I was utterly barkless. I opened my mouth to bark, but no sounds came out.
Suddenly realising that I probably looked like a goldfish, opening and closing my mouth in silence, I recovered myself enough to weakly croak "Dog's milk?!"
"Yes!" yipped Ewan, almost beside himself with excitement. "Yummy and full of goodness! Isn't it the very stuff that made us grow strong when we was puppies?! And there's definitely a market for it - I's done the weesearch-"
"Ewan - let me get this straight." I barked, frowning, "You are proposing to milk bitches, make cheese from this milk and sell it to humans?" Ewan nodded enthusiastically. "And does Fizzy [Ewan's black labrador wife/care-worker] know about this?!"
"She helped me with the weesearch. We sniffed all the wee-posts we could find to see what other dogs was eating. DEFINITELY no dog cheese."
"I cannot imagine why." I remarked drily. "And what does Fizzy have to bark on the matter?"
"She says it was nice to see me happy again after you went away. She says it is good to see that I am working on a big project and using my time properly."
A sudden thought struck me.
"Ewan - does Fizzy REALLY know what you are up to?"
"Yes..." muttered Ewan, carefully avoiding my eye.
"Ewan...?!" I growled.
"Well - OK, not exactly then. But-"
"And what do you think she would say if she found out? Ewan?! How would she react?"
"Probably not all that keen..." mumbled Ewan sulkily.
"I thought so. Keeping that in mind, then, what are your plans?"
Ewan's eyes lit up again.
"OK!" he yapped, with renewed enthusiasm. "I makes the cheese in my kitchen. But first we needs the milk. OK?! And that's where YOU come in!"
"Yes, well, you is handsome and ladies like you lots, yes?"
"I cannot deny that, during my lifeti-"
"Yes, exactly! So what you does is this:- you meets a pretty lady and says 'come for a walk with me, my dear' and she goes with you and then you takes her into a field and where I is waiting. When the pretty lady is looking at you, I creeps up behind her and clobbers her on the head-"
"You clobber the lady on the head?! EWAN..!"
"Iss, iss, I clobbers her!" Ewan's limited linguistic skills tended to desert him in proportion to how excited he was getting. "And then she is knocked out and when she wakes up we has hooked her up to a milking machine!"
Oh, bl**dy h*ll.
Seeing the expression on my face, Ewan hurriedly continued. "But it's OK, Jazz, once we had taken her milk, we lets her go!"
"Oh well, that's all right, then." I muttered sarcastically.
"Yes." nodded Ewan, entirely missing my meaning. "Now then. We is having three different varieties of cheese. Betty is a very big dog with lots of milks, so Betty-cheese will be our economy-value line."
"Don't let Betty hear you saying that, for Heaven's sake." I warned, imagining what Betty would do to the hapless Ewan if she caught him describing her milk as cheap and cheerful.
"OK. Then, we has 'The Fizzy'. Lots of ladies are Fizzy's size, so that is our standard range."
"Ewan, please stop saying 'we' and 'our'. I want no share in this travesty."
"OK! And then we has Gisèle. Now then. Gisèle is tiny. Teeny-weeny. So not much milk there, and what there is will be rich and highly-flavoured. That is our Premium Range, for the more 'esciperian' palettes of our discerning customers."
"I assume you mean 'epicurean'?"
"Iss, that's what I said - 'episcerian', no, 'enpiricsean', er, 'epicas-', anyway, POSH cheese."
"Brilliant, eh?!" beamed Ewan. "Three different sorts of cheese from different sizes of ladies: The Betty, The Fizzy and The Gizmo. Of course, we won't always use these ladies. But we needs to start small. Once we is established we moves on and then is when we do the clobbering. What do you think Jazzy?"
I was stunned. Of all the mad things Ewan had said, done or thought in his delusional little head, this was by far the maddest. I don't know what was more disturbing - the idea in itself or the fact that Ewan utterly believed that this was a viable business idea. This was madder than the time Ewan knocked on the side of a wasps' nest and asked the angry wasps within if they wanted to play football with him.
"Er, one or two initial thoughts, Ewan, if you'll indulge me..."
