point in hanging around, he knew when he wasn’t wanted. Feeling irritated with life in general, Kevin decided to go back home so that he could hump his toys and work off his anger. When he got back to his house, he was so wrapped up in his bad mood that he didn’t see his friends Oliver, Ned, Omar, Pippin and Teddy standing outside his window talking to Brutus.

“You can try but I don’t hold out any hope.” Brutus could be heard saying.

Oliver licked his lips and straightened himself up. “He won’t be able to refuse!”

Shrugging, Brutus nudged the window open so the cats could all jump through it. They hadn’t noticed Kevin hiding behind the palm tree in his garden.

Should he run off now and leave them in his house with Brutus? He could you know, he could hide somewhere until they had gone and leave them to worry about him. It would serve them right for trying to spread Christmas cheer like butter. 

Eventually curiosity got the better of him, and after washing his bum for a few minutes, Kevin decided to take himself and his bad mood back home because a tiny bit of him was quite glad that his friends had called round for him.

The window was still open and Kevin fully intended to sneak in unseen. This is somewhat hard when you are as large as Kevin because however you land, it is going to be with a thump.

“There he is – It’s Kevin!” Oliver chirruped to let Ned, Teddy, Pippin and Omar know that he had come home. 

“I shall leave you to it, I am going to my kennel and will leave you to try and cheer this Christmas misery paws up!” Brutus wagged his tail and picked up his favourite squeaky hippo toy and went outside to the garden. 

The Christmas Grinch

“We have brought you some stuff!” Oliver grinned and without waiting for an answer, he shoved a bag of treats in Kevin’s direction. 

It is very hard to be grumpy in the company of a cat like Oliver. He has impeccable manners and is nicely spoken and has the most adorable little face, he also has the skill of being able to get cats to confide in him and cheer them up. Some say he should work for the kitty counselling group because he is that nice. 

“Cheer up Kev, we have a night of fun planned for you!” Omar nudged him. He hated the thought of Kevin not enjoying Christmas and would never give up on his ginger friend.

“Is that a little smile I can see before me?” Oliver tilted his head to get a better look at Kevin’s mouth where sure enough, the beginnings of a smile were starting to appear. Kevin stood up on his hind legs and looked behind his friends to see if they were hiding anything, “I don’t suppose Petunia is with you?” He asked hopefully.

Oliver patted Kevin on his back, “Sorry old chap but I don’t think her owners would let her out to an all boys party.”

“Oh well, I don’t need her anyway – this is totally a boys’ party.” Kevin said unconvincingly.

“You my friend may as well join in because we are not going to shut up until you get happy with us!” Ned leaned towards him and gave him a rough head-boop and nearly knocked him over.

“If you don’t laugh I shall piss in your litter tray!” Pippin promised, knowing that it is a huge insult to piss in another cat’s litter tray, almost comparable to sneaking through another cat’s cat-flap to steal its food.

“You wouldn’t?” Omar gasped.

Pippin winked at him, “Might do, depends if he cheers up or not!”

But before they could say anything else, the cats were disturbed by a tuneless voice outside the window trying to sing Christmas songs.

“Silent night, it’s a full moon,

I am a cat with nice pantaloons

I am a good boy and I’d like some fish

Come to my house and please fill up my dish

My name is Diesel the good boy, My name is Diesel the cat”

“Who the hell is that?” Ned winced at the noise and put his paws in his ears to muffle the sound.

Omar shook his head, “That is Diesel – and he sounds drunk!”

“Party time! Now this is gonna be fun!” Teddy did a little dance with his front paws, hopping from paw to paw.

Kevin looked through the window to see Diesel standing there wearing a Christmas elf outfit. “What the bloody hell do ya think you’re doing?” Kev spluttered.

“Hello there Mr Bastard!” Diesel bowed to Kevin, “I have come to spread my Christmas cheer!” Then taking a leap through the open window, Diesel pounced on top of Kevin to wrestle him to the ground nearly splitting his elf costume in the process.

“Who would like a beer?” Ned loudly tapped on a glass to get everyone’s attention.

Diesel looked up and spat out a mouthful of Kevin’s fur, “Sounds good to me!” 

Kevin momentarily stopped sparring with Diesel, “Yes please,” and then went back to some energetic bicycling with his hind legs – bicycling is where your cat kicks the crap out of something with its hind legs and is quite cute to look at unless it’s your arm, in which case it hurts.

