‘Did you give Ringo an apple?’ asks Dawn.
‘Eh? Did I Hell,’ says I.
‘Sounds like he’s eating one.’
I see brown paws protruding through the living room door frame, and we go investigate, to find our Labrador Ringo at the bottom of the stairs, on his side, scrabblingly scoffing at a mess of apple and spit with all the aggressive shamelessness of a cocaine addict snorting at a spilt gram.
‘Ringo – where did you get that?’ I ask.
He knows the game’s up, he knows he’s been caught in possession of contraband, but he’s mid fix and just does not care. ‘I’ll get this inside me and then I’ll just buzz through whatever they throw at me in the nick,’ his junkie mind says.
‘I didn’t give it to him,’ say Dawn, heading for the kitchen, where she notes ‘there’s no way he could have got up onto the side to get at the fruit bowl with all that stuff in the way.’
‘I didn’t give him one either,’ I say, ‘although I did earlier get an apple for breakfast and put it on a side somewhere for later consumption, might have been in the living room.’
‘Well that’s it then,’ says Dawn.
‘Bloody Hell, the opportunist little thief!’ I say aloud, as Ringo slinks into the room, coming down already. ‘Shame on you, Ringo,’ I say in my best Nigerian baritone, finger on his nose, ‘Shame!’
He bows his head, then turns to jump onto the sofa where Dawn’s now sat.
Ringo flits his eyes at me and away again as, lying on the sofa, he noses into Dawn for protection.
‘Awww … he knows he’s done wrong, don’t you Ringo,’ says Dawn.
‘Does he Hell, look at him, steals food and then guilt-trips his demand for protection from justice!’
‘*Tsk* don’t listen to him Ringo,’ she says, as Ringo puts on his best ‘poooo–o-o-r me’ expression.
‘Oh for God’s sake, can you not undermine me in front of the dogs!’
Ben-dog, our older, black Lab, meanwhile is watching all this from the vantage point of his bed in the corner, then seeks to capitalise on Ringo’s fall from grace and he goes over to the sofa and growls for Ringo to surrender his seat on the sofa – a position that criminals have no right to! – surrender, jackanape! he growls.
‘Ben! Come here and be cute!’ I say.
He glances at me, sniffs, then turns back to the sofa and starts pawing at the cushion, ‘get off now.’
‘Come on Ben!’
He doesn’t even look over, but growls and paws until Ringo slinks off the sofa with the backbone of Neil the Hippy, while Ben brusquely pushes past him to take his place, which is what it’s all about, he just wants Dawn’s strokes.
‘Well thanks, Ben, I see where your loyalties lie,’ say I.
Ben doesn’t reply, instead as he settles into the warm spot left by Ringo he stares at me as nonchalantly as possible, while Ringo lies along the base of the sofa, as meekly and pitifully as he can muster, still somehow holding onto his claim for the moral highground of self pitying victim.
Right, thinks I.
‘Awww…. Ringo … aww… come here, Ringo, come here, come here and be cute.’
Ringo raises his head and looks at me, ‘really? You want me over?’
‘Come here Ringo, yezh yezh,’ and so eager to believe all is forgiven, he comes and keels onto his side at my feet.
‘Goood boy Ringo, yes you are, yes you are,’ I say, slapping his tummy, and massaging his head.
Ben continues to stare, shoulders fixed in shrug position.
‘Goood boy Ringo, yes you are, yes you are,’ say I, slapping Ringo’s tummy and ruffling his fur.
Ben just stares.
‘Who’s the cutest dog, Ringo, who’s the cutest? You are, yes you are, the cutest!’ Ringo’s on his back, paws aloft, eyes shut tight.
Ben just stares.
‘Goooood boy Ringo, cute boy Ringo, yes you are, yes you are,’ say I, slapping and ruffling.
Ben glances towards Dawn, who responds with a couple of strokes to the head, but no more.
‘Ringo Ringo wingo wingo wingowowogowowowooooo…’ slap-slap-slap-ruffle
Ben looks at Dawn and raises his nose high, a sign for ‘strokes – NOW’, but she’s reading.
‘Ringo Ringo wingo dingo ooozhiwoozhiwoozhiwoo … yezh yezh yezh…’ ruffle-ruffle-slap-slap-slap-slap-slap
Ben’s nose is as aloft as can be, and Dawn strokes under his chin, then resumes reading, and Ben drops his snout and looks at her, then at me, then at her, … and then at me.
‘Ringo Ringo wingo wingo wingowowogowowowooooo…’ slap-slap-slap-slap-slap-stroke-slap-stroke-ruffle-headshake
Ben’s eyes are boring through me until suddenly his can contain his jealous rage no more: ‘WOOF! WOOF WOOF!!!’ Ahhaa…. Ben has blinked! I win, and I cackle accordingly. Ringo scoots away to lie at the foot of the sofa as Ben continues to bark, envy still coarsing through his veins.
Another round of brinksmanship, Robin – 1, Ben – NIL. Then I see Ringo …
‘Awww … Ringooo… come back over here, come on,’ I implore insincerely, but he won’t. He just looks at me sulkily, if not shamefully. He knows he’s been used, yet again he comes to realise only now, at this late hour, that he was never the prize, but only a pawn in a never-ending loyalty war.