Alas, my partner chose not to profit from the benefit of such wisdom when, at around 3.00am yesterday morning, for reasons known only to herself, she decided instead to tickle one of my hind-paws.
At the time, I was extremely busy. I was travelling swiftly down a broad, steep grassy slope. Riding a huge pink marshmallow, like one of those 'space-hopper' toys that always look like a lot of fun. I was being hotly pursued by my two nemeses - an enormous evil jacket-potato and his nefarious sidekick, The Devil's Cheese.
I urged it on - but my marshmallow could go no faster. I knew that I had exhausted my noble steed. "Whoa, Stradivarius!" I commanded, pulling up fast and manoeuvring around to face the villains at our heels. Wasting no time, I pulled out and powered up my laser cannon, pointed it at the sinister spud and The Devil's Cheese and fired! Both were consumed instantly in the fiery blasts issuing from my mighty weapon. "DIE, FOUL TUBER, DIE!!" I shouted, watching my enemies roast in the inferno. I dismounted, put away my la -
"Pfffftht!" I spluttered, jumping into wakefulness. I opened my eyes and glared accusingly at my partner, who wore a mischievous smile. Apparently, she had woken to use the bathroom and on returning to our bedchamber noticed that I was entirely under the duvet, save for my dainty left hind-paw, just poking out by itself. This, she claimed, was "invitation enough". Hmmmnnn. I didn't like to be too scathing in my reply, as I wasn't entirely convinced that I hadn't actually shouted that last sentence ("Die, foul tuber, die!!") out loud for real. My partner did have the grace to apologise, but the damage was done. I closed my eyes again and tried my hardest to return to my dream, but to no avail. A great shame, as I had just been getting to the best bit, where I enjoy an immense victory banquet of crispy-skinned jacket-potato with a toasted cheese filling.
To other, less-important matters. No further progress yet on the rent arrears "problem" (grrrowl...). However, my partner has explained the situation to her letting agent and has been reassured that we won't be cast out into the cold, dark night. The agent asked my partner to put everything down in writing, which she has now done (I helped her to look in our files for copies of letters to support her case) and the agents might simply write-off the arrears. I very much doubt it, but there is a chance. We shall see.
I felt happier and comforted listening to my new friend Bobby's stories. He had a deep, gruff voice, but also a quiet and authoritative tone - as he was around five years old, he knew a lot more about the world than I did, and was reassuring and sensible. I heard all about his puppyhood, and how his owner's daughter had chosen him as a gift for her father after the death of his wife (and the mother of the daughter). He told me about how he had been trained and how he had striven to help his owner cope with his grief. I learned all about the wonderful walks that Bobby had with his owner, before the car accident, and all about the games that Bobby played when his owner's daughter and her husband and three little children came to stay. I listened (with not a little bit of envy) when Bobby described the family holidays that they went on together. I was interested to hear about his owner's new lady friend who had sometimes accompanied Bobby and his owner on their walks, and I felt sorry for Bobby when he told me that he, his owner and his owner's new lady friend were going to go for a weekend away to a nice-sounding place called the Lake District, which had to be cancelled when the car crash happened.
Bobby was good at talking and I delighted in listening to him. But something appeared to me to be missing. I couldn't puzzle it out at first, but finally I put my claw on it.
"Bobby," I croaked, "Your days seemed so filled with nice things - how did you manage to fit in the beatings?"
"What?" asked my affable companion.
"Well," I explained, "You haven't said when you had yours, and you told me about most other stuff that you did. I mostly had mine just before I went to bed. Did you have yours then, or in the morning?"
"Son, owners do not beat their dogs. They are masters, not tormentors. I've NEVER been beaten. I think I got a smack once, when my owner was teaching me to cross the road safely, but it was for my own good because I was being naughty and it's never happened since. It isn't normal for people to beat dogs."
"Oh, but it is." I explained, in quite a matter-of-fact way. "I kind of got used to it - I suppose - after a bit. It's quite normal. It happened nearly every day. Why didn't you get yours?"
Bobby looked at me as if I was raving mad.
"Son," he said, sighing heavily, "You're wrong. It isn't, in any way, normal. It's abuse. Sick, cruel, violent abuse. Are you telling me that your owner did that to you?!" I nodded mutely. Quietly, sadly, I said:
"I suppose I must have been a very naughty boy."
Bobby regarded me for a while with silent thoughtfulness. At length, he said:
"No. No, I don't believe it. You are young - but you are well-mannered, respectful and even-tempered." He paused.
"But I have soiled my bed." I whimpered. "Surely, I deserve to be beaten for that?"
"Of course not!" barked Bobby. "Look at the state you're in! You couldn't help it. Your dam taught you to go outside if you need the toilet, I assume?"
"Yes, sir." I replied. "For certain."
"Then it's clear. You have been very badly treated. But you must not cower beneath your memories." Bobby's voice became more strong and determined as he continued. "Consider your size, in relation to your abuser's. How could you have defended yourself? Do not let yourself be moulded by your experience; do NOT give your tormentor that satisfaction - he has taken enough from your spirit. Your life is now in your paws, not his. And you can make it good. But you have to be strong."
"Thank you sir." I said meekly.
"You know," continued Bobby, relaxing somewhat and sitting down. "I never had much time for the terrier-types, especially the Bull-Terrier lot. Always yapping first and sniffing later. But I like you. You have proven yourself to be a strong, sensible lad. Very respectful and pleasant. Oh yes - your dam taught you well. You have been spared for some reason, lad. Neither you nor I know what it is - but you've been spared because, one day, you are going to make a difference. You have a part to play in this world, boy. We can never know when, or how, but do not miss your chance to make that difference. Mind you play your part well."
"I promise I will not miss my chance, sir." I said, deeply humbled to know that such a brave and noble dog thought so much of me. I wished that my arms were free, so that I could wipe the tiny tear that was working its way down the side of my snout.
But before I could bark another word, the door handle of our room began to turn and the familiar knot of fear tightened within me. Despair flooded through me once more. I was about to be beaten again - and I knew that for sure...