“Diesel?” Kevin asked him after they had stopped play fighting.

“Yes my good man?” Diesel replied in his best English accent.

Kevin shook his head at Diesel’s outfit with his elf costume straining at the seams and his pantaloons puffing out through the gaps. “What the hell are you wearing?”

“Christmas spirit my friend, Christmas spirit!” Diesel grinned at him, “And don’t I look sexy!”

Only Omar managed to contain himself but as for the others, it was quite a few minutes before they managed to stop laughing.

It’s Party Time!

As the party kicked off, Kevin had suspended his grump and had started to cheer up. But not too much, because he had a reputation to keep up and being too happy would get people talking.

It doesn’t take much to get a cat drunk, not really, just a few cans of cat beer and they are pretty much done. But if you put a whole group of kitty friends together then they always drink far more than they should and that is when they start doing stupid things – a bit like humans.

Several cat beers later and it was all kicking off. Cans littered the floor, the smell of catnip filled the air as the boys took it in turns to smoke it or roll in it and after an hour or so, the cats were ready to take the party to the next level and do some party games.

“Let’s play truth or dare!” Oliver hiccupped, he was drunk. Not that he ever intended to get anything other than tipsy, but Pippin had mixed his drinks together and dared him to drink it. Oliver didn’t want to look silly and finished the entire can in one gulp and was so pissed that he was asking the other cats to pull his paw so that he could fart. Not that he needed permission to fart but there is something hilarious about getting it anyway. 

“Oliver, stop it! Remember what happened last time you did this, you soiled yourself.” Omar reminded him sternly. 

 “OK then, I dare Omar to climb the Christmas tree!” Oliver nodded several times to each cat in the room so that they could see what a splendid idea it was. Such a fine idea, nobody else could think of it, he was sure of that, what a bloody genius!

“Yeah, OK.” Omar agreed, “Except that there is one little problem.”

“What’s that then, are you scared?” Oliver said and let out a huge smelly belch. Placing a paw over his mouth, he giggled “Oops, excuse me!”.

Kevin had forgotten his bad temper and stifling his laughter. Covering his pink nose with his paws, he couldn’t contain himself because Oliver’s manners were usually so perfect that he would even spray air freshener after using his litter tray. 

“So what’s the problem then?” Oliver repeated.

Omar’s face was deadpan, he had this skill of keeping a perfectly straight face when he wanted to. Some say he has a poker face and I believe it too.

“There is no Christmas tree Oliver, they can’t have decorations here because Kevin eats them!”

Confused and drunk, Oliver bumped into furniture, swearing blind that he could see a Christmas tree and where the hell was it, and who had moved it because it was there a minute ago.

Whatever mood Kevin had been in earlier, had vanished as he, Omar, Ned, Teddy, Diesel and Pippin laughed at Oliver as he continued to search for the invisible Christmas tree while randomly saying sorry to his Mum for farting letting her down with his bad manners.

Pippin lay on his back drinking his beer from a straw, leaning to his side so he could see Kevin, he shouted “It’s Kevin’s turn for a dare!” 

Teddy snatched the packet of catnip cigarettes from the floor and lit one up. He inhaled deeply and blew smoke out in funny shapes through his nostrils, “Kevin, I dare you to go and take a crap in middle of next doors pathway.”

Ned took a swig of his beer and wiped the froth off his whiskers, “I second that!”

“I bet you won’t do it, he won’t do it you know, he is too scared!” Pippin goaded Kevin.

Taking a deep breath, Kevin handed his bottle to Pippin, “Hold my beer!” 

Omar raised his eyebrows, “Bloody hell, do you think he will?”

“Don’t know but let’s go and watch through the window to see if he will do it.” Pippin placed Kev’s beer on the table and the group ran to the dining room where Kevin had already got out through the window and was sneaking off to the neighbour’s opposite.

“How on earth can he cat shit on command like that?” Teddy shook his head in disbelief. 

The boys watched Kevin creep off to the neighbour’s garden, his fluffy pantaloons resembling a pair of clown’s pants as he waddled down the path. Oliver always said to him that if he had balls under those pantaloons, he would be lethal with the ladies.

 “Oh my days, look at him!” Pippin stifled a laugh and covered his mouth with his paw. 

