I was referring, of course, to the continuing "awkward" situation between Elizabeth (Betty) and Gisèle (Gizmo) within my own household.
"But Jazz, darling," replied Edward, "I thought you liked the ladies. You've had several wives and far more girlfriends than" [Ed's fellow-Rottweiler and long-term 'gentleman companion'] "Angus has imbibed in calories - and that's barking something, for his hips grow ever-more formidable by the day."
"Yes - but never all at once in the same PLACE at the same TIME." I sighed. "I mean, none of them ever actually KNEW about each other!" Apart, of course, from the near-miss I'd once had when I inadvertently almost called my girlfriend Candy by my wife Isolde's name - but I had managed to extricate myself from that one by a few neatly-timed flatteries.
"Well, perhaps this is some sort of comeuppance for you, young man." snorted Eddie sanctimoniously. I, after all, would never be unfaithful to Angus. No, I thought to myself, you abuse him to his face.
"Anyway," continued Ed, "Where the h*ll have you BEEN all these months?! Angus and I have been beside ourselves."
"Can't rightly explain it, Ed." I barked. "I seemed to be here - then I wasn't; I was somewhere else. And now I'm here again, but not really here. Except that I AM here... oh, I don't know. It's mad."
"But you DID die though, didn't you." said Edward solemnly. It was not a question, but a statement.
I was dumbfounded. HAD I died? I didn't know. Perhaps I had...? What was the place I was in? It struck me now for the first time, however odd that may sound to you, dear reader, that Kipper was there alive and well - and yet he had CERTAINLY died; I had seen his lifeless body. I recalled a conversation with him in that place about some of our old friends from Stokenchurch Dog Rescue. Kipper had told me that Rex was there, as were some of my other former chums - Ghost, Topic, Rats, Plum, amongst others. I had enquired about little Pebble, the Staffie-Cross, only to be told that he hadn't arrived yet. "He has not yet crossed over." were Kipper's exact barks. When pressed as to what that meant, Kipper cryptically replied "He still lives."
I shook my head. It was beyond my comprehension.
Raised voices suddenly began to waft across the cul-de-sac from my house.
"Oh d*mnit, they're awake." I muttered, slowly and reluctantly getting to my feet. "Better go. Have you got a good day ahead, Eddie?"
"My partner and I are meeting Angus and his partner for coffee and breakfast pastries - and then we're all going on a long walk." he grinned.
"Don't fancy swapping places with me for the day, do you?" I sighed.
"Not for a SINGLE second, love." laughed Ed good-naturedly. "I never was much good with women. You're on your own there, sweetie."
"Cheers for that Ed. Give my regards to Angus."
And, with that, I trudged as slowly as I could across the road, back home.
Despite the early hour, the bickering had already intensified to a feverish rate.
"You little thief! You stole my breakfast!!" Betty was snarling at a cowering Gisèle.
"I didn't!" piped the little terrier, sounding highly aggrieved. "I never eat any breakfast!"
"Why did you eat MINE, then?!"
"Well, who HAS eaten it then, because I haven't!"
I was just thinking about going upstairs to hide, when my sleepy-eyed partner wandered into the kitchen.
"Morning dogs..." she mumbled, getting herself a glass of water. "Breakfast time..." And, with that, she placed breakfast biscuits into Betty's dish and gave Gizmo a small piece of banana and a grape to eat.
"See?!" said Gizmo, unable to keep an element of triumph out of her voice; and she hopped neatly out of the way as Betty looked up from her breakfast and snapped at her.
A morning of uneasy calm persisted. We all went into the garden to do some gardening and appreciate the brief burst of sunshine. Alas! Cometh the afternoon; cometh the onslaught.
I was sitting in the kitchen, keeping my partner company as she washed some vegetables in the sink for cooking later. All of a sudden, there came an almighty roar, followed by piercing screams. My partner and I fled into the living room and saw, to our horror, Elizabeth pinning Gisèle to the floor, with the little dog's head completely in her mouth. Giz was on her back, flailing and struggling against the powerful Betty. Without a thought for her previous bite injury, my partner instantly waded into the melée and separated the dogs. Blood immediately fountained forth from Gizmo's pretty face and my partner screamed at the sight. Betty took one look at what she had done and fled upstairs.
