Gone Astray, Murray Ain’t A Stray

My old pal is blind, I swear. He has two pairs of glasses, one with progressive lenses and the other, purely for reading. But, I have seen him wearing his reading glasses to cook his lunch. Other times, he would change one pair for the other, halfway through his violin practice. I reckon it makes little difference to him with either. He’s vision impaired, the poor bloke. As for me, I don’t miss much of the comings and goings around here. He blames it on old age. But, that’s bull shit. His hundred-year-old mother can see better than him. I have seen her pointing to a strand of my hair on the carpet and telling him to pick it up. She’s a bit temperamental but she ain’t blind, that’s for sure. I like her a lot. But they won’t let me go near her. Every time I rush to the front door to welcome her inside, they reckon I am too bubbly and excited and they worry I might knock the old lady down. Crikey, they think so little of me. As if I am that rough.

“You have good eyes, so of course you see the dirt more clearly,” my pal said, obviously a bit miffed that I said he is blind. Maybe he should be down on all fours; he’d be shocked at the amount of hair that’s caked onto the carpet around his desk. His Mrs, luckily for him, rarely intrudes into his space when he is working. Otherwise, she would have nagged him to death to cut his hair short. I am nothing like her. I don’t care if I find his long hair everywhere. He won’t ever get told off by me. “It’s just hair, right?” he said defensively. But to be fair to her, I can understand how annoyed she must feel, having to unclog the wash basin or tease out his hair from the shower drain or remove hair from a wet bathroom floor and wall tiles – those things have a brain of their own, so stubborn are they to get rid of. The old bloke fails miserably. I have seen him try, especially after washing his hair. That’s the other thing I can’t understand. If I were to lose that much hair after each shampoo, why would I wash them again, right? He should be certified mad. I suppose he has no choice. He gets nagged to death to wash his hair daily. The Mrs shows no mercy. She has this obsession in her mind that is like an itch; once she thinks of it, she must scratch it till it bleeds or like a pimple that she finds on her face, she must press it till it pops. But, he is a liar. I know that for a fact. He only pretends that he had washed his hair. Coming out of the bathroom, he would mess up his hair with his towel, as if he was actually drying it. The Mrs had her eyes glued to her iPad, so she fell for that trick.

Just last night, he spotted hair on the shower recess after he had attempted to dry his slithery hair without a hairdryer. It was not a pretty sight. Shaking his hair out, flipping his head upside-down, squeezing the excess water out with both hands whilst totally naked. The bloke is just so unaware. You know, when he was fluffing his hair from side to side, his appendage below was swinging like a pendulum. Ding dong! Quite appalling. I’d go into a fit and retch out dry vomit. Still totally naked, he bent down to pick up a few strands but it was easier said than done without long fingernails. I was on all fours dry heaving away as I looked up at him repeating the same action without success. His hair was like little worms skimming on the wet surface, evading his fat finger. Each time he scooped, his fat finger came up empty. The poor guy, having lost muscle mass in the past months, has legs like chopsticks. He has never looked at himself from the ground up – if he did, he surely would not have squatted naked knowing I was there on the floor outside the glass door of the cubicle looking in. He routinely squeegeed the cubicle dry after he had finished washing himself. But, man! Don’t squat in front of me when you do that.

A mad man, he ought to know better than not to wear a hat when out in the sun. Evidence of UV damaged hair can be seen quite clearly when you compare the dry hoary hair on his head with the shiny black clump below. Fair enough that he may think the layers of grime and salts from Adelaide’s hard water offer enough screen to protect his modesty but oh dear, truly, I do not exaggerate when I say the human body is one of the ugliest things on earth – the wrinkly skin clinging precariously to his bum and the now-almost-hairless scrotal sacs that hang suspended from the base of the thingy that he used to call his ‘pride and joy’ are so yucky to look at I often wonder why people were so keen to drop by nudist beaches. The sacs swinging in front of me like wind chimes on a windy day house a pair of balls that their owner described as a once-upon-a-time non-unionised factory that was capable of non-stop all-day production in a pre-matrimonial union. But, once married, the same balls were suddenly obliged to be ‘unionised’ with very strict rules of production and reproduction uncompromisingly imposed by his new bride. No ifs, no buts. Her ‘factory’ was always on strike in support of said union rules.

I am only four and half years old, so please forgive me if I sound a bit vague in this matter. I am still so pissed off that they cut off my balls without asking me for my opinion. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Murray and I am a miniature poodle. Born in the town of Murray Bridge about an hour’s drive southeast of Adelaide, my former family used to live in a country cottage near the banks of the Murray River. My mum was forever pregnant and sadly, I never got to meet most of my siblings. I do not remember my father but they say I look very much like him. Strong, macho and stocky, no dog messes with me. I hang around the parks like I am the top dog, and I believe even the alsatians and greyhounds are weaker and slower than me. Without a doubt, I am the cutest on the block. The office girls in the city said I am their poster boy. A rather hunched and podgy old woman, dressed like a pious nun in a heavy serge coat with a tortured Jesus hanging from her wobbly neck, stopped us in front of the swimming pool at Hazelwood Park a few months ago and said to my old pal I am a calendar dog. He replied, “He’s a centrefold!” She seemed taken aback and so, I growled at her. I growl at anyone who disagrees with my pal. Ask The Mrs, she knows best.

