Mind yourself as you come through there, please, the newspaper on the floor hasn’t been changed since yesterday. We had some flooding earlier in the week, and it’s still a bit slippery. That’s just one of the problems with these old outbuildings I can assure you; the only bits that don’t leak water are the bits that leak wind. Built below sea level, they must be. Still, we’re replacing them as fast as we can, as and when we can. I put in yesterday for planning permission for the West field, to extend the new block; we’re very proud of that, naturally. Got a grant last year to finish the roofing. I think it looks simply fantastic, everyone always comments on how vivid a shade of red it is. So striking, impossible not to gaze in admiration I always say.
You didn’t? Did you come in from the north of town then? Well, that explains it. Never mind, we’ll pass that way later.
So, you haven’t been to visit us here before then? That’s right, I remember you saying on the phone. Now, you called earlier in the week, yes? Monday or Tuesday wasn’t it?
Of course. Tuesday morning. I was doing paperwork in the office and, I can admit to you freely, my mind had completely wandered off into a day-dream. When the phone rang it gave me such a start I’m sure I didn’t know where I was or what I was supposed to be doing. Your sister took one of our little darlings last autumn. A fine, big specimen, bit of the Irish about him. Rufus. I remember his lovely big brown eyes. How’s she finding him?
Good. I thought they’d suit. We’re very particular about things like that, won’t let you just walk out the door with the first one to take your fancy. And I explained on the phone, I think, about the welfare checks – the home assessment – and the recommended vaccination programme.
Goodness me, if you only knew the number of jokes I’ve heard about neutering! Oh my. That’s a good one though, one of my favourites. Do let me know if you have any questions about our administrative charges or procedures.
That’s right, the follow-up visit is about a month after re-homing. Of course, we have to do a home check before you’re allowed to take any of our little darlings home. A formality, I’m sure, but you’d be disgusted to see where some people think it’s acceptable to keep them. Oh yes, student hovels with no yard for exercise, and nothing but pot noodles to eat. Or beautiful designer houses where they’ll be left alone all day, and of course you can’t expect a sofa not to suffer from that, even if it is Louis Quinze. We generally recommend a course of behavioural training classes too, unless you’ve a lot of positive experiences to draw on. The training is for both of you, not that I wish to imply anything by that. I’m sure you’re perfectly lovely and easy to get on with.
We think our fee is very reasonable, of course, compared to other places. It’s transferable if the re-housing doesn’t work out during the first month. No refunds, I’m afraid, just exchanges.
Any more questions at this stage? No? Well, let me introduce you to some of these little darlings. I’m sorry about the noise, they’re all perfect sweethearts generally and good as gold, but visitors tend to make them a little excitable.
Meet Bruce, isn’t he gorgeous? He’s very sociable, plays well with others. Actually, plays a little too well with others on occasion, if you know what I mean. That’s how he ended up in here. It all got too much, apparently; too much energy, too few outlets. So she brought him to us.
Lachlan here is a Scottie, very popular breed. Only one previous family; a quiet little old lady. She took very good care of him. He needs a fairly quiet home; they didn’t get out much. He was utterly devoted to her, seems to have been a bit lost since she died last year. I can assure you he’s a perfect sweetheart, so attentive, beautiful table manners.
Yes, she was his mother. I didn’t like to say, some people can be a bit funny about that. Not quite what you’re after? Well, never mind. Let’s move on.
We don’t have much history on this chap, I’m afraid. He was abandoned by his previous family. It happens an awful lot. People know to bring them in if they find them, but they’re generally in a terrible state by the time they arrive. This one had awful digestive trouble – seemed to have been living off takeaways – and hadn’t been washed for weeks. He scrubs up quite nicely though, and we’ve almost eliminated the wind problem. He’s a bit needy – they tend to be, the abandoned ones – but with some care and attention we’re certain he’d grow out of it.
Of course you can, feel free to have a look round and see if anyone takes your fancy. Actually, I could do with popping out for a moment, check if the team has arrived to sort out the drainage problems in the exercise yard. It has been such a bother, not being able to let them out for a good run, but you do have to worry about the state of the little darlings feet.
Please don’t slip them anything through the bars while I’m gone. In fact, I’d avoid getting too close. Some of them have issues which only seem to come up around certain types of women, and I’m afraid our insurance doesn’t extend to visitors who don’t pay due care and attention to the warning signs. The background details we have on them are on those forms by the pen- how they ended up with us, previous attempts at re-housing, health issues, age, condition of teeth, et cetera, et cetera. Have a good ruffle through and I’ll be back in just a sec. Sure you’re alright if I leave you? I don’t mean to fuss, but we have had the odd problem in the past. Never mind, I can see you’re far too sensible to do anything ridiculous. Never mind. Won’t be long. Toodle-pip.
So, so sorry about that, got caught up in a discussion on silage and couldn’t break away without seeming terribly rude, and one of the contractors has an aunt on the council. You know what it’s like. How’re you getting on here?
Oh, Lyle. Now that’s a very sad story. You read his notes? Pity, isn’t it, such a handsome fellow under all the scarring. Do you like playing games? Pity. He needs an awful lot of attention, and if he doesn’t get them he becomes an awful nuisance. Have you seen Toby over here? Don’t be fooled by appearances, he really is lovely. People do get terribly put off by the skin disease though.
No? Well, I can understand that. He does shed, unfortunately. Shall we move across to the new enclosure? It’s where we keep our older little darlings. Perhaps someone a little older might suit you, dear. Bit more stability, quieter, less likely to run away. They need fewer toys, too; these young ones can work out awful dear; we suggest you buy them an XBox360 to help them settle in and keep them from going outside for the first few weeks.
Well, didn’t I say so before? I chose the colour myself. I know red is supposed to be a warning sign, but to me it’s the colour of love. You can feel the difference in the temperature between here and the old building, can’t you? It’s a disgrace, really, but what can we do? It always comes down to money. And there are so many more little darlings needing a home than we have space for, but it tears my heart in two to say no to anyone. See anyone you like in here?
Oh please, do sit down. Are you going to faint? No? Let me pass you the tissues. How very, very unfortunate. No, it hasn’t happened before, not here anyway. I’ve often wondered if it might. How long has it been since you’ve seen each other?
Five years. Oh, you poor little darling. I can see he remembers you, look how he’s wagging away. Would you consider…
Of course not. How insensitive of me to even bring it up.
Yes, here are his notes. His wife brought him in about six months ago. So, she kept him on for quite a while, despite finding out about the pair of you. Not that it’s for me to judge, oh no. Each to their own. I’m just happy when any of my little darlings finds love and stability. You can offer one of my little darlings stability, can’t you?
Please stop crying, I’m sure it can’t hurt that much after five years. Have I given you one of our leaflets about vaccination programmes yet?
If you’re sure. No, that’s not a problem. We’re open five days a week, and at weekends by special appointment, such as today. Usually I have the weekends off, apart from the feeding and the mucking out. But I’m always happy to accommodate people. Take another tissue with you dear.
Well, thank you too, for coming in. One more thing, before you go; we have a sister institution over the road and they keep a few places reserved for emergency cases. Just something to think about.
*first published in issue 2 of Alliterati in 2010