Gizmo's cries and screams seemed to shake the whole house and penetrate through to the very marrow of my bones. My partner laid her upon a cushion on the sofa and began to inspect the damage. A part of Gisèle's left-upper lip had been torn off and there was a fang-sized hole through the flesh of the lower jaw on the same side. I almost recoiled in horror at the sight - never had I seen such injuries inflicted upon an innocent, undeserving dog.
"Better get her to the vets', quick." I advised, trying not to think about MY last trip to the vets' surgery. "That top lip will need a few stitches at least."
My partner began to cry, adding her sobs to poor Gizmo's wails.
"I can't!" she wept, "I daren't set foot in the vets' with another dog - I still owe them £400 from you, and I can only afford to pay them a few quid a month!" Little Gizmo was not to be neglected, however, and my partner set-to with what she had immediately to hand - a small quantity of Scotch whisky and some cotton-wool. Giz squealed as my partner began to clean and sterilize her wounds.
"My face!" croaked Gizmo through her wracking sobs, "Oh, my pretty face... Jazz! I is ugly! I will never be pretty again!"
"Oh, don't say that, my dear." I soothed, "It will all mend in time - don't you fret, now."
"Is it very bad?" she whispered. I smiled softly at her and moved in for a closer look.
"My dear, you are as pretty now as you have ever been. And you will only grow more beautiful with each new passing day..."
Gisèle regarded me doubtfully, before giving way to her pain and crying loudly again. I averted my gaze and sighed. I never was much good at lying...
As I looked at the sweet little terrier, lying on her cushion, howling and crying with pain and humiliation, a blaze of anger surged through me. With one, last, glance at the poor suffering one, I turned and marched upstairs, spoiling for a fight of my own. I located Betty in the bathroom, trying (and failing) to hide behind the lavatory. She seemed to be attempting to render herself as small and transparent as she could and was trembling and sniffling.
"Spare me your false and pathetic efforts at remorse." I spat. "You're going to bl**dy-well come downstairs with me right now and look at what you have done." I scarcely stopped to draw breath, I was that irate. "Madam, you disgust me entirely. You are not worthy to bear the name of dog. I had laboured under the impression that you you were a well brought-up and mannered young lady. Now I see that I have been utterly mistaken. You are a creature - less than a creature - of worthless-"
"Oh, please - PLEASE - stop. I'm sorry, I'm SO sorry!" howled Betty miserably. I looked at her and was somewhat taken aback to see that her face bore an expression of abject guilt and mortification. She was also genuinely crying. "I didn't mean to! I'm so very, very sorry..." she sobbed. I sat down rather suddenly, unsure of what to make of this new scene opening up before me.
"Then why did you do it?" I asked, as gently as I could manage, given that Gizmo's anguished wails were still drifting up the stairs from the living-room.
"I don't know! I couldn't help it!" wept Betty. "I only meant to be playing but then Giz didn't want to and I got annoyed and then when she started to cry I bit her - I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" And then she added, most pitifully of all, "This is why I am never allowed to have any friends! No-one wants to be my friend and I never have anyone to play with!" At this she dissolved so far into her tears that she lost the power of barks. A pinprick of pity stabbed me, despite the wickedness Elizabeth had inflicted on Gisèle.
"So you only wanted to play with Gizmo...?" I mused, thinking carefully. Betty nodded glumly. A sudden thought struck me. "Betty, did you TELL Giz that you were only wanting to play with her?"
"Why do you do that?" sniffed the big dog, "Don't they” [other dogs] “automatically know that you’re only playing?”
“No, my love. You have to tell them. Were you never taught to play-bow to invite a game first?”
“Well, yes, but I never really bothered with it.”
“Then, I fear, that might be part of the problem.” I explained gently. “Unless you initiate a game with a play-bow – and receive one from the other dog in return – then how is the other dog possibly to know that you are not issuing a challenge to a genuine fight?”
“Ohhh…” mumbled Betty, a small light of realisation beginning to dawn in her eyes. “So Gisèle thought that I REALLY meant to fight, when I only wanted to play a game…?”
“Precisely so, my dear.”
“Ohhh…” She repeated thoughtfully. Then Betty gave a sudden gasp and hoarsely yipped “Jasper! Have I hurt her very badly?” She gazed at me with nervous apprehension. There was but one way; to tell her the truth.
