My girlfriend’s dog, Jonah, is old but still fit. Half Greyhound, half Staffordshire Bull Terrier, he is fast but solid. He has three loves – running, demolishing things and food. He has a quick mind and a bloody-minded determination. When we leave the house in the morning there is a growing list of chores to be completed as he sits on the bottom step and stares at us with his black, unfathomable eyes. The fridge has a bungee to keep it closed because he has taught himself to open it. The chairs must be arranged on the sofa. The rubbish must be put outside. The shopping bags must never be left on the floor even if they only contain cans.
If we have erred there is a scene of chaos when we open the door. The shopping is spread across the entire kitchen, the tins of tomatoes are left intact but the cans that pictured a lovable innocent mutt are now only mangled and twisted remains. Over the hours we were away, Jonah has sunk his canine teeth through the metal containers hundreds of times until he is able to suck out the sloppy brown contents. I don’t think he can actually read, but his powers of problem solving and smell are impressive.
There is a lump on his back leg. The vet tells us that it is malignant and that we have a choice. If we leave it he might live another six months. The lump is attached to the bone and the only other course is to remove the leg.
As the vet takes the confused hound through the door at the back of the surgery he looks at us.
When we return the nurse opens the door and a three-legged creature hops madly towards us pulling the vet behind him. His breathing is furious and fast. His eyes are huge and staring, set within a ring of white terror and confusion.