Welcome To The Dog House

a short story by the esteemed Abacus Count

I come from a big family of losers. That’s not to say we’re hopeless human beings. It’s just that we are big. All of us. Big boned, Dad says. Big Dad, big Mum, big Simon, big Me, and big Sophie. In that order. And we lose everything. And I mean everything. Even each other sometimes. Mum often says she’s losing her mind and Dad is always going on about losing interest. Simon loses his temper all the time and when he was thirteen even lost his voice. Mum says it had broken. I sometimes lose my patience. The only thing we never seem to lose is our sense of humour. Just as well really, all things considered.

The Dog
The thing we lose most often is the dog. He’s the only one who’s not big. He’s small. And white. But he has got big black bushy eyebrows. And The Dog is what we call him. He did have a proper name once but it got lost along the way, if you know what I mean. And that’s exactly what he does. He gets lost along the way. One minute he’s there tugging the lead and cocking his leg against a tree. You look away - I mean, who wants to watch a dog doing their watering the plants routine? – And when you turn back there’s just a tree. No dog. Anywhere. But he always turns up eventually. He’d never leave us. He knows he’s got a good home. And he likes Mum’s cooking.

Getting Lost
An interesting fact of life, is that when you lose something, you often find something too. For example, one day we were all out on a walk – Mum, Dad, Simon, Me, Sophie in her pram and The Dog on his lead. After appreciating the trees, and the flowers, and the fields, and the sunshine, and the clouds, and then the rain, Dad says, we’ve completely lost our way. And Mum says, we’d better find an alternative route then. Which we did. Eventually. In fact we found lots of alternative routes, but only one that took us home. And that was in a taxi.

Dog Ends
Some things are actually hard to lose. Dad wants to give up smoking but can’t seem to lose the habit. He says it would be easier if he could just lose a bit of weight first. But Mum says that’s nonsense. I think The Dog understands because he keeps hiding the cigarettes and nicking Dad’s food. He makes him chase around the room and we all laugh. Dad gets out of breath, and says between the coughs, that dog’s going to be the death of me and he’s as daft as a brush. But Mum says the dog isn’t as daft as he looks. Although she also says he does look very daft. And he needs a brush.

Couch Potatoes
One place you can often find lost things is down the side of the couch. Or the settee as Dad calls it. Or the sofa as some people might say. Or the big seat where we watch telly. Mum says that we’re becoming couch potatoes. But I don’t know what she means. Just the other week, I moved the cushions and found loads of things that we’d lost. I made a list:
Four bent cigarettes (Dad’s)
A chocolate wafer (Mum’s)
A detention note from school (Simon’s)
Six five pence pieces, two twenty pence pieces, and a one-pound coin (mine)
A dummy (Sophie’s)
A chewed up slipper (The Dog’s)

Supermarket Chase
A bit of advice. Never take a dog shopping. When The Dog came with us on Saturday Dad said, right that’s the last time. And it was. We went in the car to a big supermarket, and it wasn’t until we’d got out into the rain, put up Sophie’s pushchair, set my diver’s watch, got Simon’s special waterproof out of the trailer, and Dad found the list Mum had made, that we realised we’d lost The Dog. We guessed he’d be in the supermarket because, as Dad said, this wasn’t the first time. We looked everywhere. We searched the shoe department (he likes slippers), the delicatessen (he likes smoked chicken), the bakery (he likes small wholemeal loafs), the fish counter (he likes a nice piece of fresh haddock), and the Electrical section (he likes watching television). The only place we didn’t bother looking was the pet food area, because we know he doesn’t like his meals tinned or dried. We were just about to give up when there was a loud announcement: “Could the owners of the small white dog with the big black bushy eyebrows please make their way to the lost and found desk” – It was so embarrassing. And we’d still got the shopping to do.

No Explanation
On another occasion, we went to the local shops to buy one of the papers that Dad never finds time to read. We tied The Dog up outside, near a window so he could see us, and gave him a piece of wood to guard. When we came out he’d disappeared. There was just the wood left. No note or anything! So we wandered around and asked people if they’d seen a small white dog with big black bushy eyebrows. Eventually someone pointed us in the direction of the video store. And there he was. Tied up outside watching the telly through the window. Sometimes there is just no explanation!

Doggy Bag
Whenever we go out for a meal we always come back with a doggy bag. This is what you call the bag they put restaurant food in when you haven’t managed to eat it all. This is very helpful if you lose your appetite half way through the meal, and it used to mean that we’d have lots of food for supper. Sometimes I’d even eat less than I really wanted, just so we could have a doggy bag to take home. Since The Dog came to live with us I find I eat a lot more in the restaurant. Mum has decided that as The Dog is not allowed on the premises, he deserves a treat when we get back. I always point out that if it were called a catty bag, or a mousy bag, or a budgie bag, then The Dog wouldn’t have anything to do with it. I usually make my point quite well, but I always lose the argument.

Healthy Alternatives
We’re not such a big family as we used to be. The Dog’s made sure of that. Everyone’s lost weight because of all the running around after him. Mum says he’s helped us find a healthier lifestyle. And Dad smokes less than he used to. Mainly because every time he buys cigarettes they go missing. Also, I find different sorts of things down the side of the couch these days. Sometimes I even get up early just to check under the cushions. Mum’s always saying everyone needs a reason to get out of bed, and now I’ve found one.
Here’s what I’ve come across in the last three days:
Some chewing gum (Dad’s)
A leaflet called Alternative Health Care (Mum’s)
A one hundred meters swimming certificate and a football sock (Simon’s)
Seven coins adding up to fifty-eight pence (mine)
Nine raisins, a lump of cheese and some banana (Sophie’s)
A chewed up slipper (The Dog’s)

In The Dog House
You know how some houses have names? As well as being number ten, or eleven, or two hundred and forty, they’ve got little signs that say Hill View, or Apple Cottage, or Buckingham Palace. Well our house used to be called The Resting Place, but Mum found that name depressing and we had to change it. In fact there have been a few changes recently. Mum’s started meditating and says she can lose herself, and find herself at the same time. The telly’s on less and Dad reads a lot more. He can often be found lost in a good book or looking through the papers. Simon’s found he likes sport and is a really good swimmer. Although his football team still lose more games than they win. Sophie’s found a tooth and a new smile. And mum says I’m losing my inhibitions - but I don’t know what she means. The only one who hasn’t changed is The Dog. He continues to go missing, though I suspect he’s never really lost and just likes the attention. Still, he makes us all laugh and keeps us fit. Everyone really likes him and people often come and visit if they’re passing by. We’re easy to find. It’s number twelve on the hill and there’s a notice on the gate with the warning Beware of The Dog and a picture of his face with big black bushy eyebrows. And now we’ve changed the name, there’s a big sign on the front door that says Welcome To The Dog House.

© Abacus Count

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