Another "Talking Heads"-style short story - the idea for this one prompted by recent events.

Created: December 27,2022

Our Michael and his wife drove up at the weekend. It was their Maggie’s birthday on the Thursday, and me and John put on a belated bit of birthday tea for her. She’s seven now. A lively little thing, unbelievably chatty, and absolutely into everything.

After we’d had our tea, we went down to the park so she could play on the swings and the slide and that, and Michael, just in passing, said it was a shame that they wouldn’t be able to get her a dog to play with.

And that set me to reminiscing.

Nearly everyone on the estate had had a dog when I was growing up. There were a few that had cats, but mostly it was dogs.

And it was nice, seeing all the different sorts, and people out taking them for walks, or playing fetch-the-stick on the common. You just had to watch where you stepped, that’s all.

Even when our Michael was a boy, we had five dogs just down our end of the road, seven if you count the two poodles that the old lady in the cul-de-sac had.

We had our Labrador, Bessie, of course, and the Johnsons, next door but two, they had a long-haired chihuahua called Mickey, and a Dachshund called Toby.

Michael’s mate, Wally Cooper, his family – they lived down at number seventeen – they had a long-haired black and white thing, a bit like a sheep dog, only bigger and not so friendly.

Then there was the Fletchers, at number twenty-three, they had a yappy little thing called Buster. Looked to me more like an overgrown ferret than a dog, but they liked him. Cross between a Yorkshire terrier and something with a foreign sounding name.

Every one of them was dead and gone by 2023. There was no other option, really.

We took Bessie in ourselves. Drove her to the police station on Franklin Road. Michael went with us and he cried a lot when they took her away. He wasn’t so bad the next day though. He was pretty grown-up for his age, and he seemed to understand.

What was the saddest thing for me was seeing the old lady when they came for her poodles.

I was walking up to the corner shop for a paper and I saw the black van come down the road. There were two blokes and a young girl that came.

The two blokes went in and got the dogs and the girl just stood and held hands and tried to comfort the old lady.

They all looked like something out of some science fiction film, all suited up, with goggles and thick gloves on. You’d have thought they’d come for radioactive Rottweilers instead of little white poodles.

The old lady stayed standing at the garden gate in her dressing gown when they drove away. And you could see in her face how hard she found it. The dogs had been her life’s blood since she’d lost her husband.

It was bad enough back in 2020, when we had the pandemic and the lockdowns, but everybody thought we were on the mend when we got to 2022. It just goes to show how you shouldn’t take things for granted, and how fragile everything is nowadays.

Either one of the problems by itself would have been just about manageable, so the chap in the BBC documentary said, but the two things coming together made it all ten-times worse.  

I’d heard of rabies before, of course, and I guess most people had, but it didn’t seem to be a problem over here till then.

Canine coronavirus though, that was a new one on me, and a new one to most people, I think. I didn’t even know they’d had a vaccine for that. Not that that would have done any good when the new variant came in.

So, what with the mutant rabies that couldn’t be treated and spread like wildfire, and the mutant Covid that got passed from dogs to humans and buggered up your intestines as well as your lungs, they had no choice but to get all the dogs put down. There was no other option.

Submitted: February 21, 2022

© Copyright 2023 Sheridan J. Wilde. All rights reserved.

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