Kevin was not used to going to the toilet quite so publicly and he hadn’t been since the night before and was more than ready to go. He was so engrossed in the dare, that he didn’t notice the security light had come on, lighting up the path where Kevin could be seen taking a crap on the driveway.

But the others noticed it and they couldn’t shout to Kevin because it would just draw more attention to him. 

A shadow of a lady appeared from behind the blinds and took a peak outside. She couldn’t see Kevin but the security light was still on and it was only a matter of time before she would come out to investigate it. Kevin was still doing his business and could not be hurried. We all know what that’s like, you can’t hurry the act of toileting because the more you try, the more you have to do and end up being stuck on the toilet for ages – forced to check Facebook on your mobile or do some online shopping. 

Teddy had jumped onto the dining room table and was noisily knocking bits of paper out of the way. “What are you doing? This is no time to play games!” Ned panicked.

“I am looking for a torch. Ah, there is one!” Teddy picked up the torch and got off the table and ran back to the window. 

The hallway light come on and they could see the woman behind the door, any second now she was going to open it and catch Kevin shitting in her garden. 

“If we don’t do something soon, he is going to get caught and in to trouble!” Omar fretted, “Someone do something!”

“I could go and help him?” Diesel piped up, but his idea was quickly rubbished because there was no way that he could sneak out unnoticed in his elf costume. Still, the thought was there.

Teddy turned the torch on and shone it directly in Kevin’s direction and kept turning it on and off. “I heard that they did this in the war, it’s some kind of code or something.” 

Pippin was impressed, Teddy was like an army cat that knew things that other cats didn’t, he had ‘street smarts’ and had done some outback survival training.  No-one else would have thought about using a torch except for Teddy. 

It was by some stroke of luck that Kevin looked up and saw the torch flashing from his window. He could make out the silhouettes of Omar, Teddy, Pippin, Ned and Diesel in his elf costume – all of them were waving desperately at him. It didn’t take long for him to realise that something was wrong.

Kevin heard the key turning in the front door and knew someone was coming out. With no time to run back home, he quickly ran behind the grass tree and buried himself in the branches. He felt their sharp edges poke into him and tangle up in his long fur. The security light had gone out at that point but the lady had already opened the door to see what could have triggered the light.

Not daring to move, Kevin stayed hidden by the grass tree until he heard the front door slam shut. Then the sight of the torch flashing again told him that the coast was clear and he could come back to his house.

Never had he run so fast, he ran until he got to the dining room window and in one jump, he was back inside the dining room where the boys were waiting for him. 

“That my friend was brilliant!” Pippin coughed because he was laughing so much.

“Do you think she will see it when she wakes up tomorrow?” Kevin panted.

Diesel puffed air out of his cheeks, “My friend, there ain’t no missing that one. It looks like a bloody oak tree, I am surprised you didn’t name it!” 

“Oliver, did you see what Kevin has done?” Ned shouted to him.

Oliver walked unsteadily to where the Kevin was and all he managed to say was “I am sure there is a Christmas tree here somewhere” Before he vomited up an entire chicken neck and passed out on the floor.

“Great, who is going to clean that up?” Kevin looked at them for answers.

“Hi boys, can I come in now, it’s a bit cold out here?” Brutus asked from the garden.

“And there’s your answer.” Teddy nodded in Brutus’s direction.

Time To Go Home

All good parties come to an end and this one was no different. Omar had booked a taxi for them all to get home safely so they could wake up in their own homes on Christmas Day rather than on Kevin’s floor wondering where they all went wrong.

Kevin stood at the window and waved as the taxi pulled out with Oliver’s head hanging out of the window, gulping in the fresh air and muttering stuff about missing Christmas trees and how he will never ever drink again. 

“Are you feeling any better?” Brutus asked him and handed him a cup of water. 

Kevin replied that yes, he was feeling much better, in fact his grumpy mood had completely vanished because he had enjoyed himself so much. He never used to have any friends until Pippin, Ned, Omar, Diesel Teddy and Oliver came along.

And those friends had made a big difference to his life and although he wasn’t happy all of the time, they made him happy most of the time which is better than nothing because a moment of happiness is better than an hour of misery.

Kevin yawned, displaying his healthy pink tongue and white teeth that have caused quite a few scars in their short life and put fear into a couple of vets as well.

