Downstairs the house smelled of wet dog and mould, and unwashed socks that had been worn too many times. I didn’t care. That was what Exit Mould and Pine-o-clean were for. I bought bottles of the stuff and cans of Glen 20 and I washed and dried everything, including the dog, and I shut fast that room with its smell of ancient foot odour.
I went for long, punishing walks with the dog. He had to run to keep up with me and he was only small – a maltese terrier -type crossed with something or other. He had a penchant for bullying much larger dogs and was annoyed when I didn’t let him off the leash to run after what he thought were fair game. I’d learned my lesson last year when he decided to take on a huge mastiff. She weighed ten of him, with a head the size of a basketball. I was the one left with the 800 dollar vet bill, a mutt with a plastic collar of shame around his neck and a drain in his chest, and an earful of virulent abuse from the mastiff’s owner.
Occasionally he’d balk at the pace as we pounded along the beach or the bush tracks behind the dunes. I’d play Green Day as loud as my ears could bear, so I wouldn’t have to think or feel or hear anything else but Jesus of Suburbia and American Idiot. With my headphones, sunglasses and a hat jammed on my head I could be anonymous and separate. Every now and then, the leash would jerk and pull my arm backward. I’d turn to see the dog sitting stubbornly in the middle of the track and he’d look at me balefully as if to say “slow the fuck down, will ya?” I’d jerk the leash back my way, and off we’d go again. I did not slow the fuck down, and he with his tongue sticking out, bright red and dripping, had no choice but to run or be dragged. I’d make him jog along the shoreline and he kept a wary eye out for any encroaching waves, for he hated to get wet and would bark in a shrill voice at me if I got too close to the water.
When we eventually returned home, the dog would throw himself onto the tiles downstairs in an effort to get cool, panting mightily. When he thought I wasn’t looking he’d curl up on the couch. And then he’d sleep for hours and hours, only occasionally shifting to get more comfortable. Sometimes his legs would jerk and his body shuddered as if he was having a mini-seizure, and he’d moan in his sleep. I took to walking by myself in the afternoons so the dog could rest and I could trudge along unimpeded, without the need to examine other animals’ excrement or stop to wee on fence posts .
We were both a little leaner at the end of those two weeks.
*Picture credit: me and my iPhone