I have no idea why the dog took to the double glazing salesman so.
But he did. This is the routine: someone knocks at the door. The dog looks down from on high, on the top stair, staring imperiously down his moustache like some 19th century major about to order the charge of the Light Brigade.
Having checked his epaulettes, he charges down the stairs, barking gruffly to get things straight. And then things go one of two ways.
The timid shrink away, and the dog is yanked off by his collar, protesting and uttering loud remonstrations, to a room where a door is put between himself and the visitor. He pines and scratches the door and behaves generally very badly indeed.
The bold lean down, and tickle the dog beneath his chin, and the Major and his moustache are mollified, and potter off to patrol somewhere else.
Except, on rare occasions, when he has a case of serious hero worship.
And for some reason, this was one of those occasions. I shooed the dog away upstairs to his cushion; but within just a few short moments he was back to curry favour in a most unmilitary style. Maddie, I implored to my daughter, please take Macaulay away, he is distracting the double glazing salesman from his work. But when I next looked, Macaulay was there, next to the double glazing salesman on the sofa.
Helplessly, I apologised. Do you mind him there, I asked? No, no, of course not, said the salesman, but then he has to say that, doesn’t he?
Dogs. They just like us. I have no idea why. And where we are, they are.
Felix has a small toy dog. He is blue and he looks like this:
And I was struck, when I pottered round the British Museum the other day, with this dog, a piece of tourist art from the Solomon Islands:
They both have that same dog thing going on. The wiry tail, the gung-ho grin, the impression that any minute now they are going to charge headlong helter-skelter into life without a backward glance. That same endearing untrustworthy potential energy.
This is why I love dogs. They are always hairy, often dirty, their habits are earthen. And they are always there, in the background, behind man. The Solomon Islands dog is featured in a picture from decades ago. There he stands, grinning, plotting his next move.
It has been thus for time immemorial. And one of my favourite pieces in the British Museum’s Ancient Europe section is another set of dogs. This time, they are intent on a duck. And dogs and duck are about 2,463 years old.
They rest on the top of a pair of bronze flagons, found in Basse-Yutz in France in 450BC.
The detail and the artistry, stretching that far back, beggar belief: but it is the affection which really astounds. Those dogs want that duck. But the artist has ensured they will never, ever reach it.
Today I was privileged. Without sentimentality I can say that a day spent with real, unspoilt children is one of the best panaceas for a tired, slightly jaded grown up. My children and their friends came with me to a hands on science centre, which included entrance to a planetarium.
We lay back on chairs worthy of British Airways first class, and stared at the domed ceiling as our guide led us from the plough, to the North star, to the great bear, and finally to Orion.
And who should be standing just behind Orion of the star-studded belt, but Sirius, the dog?
Not battling the bear, mark you: wily Sirius lets Orion do the hard work. But he is always there. And though that grin is not visible in the night sky, I sense Sirius the dog stands just the same, with his eyes on the Seven Sister constellation as if it were a particularly bouncy ball, or a duck.
Perhaps he thinks Orion is a double glazing salesman.