like to talk.
are talking all the time, non-stop. To each
other, to humans, to ourselves. Talk, talk,
talk. Of course, we do not talk like humans.
We do not open our mouths and say things the
way humans do. We cannot. We see the harm
this causes. We know words, we understand
everything, we have language, but our language
is one which is continuous, one which does
not stop when we decide to close our jaws.
During every sniff, every bark, every crotch
nuzzle, every spray of a lamppost, we are
speaking our minds.
if you want the truth, ask the dog.
that humans always hear us. Not that they
always think we would have anything worthwhile
to say. They command, we listen. Sit. Stay.
Walkies. Here. Fetch. That is all the conversation
we are allowed. All that most humans can cope
we are not deterred. I mean, other breeds
may get pretty pissed off about the situation
and sometimes have to resort to a language
humans can understand. As for the Labradors,
we are willing to wait. And besides, we get
to learn more this way. We get to sit and
listen to it all. We hear the lies and smell
the truth. Especially in Families.
all, who but the dog knows the whole picture?
Who but the dog can sit and watch reality
unfold behind each bedroom door? The role
play in front of the mirror, the whimpers
under the duvet, the never-ending interrogation
of their hairless bodies? We are the only
we are there when they are ready to pour out
their hearts. When they are ready to reveal
their unspoken loves.
are always there. Listening to everything
and talking our silent words of comfort.
I woke up this morning it was as if nothing
those first few hazy moments I felt almost
normal, the way I used to feel, before the
Hunters had come under threat. But as the
empty shoes by the back door slowly slipped
into focus, a wave of nausea passed over me.
Everything came back. Most of all, the pungent
taste of blood returned to my throat, and
I craved the time when I didn’t realise
exactly what it cost, to keep the Family safe.
following the fear, there was a strange sense
of relief as I remembered what was going to
I remembered I was going to die.
are on the pavement outside Nice Mister Vet’s
when Adam crouches down next to me.
sorry Prince,’ he says, his hand resting
on my collar. ‘This is all my fault.’
try to tell him that everything, in fact,
is down to me. But of course, he doesn’t
understand. He pushes the door open and everyone
looks around as the bell goes. Adam walks
towards the desk, but no one is there. While
we wait, I feel the attention of every other
dog, marking my scent.
can smell another Labrador, behind me, but
I don’t turn to look. Instead, I glance
quickly at those dogs sitting with their masters
along the far wall. A three-legged Alsatian.
A Border collie, biting air. An Old English
sheepdog, laughing to himself from behind
a shaggy veil of white hair. There is a cat
too, hissing from behind her cage door.
nobody can know why I am here, it is too early.
scent floats over towards me, sick-sweet perfume.
woman behind the desk is now here, although
I cannot see her.
er, Mister Hunter,’ Adam says, before
gesturing to me. ‘With Prince. We’re
due at half nine.’
woman flicks through pages. ‘Mister
Hunter. Nine thirt-’ She stops, suddenly,
and leans over her desk to get a closer look.
Her face is a vast expanse of hairless flesh,
painted orange. ‘Shouldn’t he
have a muzzle?’ The voice is now tight
fine,’ Adam says, offering a weak smile
to some of the other humans in the room. ‘He’s
been here before and there’s never been
a problem. He’s always been . . . a
is a silence. But it is not really a silence
at all, because sounds of pain and distress
are making their way from the next room.
have a muzzle here,’ says the woman.
I sense he wants to defend me further, but
doesn’t know how.
it’s the policy, you know, for dangerous
hands Adam the muzzle and he crouches down
again, this time offering no sympathy. I don’t
blame him though. Not at all. He will never
be able to comprehend any of this.
muzzle is tight around my nose and blocks
Adam says. ‘Come on, boy.’ I can
sense that he is close to tears, but he is
just about holding himself together.
sits down in the only available chair, placing
me directly next to the Labrador whose scent
I had picked up before. I can tell she is
young, younger than me, and that she is not
over all,’ she says, sniffing the side
of my face.
over all,’ I sniff back, through the
muzzle, hoping for no further interaction.
sniffs me some more, then sits back down.
‘You’re the one,’ she says.
don’t understand,’ I tell her,
although I am worried that I do.
looks around, to check none of the other dogs
are listening: ‘You’re the one
who broke the Labrador Pact.’
swallow. I want to lie to her. I am going
to lie to her. But she will realise I am lying
and then there will be more questions. And
there are a lot of other animals here, holding
up my death. The interrogation could go on
I tell her the truth. I tell her: ‘Yes,
look at her face. She looks as though someone
has just yanked her tail.
What made you do it?’
a long -’ Before I have time to finish,
the door opens. The bell rings. It’s
a Springer spaniel, yanking his master forward.
moment he spots me, he starts to bark: ‘It’s
him! It’s him!’
master tries to calm him down. ‘Shush,
of course, Murdoch pays no notice and carries
on barking. ‘It’s him! It’s
him! The one who broke the Labrador Pact!’
other dogs are now joining in.
him!’ barks the three-legged Alsatian.
him!’ yaps the Border collie.
him!’ chuckles the Old English sheepdog.
is now playing to the crowd. ‘The Labradors
are in crisis! The Pact is a joke! Dogs for
dogs, not for humans!’ He starts to
choke on his collar. ‘Pleasure not duty!’
cat is circling her cage in fright, hissing
more violently than before.
everyone please keep their pets under control!’
says the woman behind the desk. But despite
the efforts of the humans, the barking just
you see?’ says the Labrador next to
me. ‘Can’t you see what you’ve
done? The Springers will think they’ve
won! Labradors will start to lose faith! There
will be anarchy!’
if to illustrate her point, Murdoch slips
his lead, jumps up onto the desk and starts
licking the paint from the woman’s orange
sorry, I never meant to betray the Pact,’
I say, as much to myself as my fellow Labrador.
‘But there was no other way.’
Pact wasn’t enough.’ I turn and
look at her and then at Adam, who is attempting
to shield my ears from the noise.
why?’ Although she is inevitably upset
by my blasphemy, I can see she genuinely wants
to understand. And, as the noise and chaos
continues around us, I realise for the first
time that there may still be hope for the
that thought in mind, I begin to answer her