The mystery of Grandad Ron’s absent dog

When is a dog not a dog? Grandad Ron has a dog lead, but the animal you’d expect to find at the other end? Ollie decides to get to the bottom of the conundrum…

Ollie shrugged off his coat and hung it on one of the pegs inside the kitchen door at his parents’ home, as he’d done countless time before. But this time there was something different.

He couldn’t place it for the moment, but then he realised. There was a dog lead. Shiny and black, with white stitching and a steel clip on the end. But his parents didn’t have a dog. Sure, they had done, years before, when he was growing up. The place had always been full of dogs, but after the final fateful trip to the vet with the last in a long line of faithful mutts, his dad Ron had sworn there would never be another. The pain of parting was getting to be too much for him, he’d said. He’d even swapped his estate car, so essential for a dedicated dog owner, for a saloon.

And yet here was a dog lead, mutely attesting to the presence of a dog.

“You’ve got a dog lead, dad,” Ollie said to his father, who was engaged in brushing cake crumbs from his pullover, ostensibly onto his plate, but mostly onto the floor.

“I can see why you’ve got on, son. Eyes like a hawk,” said his father.

“And you’ve that twinkly sort of look in your eye. Have you got another dog?”

“In a manner of speaking, I have,” said his father. “But at the same time, I haven’t.”

Ollie cast a glance around the kitchen. There was no sign of a dog’s bed. The space in which it had habitually lived, back in the day, was filled with beer bottles and a recycling box half filled with newspapers. He sniffed. There was none of the unmistakable aroma of wet dog either, which there surely would have been, it being a particularly rainy day. And since his father’s boots were damp and loitering inside a tiny puddle by the door, he had surely been out in it.

“So which is it? Have or haven’t?” he asked. “And more to the point, if we’re going down the road of ‘have’, then where is it?”

“It’s both, since you ask, and the dog is exactly where it should be, in its bed.”

At this point Ollie’s mum Lorna scuttled into the room, and rolled her eyes at the field of crumbs around her husband’s chair. “Look at the state of you,” she said, reaching for a hand-held vacuum cleaner and working over her husband’s pullover.

“Stop vacuuming me, for goodness sake,” protested Ron. “Can’t you see we’ve got company?”

“It’s only Ollie,” said Lorna. “And he knows you’re usually in need of a thorough hoovering. There’s no wonder your jumper sticks out so much at the front; it’s had more of that bun than you have. When I said ‘get it down you’, I meant on the inside,” she added, turning her attention, and the vacuum cleaner, to the floor.

Ron spoke again. “OK, I’ll come clean…”

“I should think you will, after mum’s been vacuuming you,” said Ollie.

“Do you want to hear about my dog or not?,” asked Ron, petulantly. “It’s like this,” he went on, without waiting for a reply. “Mrs Jackson next door; Sarah; she’s got a dog, but she has to go out to work. I need the exercise, and as you know I’ve never seen much fun in ‘going for a walk’, so I’ve volunteered to walk her dog for her. Lunchtimes. Three days a week. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It’s a win:win:win. She gets the peace of mind because the dog’s had a walk and been let out; I get some exercise, and so does the dog.

“But it’s more than that. In a world where no-one seems to know their neighbours any more, we’ve lost the feeling of community we had when I was growing up. By sharing a common interest – in this instance her dog’s welfare – we’re bringing some of that back. We’re more than neighbours; we’re good friends, and we can look out for each other. And that’s priceless,” he added.

Picture: April Turner | Dreamstime