The story of a puppy on a doorstep
Many long years ago, soon after I was first married, we lived in an apartment near the center of Harare, Zimbabwe's capital city. It was a tiny place on the second floor, with just four rooms, a living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, but we were young and it was sufficient for the two of us.
We had no thoughts of keeping any pets, although there was one old and battle-scarred cat who would visit us occasionally, stay a few days, and then be gone. So, when a puppy turned up on our doorstep one night, we knew that we could not keep him, even if we were unable to trace his true owner. One thing was certain - there was no way we could just ignore him. He seemed to have taken a liking to us and, apart from anything else, he looked like the cover photo to this story.
Could you say no to those eyes? We couldn't either and took him in for the night, instituting a search for his owner the next day. In fact, the search lasted several days but turned up nothing; no-one would admit to ownership and it was as if the little fellow had been sent to us from another dimension without a return address.
It was clear that we would have to find a home for him. After a few moments' thought on this, an evil scheme began to hatch in my mind. My father's dog, Rufus, had died a little while back and my mother, heartbroken, had sworn she would never have another dog. I knew that my father was a great one for dogs, however, and that, if I went about it in the right way, I should be able to persuade him to take the pup.
The secret was in the breed of our little house guest. Looking at his color and the size of his paws, it seemed to me that we had a Doberman Pinscher on our hands. This was fortunate indeed, for my father would only ever consider certain types of dog and the Doberman would fit his criteria pretty well. I phoned him one evening.
"Hi Dad, it's me."
"Hello, Beholden*, what's up?"
"Well, I may have a small present for you."
"A present? It's not my birthday."
"I know that but I think you might like this anyway. A pup turned up at our flat a few days ago."
"A dog? Oh no, you know how your mother feels about that. A stray, is it?"
"Yes and we've tried everything to find out whose it is but no luck."
"What is it? A mutt?"
"That's the thing, Dad. I think it's a Doberman."
"Oh, a Doberman, hey? What makes you so sure?"
"Well, the color is right and he has big paws."
"Hmmm. Tell you what, I'll have a word with Gwynnie and see if I can work something out..."
He was around to pick up the puppy about an hour later.
I was quite pleased with myself at having found a good home for the dog, especially as my father had taken my suggestion of a name for him. We called him Gunter; after all, the Doberman is a German breed and I thought Gunter a suitably German name.
A few weeks later my father mentioned that the pup did not seem to be growing much. I told him to give it time; who knows how long a Doberman takes to grow up? He seemed unsure but was prepared to wait. And so it went for a few weeks: the occasional grumble about the puppy not growing but no question of not keeping it.
It was several months later when I was visiting my parents that my father pronounced his verdict. "It's not a Doberman at all," he said to me one day. "If you ask me, the damn thing's a Manchester Terrier".
I had no idea what a Manchester Terrier was and asked him what they looked like. He pointed at the dog lying at his feet. "Like that," he said. It was obvious now that Gunter just wasn't going to get any bigger - he was an adult dog already. I couldn't help it; I burst out laughing. By that time my mother had taken a liking to Gunter and he had become part of the family. My father was stuck with him and knew it.
And so, for many years, Gunter was the family dog. My father eventually got over his disappointment but he was never as keen on his Manchester Terrier as he was on the other rough, tough dogs he'd owned before. In some ways Gunter was a sad case; he must have had rough treatment before he found us for he was always a little cowed as though expecting to be beaten. But his efforts to please were so comical that everyone liked him, even my father admitting on rare occasions that "the dog isn't really so bad".
I'm not sure that he ever forgave me for putting one over him, however, even if it was unintentional. Well, slightly unintentional; Gunter's paws weren't all that big, after all.
Word Count: 860
* Okay, my real name's not Beholden but I prefer the assumed one.