dubiously true stories and cartoons

Friday, June 6, 2014


Many years ago a friend of mine asked me if I’d ever been interested in owning a dog. My grandparents had owned a dog called Kim that was a cross (somehow) between a corgi and German Shepherd. Back then we called German Shepherd’s Alsatians because people still had vivid memories of the war with Germany and owning anything that was German or had German connotations was a no-no. I’d always had fond memories of Kim and, despite his latent stupidity and strange appearance, he was a loveable dog, and so when my friend asked me if I wanted a dog, I immediately said yes.
“I’ve got a dog,” he told me, “and we’re looking for a new home for him.”

“How old is he?”

“About a year old.”

“Oh,” I replied, “what breed is he?”

“He’s a Springer Collie cross. If you’re interested you can come round a have a look at him tonight – after dark.”

“I’ll do that,” I said.

I went round to his house at around seven that evening and rang the doorbell. He and his wife were both dressed to go out. There was no sign of a dog anywhere. “Where’s the dog?” I asked. “Is he asleep somewhere?”

“No,” said my friend, “he’s in the back garden. I’ll go and let him in.”

He opened the back door and without warning a brown and white blur ran into the lounge and started running around and around and around the room. Every now and then he jumped up and yelped, before beginning once again his mercurial journey around the inner boundaries of the room.

“He’s a bit lively, isn’t he,” I said.

“Watch this,” my friend said. And then he called, “Bungle! Roll over!”

Bungle (for that was the dog’s name) started to roll over immediately.

My God, I thought, a dog that can do tricks! “I’ll take him,” I said, without another moment’s hesitation.

My friend and his wife quickly gathered up Bungle’s lead and a bag of dog food and handed them to me. “He’s yours,” he said.

I attached the lead to Bungle’s collar and we left my friend’s house. As I was being dragged down the road by this small but incredibly strong dog, I swear that I heard my friend and his wife laughing in the distance.

You may (or may not) have gathered by now that Bungle was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a calm dog. He was, it turned out, the Randall P. McMurphy of dogs, a destructive, disruptive mental case that brought nothing but chaos into my once ordered world. It was only later that I discovered that his previous owners had only seen him for about half an hour a day. They were either at work or out on the town and Bungle had been left on his own for hours at a time every single day of the week. By the time I found this out, my ex-friend and his wife had moved away (probably to another continent) and I had been well and truly duped into accepting responsibility for a dog that had developed full-blown cabin fever.

I never really understood why my ex-friend had specified that I should come round to his house to see Bungle ‘after dark’ until about a month after I had become his new owner (the dog, not my ex-friend). Bungle must have paid some attention when he was in the lounge with me as I watched The Great Escape on television on Easter Sunday because I discovered to my surprise that he had been digging a series of tunnels in the garden that had more than a passing resemblance to those that had been built by the prisoners of war in Stalag Luft III. Not wanting to end up being shot climbing the wire like Ives, he decided to become Danny, the tunnel king, instead. Unfortunately, being a dog, he was unable think it through properly and, not having the intelligence to realise that a complex system of wooden supports were required to prop the entire system up, the whole thing collapsed one Saturday morning, turning the lawn into what could only be described as an accurate recreation of the Somme battlefield at around tea-time on 1 July 1916.

If that wasn’t enough, the dog that I thought could do tricks turned out to be a one trick pony (or dog, if it makes you more comfortable). The only trick Bungle could do, as I quite quickly discovered, was roll over. In fact everything I said to him was translated in his doggy brain to “Roll over!”

When I told him to sit he would roll over. When I told him to beg he would roll over. When I told him to heel he would roll over. When I was talking to someone on the phone in hallway all he could hear was, “Roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, roll over, etc, etc, etc,” and he would roll around my feet, urinating in the air with excitement.

To say that Bungle was an excitable dog would be understating the meaning of the word excitable. Whenever I stepped into the house, even if I’d only been outside for a couple of seconds, he would bound down the hallway with his tongue lolling stupidly out of his mouth, whereupon he would jump up, place his paws on my chest and then urinate in uncontrollable excitement all over my shoes and the bottom half of my trousers. I suppose it wasn’t his fault – a whole year in solitary confinement had made him pleased to see anyone and I suppose if a serial killer/axe-murderer (who specialised in killing dogs) had entered the house he would have urinated on his shoes as well.

I couldn’t leave him anywhere in the house on his own because he would chew up the furniture and rip up the soft furnishings with his nails. He was a nightmare – the dog from Hell!

By far the worst thing about Bungle was his ability to escape. If the front door was opened just a crack he could slip through it at great speed and run off into the street and continue running with me calling his stupid name for hours on end. Just when I thought I’d caught up with him he’d run off again looking back at me and laughing at the same time.

Yes, I did say laughing.

I swear that he was laughing at me, and probably thinking that I was enjoying myself as he feigned tiredness, only to dart off when I was within ten feet of him, leaving me cursing his name, wishing all the time that I’d never been tricked into taking him home in the first place.

I took him to dog training classes but the local dog trainers gave up on him and even TV dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse’s advice had no effect. Even the simplest command – sit – was impossible to get through to him because he was too busy rolling over to hear what I was saying. A year of neglect from his previous owner had left him untrainable.

Eight months went by without any improvement in his behaviour. I was at my wit’s end. I realised that I was stuck with him until he (or I) died. I would never wish anyone or anything (with the possible exception of the wasp) dead, but his uncontrollable and destructive behaviour made me dislike him so much that thoughts of murdering him did briefly cross my mind.

Maybe those dark thoughts of mine that were floating around the ether were the cause of what happened to Bungle three days before Christmas.

It happened in the evening – a group of carol singers knocked on the front door to extort some money from me after singing a few songs about a fictional character. As I opened the door Bungle shot out through the crack and ran out onto the road. He turned his head to look at me, laughing as he did, and unfortunately, owing to this momentary lack of concentration, he didn’t see the car that killed him.

The carol singers screamed when they heard the bang and they watched in horror as Bungle’s lifeless body was sent flying through the air, where it crashed against a neighbour’s wall and then tumbled onto the pavement. The driver of the car immediately slammed on his brakes, climbed out of his vehicle and ran over to where Bungle was lying motionless on the ground. I was already by Bungle’s side when the driver arrived at the scene.

“I didn’t see it,” he said, “it just came out of nowhere.”

“He,” I replied.


“He. It was a he.”

“Is he your dog?”

“Well, he was.”

“Look, I’m really sorry. Like I said, he just came out of nowhere. Is there anything I can do?”

“Not really. You probably did me a favour, actually.”

The driver didn’t say anything but I knew that what I’d just said was the wrong thing to say. For all his faults, Bungle didn’t deserve to die in such a shocking and violent way. The only consolation I felt was that it must have been quick.

I carried Bungle into the house and wrapped him in a blanket.

I buried him in the garden that night.

I put the shovel away, washed my hands and then poured myself a large glass of whisky. I sat down on the ripped up cushions of the sofa and looked over at the Christmas tree with its sparkling lights going on and off, on and off, on and off.

Then I began to cry.

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