It was Phil who first noticed the dog worrying at his paw.
On closer inspection, it didn’t look a well paw, and Phil made an appointment to take Macaulay the pungent terrier on a special trip to the dog docs.
The rest of us disappeared to school for the day, but Phil was working from home. He dropped Felix off in the playground and headed for the vets.
The dog sat, adoring Phil his favourite role model, in the passenger’s seat. He grinned doggily through slightly yellow teeth and blew his moustache into aesthetically pleasing poses. Oh, goody, he radiated: another walk? So soon?
Phil pulled up outside the vets and opened Macaulay’s door. The small hairy occupant of the passenger’s seat bounded out with abandon and then froze cartoon-style in his steps. For this was not Walk. No: this was something entirely different and vastly less attractive than Walk.
Mac thinks with his primitive brain on these occasions. Vets means fight-or-flight. A second later he was attempting to weave his way back into the car like a silverfish, in the fond hope that Phil might not notice, and might just repair to the nearest walk venue.
Phil had thought of this and the dog was on a stout lead. But hauling him into the vets was like hauling a rock along with a rope. Macaulay was not going to help, not for one step of the way.
My husband had banked on the fact that there would be appointments aplenty waiting for Macaulay. He would be like a dog in a sweetie shop.
And lo, there was availability immediately. The vet walked out of a small consulting room to greet the tall man with his slithering dog. Melting away is hard to do, if you’re on the end of a lead, but Macaulay was giving it his best shot. The lady behind the counter came out to join them and usher them into the consulting room.
The momentum was in the direction of that examination table: everyone surged towards it, and at the door Macaulay made a stealthy right turn as everyone else walked forwards. No, thank you, he indicated. I think, if it’s all the same to you, I’ll go this way.
He was scooped up on to the table by a cheerful Canadian dog doctor.
“My wife thinks he smells,” Phil commented urbanely as an opening gambit.
“No more than any other dog,” she said affably. “If you think he smells you should get close to a bear!”
Slightly alarmed at a conversation which seemed to be veering as wildly as the dog, my husband replied: “I hope I never get close enough to a bear to be able to smell it!”
She was convinced Macaulay’s parentage included border terrier, despite Phil telling her the tale of a real life Lady and the Tramp – Mac’s credentials state he began the day a King Charles spaniel and a miniature schnauzer found lurve.
As they chatted the dog stood and looked pathetic beyond words. He knew there would be an injection. There was always an injection.
But there was no injection: just a thorough physical. He did not look at the large plastic thing which the nice lady vet handed to the light of his life. He was allowed down and skittered across the pristine floor just as fast as his small tentpeg legs could carry him.
Had Macaulay been human, he might, on reflection, have wished an injection were the outcome of his visit. He is a dog, without any training in geometry or appreciation of two-dimensional nets which make three-dimensional shapes. He could not know the significance of that plastic in Phil’s hand.
But he will next time.
For as soon as they got home, Phil obediently fashioned it into a cone and fixed it to Macaulay’s collar.
And once it was on, he sympathetically took a picture and sent it to my phone at school. Look at Captain Horatio Hornblower, he brayed in a text. This is a picture of a dog who deeply disapproves.
The cone stops the dog worrying at his paw. It has to stay on every moment except during his precious walks. He wears it as a human might wear sackcloth. It must remain around his neck until the weekend, when his paw will have recovered sufficiently to be less worrisome to him.
Usually when we displease Macaulay, he turns his back to us. But this evening as I type, he has removed his royal presence from the room. He is trying to get some kip just out of sight.
If you want to see me, he emanates, take off this infernal cone.
Then we can negotiate.