Riggers in bed


Rigby, the dog, is a bit of a pussy cat. You’re not going to find another dog as affectionate, enthusiastic, or as full of beans anywhere on the eastern seaboard. He’s also a great sentimentalist.

Rigby abedHe loves his dad. When he’s not being social he’ll find a spot close by where he can see me. Often I’ll look up to find his steady gaze upon me. Back in the day I’d watch TV and he’d jump up on the couch beside me and snuggle against me with his head on my lap. He’s a big boy, but a real softy.

Pretty well from day one he set his own routines when it came to bedtime. When I had a bed he would sleep beside me on the empty side of the bed (which became problematic when it wasn’t empty – I’ve had some hilarious episodes when he saw no reason not to join whoever I happened to be frolicing with). At a certain stage of the night – generally somewhere between 6-7am – he would shift and snuggle up next to me, his body contouring to mine. I’ve woken up occasionally to find myself spooning him.

Early days I found this uncomfortable. I remember as a kid how the cat would sleep at the end of my bed and how difficult I found that. As an adult I’m a good deal bigger than I was then, and even though the bed was too, I would sprawl in it, not wasting an inch. I loved my space, and have often found it difficult sleeping with a clingy companion. Then along comes Rigby.

You adjust to it. I now sleep on a couch smaller than the bed I slept in as a kid. And Rigby still jumps up to join me.

Now Rigby is under strict instructions from the mistress of the house that he’s not to jump up on the couch – something everyone in the house ignores but her, including Rigby. Still, Rigby is smart enough to know he’s not allowed to, and is careful to appear to be obeying her. He may come across as a goof-off sometimes, but he’s pretty savvy.

This morning, as usual, he got up on the couch to sleep beside me. How different it is to the past. Once he’s up there I have zero room to move. If I want to turn over we have to manage it in unison. There’s so little room that he’s right at the edge of the sleeping space, but he’s happy. I am to, to be honest. I love his affection. I love what a beautiful and tender dog he is. He feels like my family at a time when I feel I have no other family. If you’re not a pet lover you may not understand that. Rigby adores me, but I adore him equally.

For some reason my sister was up 30 minutes earlier than usual. It coincided with me oversleeping – something I hardly ever do. Generally I’m up and out of bed by 7.15, and I haven’t slept past 8am this year. The consequence of all this is that she walked in while Rigby was still lying beside me.

No dummy Rigby, quick as a flash he quietly slipped from the couch without any prompting from me, and no-one was the wiser. I decided to stay in bed (on couch?). I reckon you need an occasional sleep-in, and reckon equally that I’m generally in sleep deficit. So I lay on my couch while they got ready for school and out of there. Every so often Rigby would come visit and nuzzle me, before returning to join in the activity. Then the house was abruptly empty. Out the door my sister went, and knowing it the first thing Rigby did was jump up beside me again and lay there, his head near mine. For him, I know, this is what he lives for – and it fills my heart. I can’t deny him that. He’s a clever boy, a lovely dog, and my very good mate.

Touche


I was out walking before with Rigby and my niece S. S loves to come on walks with me and Rigby. I reckon so far it’s been the highlight of her school holidays ranging far and wide with us. Anyway on the way back we were climbing a hill and she was lagging behind. I turned and yelled to her: “Hurry! Hurry! There are monsters after you!”

She smiled and started to run in that young girl sort of way – she’s 8. After about 20 metres of running she stopped and turned around.

“I can’t see any monsters,” she said. “Where are they?”

“They’re invisible monsters,” I said.

Very sensibly she asked: “How come you can see them then Buppa?”

“Because I have magic glasses on,” I said.

By now we had reached the top of the hill. She tilted her head as she does when she’s not sure of something. “Is that true Buppa?” she said.

A couple of minutes later she had raced ahead of me towards the little park. She turned and yelled to me: “Look out Buppa, there are monsters after you!”

“Are they invisible monsters?”

“Yes.”

“Then how come you can see them,” I asked.

She smiled triumphantly, and with joy. “‘Cause I have magical eyes,” she said.

Walking the dog


The Eastern Freeway is nearby where I’m living at present. It’s bound by surprisingly effective noise reduction barriers. This side of the barrier is parkland. A small creek runs through it. There’s a pond where native birds paddle around. There’s grassland framed on either side thick bush. A path wends its way through it, which cyclists take, and locals out for their morning walk, and people ike me walking the dog.

Since I’ve finished working at the shop I’ve found myself down there pretty much every day giving Rigby the walk. Like most dogs he loves his daily walk. Despite his frequent antics Rigby is actually an intelligent, perceptive animal. He’ll get wind of a pending walk even before I do. He’ll stand there stiff-legged looking up at me intently. His ears will be cocked, and his brown eyes will examine me for signs that yes, time for walkies. He’s full of alert anticipation. Then I’ll give a sign. I’ll nod my head perhaps, or tell him yep, let’s go for a walk. Sometimes I’ll just pick up my earphones, which he knows as another sign. Regardless once he twigs he’ll caper and prance. He’ll leap at me keen to get going. He’ll follow at my heels as I go to fetch the leash. Then he’ll hurry before me as we get set to leave, leaping at the closed front door with impatience to be out. He is full of the uniquely doggish pleasure. Down the street we’ll go, straining at the leash pulling at me, excited to be out getting there, wherever ‘there’ is. Often he’ll pause to sniff at something, or examine something interesting, or to have a short squirt of a pee to prove, like Foo, that he was here. Occasionally he’ll look back over his shoulder at me, and if I stop he’ll turn to embrace me.

Most days we walk somewhere between 40-60 minutes. It’s good exercise for both of us. I haven’t taken the same route twice yet. I set out generally in the one direction and diverge from that at a whim. I like to explore, going further in one direction one day, and then in the opposite the next. I’ll return via the network of back streets, mapping it in my head as I go along. Sometimes as we go along I’ll mind myself nodding at fellow-pedestrians. We’ll regularly come across other dogs with their masters, something that rouses Rigby to different degrees of excitement.

Generally by the middle stages of the walk Rigby’s not straining at his leash so hard. He pads along, looking to either side. I’ll be listening to my iPhone, to music sometime, but more often lately to an audiobook. Last week I finished listening to The Prefect, one of Iain Banks best sci-fi novels. This week I’m listening to a book that was a favourite when I was teenager – Quiller in The Warsaw Document, by Adam Hall.

Sometimes we’ll pause to look at something, or to sit for a minute or two at a park bench while Rigby waits patiently. It’s pretty in the bush, and fine to stop and reflect on the nature about us, and the surprisingly diverse range of wildlife. It’s good to get away full stop.

Today we took a different route again. We went the other day and ended up at the shops, where I had a coffee, bought a birthday card for my sister, and the fixings for lunch. As Rigby loves being around people this delighted Rigby. I tied him up and he turned in whatever direction the traffic came in, wagging his tail and offering himself up for affection. He got surprisingly excited by a docile golden retriever. They’re dog relatives, but you wouldn’t know it by their contrasting demeanour.

We returned, walking down by the creek again and up through the increasingly familiar streets. By the end of it I slip Rigby off the leash and he ambles up to the gate waiting for it to be opened for him. His mouth is agape in a happy pant. Inside he slurps up water from his bowl. Now, as I write this, he sits at my feet, as usual.