Man and dog were inseparable from the moment Danny picked up the puppy. They went jogging together, shared the takeaways and left the containers strewn on the floor. Bonzo slept at the foot of the bed and crawled up to put his head on the pillow when Danny woke. The huge brown eyes stared at Danny, conveying the unconditional love the dog had for his human.
This idyllic setup came to a juddering halt when Alice came into Danny’s life. Not while they were dating. She never objected to the doggy threesome cuddles on the sofa. Then she moved in with her cat, Prickles. Prickles objected to everything, most of all the dog. While the humans were out at work, the cat made the dog’s life a misery. He retaliated by chasing her around the house. The cat leapt onto the table and taunted him. When he lunged, she jumped off, knocking mats and plates to the floor. She shinned up the back of the chair and jumped onto the top of the cupboard. More stuff fell, tinkling into glittering glass shards. The lounge looked like a bomb had gone off.
Bonzo gave up the chase and retired to his basket. The cat, not content with the mess, wandered off. He missed her sneaking into the bathroom. Where she “played” with the toilet rolls. Having shredded them, making it look like a practice run for Christmas snow, she leapt onto the bed, making sure Bonzo knew this was now her territory. She curled up with her fluffy tail tucked around her.
Five o’clock and the door opened. Bonzo rushed across to greet his friend. Danny surveyed the disaster area and rounded on the dog. “Bonzo, what have you been doing here?”
At that moment, Prickles wandered into the room. She shot a meaningful look at Bonzo. Her fluffy tail held upright and purring loudly. She wound herself around Danny’s legs. His anger evaporated for a moment as he bent and gently scratched behind her ear. As he straightened up, he looked at his dog and said, “You should take a lesson from Prickles here.”
Poor Bonzo was so frustrated. He wanted to shout. “It’s not me! It’s that bloody cat who causes all the trouble.” Instead, he looked adoringly at Danny and wagged his tail to show he was bigger than the accusations.
Danny did not take kindly to this show of affection. “It’s no good Bonzo, you can’t get around the fact you have caused chaos here and I have to clear it up before Alice gets home.”
He went into the bathroom and saw the mini snow scene and lost it, yelling. “Bonzo, what have you done here? Wasn’t the mess in the lounge enough?”
This confused Bonzo. Why was his human yelling again? He trotted along to the bathroom and looked in. Danny was standing ankle deep in shredded paper. He was red in the face and his clenched hands hung at his side. “You bloody dog! This is the last straw!”
Prickles strolled in, purring loudly while looking at Bonzo with triumph in her eyes, as if to say, I can beat you every time.
Danny was in a temper by the time Alice got home. “Danny, what’s wrong? Have you had a bad day at work?”
Danny shook his head. “No, it’s that bloody dog of mine. He knocked stuff off the table, sent glasses flying onto the floor, then to top it all shredded rolls of loo paper.”
Alice smiled as she patted his arm. “Ah, poor you. Has he always done this?”
Danny was thoughtful for a moment. “No, come to think of it, he’s never been destructive in all our years together, well, not counting the puppy chewing stage.”
“I expect he’s having a problem adjusting to Prickles and me moving in with you.”
“Well, he’d bloody well better get over it.”
Weeks went by without quite such a rumpus, but Prickles spent her time doing little things to upset Bonzo. After they had spent a wonderful weekend away with Bonzo and Danny running on the beach and Alice sitting in the sun, they arrived back relaxed and laughing. Prickles was, of course, upset at being left at home. The next day she set about upsetting Bonzo. He had learned his lesson and did not rise to her chasing around game. Instead, she dangled her tail like a metronome above his head. He jumped up to swat it away. She swarmed up the lamp. It fell over. As it fell, it hit the sideboard and knocked off a pretty glass vase of Alice’s.
When Danny saw another scene of devastation, he lost his temper and shouted. When he slumped onto the sofa, his loving dog came and laid his head on Danny’s foot to show he loved him despite being shouted at for something he didn’t do. Danny still felt angry and kicked the dog away. Inside he hated how he felt, this anger and as if the dog had let him down.
He gathered the dog, the basket and lead and walked to the car. They stopped at the animal shelter. There the shelter people locked poor Bonzo into a cage. His huge brown eyes watched as his human walked out without looking back or saying goodbye. Heartbroken, Bonzo sat in the corner staring at the wall.
People came and went. One day, a family said they wanted the white dog with the brown patch over his ear and eye. He went home with them, but it broke his heart not to be with Danny. Within the week, they returned him. The man said, “There’s something wrong with this dog. He won’t react to us. He won’t run or play.”
Another family did the same, and poor Bonzo could not respond to them either. They were not Danny, his human. The shelter phoned Danny. “We wanted to inform you that a second family returned Bonzo today.”
Danny felt wretched. Alice had decided the relationship was going nowhere. She and her cat moved out. But not before Prickles had another go at shredding all the loo rolls in the bathroom. After this, Danny thought maybe he had misjudged the situation and been too hard on Bonzo.
He phoned the shelter. “Things have changed. Can I have my dog Bonzo back?”
“We’re sorry, but Bonzo had to be euthanised this morning. That’s the rule at the shelter.”
Danny could not believe he had lost his best friend, the only one who was faithful. He did not deserve to have another pet. He thought about his friend and wished he could have one last word at least, but now it was all too late.
© Felicity Edwards
Winning Story: Contest #14
The following stories are the Outright Winning Entries for the Monthly Short Story Contest
March 2020 onwards