“I am going to bed now, I could sleep for a week after this.” Kevin got up to go to his room.

“What do you want for Christmas Kevin?’ Brutus asked him.

Kevin tilted his head, “Money can’t buy what I want so nothing I guess. Merry Christmas Brutus.”

Brutus looked thoughtful and watched Kevin disappear into his bedroom room. He waited a few minutes by his door to make sure that he was asleep, then he trotted back to the living room, nudged open the sliding door and disappeared into the darkness.

Christmas Day

Kevin wasn’t sure what woke him up the next day, it might have been Brutus insisting that he get up immediately because it was Christmas Day. It might have been his mobile phone beeping alerting him to the 23 text messages sent by Oliver during the night asking where the Christmas tree was, or it could have been the lady opposite standing in her garden, shouting and demanding to know why there was a huge turd in her driveway.

Kevin didn’t know which one it was but he suspected it was probably all of them.

Stretching himself, Kevin repeated under his breath “Today I am going to be happy and I shall not bite my humans because today is Christmas Day.” 

When Kevin opened his bedroom door, he was greeted with the sight of Brutus clutching his new rubber squeaky pig. “Merry Christmas Kevin, you have to come into the living room to get your gifts. Oh yes; and you have some visitors.” Brutus barked excitedly.

Mustering up as much energy and enthusiasm as he could, Kevin stretched and checked his reflection in the mirror – he looked like a homeless feral cat with his fur all stuck together with catnip and beer from the party the night before. His mouth tasted like the bottom of his litter tray, my goodness whatever possessed him to get into such a state.

Walking slowly into the living room, Kevin was about to tell Brutus off for being too cheerful when he spotted Omar sitting in the chair. “Merry Christmas Mr Bastard!” Omar grinned. He didn’t get up though, in fact he didn’t move an inch – almost as though he was hiding something behind his back.

“What are you doing here Omar? Merry Christmas to you as well!” Kevin yawned, taken aback by the sight of him. He should be with his family, what on earth was he doing here on Christmas Day? “Brutus, you said visitors but there is only Omar – you need to learn to count!”

“I have a little something for you, it might cheer you up a bit Mr Grumpy Loons!” Omar grinned at him.

“I may have enjoyed myself last night but let’s not take advantage of the situation!” Kevin growled, “And what are you hiding behind your back?”

“Merry Christmas Kevin!” A little voice sounded from behind Omar stepped aside and revealed a freshly bathed and groomed Petunia, who was sporting her brand new pink diamond studded collar on her neck.

“I don’t understand, I thought you were not allowed to hang around with us?” Kevin fumbled his words but tried to remain composed so that Petunia couldn’t see how embarrassed he was.

“Let’s just say that your brother Brutus can be very persuasive when he wants to be.” Omar replied and winked at Brutus.

Sensing his embarrassment, Omar sat with Brutus to give Kevin some time alone with Petunia.

Not knowing what to say, Kevin pointed to the dining room. “Would you like to come and look out of my dining room window with me, it’s my favourite window and I get to see all the birds and everything?”

Petunia smiled at him, “I would love to.” She shuffled up to sit closer to Kevin and looked at the parrots in the palm tree outside. “You’re right, it’s a beautiful window to look out from Kevin.” Petunia nodded appreciatively and snuggled her little head next to Kevin’s. 

And that was where they remained for some time while discussing Christmas, families, friends and all things nice.

The End

Samantha Rose (C) Copyright December 2019

Thanks go to the following:

Thank you to the following people that have kindly provided me with photographs of their cats to use in this story:

Renee Lee, Stephy Jayne, Laura Antonia, Michelle Anne Bullas Au, Jazzy Flick Hill, Julia Soul and Ieva Christine – you guys have been great.

Thank you to the members of of the Facebook group Australian Raw Fed Cats for all your support and advice about my Kevin. https://www.facebook.com/groups/AustralianRawFedCats/

And finally, thank you to Laura Antonia, owner of the Perth raw cat food company – Raw Meow. She loves Kevin even when he is grumpy and gifted him some lovely things for his birthday, including kitty crack and a toy. If you live in Australia and are interested in raw feeding your cat, check out Laura’s Facebook page for Raw Meow.

https://www.facebook.com/rawmeowperth/ and the website page is http://www.rawmeow.com.au

Disclaimer

All characters in this story are purely fictitious and any resemblance to real life cats is purely coincidental. Unless you want to admit to your cat smoking, drinking and living a life of debauchery, in which case everyone will think you are bonkers. I just write it as I go along and use the photos to help me get ideas.