"Please." he grinned, "The forum is yours. Let's hoist your views up the flagpole and see if they fly!""
"Ewan, does your new TV package include a business channel at all, by any chance?"
"Hmm. Well, I have to bark that I might have an issue with the clobbering aspect..."
"Really?!" asked Ewan, looking slightly crestfallen, "But that's a good bit! Sometimes, you know, Jasper, you has to put gentlemanly behaviour aside for a moment when you is a high-powered business-dog like me."
"Actually, Ewan, it's not just me being gallant. I'm pretty much against clobbering per se."
"But they would like it!" protested Ewan. "It's fun!"
"All right, Ewan." I sighed wearily. "Let's just say that we have our collection of clobbered ladies, all awake again and happily gossiping together, exchanging stories about major head-trauma. What then?"
"We milks them!"
"Ah, well, you see - I, er... That is why I is in charge and you is just a non-executive director."
"You're not allowed. You has to have the permission of the board of directors to resign."
"Who's on the board of directors?"
"Please, Mr. Chairman of the Board of Directors, may I resign?"
"Worth a try..." I muttered to myself, shaking my head.
"Right then." I sighed. "We milk them. So where do we get the male dog?"
"Well, surely even you know that you need a male dog?! I mean, you've had "the snip" and I'm dead, so-"
"Jaspey! You silly! You don't get milk from boy dogs!!"
"No, I know that Ewan, but-"
"Actually," mused Ewan, thoughtfully, "You can get stuff that looks like milk out of boy dogs... It's not actually milk, but sometimes it looks a bit like milk, and-"
I winced. Of all the things on the ever-increasing list (now becoming almost Biblical in length) of subjects about which I never wished to have a conversation with Ewan this was very, VERY, near the top.
" -it's like milky but not milk, and it comes out of-"
"Ewan, can I just stop you there," I interjected hastily.
"Yes." he replied. "What?"
"Oh, no reason. I just had to stop you there."
"OK, then. But why woulds we need boy dogs?" he queried.
"Well," I explained delicately, "I'm sure you'll correct me if I'm mistaken - but I've yet to encounter any female of a mammalian species who produces milk in any significant quantity but who ISN'T pregnant!"
"Really." I nodded. "Ladies in season, going through menopause or experiencing a phantom pregnancy sometimes produce small quantities of milk. Also, if a lady adopts orphaned babes it is possible that her maternal instincts kick in and she produces sufficient milk to nourish her foundlings. But I can guarantee that you won't get enough milk for your cheese-proposals from an infertile bitch." Thank goodness, I concluded privately to myself.
"But - but-" spluttered Ewan, looking disconcerted, "All those cows in the fields - the ones who gives us tasty milk and cheese and that - THEY aren't all pregnant!"
"Yes! They ARE!!" I barked. "A lady needs to be expecting at least one infant in order to give lots of milk!"
"Are you SURE?!" whined Ewan. "I's going to ask Fizzy, just to be sure."
"Well, you do that." I replied. "But she'll want to know why you're asking..."
"Jazz." decided Ewan. "I shall take that risk." And, with that, he marched off back into the office. I decided that it would be foolish to follow him. This decision was borne out when I heard angry snarls, followed by a couple of shrill yelps from indoors.
Ewan quickly returned, nursing a slapped cheek and a badly-bitten ear.
"How'd it go?" I asked, doubtfully.
"Actually, not that well." came the glum reply. "This" indicating his ear "was for wanting to steal lady-milk. And this" gesturing towards his reddening cheek "was for even thinking of the whole idea in the first place."
I can't say that I was entirely surprised.
"But don't worry Jazz," continued Ewan, "It's all right now. I has smoothed the waters. Everything's OK."
"Yes. I told Fizzy that it was all your idea."
"Brilliant. Jolly good. Cheers for that, Ewan."
"So, then. ON to our marketing strategy..."
Oh NO... It just gets worse from here-on in...
Guy Fawkes' Night tonight. Never my favourite. Happily, Gisèle is SO chilled-out that even the fireworks don't faze her. I wonder if, in centuries to come, the foiling of other terrorist atrocities will be celebrated with fireworks, bonfires and greasy hot-dogs? Somehow, I doubt it...