Covid 19 – Buster’s Story

It all started well. Jim was suddenly at home more. Actually, all day. The morning walk was a little longer and the evening stroll pleasantly relaxed. Jim was in during the evening too, quite happy for us to buddy up on the sofa and watch the TV. I can’t remember a more agreeable time.

At first even the new regime seemed for the best: another walk after lunch with Jim’s friend, Bill. Bill was taller and walked a bit faster than I was used to but that was o.k. We went along the canal where I spotted a large rat. Annoying in a way because Bill didn’t let me off the lead so I couldn’t chase it. It was amusing, though, to see a different part of London.

When we got back, Bill said, ‘Buster’s king! I’ll book him from tomorrow until this f*****g’s lockdown’s over.’

Next came Bob. Bob was small and wiry and dressed in running shorts with i-pods slung round his neck. Not going to be much interaction there. Bob didn’t do walks. He ran. Now I’m a big dog with long legs but I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve let myself down when it comes to fitness. Who can blame me, with two short periods of exercise a day? But in order to keep up with Bob, I had to run. No choice. I was on the lead.

I came back panting and Jim patted my head and said, ‘You’re wearing him out!’ Both men laughed and Bob said, ‘Soon have him in shape. See you tomorrow, Buster.’ I certainly needed my Vitex Extra that evening.

So there I was, with Jim, Bill and Bob and Bob was right: I did become fitter. Quite lean actually. I caught a glimpse of myself reflected a in a shop window and felt quite chuffed. No surprise when Cleopatra, the hoity-toity Afghan, came sniffing round.

I would bear her in mind. Although I’d need to be off the lead. That seemed to be part of the deal: on the lead, except with Jim. Recently, it had struck me that there was money changing hands. Buster the commodity. Not sure how happy that made me.

But, as I say, fitter, leaner, I was going out four times a day, so why should I complain? Then came Igor. Igor was a big strong fellow, smoked all the times, dropped ash over me, and yanked on my lead if I paused for a moment. Igor was definitely not my type. Moreover, he arrived after my normal bedtime, shouting, ‘Walkie! Walkie!’ as if I was deaf or an idiot.

I was beginning to think Jim had taken things too far, until Igor and I began to leave the dark streets and head off for an even darker bar, just about underground, where I was fed a sensational beef stew with bones. It was worth losing a bit of sleep for that. I guess Jim felt the same when we rolled back in and Igor handed over a wad of notes.

Jim, Bill, Bob and Igor. They made quite a group and I felt understandable pride in so many satisfied customers, as I had begun to think of them. I didn’t even object when Jim sneaked in Joe over the lunch break. He was old, small and fat, so I didn’t think there’d be much trouble there. No surprise when we toured the takeaways in Borough Market. He enjoyed pretending we were mates. ‘Good old Buster,’ he’d say, slipping me a tit-bit, ‘What would a chap do without you!’

So there I was, living a busy, productive day, but still with a nice, restful morning after Jim’s breakfast walk. Jim, Bill, Bob, Igor, Joe. I recited the names in a self-satisfied litany. Not many dogs could have coped with so many.

Pride comes before a fall. I had reckoned without Emma. A pretty-sounding name. Pretty in person, I guess with a yellow tail of hair, lycra legs and silver trainers. A change from all those men, I told myself.

Her voice came as a surprise, shrieking and husky at the same time, ‘Out we GO, Buster darleeeng… ‘

Whereas Jim, Bill, Bob, Joe and even Igor seemed grateful to have me at their side, Emma treated me like an enemy, to be subdued and intimidated. Worse still, she came in the middle of the morning when I was enjoying the few hours that I had entirely to myself since Jim ‘worked’ on his computer for three hours. Don’t ask me why he needed to work or even ‘work’ now I was earning a high daily rate. Perhaps he was having a snooze like me. When you’re out till three am, you need to recoup.

Ting-a-ling, the doorbell played its merry tune, Jim sprang to the door, and Emma was upon us. Emma can’t have been her real name. She had bought a new lead, red with glinty, silver bits and even a bell or two. Vulgar and demeaning.

‘We’ll be taking a ride to the Heath,’ she said, smirking. As if Jim cared, Money up front was all he knew.