We have a routine, the dog and I. It suits us.
My daughter wakes at six and is out of the door by seven. And then Felix is propped up with a mug of cocoa and I potter off into the forest to afford the dog his toilet.
The dog’s visit to his spacious forest bathroom is very important. It is with this that he sets the pattern of his day. If his needs are taken care of in good time, before, say, eight in the morning, then lo: the rest of the day falls into place. One returns after half an hour of forest exploratory work to a bowl of crunchy dog chow and a large vat of water; and after one’s repast and once one has seen the humans off the premises to their busy day, one can settle down for a nice long nap.
Without the correct duration and location for one’s ablutions, one may start to feel cheated. So much so that one might protest in most unacceptable ways. One might steal human chow, or distribute it far and wide; or there are darker, dirtier protests which dare not speak their name.
But there is no need for those murky measures in British Summertime.Macaulay and I crossed the road into the forest as usual, and it became quickly evident that he was in devilish form. On several occasions he disappeared completely for minutes at a time and returned with that shifty, muffle-moustached demeanour. When he is like that he will not look me in the eyes. His secret life has all but taken over, and it is all he can do to come back at all.
We returned home to the waiting doggie chow and went our separate ways.
Breakfast: and Felix walked into the kitchen. Immediately, his nose wrinkled up and he began making exclamations of theatrical-little-boy dismay. “I can’t stay in here,” he informed me breathlessly.
“Why not?” I asked, nonplussed.
“Because of that smell. It smells – ” he searched for the right world as a wine taster must – “like a farm, but a really bad one.”
A really bad farm. My olfactory memory skimmed the really bad farms I have smelt in my day. Not a good thing to do before eating. I winced, and began addressing the kitchen sink with neat bleach, and later the bathroom next door. I doused the surfaces with lemon, and forbade my son to leave because if he did, he would never get a square meal before school.
Felix recoiled his way through breakfast as fast as he could and gabbled at the end:” May I get down from the table, please?”
I nodded grimly.
Upstairs, and to the mirror for renovation. I called Felix, who generally reads his book as I get ready for work. Just William was brought in accordingly and Felix sat down on the sofa to read.
And his face crumpled up. “It’s the smell again!” he said.
“But that was in the kitchen! I exclaimed, exasperated, and he agreed. “I know! “he squeaked; “it’s following me around!”
And then, light dawned. Yes, it was indeed following Felix around. Next to him on the sofa lay Macaulay. And with supreme effort, in the name of hard evidence, Felix took a long draught of the air adjacent to the dog.
The dog smelt almost exactly like a bad farm. And he was proud of it.
Which made it all the more perplexing when his humans bawled him off that comfy sofa, dragooned him out of the bedroom and shut the door, firmly between his air and theirs.