Hearing footsteps, I stir in my corner at the back of the kitchen. It is comfortable on the pile of old carpets by the boiler and, snug and warm, I had been fast asleep. Opening an eye, I see my master waving the lead he uses when we walk together. Why he uses the lead now on our walks is not clear to me but waving it lets me know it’s time for our evening walk. Yes, I can remember when I was young, I’d wanted to rush about, finding anything I could sniff at, chase the bitches in the park and get into scraps with other dogs. I am a Rottweiler and had once been big and strong. I had always been confident that most dogs would submit to me. So, usually the lead had been used to keep me close.
Master had been firm but gentle with me. There had been none of the blows I had seen other masters delivering to their dogs. My master had given me commands and when I obeyed he gave me one of the treats he kept in the pocket of his jacket. Slowly, without the lead, I had learned that it was better to follow the commands master taught me and receive the rewards. I felt I belonged with my master and learned to enjoy the time we spent together, master sitting by the fire, me lying curled around his feet. I didn’t need to be taught to guard our yard, be suspicious of strangers, show them it was best to stay by the gate until master came. Those things come naturally to me.
I learned to return to master’s side when called and I looked forward to the treats that lay hidden in that pocket. Again, it was quite natural to me that I should scan the area around us for potential threats. If I see someone my instinct gives cause for concern, I quickly return to master, placing myself between him and the threat. There had been that occasion when the pack of lads had tried to take something from master. It hadn’t taken more than a moment to show them who was in charge and put them all to flight!
I rose and ambled over to master; he fondled my ear the way he always does and, in response, I lean against his leg and nuzzle his hand. Together we walk through the yard and out into the small close of houses. The master leads the way and turns right into the road at the end, a broad tree lined avenue. I lift my head head and glance around; I know the master often stops and talks with some of the people we pass in the gardens; some will give me a biscuit and I let them stroke my head.
I know that master is old, and like me, becoming weak; his once fast pace has slowed but I don’t mind. Something tells me that had we been part of a pack, a younger, stronger dog would have challenged the master, taken advantage of his weakness. I know that it would now be beyond my own capabilities to defend master against such an attack. But there is no pack, no challenger. The master is in charge and has always looked after my needs. We walk slowly along in the direction, I know leads to the park.
Our pace slows and I look up at master; I see he is rubbing his chest. I see master shake his head and then he moves slowly on. A few steps further and he comes to a halt. Master is bent over clutching his chest, his face a deathly white and he seems to be struggling to breathe. He tries to move off again but then, with a long, drawn out gasp, he collapses.
I can see that he is writhing on the ground now, clutching his chest. Master then becomes still, his head thrown back and arms by his side. He has never done this before and I don’t know what is happening. I nuzzle the master’s face but receive no reaction. I paw at his arm and when that doesn’t produce a response, nose under his arm, trying to lift it, trying to encourage him to get up. This is not a game, I can tell. I lick master’s face; it feels cold. I am worried and began to run around, looking for someone who can help. I run up and down the road looking at the many houses.
At last, a house I recognise; I remember a biscuit. Squeezing through a gap in the hedge, I run to the door and throw himself at it, barking loudly, then, when no-one comes, scratching as hard as I can. The door is suddenly flung open and a woman, steps out, sees me and backs away.
I quickly whine, turn and run back a short distance down the path and turning give a single loud bark. Seeing no reaction, I run back, drop to my haunches and resume the whining. When the woman reaches out a hand towards my head, I gently grasp the hand in my mouth and pull lightly. She offers no resistance; I think she begins to understand and follow me down the path. As she opens the gate, I give a little tug at her hand once more, before dropping it and running off down the road.
Every few yards I stop, look around to check she is following, bark and then set off running again. Reaching my master, I lay down beside him and began licking his face once more, whining softly.
The woman runs up with something pressed to her ear. She then takes off her coat and places it under master’s head and gently strokes me and whispers things in a calm voice. A few minutes later a white vehicle arrives with lights glaring and much noise. The woman stands up as a man runs from the vehicle towards the master. As he approaches, not knowing his intentions, I bare my teeth and growl menacingly. The woman speaks softly in my ear, strokes my head and picks up the lead I have been trailing.
The man is doing things to master; I wait for master to get up. Nothing. Minutes later, I see the man shaking his head. I watch as my master is transferred into the vehicle. It then quickly departs again making much noise.
We have never been parted before. Frightened, I whine and bark at the departing vehicle and run to follow it, breaking the lady’s grip on the lead. I hear her shouting after me. I ignore her, I know I must follow master. When I reach the junction at the end of the avenue, the vehicle is nowhere in sight. I bark and run around in circles for a short time, sniffing the ground in vain. The light is beginning to fail as I trot off in the direction of the close.
As I arrive at the yard it begins to rain, it isn’t a heavy rain but it is cold. I whine and scratch at the back door, hoping master is inside but he doesn’t come. In despair, I lay down and curl up on the step. The rain now heavier and persistent and I push my nose under my leg and try to sleep.
Time passes, I grow wetter and colder, shivering violently. Hearing footsteps, I open my eyes and realise it has become completely dark. I see a light approaching and growl, raising my head and baring my teeth. I then hear the gentle voice of the lady and feel her hand stroking my head.
She speaks softly, gives a gentle tug at my lead and together we walk out into the small close and turn right into the avenue.