“Little Gisèle will bear the scars of this day for the rest of her life.”
At this, Betty cried out and began to wail just as sorrowfully as Gizmo.
“I’m SO sorry!” she repeated miserably. “I SO wanted to be friends with her! I like her and I didn’t want to hurt her!”
“Well – why don’t you come along downstairs with me now and tell her these things?”
“Oh, noooo!” wailed Betty, “She will never forgive me, and I will NEVER have any friends, ever.”
“You might be surprised.” I smiled. “Little Gisèle is quite unique amongst dogs that I’ve ever encountered. I have never known a young dog – a Jack Russell Terrier in particular – who is so loving, sweet-natured and forgiving. I truly believe that she has not one single malicious hair upon her. If any dog bears the capacity to forgive what you have done, it is Gizmo.”
“That just makes it worse!” whined Betty, “I don’t deserve to be forgiven. I am a bad girl. Bad, BAD girl, Betty!”
I let Betty get over this latest outburst of sobbing, and then said “Well, let us see what happens. But first, you must come downstairs with me. You have to understand that sometimes unthinking actions can have unpleasant consequences. You will come downstairs with me now and see Gisèle.” I stood up, turned to exit the bathroom, and looked back at Betty as I added “This is not a request. Follow me now please.” A submissive Betty sighed and stood up too. “And I suggest that you pick out your teeth before you show yourself,” Betty hastened to comply, and attended to her teeth with her fore-claws. She still had a small part of Gizmo’s upper lip wedged between two of her teeth.
As I descended the staircase, I saw that my partner had done a magnificent job of cleansing the wound and was now busy with her embroidery scissors, snipping away the long fur on the affected side of Gizmo’s little snout, so that hairs would not adhere to the wound and impede the natural healing process. The injuries were no longer bleeding and the fumes from the whisky had becalmed the frightened dog, who was now lying peacefully upon her cushion.
Unhappily, as soon as she spotted Betty meekly creeping down the stairs behind me, Gizmo began to quake and squeal again and had to be held down by my partner.
“She’s coming back to kill me!” screamed Giz in terror, “She’ll kill me!” My partner gently shushed her, and placed herself differently, so that she was between Gizmo’s direct line of sight towards Betty. She instantly saw that I had attended appropriately to Betty and automatically knew (in the way that true soul-partners always can) what was transpiring at my instruction. As my partner held Gizmo in a comforting and secure embrace I nudged Betty forward.
.” I barked,
clearly and loudly, “You have something you wished to bark to Gisèle.” Elizabeth
At my shove, Betty stumbled hesitantly forward and approached the sofa. Gizmo tried to recoil but was held, gently yet firmly, in place by my partner.
“Gizmo.” said Betty, quietly – and without even a trace of sarcasm, insincerity or malice in her tone – “I am truly and very deeply sorry for what I have done. I never did mean to hurt you, but I know that I have, by mistake hurt you very, very much and I am so much more sorry than I can bark. I would very much like to be your friend but I will understand if you never want to bark to or sniff me ever, ever again.” And then, still full of heavy remorse, Betty began to slope away to the kitchen.
There was a tiny, almost imperceptible, sound from the prostrate form of Gizmo. Only Betty and I heard it properly, the squeak which issued forth being out of the common audible range of humans.
“’S alright Betz. I forgives you.”
I felt moved almost to tears. Betty was too overcome to show herself for at least the following few minutes. When she returned, she was carrying one of the few possessions that stayed here whenever she did; her lovely scarlet brushed-cotton luxury blanket. Betty proceeded to drag it to the sofa, where she carefully placed it, piling it up and around Gizmo. Having accomplished this, Betty trotted back and forth collecting Gizmo’s favourite toys and placing them next to her on the sofa as well. In fact, Gizmo had fallen asleep, but I (as Giz would when she awoke in the morning) appreciated the gesture and the heartfelt sincerity behind it.
And so it was, despite all these tribulations, that a semblance of calm and order was restored to this little household. Well – perhaps, as we shall see, not quite calm and order – but certainly an end to the unfortunate savage bloodletting of late, and new friendships rising from the ashes of these misunderstandings…