I was assisting my partner as she did some weeding in our garden on Sunday morning. The sun was shining, no cats were in evidence - I was almost beginning to enjoy myself. Across the way, I saw that parked outside my friend Eddie the Rottweiler's house was the car belonging to Angus and his partner. Angus was also a Rottweiler and Eddie's long-term gentleman 'companion'. Occasionally, the strains of affable chat wafted across to my ears from the direction of Eddie's high-fenced back garden, so they were enjoying their Sunday morning.
All of a sudden, just as my partner was battling with a particularly stubborn dandelion plant, the peace of the morning was shattered by an outraged snarl and volley of Rottweiler barks.
"You fat b*tch!" - that was Angus.
"What did you call me?!" snarled Edward.
"You heard me."
"Say it again! I dare you! Say it again!"
"You FAT B*TCH!"
"You spiteful old sow! If I had to sit in a hot room with you or a bucket of sick, I'd choose the bucket any day!"
"Finally, you get the company you're fit for!"
Eddie howled in fury and there followed the sounds of an agressive fight. Female human screams and shouts were heard and, a few seconds later, the front door flew open and Angus was dragged unceremoniously out, hauled along the front path and shoved into his car by his partner. Edward stood triumphantly in the doorway.
"Aye - go on! Sling yer bl**dy hook, you tubby little titwitch. And that's the last croissant you share with me, you vicious old queen! Ah - Jasper! Come here, my dear boy. Can I tempt you to a croissant?"
Oh poo. As soon as I saw the two dogs emerge from the house, I had tried to slink away unnoticed - fully aware that I would be drawn into this undignified spectacle by either one of the participants. It didn't escape me that a couple of cats had appeared and were hiding behind a bush, laughing.
Rolling my eyes heavenwards, I sighed and trudged over to Eddie's front garden. Angus was still shouting, swearing and spitting out some of the foullest insults I'd heard in a long while. The car windows misted up with the heat of Angus's rage and his breath.
"Alright, Ed?" I muttered, feeling quite relieved that the car doors were shut firmly on the livid Angus.
"Jasper darling, would you be a poppet, and tell that creature that I am no longer speaking to him?"
I shook my head in resignation.
"Angus, Ed says he's not talking to you."
Angus's reply was largely muffled by the car windows and upholstery, but I managed to catch something addressed to Eddie about "not turning dearest, darling Jasper into your lickspittle..."
I raised an eyebrow. There are many and varied roles I am prepared to fulfil in life - but a position as someone's "lickspittle" is not one of them.
"Oh, dry up, you malevolent old trout!" hissed Edward. He continued. "I would never inveigle dearest, darling Jasp - urkk!" Eddie's collar was grasped firmly by his partner and he was pulled back into his house, the door being firmly closed upon him. The last sounds I heard were Eddie at the receiving end of a lengthy telling-off from his partner. I took the opportunity to bolt back to the safe haven of my own garden, kicking the gate closed behind me. I found my own sweet partner digging out the roots of her persistently-rebellious dandelion.
"Blimey, J!" she exclaimed. "What was all that about?!"
"A French breakfast pastry, apparently." I replied, casting a last glance Eddie's front-door and at the car which held the now-quiet Angus. "Bl**dy hell."
As I trotted to my water-bowl for some refreshment, and my partner finally met with success in her struggle against the dandelion, I took the opportunity to reflect. Much as I am loathe to take issue with one such as Kipling, I believe that when he wrote his oft-quoted line concerning the female of the species, Angus and Eddie cannot have been at the forefront of his mind...
Having established, despite my efforts at deception, that I was as well-trained in the usual disciplines as I was in matters lavatorial, my only reward was a permanent break with my schooling. I was still, however, decidedly fed-up to the point of almost constant irritation.
The young lady persisted in refusing to acknowledge my position as pack leader. I gave her ample peaceable opportunity to submit to my dominance but she refused to accede to the natural order and bow before me. Even her parents seemed to side with her and assign to me an inferior role in the pack. I couldn't understand it.
I considered myself then, as now, to be a reasonable dog. I was perfectly prepared to overlook the fact that I was not fed before the rest of the household, as befitted my status. I was prepared to comply with instructions (provided I could see the reasoning and logic behind them) and I was even willing to, on occasion, sit upon the floor. However, once all peaceful solutions had failed, I was regrettably left with no other option than a recourse to more drastic measures.
It had not escaped my attention that the house was kept meticulously clean. Each week, a strange creature - entirely mute save for a bizarre, indecipherable, humming sound - was guided around the house. It seemed to exist solely on a diet of dust and small particles on the floor and lived in the cupboard under the stairs. Several times I attempted to engage it in conversation as it ambled along on its weekly walk - I even offered it one of my biscuits, thinking it might like a bit of variety in its diet - but all was to no avail. It never so much as responded to me. 'Ah well,' I mused with resignation, 'Whatever tickles its pickle...' and resolved to ignore it in future.
I digress. The young lady's parents - her mother in particular - took pride in the cleanliness of their establishment. My way was immediately clear.
I waited until the young lady had departed for work and her parents likewise. As soon as the sound of the latter's car had faded away I hopped down from my armchair, yawned, stretched and trotted into the kitchen, where stood my quarry: the kitchen dustbin.
I had not been unobservant since the formulation of my plan. I had learned that, to open the bin, one had to apply pressure with one's foot to a pedal, which caused the lid of the receptacle to flip up. I placed one fore-paw on the pedal and pressed down. As anticipated, up flew the lid. I repeated the action a few times, mildly amused at the simplicity of the device. I was swiftly distracted, however, by the tempting cornucopia of aromas issuing from within the bin. Here was an unexpected bonus! Reverting to my original plan, I opened the bin lid once more and then pushed the whole thing over onto the floor - drawing on skills and experience gleaned with Rex and Kipper on "The Night of the Isolated Bitches" (from Part Fifteen of this series). The bin was - by a fortunate chance - almost full. Over the kitchen floor spewed the contents: vegetable and fruit peelings deemed inappropriate for the compost heap; skins from some baked fish; all kinds of wrappers; tea-bags; metal foil; waxed cardboard cartons; oh! I was enraptured. The bin's contents were within a thin but large white plastic sack - here was another unanticipated advantage: I had prepared for a morning of heavy labour, but the white sack made my task much simpler. Grasping the upper edge of the sack gently within my fangs, I pulled it free from the casing of the bin and dragged it into the living-room.
Although some of the sack's contents had disgorged onto the kitchen floor, there was plenty left for the living room. I dragged the sack around and around the living-room, leaving trails of unpleasant-smelling filth in my wake. Once the sack was almost empty, I pulled it back to the kitchen and sat for a moment to catch my breath. That achieved, I wandered around eating the various appealing items before settling back into my armchair well-satisfied with my efforts, occasionally chuckling to myself as I considered the attendant pleasures that sometimes occurred when punishing one's inferiors...
My plan bore delightful fruit. The cries of shock and displeasure from the young lady when she returned home were balm to my ears. She hastened to clear away the mess and render everything to its former ordered state - berating me all the while - before her parents got home. She succeeded by the narrowest of margins.
"Don't you EVER do that again, Jasper!" she hissed, viciously, through gritted teeth as we heard the vehicle belonging to her parents drawing up to the property.
'You're having a laugh, love.' I thought to myself, whilst giving her a doe-eyed and contrite, apologetic look. 'I shall be doing it again tomorrow - and the next day - and the next day after that. Until you recognise me as pack leader, in fact.'
And that was just the beginning of my campaign. With a delightful shiver, I realised just how good it felt to be bad...