The Mrs told me the day should not talk about the night. The two have never met. So I shall remember that and only talk about what I know. The moon is not always round, so no one should expect anyone to be perfect. I say that because of the guilt I feel inside. She is a lovely person, The Mrs. She gives me whatever is in the fridge for them. No canned dog food, no cheap chubs. I get the best cuts. I know. She serves me first, well ahead of him. My old pal looked on with jealous eyes and a growling tummy as I chomped away at the Maryland and the golden pomfret. He got to choose from the dry breast meat or neck and wings. To be fair, there were lots of the pomfret left. So, don’t believe him should he whinge about how unfair she was. She adores me to bits and the sweet smile in her voice is only reserved for me. “Baby, ni th’ng wor ma? (are you sweet to me?)” she cooed and smiled adoringly. It is so easy to please her; why is it so difficult for him? All he has to do is do what I do, ask her for a scratch before bedtime – no words are necessary, just lie on your back and raise all four limbs in the air and she will lovingly give you a tummy rub. I promise you – she won’t stop until you walk away. Then, in the morning, scratch her side of the bed, lick her face to wake her up like she has won Lotto (isn’t waking up to a new day the best present we can have?) and when she opens her eyes, act like you have missed her for an eternity. So simple, right?

My old pal, to be fair to him, did try that once. I saw it. But, the man was clumsy and pathetic. Scratch the side of her bed, I said, not get up close to her and think he’s Rudolph Valentino. He was on to her like a rash, feeling her like she was a virgin, his adventurous hand knew no bounds. He put his right leg over her and was about to mount her when her eyes suddenly opened and glared at him. “Stop it! Get off me.Your mouth stinks!” said she in a tone that would instantly turn water into ice.

My guilt gnaws at me, it really does. The Mrs is the best person I have ever met. She is the only one who doesn’t treat me like a dog. I mean, who else gives me generous cuts of salmon, raw tuna and lobster meat? No one! It is true that there is always a higher mountain, yi shan hai yu yi shan gao 一山还有一山高. This morning, my old pal’s cuz in Zaandam shared news of Fifi flying business class from Hong Kong to Istanbul. The miniature long- haired dachshund was seen blissfully snuggling under blankets. But hey, I am not complaining. I get enough morsels of lobster that friends of my old pal can only be jealous of. I feel her love, I really do; and I love her too, of course. But, my old pal is the one true friend I completely trust. The others, I have growled at or scratched at or even nipped at. He is the only one I allow to shave my hair or bathe me. He washes my feet before I am allowed back into the house but I don’t mind. I quite enjoy the routine now. Despite what Google tells him, he bathes me almost daily. I trust him completely, so I let him, willingly.

My lifespan is only 14 years. We will make the most of it together.

He works too many hours. He is mostly on his bum – at work, or at play with his violin, or when he is writing his blogs. I have told him so, not in so many words. None, actually but we speak to each other all the time, body is the language we use. He got up to stretch his body. His legs are very thin. I have shown him how to do downward dog pose; it will strengthen his wrists, arms and shoulders but he needs someone else to show him some poses for his legs. At the park last weekend, he was sauntering in his white Boss shirt armed with his phone to check on crypto prices every now and then. I nudged at his thin legs to tell him not to bother. What will be will be. He gave out a silent fart. Close by, a couple walking their dog looked our way and frowned. I could tell it was his; the familiar smell of drying mud in a hole in the ground and of rancid lamb fat. He pulled the ends of his hair from out of his mouth that a breeze had caused them to misbehave.

The smell of gum leaves revived him. He felt invigorated from the burst of eucalyptus air. The cloudless sky was starting to burn, its blue turning white and glaring showing how the sun can force us to seek reprieve even from such a vast distance away. My pal sought the refuge of a tree with the thickest foliage. He wasn’t the first. A red-capped lorikeet above was quicker. It sat on a branch watching the world without the faintest worry. Its vivid plumage of black, green and white capped by a gorgeous red top advertised its readiness to mate. No, maybe not. It was already autumn. Maybe, it was broken-hearted after its young had flown off to build a life for themselves.

I had gone astray, running amok with some friends. But I am no stray. Look at me, don’t I look cute and cuddly? The Mrs’ sister said I am the handsomest dog and the smartest. My pal was in white, so it was no sweat to track him down from afar. I watched him for a long time with my cute round eyes. Humans have white in their eyes making them easy to read. I can tell from their sanpaku if they are afraid, angry or nervous. Sometimes, he shows his yin sanpaku and I feel his sadness. Don’t be sad, my pal. You have so much to be thankful for. Was it not you who told me happiness thrives where there is contentment and gratitude? His Nehru-collared white shirt stood out in the canvas of mostly green and brown but to me they are mostly grey. His sparrow legs were hidden by a pair of green Lululemon pants. A friend of his said the brand is overrated and overpriced. But, he is no fashionista nor is he trendy. I have seen the clothes he wears from photos my pal showed me yonks ago. I may be a dog but even I understand we can’t say a thing is overpriced without knowing the costs and brainpower that had gone into making it.

“Well, you save on ironing time, that’s got to be worth something!”

“And the cut lifts your body, that’s worth a lot.”

“And the feel on your skin is like the feel of a virgin. That’s worth a lot too!”

“And when you take them off you feel sad. That’s gotta be worth something too.”

“And you’ll walk like you’re worth a million bucks and that’s worth more than the coins that don’t jingle.”

He is wise, don’t you agree? Bugger the price. What is $129 if my pal feels good in them? I didn’t stray from my script. I quickly ran back to him and got up on my hind legs to hug him. Grass seeds were attracted to me, so I got off him and scratched myself in a way humans find obscene. But I cared little about what they thought. My private parts smelled funny, so I reached down and gave them a good lick.

“Are you cleaning yourself or enjoying it?” asked my pal who smirked and sounded decidedly acidic.

“Let’s go home,” said I, a red dog with the best pal. He was jealous all the way home. I knew that was something he could never do.