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.


trouble with the olympics

Amy came to see me. I wanted to talk to her about the dog’s addiction, immersed as she is in the world of drugs that take you by the throat and never let you go. I myself have learnt the hard way to take kefir one week on and one off, although, as she says now, she could have told me that, had I not been so damnably insistent.

She didn’t put it in those words, but I could see that that was what she meant.

The dog was going though a maudlin phase that day. He lay with his head in her lap, gazing at her with his soft brown eyes. Amy has the limited tolerance for dogs often to be found in those who can read those parts of the menu not translated into English. She eyed him critically, with particular attention I thought to the areas of muscle. He sloped off, with his tail between his legs.

He tail between legs, she laughed. Usually metaphor. Not now.

Her remedy was simple.

Place whisky on top shelf.

But what about his underlying anxieties?

He very old. Underlying anxieties not matter.

It was a harsh judgment, but she has troubles of her own, and they all arise from the Olympics. The district in which she has her business (I’d better not tell you where it is) has been infested with police. They are trying to make it nice for the Olympics and they are busy trying to stop people doing whatever it is that they are doing. I have seen them myself in Soho, walking in twos like lovely bees in their yellow stripy things, and uttering inhuman cries from machines hidden about their chests.

(Bees not yellow, said Amy when I told her the story. Wasps yellow.

(Yes, I said, falling into her vernacular, but wasps not lovely.)

It so happened that I was proceeding peacefully in a northerly direction along the pavement on Wardour Street when I was addressed by three attractive Afro-Caribbean ladies, who asked me with great hilarity if I would like ‘business’.

I was taken aback.

With all of you?

More hilarity ensued.

It was partly the numbers but more so the jollity (it’s not called ‘business’ for nothing) that convinced me that it was all a good-natured joke. I turned to make some appropriate riposte, but suddenly they’d entirely disappeared, melted into some dark courtyard. There instead were two rozzers, squawking without moving their lips.

So maybe the ladies were serious after all.

Anyway, Amy too has had threatening visits from the police. When she maintains that selling kefir is not so far against the law, they mutter darkly about the Border Agency and knowing what’s good for you.

Why a sports-lover from Ukraine, say, staying in our capital city as our guest, should be hindered in satisfying his desire for good-quality dreams I can’t think – or indeed his desire for sex with three attractive West Indian ladies at the same time.

Amy says bitterly that of course Mr Lee has not been troubled.

Limehouse has been much redeveloped, I suggested. Maybe the police maps aren’t up to date and they can’t find him.

She laughed shortly. Apparently Mr Lee not only has local protection but also that of an Olympic potentate, a big cheese in some anti-doping agency.

Every month he come to London on fact-finding mission. Olympics pay. After he one pipe he no find no more facts.

Mr Lee, she said, makes him leave his blazer at the door of the opium den, so as not to frighten the others.

Apparently this personage has provided Mr Lee with a ticket to attend the final of the 100 metres. Amy suggested that she could take or leave the 100 metres but that she did resent Mr Lee’s immunity, compared with herself, from police interference.

Even Aubergine Small no help.

Don’t give up, I said.

After she left, the dog had his inevitable relapse. One minute I was the only one who could save him. The next he was saying the most hurtful things he could. (With dogs, that’s not actually very hurtful.) I reflected that addiction was OK if, like the man from the Olympics, you had power and could control your habit and the world around you. The dog, for all the love that we lavish on him, is at the bottom of the social heap. He controls nothing. I resolved to increase his pocket money, as from the end of the month.

the dog has become an alcoholic

The dog has become an alcoholic. As always, I blame myself.

When he is left in charge of the house, he often reclines in the front room. It is always a problem if thunder or gunfire occurs when we are out, because they frighten him. When he is frightened he likes to take the bottles of spirits from their shelf and play skittles with them. It relieves his feelings of panic.

These feelings are entirely natural, going back to an occasion when we took him with my mother for a walk in the grounds of a stately home in Yorkshire, and were caught up in a real hunt. The gentry hurtled by on their slavering horses (or ‘steeds’ as horses are often called once they start slavering). Horns and small arms rang out. Of course they were after strays and not well-behaved pets accompanied by National Trust members, but he wasn’t to know that.

Recently the police were anxious to have a little chat with a neighbour of ours, a barrister. We are still picking lead out of the exterior woodwork and the dog’s nerves are shot completely.

Some time after that there was another incident. This time it was not gunfire but a thunder storm that unexpectedly interrupted our placid and balmy June weather. He manhandled a bottle of Famous Grouse and another of vodka to the floor with such anxious force that the tops came off. He greeted us as usual when we came home – and promptly keeled over to one side, like a bit-part-player in a Western who has taken a blow to the head from the hero. He had clearly had at the contents.

We comforted him, put him to bed with his blanket, disinfected the front room so as not to stir memories for him, and hoped that that would be that. But it wasn’t. Next time we went out, the placid and balmy June weather was affected by showers, but there was no thunder; nor, unless the civil authorities are lying to me, had they indulged in gunplay in the area.

Again he greeted us on our return, affectionately as always, but when he tried to jump up to demonstrate his affection it all went very badly wrong as regards his legs.

Since then it has only taken one of us to open a bottle of Sainsbury’s White for him to barge in and try to intercept the contents between bottle and glass, or, which to me is even less acceptable, between glass and lips.

Tough love was required, and one-to-one tough love – an alcohol-free week, where he could let it all out and we could try to heal. After all, as I told him, Famous Grouse is one thing, but have a go at any of the malts and you’re for the taxidermist. The better half has selflessly taken herself off to a beach in Tuscany, and together the dog and I have wrestled with his addiction.

It’s been an emotional roller-coaster!

(That’s a horrid expression, by the way. From a roller-coaster the last thing you want is feelings: you want it to work.)

One minute he’s been crying, I love you, Dad, his tongue lolling over his broken teeth. The next he’s at your ankles. The hardest thing to take is the mood swings. At times he can analyse his issues with merciless clarity (as he himself puts it when in that state of mind); the next moment he’s slipping his lead and savaging a postman’s bottom.

Then he goes all analytical again. He said last night, I’m only fulfilled when I express my feelings and my anger, and I can only do that when I’m drunk. I’m only really happy when I’m drunk.

That cut through me, I can tell you, after all that the better half and I have done for him. The complimentary castration was just the start.

The postman’s bottom is only symbolic, he explains smugly.

Not to the postman, I muttered.

He explained that this wasn’t all about the postman, it was about him.

His personal hygiene has suffered too.

I’m not sure how much more I can take.