The Owner and I head to the Park with my New Ball. It is Bouncy and Rubber, and does not Ooze, not even in the presence of Slobber.
The Owner throws it.
The Ball spins through the air with a Tantalising Whoosh, describing an arc so Graceful it could have been sketched by Michelangelo himself. I hurl myself in breathless pursuit, down the hill, sliding on the grass, past the Small Humans… and it is Mine.
I return it to the Owner and drop it into her Hand. Good Boy, she says, and she goes to throw it again. Although, is it my Imagination, or did she hold on to it for just a little bit longer than necessary?
The Ball flies through the air with an Intoxicating Wobble. It almost Shimmers as it whispers its messages of Delight. I hurl myself again, attempting to make sure that All of my Legs arrive at the Same Time, and as I shoot past it it seems to Leap into my Open Jaws as if it was Meant to Be There. It is Blue and Knobbly. It smells very faintly of Peanut Butter. I love this Ball.
I race back to the Owner. Or almost back to the Owner. I slow slightly. Do I want to give her the Ball? I execute a Casual Detour, in the Style of one who was Going That Way Anyway.
Hergest, says the Owner, give the Ball to me.
I hesitate. The Ball sits perfectly in my mouth. I do hope she is not planning to Slobber on it. I hand it over carefully. The Ball is Precious. Throw it Carefully, I say, it is the best Ball Ever.
Thankyou, she says, although if you want me to Throw it you have to Give it to Me.
Of course I want her to Throw it. The scent of the Ball is Intoxicating. The Blue of the Ball is Mesmerising. I am just not Quite so Sure I want to Bring it Back.
She throws. The Ball climbs Heavenward, reflecting sunlight off its Fabulous curve, and heads like a Meteor for the Bottom of the Hill. The Whoosh of the Ball is Hypnotic. And the Song of the Ball is the Song of Elysium. As Virgil said, pass yon easy hill, and thence descend; The path conducts you to your journey’s end… This said, he led them up the mountain’s brow, And shews them all the shining fields below. They wind the hill, and thro’ the blissful meadows go….
Hergest, says the Voice of the Owner from a Great Distance, come here.
Elysium, which the Theban poet Pindar, described as having shady parks, with residents indulging in athletic and musical pastimes.
Hergest, says the voice of the Owner. Hergest. Look at me… thankyou…. The Owner has the Ball. She cradles it gently. She pauses for an Aeon. Civilisations rise and fall. Tectonic plates clash and part. Geological Ages Pass. The heart of the Moral Dog waits to beat. And then she throws.
The Ball Hurls Itself further than ever, with a Grace I have never experienced from Any Ball before it, it Bounces with the gentle sound of a Lolly when the Moral Dog bites into it and then…
It disappears into a Bush.
I dive in after it and begin to search. Where is the Ball? The Ball has gone.
I am searching to no Avail. I widen the Cordon. The Owner appears. Where is the Ball? She asks.
I can barely Speak. I cannot find My Ball, I say. Help help, I say.
The Owner sets about the Bushes in a rather Halfhearted and Faffy Manner. I Dive into Undergrowth, increasingly Frantically. We continue in this way for Hours. The Ball is Nowhere to be Found.
We do have another Ball, says the Owner eventually.
There can never be Another Ball, I say. There is only Mildred. She is my One True Ball.
You said that about Silvia, says the Owner.
Who is Silvia? What is she? I ask.
Ha ha, says the Owner.
I have no idea what you are ha-ing about, I say, my Heart belongs to Mildred.
Mildred is just Another Ball, says the Owner, she arrived only this Morning.
I cannot believe you said that, I say. You will tell me next that the Man is just Another Man and the Moral Dog is just Another Dog. May I remind you of the words of the Bard?
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken, I say.
You are Right, says the Owner. I apologise, says the Owner. There is only one Man, and there is only one Moral Dog. There can never be another. I can see now that it is the same for Balls.
I should think so too, I say. Where would we be if Moral Dogs grew on trees? I ask.
Squashed, Says the Owner.
That was a Rhetorical Question, I say.
I was trying to use Humour to Lighten the Mood, says the Owner.
It did not work, I say, you are not exactly Ricky Gervais, I say.
Although, says the Owner, there was Another Squeaky Cat.
You have used that one before, I say, but it is Not Enough. You do not keep a Spare Man in a Drawer for days on which you cannot find the First one. And I hope there is no Spare Moral Dog lurking in the Boiler Room. To have a Spare would Demean the Endless and Absolute Love you feel for the First.
Of course there is no other Possible Man, says the Owner, that is the Point. And you are welcome to inspect the Boiler Room any time. You will find no Spare Moral Dogs in there.
I do not want to, I say, it is Creepy in there. I went in there Once and the Boiler Loomed at me.
Well then take my Word for it, says the Owner, There is no other possible Moral Dog.
And there is no other Possible Mildred, I say. And what are you doing now? I ask. It is hardly Appropriate to be Texting on your Phone when the Moral Dog is Pouring his Grief in an Endless Torrent onto the Heartless Soil.
I am texting the Man to speak of my Adoration, says the Owner, having been Stirred into Feelings of Sorrow and Longing by the Tragic Loss of Mildred from our Lives.
Thank you, I say.
Even given that she has been with us for such a Short Time, says the Owner.
It was Love at first sight, I say.
Indeed, says the Owner, just yesterday she was still sitting in an Amazon pack labelled Dog Balls, Spiky, Blue.
Amazon did not love her as I did, I say.
When we get home the Man is waiting in the doorway.
Hello, he says, you will Never Guess What?
I am beyond guessing, I say. Excuse me now, I say. I am going to Pine.
You will like it, says the Owner.
I am beyond liking, I say. I creep sorrowfully towards the stairs. I do not want to know what the Man wanted me to Guess at, even if I will like it, because I am Pining, but I Creep Very Slowly in case he happens to mention what it is and it turns out to be an Ice Lolly.
And then I hear a faint familiar sound. A siren whoosh. I sense a shimmer. A wobble. I turn and Something flies pas me up the Stairs….
What light through yonder window breaks? I cry.
It is the east, and Mildred is the sun.
Actually that way is Broadly North West, says the Man.
How did you find her? I ask.
It was an Extraordinary thing, says the Owner. When Mildred disappeared into the Bush beside the fence she travelled further than we thought. She rolled and bounced and flew all the way home, beating us here by a mere Whisker.
Later I sleep, content in the knowledge that Mildred clearly returns my feelings, since she has found her way home. I can hear the Owner and the Man doing something in the Boiler Room but I take little notice of their muttered comments, given that I am now certain there is not a spare possible Moral Dog in there. Later, I help the Owner take the rubbish out.
What is that I ask.
It is the box that Mildred came in, says the Owner.
It is a very large Box, I say. You could probably fit twenty-four Mildreds in there. If there were not only One of Her.
Indeed, says the Owner, you probably could.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.