At the back gate, the dog waits.
It is 6:15pm in the optimistic Spring sunlight of a mid April evening, and Barney and Ludo are pottering past my front window on their way to the forest.
Barney is a dumb blonde whom everyone loves, an exuberant white terrier-ball of fluff one couldn’t possibly hate even if one was a big fierce rottweiler. Barney would charm the birds out of the trees and then chase them happily, and the birds would like it.
No so, Ludo.
Ludo is a black miniature schnauzer. He has Scowl built into his DNA, and it is the base of his expression. He is officious, and disapproving, and sternly puritanical.
Of course, I might just have made all this up. Appearances are not everything. It might be possible I was mistaken: were it not for the judgement of the watch-dog, the dog who lives on the corner of the path to the forest, the small hairy admonisher of all who enter there.
I speak, of course, of Macaulay the Dog.
Macaulay, the family hairy smelly terrier, is half schnauzer. He has the breed in his blood- it is what gives him that insane urge to tell everyone else what to do. And when he meets Barney, angels sing. He adores the little white creature who emanates the film-star quality of Tin-Tin’s Snowy.
So perhaps it is envy which makes him bristle at the very sight of Ludo the Austere? To call the atmosphere awkward when the two meet on a walk is understatement. Had they been 18th century men, they would have challenged each other immediately to a duel. And indeed, perhaps they were, and perhaps they did, and have been sentenced to a canine skin in this life as a result.
Because of this, Macaulay stands waiting in his metaphorical watchtower, a toll-collector scoping the road for stagecoaches and sundry wheeled vehicles who might owe him payment. But the dogs who must pass this way to get to the forest do not pay in coinage;rather, they must listen to our small dictator’s rhetoric, a Mussolini behind the garden gate.
Macaulay waits for Barney and Ludo. Stolid, he stands there.
And the minute the first ear appears round the bend in the path, he’s off. Barkbarkbarkbarkwoofwoofharangueharangue, and he doesn’t stop there, he shouts more and embellishes it, and I blush to think what it means in doggy language, as grim Ludo strains on his lead and wonders, somewhere deep in his doggy being, where his flintlocks are.
It is but a moment. It does not take long to get past. But to Macaulay, it is sweet indeed.
He turns away from the gate and looks at me as I scold him. What? he says telepathically.
I grit my teeth. Time to fill a washing-up bottle with water once more. It is the only way to shut him up in full flow.
Spring makes him garrulous.