Mirth and Woe: The Dog Smiles
We've got a dog. She's called Lucy. Lucy Minogue, and she wouldn't say boo to a goose. In fact, she'd run away from a goose, or, in fact, away from absolutely anything at all. She is the bestest dog ever, and I will fight any man who says otherwise.
Before that, we had Harry. Harry Minogue. Harry was - if you'll pardon the awful, awful pun - barking mad. He still is, as a matter of fact. When the bouncing, barking and pissing-on-the-floor became far too much, we gave him to some friends who were quite happy to put up with that kind of thing. He still looks round the back of the TV to see where all the animals are coming from - Harry was never the sharpest knife in the drawer.
A long, long time before that, we had Snoopy. Snoopy Not-a-Minogue. Snoopy was a beagle-crossed-with-something-else that we got from a rescue home, and had gone the first six months of his life known as Shep. We had to do the decent thing, of course, and give him a proper beagle name.
Loveable that we was, Snoopy was also a dreadful, scheming bastard who spent his entire life planning ways of wrecking the house or trying to escape, tales which I have chronicled extensively elsewhere. Bad dog, indeed. We never quite got over the woe of the time he went on a one-dog wrecking spree that caused chaos, calumny and panic at a five-a-side football tournament, stopping only to diligently piss over the goal posts.
This scheming even took place when we were out of the house. Our family spent every summer on a two-week camping holiday, most of which was spent chasing the dog across fields, only to find him, hours later, back at the tent, asleep.
He was not, alas, the best of dogs to have with you in the car. He'd get far too excited, jump about all over the place and drench everybody in dog slobber, a substance now banned as a chenical weapon by the Geneva Convention.
We didn't have much of a car at the time. It was a 1973 Renault 12 saloon, designed for four reasonably well-to-do French peasants on their way to surrender to the local Germans. And not, it should be pointed out, best suited to a family of five and maniacal dog going to visit a chain-smoking great-aunt on the other side of London.
Fair play to Snoopy. We got all the way up to London with very little incident, as the cunningly-planned pre-car walkie appeared to have wiped him out somewhat.
It was just as we crossed Wandsworth Bridge into the dreaded land South of the River where no cabbie dares to drive, that he came to life. Before we knew it he was slobbering all over the windows at other dogs on Wandsworth Common, barking at the prison, and generally making a nuisance of himself across the back seat of the car.
And then: Tooting. Home of the legendary Wolfie Smith, revolutionary leader of the mighty Tooting Popular Front. He wasn't home, so we pressed on toward Bromley and the faggy fifty-a-day aunt.
"Dad! The dog's smiling!"
"So he is. Isn't that funny?"
"Awww, who's a cute ickle doggums, eh?"
Alas, my mother was far too busy driving to deliver her warning to us. She had always had dogs as a girl and knew that dogs, as a rule, don't tend to smile a great deal.
"He's not smiling, he's..."
"Yaaaaaaaaaarch!" said Snoopy.
And "Yaaaaaaarch!" he went again, bowking the finest Pedigree Chum and Winalot mix all over Nigel's shoulder. Which he* then proceeded to eat, it being a shame to let good food go to waste.
Poor Nigel: "Yaaaaaaarch!" he said, quite understandably in the circumstances.
Well, if it was alright for them, I might as well get into the act.
There being no hedges in the middle of Tooting Broadway, I went for the next best thing: everybody else in the car. Alas, trying to hold it back only made it worse, and I sprayed my youthful chunder in what, in other circumstances, might have been described as a pleasing arc for maximum spatter.
And what a dreadful, vomit-soaked group early-evening passers-by witnessed emerging from a dark blue Renault that evening, scraping sick off our clothes and retching aftershocks into a nearby drain, a foul-smelling dog of indeterminate breed licking shamelessly at puddles of the stuff.
Then we went to Aunt Silk Cut's and she barely noticed the stench through the nicotine fog. In fact, we stayed the night, attempting to sleep on her floor as trains roared by, not twenty feet away.
We got an estate car. Alas, he quickly learned to be sick through the bars and onto the back seat. Bad dog.
* Who? Who ate the vomit? Nigel or the dog? You decide