The cats and their photos have been used with the kind permission of their owners. I have credited the photos according to the Facebook names which may or may not be the real names of the owners’.

The story is intended to be harmless and in good fun and no offence is intended.

Friends – You can’t always see them

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)

The End

Samantha Rose (C) Copyright June 2019

A Time For Kelpie Spectacles

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.

Rocky looking dapper
Photograph by Sam Rose

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.

Not the smartest dog but certainly the kindest
Photograph by Sam Rose

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.

Kevin – in and out of kitty prison for being naughty
Photograph by Sam Rose

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.

Brutus always feels a bit more grown up when he hangs out with Pippin
Photograph by Sam Rose

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.

Outside

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.

“Yes Brutus?” 

“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.

Pippin – a very busy dog!
Photograph by Sam Rose

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.

Rocky believed in Brutus
Photograph by Sam Rose

“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.

The End

Conclusion

 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

The Day Brutus Found His Bark

Brutus finds his bark

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.

The boys

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 alone

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 Oct

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.

Rocky Farm

Rocky – forever watching from wherever he is

 

Samantha Rose Copyright © October 2018

Where Did You Go My Friend….

Rocky Farm

My Best Friend – Rocky

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.

blog

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

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.

My last kiss

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.

Kev and Rocky

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.

R and B

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.

My House

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 toy

Brutus the day after Rocky died with his toy that our friend bought him.

Pippin Potter

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.

Pip and Brutus 1

I’ve got you buddy, I’ve got you

The kiss

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.

Rockyfarmdog

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.

Thanks to…

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

Flowers from our lovely vets – kept in the spare room out of Kevin’s reach of course

Paw print jpg. 2

Sent to us by our vets – a lasting memory

Samantha Rose © Copyright September 2018

All rights reserved.

Never too old for some magic

Kev1

Kevin – he has carved his own place into our home, hearts and legs/hands/feet

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

The Brutus Tree

Brutus asks Rocky to stand by The Brutus Tree

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Today Brutus and Rocky were in the garden by ‘The Brutus Tree’ – which is Brutus’s favourite tree, the one he likes to stand under and gaze at for hours on end, especially when it is a full moon.

It all happens under this tree, doggy meetings, trying to pull next doors cat out of it, chasing rats up the tree, catching rats, staring at the tree because invisible dogs might come out of it. You name it, it happens under The Brutus Tree. Rocky doesn’t quite get the magic of it all but does enjoy chatting over a dog beer with Brutus under the tree while putting the world to rights.

It was a beautiful sunny morning in the garden, there was that smell of freshly cut grass mixed with warm sun and fresh air that makes you think that Spring is on its way along with excitement, rabbits, smelly bones, fox shit and opportunities.

‘Do you know what day it is today Brutus?’ Rocky asked his brother.

Without even turning round, Brutus cocked his head to the side, ‘Why yes, it’s Mum’s day off of course’, he said happily and carried on staring at his tree.

Rocky rolled his eyes, ‘Have another think about it!’.

Brutus slowly turned to face Rocky, ‘Yes of course I know, I just don’t want to talk about it.’ then shrugging, Brutus walked to his water bowl where he could be heard slurping up his water in messy great big gulps while Rocky looked on trying to decide whether or not to play with his tennis ball or chase the invisible dogs that frequented our garden.

‘Rocky?’ Brutus asked the little kelpie.

‘Yes Brutus?’

‘Come and sit by the tree with me.’ Brutus said firmly.

‘Why?’ Rocky frowned, ‘You are obsessed with that tree!’

‘Special things happen under that tree, you mark my words.’ Brutus said knowingly.

Rocky got up and went to join his brother where they both sat upright and focused on the top of the tree.

‘Why are we doing this, what will happen?’ Rocky asked him.

‘You will have to trust me on this one….’ Brutus growled. And with that, Rocky had to do just that.

Inside the house

I was making myself a coffee while taking frequent glances at Kevin to see what he was up to. His solid fluffy ginger body was wrapped around Rockys blanket. His back legs bicycling furiously as they kicked, Kevin repeatedly muttered stuff such as ‘Bollocks’ and ‘Death to all humans’ as he fought and won a nasty battle with the red blanket on Rocky’s bed.

