It was Amy who came up with the idea of music. She said that they used it in her place to ease the progress of the customers to their kefir-enhanced dreams, and it might be just the thing for the dog. I remembered the sort of music she had introduced, oriental pan-pipe music of the worst sort, with syrupy strings and, carrying the tune, exquisite Chinese guitars that were never intended for such a vulgar thing. That would never relax me, but I understood the principle.
Music has charms to soothe a savage beast, I reflected.
We had quite a session that evening, the dog and I: tears, demands for spirits, blaming his ‘addictive personality’, endless recriminations, a bit of growling. I was exhausted and I thought that it was time to bring it to a conclusion. Like some music, I asked.
What were you thinking of?
You fool, he added.
I never know what sinks in and what doesn’t with the dog, when it comes to music. He has the bizarre conviction that he wrote The Ride of the Valkyrie by Wagner, and indeed there are strong similarities between that famous piece and his own occasional vocalising, but unfortunately, of course, Wagner wrote it down first. The dog however believes that his Valkyrie royalties mean that he contributes more than he takes from the household budget and I have never had the heart to disabuse him. But Valkyrie or not, a dog’s hearing is far more acute than ours and that deserves respect.
When I have been able to get away, clutching my iPod, from the sturm und drang of the dog’s parlour I have been listening to Shostakovich’s string quartets and revisiting my Grateful Dead live albums. My friend John gave me for my birthday the recordings of the string quartets by the original Borodin Quartet and they are astonishingly good.
I mentioned both to the dog. He said that he liked the music of the Grateful Dead.
Do you like the singing or the noodling, I asked. Over the years I have come to the reluctant conclusion that I don’t actually like Pigpen’s singing. I respect the man immensely, I love his organ playing and I’m glad that I saw him once, soon before he died, but he could not sing in tune.
And get that Donna Godchaux! Her yowling! For a dog, that’s a painful noise, he laughed. But I love the noodling. Fast noodling from Jerry and Phil, that’s like chasing a rabbit in a dog’s dream.
Let’s listen to Shostakovich instead, I said.
OK, said the dog. Number 8 please.
I felt that we’d made contact again, somehow.
A couple of days later I was able to return Amy’s favour. This time I had a visit from the Jibjab Woman. I told her about Amy’s problems with the police. To my surprise, as the Jibjab Woman’s thought processes are often obscure to me, she was immediately and fiercely interested. She wanted to know all about Amy’s place and particularly about kefir.
Is it from the pig?
No, I said. It is made with cow’s milk and the active agent is the intestinal flora of a sheep.
It’s entirely kosher, I teased.
I could hear the sounds of her frown against the material that covered her face, but she is too intelligent to rise to that bait.
They torment her because she is a woman.
I conceded that that might well be the case.
Is she modest?
As the day is long.
I will help her.
And out she strode.
I called Amy, and told her that she was about to receive a visit. Her visitor might help or she might not, but she was capable of marvels when, inshallah, the force was with her. But cover everything up, I said. Yourself, principally; the bar, certainly. The help. If there are soft furnishings cover them with more soft furnishings. Drag the Court of Appeal judge into a back room and put something in his mouth to stop him making a noise. Better still, cover the Court of Appeal judge too.
Like Christo whorehouse, Amy laughed.
I am always surprised what she knows and what she doesn’t. The string quartets of Shostakovich are a closed score to her, for instance.
She called me an hour or two later. I have good feeling, she said.
She was right. The police have stayed away. I don’t know what the Jibjab Woman said or did. She won’t tell me. Maybe she just played the race and gender cards better than Amy could. Maybe she invoked Islam. Maybe she put the frighteners on them with her overpowering combination of innocence and belligerence. Anyway, so far it has worked.
And so apparently has Shostakovich.
That Eighth Quartet, said the dog, it speaks of a pet’s indomitable will, his struggle against apparently insuperable burdens – in my case my addiction, the burning desire for Famous Grouse whisky. With Dmitri Dmitriovich’s help I believe that I can beat this.
Not ‘this’, ‘it’, I said absent-mindedly. ‘This’ is American for ‘it’. And you are not American, you are an English dog, of Staffordshire stock.
This, schmis, said the dog.
I could tell he was getting better.
Indeed some days later – days mercifully free of crying jags, accusations, violent outbursts and the rest – he sidled shyly up to me.
Daddy, Daddy, I can stand on my own two feet, he said.
I couldn’t keep the catch from my voice.
So can I, my puppy.
Of course he still fell over sideways, but he did so in a sober and modest way. On four legs he’s fine again now.