In February 2013 we visited Battersea Dog’s Home to find a new dog to join us. It is a somewhat laborious process, but we all knew we would come away with a new member of the family. Our last dog, also from Battersea had been found, abandoned in a park in East London shortly after Christmas. We expected a similar story but this time it was different. We were told Charlie, his then name, had been given up because his owners had to move into a flat where dogs were not allowed. He had been loved but need a new home. I can remember a couple of day later wondering what might happen if we came across his old owners while out walking. We haven’t but the idea stuck and it became the seed that has led to
BUSTER and MOO
and Bruce, about whose sad demise fellow blogger, Susan, posted here so touchingly
“If you’re not sure he’s the one, you can reserve him, if you want to.” The rehomer tugged at the hem of his apron and tried to look furtively at his watch, not that Landen missed it.
“Well, I’m happy,” she said.
Mervin rubbed his temples. “Is he a bit big?”
Landen stretched her fingers, forcing the tension as far away as possible. Why was Mervin so pathetic; the way he rubbed his hands like he was cold. “They,” she nodded at the rehomer, “said we could have a medium sized dog. And you’re the one who didn’t want a ‘handbag pet’.” She tried a smile at the rehomer – what was his name? Colin? Chris? – but he kept his gaze on his clipboard.
“Yes, I know but I’m only being practical. It’s only a small kitchen and…”
Landen pushed her palms hard against her knees to stop herself waving in frustration. “They said it was fine. Can we just get on with it?” She kept her gaze on Mervin, willing him to nod but he took off his glasses and polished them slowly; his way of prevaricating. She could feel the rehomer sighing. Bloody men.
“I suppose so,” Mervin said eventually. “But we’re not calling him Buster. Makes him sound like an extra in the Great Train Robbery.”
Landen started at the dog, who cocked his head to one side. He was a Staffordshire/Spaniel cross – well, they were two of many ingredients probably – predominantly white, with a short fluffy coat and a brown patch covering his right eye and ear and some more brown on the other ear; the soft chocolaty hues were repeated in his eyes which held Landen’s gaze. She knew if she didn’t strike soon it would be ‘Staniel’, a corruption of Staffie and Spaniel that Mervin had tried out already. “What about Moo?”
“He looks like a cow; that patch on his face and those eyes.”
“Well he’s a he so it can’t be Daisy or Ermintrude.” She leant forward. “What do you think, Moo? Come here Moo.”
The dog hesitated and then jumped for Landen’s lap, its muscly back legs propelling him at her face where he landed two slobbery licks before she pushed him down. She grimaced. “There you are. He’s decided.” She pushed her hair off her face and fumbled for an antiseptic wipe.
The rehomer and Mervin exchanged glances which Landen saw only too clearly; sympathy and resignation. The young volunteer offered the board to Mervin. “You need to sign, sir, and then pay at reception.”
Landen goggled at the rehomer. She had done the talking, the choosing. She had been the one who took the lead at every stage and now it was the man who had to sign. She was about to reach for the board when her mobile rang. Glancing at the screen she said, “James.” It was Mervin’s time to sigh. Landen stood and left the room. She was surrounded by a bunch of bloody sexists.
Sheri pushed the plate away. “I can’t.”
“You must eat, doll. C’mon.”
“No.” She rubbed her eyes with the knuckles of her hands. “I must look a mess. And I feel sick.”
“You didn’t like Buster. You said…”
“Shut up. I loved him… it’s just so difficult just now.”
Dave took the remnants of the spaghetti and scrapped it in the bin. He said in a low voice, “Like kicking him when he had an accident.”
“I never. I loved him.”
Dave turned and watched, his arms folded across his chest. His hard biceps strained at the T shirt material and he stroked the curves with his thumbs. “We had to move.”
“We could’ve stayed with mum. For a bit…”
“Don’t be stupid. A week tops and one of us would have killed the other. Look, I know my luck’ll change and I’ll get some work. We can get a proper place then and another dog…”
Sheri wiped her nose and checked her nails. The varnish was badly chipped. “I suppose, now he’s gone, I could do some more hours…” She glanced at Dave, trying to read his thoughts from his profile. “Just until you get sorted.”
“I thought you hated that Russian bint?”
“She’s Latvian, actually. And it’s her husband I don’t like.”
“If he touches you, Sher…”
“Don’t be a prick. You so much as growl at him and they’ll have you back inside like that.” She snapped her fingers. “She knows people. She might recommend me. Or I can do some flyers, you know.”
Dave turned away, rolling his shoulders. He hated having to rely on her wages and his benefits. She said, “You could, too. You know, odd jobs, things like that.”
“No one’s going to take me on without references and where do I get them?” It was a debate they’d had for the last four months since he go out.
“But let’s try.”
“We can’t afford to pay for the printing, can we? And…”
Sheri rubbed her temples. “Yeah, ok. Let’s not do this.” She pushed her fingers through her spiky hair and scratched her scalp. Dave wanted to hold her, to say sorry but he was months too late. He tried another tack. “The dog will find a good home; they won’t have many that well trained, will they?”
Sheri blinked at Dave, the corners of her mouth turning down again and the tears slowly at first but soon in a torrent pouring down her face. Dave watched not knowing what to say. When he moved towards her she shook her head hard. In the end he picked up his coat and made for the door.