Basically everyone was going about their business, it was a typical Sunday morning with nothing unusual about it.

I walked into the spare room which is meant to be an office but kind of looks a bit messy as other stuff has migrated into it. You know what it’s like, put it out of sight and it’s out of mind and your spare room fast becomes a home for things that have no other home but still gets called ‘the office’.

I took in the sight of the room and its clutter and remembered how it used to be. The grey plastic bed on the floor, the litter tray, the food bowls, the toys but most importantly, Gordon.

This was Gordon’s room, or at least it used to be. He loved that room as well, where as Kevin just didn’t like to be in it which is why we moved him to the front room so he could see the parrots and the dogs. But Gordon really loved his room.

Room

Gordon’s room after he crossed over to Rainbow Bridge – oh so empty!

Photograph by Samantha Rose)

I felt a lump in my throat, it was exactly a year ago today that we sent our precious Gordon to Rainbow Bridge and I remember it clearly as though it were yesterday. Driving along to the vets while playing Lion King – Circle of Life in the car as we drove our 15 year old majestic ginger cat to complete his final journey from London to Perth.

You can read about that here.

I still miss him and while it sounds daft to some, the gap he left in our house was and still is enormous. Kevin has not replaced Gordon by any stretch, but he has carved out his own place – both in our house, in our hearts, on our leather sofa and on my legs/hands/arms (with his nails).

‘I miss you Gordon, I miss you so much it hurts,’ I said out loud to nobody in particular. Biting my lip to stop myself crying, I walked into the dining room to see what Kev was up to. Spotting him playing with the blinds and shredding the shit out of the dining room chair, I smiled and went back towards the kitchen.

‘Well he’s a handful isn’t he? In my day we had more respect’ A ginger voice piped up from out of nowhere. A familiar ginger well spoken English ginger voice and one that could simply not be mistaken.

‘I said in my day we had more respect!’ The voice repeated loudly.

I felt my heart racing, taking a deep breath I turned round – Kev was still playing, oblivious to everything, he had heard nothing. I could no longer hear him swearing (Kev has Tourettes and swears like a trooper as you can gather). Kev’s mouth was opening and closing, I could see him mouthing the word ‘Bollocks’ but no sound was coming out.

‘Your eyesight is failing you, we shall need to get you a Labrador to guide you,’ The ginger voice laughed.

I quickly looked into the dining room again and there sitting on the orange sofa that was once his, was Gordon looking young, fit and handsome with his ginger coat looking thick and plush.

Gordon June 18

Gordon – making a guest appearance in my imagination

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

‘Gordon, no way! I thought only animals could see each other once they have crossed over, I must be dreaming!’ I babbled and then promptly burst into tears.

‘Yes, well you always have been a bit special. What is it with you talking to the parrots in the morning, such a traitor – you can’t trust those galahs you know!’ Gordon grinned at me and then looked at Kevin who did not appear to see myself or Gordon.

‘You have been through the wars haven’t you,’ Gordon said as he weaved himself in and out of my ankles, ‘I have been watching you.’

I wiped my eyes and sniffed, ‘It’s been a tough year and Kev is hard work.’

Gordon laughed, ‘I could eat that for breakfast!’ he nodded at Kevin who continued to fight with himself on the floor.

‘I am so sorry, so very very sorry!’ I blurted out, and I was as well. Sorry for keeping him longer than was good for him, sorry for not doing what was right for him sooner and just, well sorry for anything I may not have done right.

‘You did what was right in the end and life is pretty good now you know,’ Gordon replied. ‘In fact, it’s rather marvellous, besides – I couldn’t have done it without that final cuddle.’

me and Gordon

That final cuddle to send him on his way

(Photograph by Samantha Rose)

Sitting beside him on the orange sofa, I pleaded inside my head that Kevin would notice us – but he didn’t or couldn’t.

‘He can’t see me you know, his time for seeing me is done and it is also his time to become the cat of the house. He has no need to see me.

‘This is your turn and you are exceedingly lucky to have it,’ Gordon explained and snuggled into me and added, ‘Not all humans get that chance.’

He had the same delicious ‘cat smell’ that I remembered, he felt so plush and soft, yet solid in build. His purr was loud and comforting it and his health was as it used to be when he was young.

