Chapter 1: A walk in the park?
Paddy bobbed up and down in the puppy crate as Helen, the instructor opened the car door. She lifted him out and cuddled him close to her chest. “I’m sorry boy,” she whispered, as she walked him through the double sliding doors.
“Ok, I don’t know this place. Why are we here?” he barked.
“Good morning Mrs Brown,” Helen said, handing over the pup. “He’s an intelligent dog, but he’s easily distracted, especially around food and cats.”
“Err, why are you saying that?” Paddy whimpered. “I’m a growing lad, of course I like food.”
“Ah,” said Mrs Brown. “He needs a high level of concentration to work as a guide dog. We’ll have to put this little fella up for adoption.”
“Adoption?” Paddy tilted his head to the side, his forehead crinkling into a frown.
“Yes,” Helen waggled Paddy’s floppy ears. “He’ll make a great family pet.”
“Yep, I’m a great dog,” Paddy licked Mrs Brown’s face. “You love me licking your face, don’t you?”
Mrs Brown wiped the slobber from her cheek saying, “We’ll find him a new home soon enough.”
“WAIT,” Paddy whimpered as Helen walked away. “You’re leaving me? What did I do wrong? Are you coming back? Pleeease don’t go.”
One week later, the Thompson family met Paddy for the first time.
“Oh, look at his sad face, “said Mum as he stared up at her. “Such beautiful, big brown eyes.”
“He’s a handsome hound,” Dad said. “And he’s had a good amount of training.”
“Pleeeease can we have him.” Sam knelt on the floor next to Paddy. “You want to come home with me, don’t you?” She threw her arms around the dog as he swiped his wet tongue across her face. Wiping the slobber from her lips with her sleeve, she giggled, “He kissed me. Please can we take him home, I love him.”
“Yeah, come on, let’s get out of here,” he barked.
Four years later, Paddy was enjoying life as the Thompson family’s adored second child, had forgotten his early training and developed some rather unsavoury habits.
When Paddy watched his family, or people pack as he called them, lavish coconut scented cream on their skin, he thought, “The sun’s out. I need a walk to the park and a cooling dip in the lake.” He licked his lips.
However, Dad, a black belt in excuse making, developed a debilitating backache that lasted from Spring through to Autumn; the pain only relieved by lounging in front of the telly and dunking custard creams into mugs of hot tea. This meant Paddy had to work his magic on Mum to take him to the park, which in all honesty wasn’t too difficult, because, although her husband’s laziness drove her mad, the dogs whining yanked her guilt chain, so she often walked him to the park herself. That said, she always stood her ground on Sundays, which, like a bad smell, came around too quick for Dad.
On Sunday mornings, he liked to read the papers, watch football from the comfort of his favourite chair and update social media on his phone. So, when Paddy’s pleading eyes bored into him after breakfast, Dad waved his hand dismissively saying, “No Paddy, I’m busy.”
His sixth custard cream of the day broke in half and disappeared under a layer of creamy froth floating on the top of his tea. He peered into the mug, saying, “Ask Mum.”
Paddy tilted his head to the right and whimpered. “Shall I give you my paw?” He lifted his right paw just in case Dad wanted to hold it.
Ignoring him, Dad called to his wife. “Can you bring me a spoon love?”
Paddy shuffled forward, laid his chin on Dad’s knee, and gazed up at him with his big, brown eyes.
“What do you want?” Dad said, taking the remote control from the arm of the chair to change the channel.
Paddy leaned his head to the left and barked, “What do you think? I wanna go out.”
Mum, resplendent in a fabulous flowery apron and pink fur trimmed rubber gloves, shouted, “You need to walk the dog.” She placed the last clean plate onto the draining board and yanked the plug out of the sink.
Paddy bounded into the kitchen and sat on the tiled floor next to her, his tongue hanging from his mouth. “Did you say walk? Great minds think alike eh?”
“Not today darling,” she said. “I don’t have time.”
Paddy jumped up, rested his front paws on the counter and watched transfixed as the water swirled and gurgled down the plug hole. Mum shook lemon scented soap suds from her gloves and told him, “Dad will take you, darling.”
Paddy blinked at her. “Really? You could’ve fooled me.”
She pulled off one of her gloves to caress his velvety ears. He leaned into her, breathing in the fresh scent of cherry blossom and sweet pea on her clothes, but he jolted back to reality when Mum reached for the bleached white tea towel hanging from a drawer handle. He slipped; his claws scratching deep furrows along the entire length of the cupboard door as they slid to the floor. “Now look what you made me do,” he barked.
“Oh dear,” Mum said, running her finger over the wood. “Another repair that’ll never get done.”
“Those claws need a trim,” Sam said, sliding across the tiled floor on her knees to hug her pet.
Mum nodded, “Yes, I’ll book him into ‘Snip and Clip’ for that. He won’t sit still for me.”
She tore off the other rubber glove, flung it on the draining board and marched into the lounge, snatching the dog’s lead off a hook on her way. Her husband, idling in the armchair, feigned sleep.
Her long, black hair brushed against his face as she leaned in close to his head. His cheek twitched, cracking his expressionless face. She drew in a frustrated breath, letting it blow in his ear on the way out, then she shouted, “Paddy needs a walk.”
“Yep. I do, and you’ve drawn the short straw today.” Paddy plonked himself in front of Dad.
“Uh,” Dad’s eyes pinged open. “But my back hurts and you kept me awake with your snoring last night.” He yawned, “I could do with a quick nap. You take him today?”
Mum’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline. “My snoring?” she said, planting her hands on her hips. “That’s the most ridiculous excuse I’ve ever heard.” She threw the dog’s lead into his lap. “I’ve taken him every day this week. Today is Sunday, so unless you plan to change the beds and iron your own shirts you need to walk the dog.”