We sat for what seemed ages chatting about Rainbow Bridge, about Rocky and Brutus, about Kevin and our lives as they are now.

‘Well I had better go now, I have a mouse meeting at Rainbow Bridge shortly and I don’t want that tabby down the road getting the upper hand,’ Gordon stood up, shook his tail and had a good stretch.

Oh no, it was going to hurt all over again and I simply could not stand it. ‘Do you have to go, can’t you stay long enough for the dogs to see you? Please, I will do anything!’ I pleaded with him.

Gordon yawned, his eyes focused on me while Kev still played and swore silently on his own and in his own world. As though an invisible yet unbreakable barrier separated us. I actually do not know who was in their own world, myself and Gordon or Kevin.

‘One last hug?’ I asked him.

‘Go on then!’ Gordon relented and allowed me to pick him up.

Gasping at his weight, he must have weighed over 7kgs, ‘I am in my prime don’t forget,’ Gordon laughed.

I closed my eyes and breathed in his scent, cradled his solid body, smoothed his fur and felt his purr as it rattled out of his throat.

(you will often find your cats/dogs will smell unique to you and have their own wonderful smell and if you don’t believe me, go and sniff them).

‘Goodbye my darling boy and thank you!’ I cried quietly into his fur.

‘No, thank YOU!’ Gordon whispered back.

My moment was rudely interrupted when a voice yelled, ‘What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing? Have you got some kind of death wish?’ Kevin’s voice ripped through my ears like a child with a sinus problems (Kev sounds like a kid with bad adenoids when he meows).

What the heck? – Ouch that hurt!’ I opened my eyes just in time to feel Kev latch on to my arm and kick the shit out of it. I had been cuddling Kevin all along.

‘I do not DO cuddles – ever!’ Kev said looking absolutely furious. Then jumping out of my arms, he walked off taking his floofy arse with him and went into his litter tray.

‘No, I guess you don’t….’ I half laughed, half cried and wiped my eyes. Kev was in his litter tray muttering something about ‘shitting for Australia’.

‘Don’t know what you are looking so happy about, I’ve got turd in my pantaloons and you will have to brush it out!’ Kev hissed at me and took a swipe at my leg.

I walked over to the window and saw Rocky and Brutus under the Brutus Tree, still staring at it without moving or even blinking.

Outside in the garden

‘Are we done yet? Can we stop staring at the tree?’ Rocky said impatiently.

Brutus turned round and saw me looking at him through the patio door. I smiled at him, he looked so cute with his huge ears and big brown bum.

Brutus wagged his tail, ‘Yeah, I think we are done now!’

‘I still don’t get what is so special about that tree?’ Rocky shook his head.

‘It’s magic that’s all, it just makes things happen,’ Brutus replied as he admired his tree.

Later on

We were all curled up on the sofa – well we had given Kevin had a wide berth as he likes to attack feet but other than that, we were snuggled up about as much as you can with a ginger ‘kitten shark’.

‘Mum, can you believe that it’s a year today that Gordon left us,’ Rocky nudged me with his snout.

I smoothed Rocky’s ears down and told him that yes, I knew that and it is also coming up for a year that we bought Kevin home.

‘And don’t you forget it either! I could eat you all if I wanted to!’ Kev growled and then bit my foot hard (no really he did bite me and I have the scar to prove it).

‘Yeah and don’t we know it! I heard that you tried to eat the vet and the nurse yesterday when they tried to cut your nails!’ Brutus said to Kev before looking at Rocky and saying ‘He did you know and rumours have it, he tied them both up and cooked them for tea with nachos!’

Kev said nothing and looked somewhat smug curled up on his blanket with his beloved squeaky squirrel between his paws. He had found his place in our little family and he knew it.

‘Brutus?’ Kevin asked him.

‘Yes Kev,’ Brutus said hesitantly while trying to tuck his legs under him to stop Kev savaging them.

‘Can I ask you about that tree in the garden…..?’ Kevin replied.

Brutus looked at Kev with a surprisingly wise look for such a young dog, ‘It’s a magic tree Kevin and one day when you are old enough, I shall tell you all about it.’

And with that Kevin had to be content.

Magic – we all need a bit of it in our lives, it just helps the world go round.

 

The End

 

Samantha Rose Copyright © August 2018