A nasty piece of work

Cody hated everyone. He hated men, he hated other dogs, he particularly hated cats. He made it plain he hated you by curling his lips, revealing his teeth and uttering a low growl. He snarled at passers-by, barked at delivery men and snapped at fingers that came too close. He once pinned poor Snitch, a friend of George’s, up against the wall, quivering in fear. He was a Dalmatian with one wonky eye and not enough spots. He was generally speaking a nasty piece of work.

He was born in the Mormon State of Utah, in Salt Lake City, and adopted by a young college student who took him away to be with her at college. She soon realised that he was totally unsuitable as a house pet and gave him to her parents in Florida. They in turn passed Cody on to the boss of the South Florida Water Management Company who fobbed the dog off on to one of his employees, Alan, DouDou’s ex. Alan brought the dog home to DouDou who was then living in Boynton Beach, Florida. There Cody settled down. At the doggy beach he would dig a hole in the sand and lie in it, snarling at any dog that dared to come near him. He adored DouDou who in turn doted on him. In her eyes he could do no wrong. “Poor Cody!” she would say whenever someone criticised him for his foul temper, bad behaviour or disobedience.

When DouDou left Alan and Florida and returned to the United Kingdom, naturally she shipped Cody along with all her other precious belongings. To do so, she needed a cage to load him into the aircraft hold. Her pal, Al Bundy, was owed a favour by a welder friend who created a container out of mild steel rods that was strong enough to hold a rhino. Cody was mildly sedated and flown to Heathrow where he was immediately placed in rabies quarantine for 6 months. This did nothing to improve his moods. DouDou visited him regularly and he would show his appreciation of her presence by barking himself hoarse. He was finally released and taken to Brampton in Cambridgeshire where he commenced his reign of terror on other dogs and the local cat population.

I first met Cody when I visited DouDou at her new house in High Wycombe. For some inconceivable reason he took a shine to me. I knew this because he didn’t snarl or bark at me, didn’t try and nip my ankles but instead stared balefully at me with his one good eye. This docile behaviour had an enormous impact on DouDou who immediately decided that as Cody approved of me I was the Chosen One. Every morning after she had left for work, I would take him for his walk through Wycombe Woods. Every morning he would strain at the leash, trip me up, pull me over, run away, snarl at other dogs and make a bolt for the bush where the pub landlady would dump left overs for the foxes. On our return, if we entered by the back gate he would head for the couch in the conservatory and stretch out to survey the garden. However, if we arrived back at the front door he would immediately plunge into the neighbours’ hedge hoping to catch their cat sleeping under it. He was never quick enough and the cat was wise to his shenanigans, rearing up, arching its back and hissing as I dragged Cody away.

Early morning tea was served in bed and Cody would climb up and stand over me, his mouth inches from my own and ‘harr, harr, harr’ into my face.

“See, he likes you!” cried DouDou mistaking this unpleasant gesture for affection.

I knew he was simply trying to show who was master of the house. I got my own back by bathing him. He hated it. He would stand in the bath, shivering and looking completely forlorn as I used the shower spray on his undercarriage, his white fur plastered to his skin making him look grey, bedraggled and skinny.

He was not skinny. He had an enormous appetite. He lived on dry biscuit dog food which must have been pretty boring. He supplemented this diet by stealing whatever he could off the table or unguarded plates. He once drank a whole bowl of eggnog at a Christmas party in Boynton Beach. George’s kebab disappeared in the blink of an eye whilst he was looking for ketchup in the kitchen. A quarter of a round of Stilton left sitting in the middle of the dining table to come to room temperature was wolfed down in one swallow. He polished off another block of cheese that had inadvertently been left out overnight. He would happily gnaw away at marrow bones for hours then snarl at anyone attempting to tidy them away. He was adept at hiding them in the garden, usually under the hedge. Too lazy to dig a hole, see.

Whenever DouDou flew out to Spain for a visit, Cody would have to go into kennels. The best and nearest one, though by no means the cheapest, was called Mutlins. Or at least, that’s what we called it. He obviously associated it with his quarantine cell and barked himself hoarse for his entire stay. The next time we tried to check him in for his ‘holidays’ he planted his front paws on the ground, arched his back, reared his head and absolutely refused to budge. He had to be dragged all the way to his kennel cage which distressed DouDou as much as it did him.

As he grew older he became more infirm. His back sagged and his hip joints were creaky. Trips to the vet became more frequent and the medical bills began to mount up. He was prescribed drugs to ease his condition and they seemed to work. He stopped limping and began to perk up a bit. The revival was short-lived and after another visit to the vet it was announced he didn’t have long to go.

When the decision was made to up sticks and move to the Basque Country taking with us a dying Cody seemed the right thing to do. We studied the map, searched for dog-friendly hotels and booked our passage through the EuroTunnel to Calais. There we drove south, Cody laying on his blanket atop our worldly possessions heaped up on the back seat of the Golf. We stopped at our first French hotel and Cody creaked out of the car like an old man. He couldn’t do the stairs so we had a ground floor room. He slept next to us on the floor. The next hotel was out in the country and again he seemed to appreciate the fresh air and new smells as he staggered around the garden. We stopped frequently to let him out for a pee and a drink of water but for the most part he slept quietly on his blanket in the back.

We arrived at the French border and on entering Spain turned left up the Bidasoa valley towards our home in Ezkurra. As the car wound up through the mountains along the road that ran beside the Bidasoa river, Cody perked up. He became agitated. He began whining. We opened the window, imagining he was in distress. He poked his head out into the windstream and sniffed the air. He continued to whine and struggle. The closer we got to Ezkurra the more excited he became. We pulled up at the house and let him out into the orchard. He staggered around it, pissed against an old apple tree and declared himself satisfied with his new home.

He took on a new life in Ezkurra. The doddery old dog was still doddery but he seemed at peace with the world. His loathing of cats was still evident though. When he caught sight of Cat – a tiny, smelly, white kitten we had found in the wood-pile – huddled in a shoe box by the wood burning stove he barked at it. Cat died of shock. Cat’s death was avenged when Cody brushed up against the electric fence that was meant to keep the foxes out and the chickens in.  His howl of shock and pain echoed all through the valley.

Summer changed to Autumn and then to Winter bringing snow and freezing temperatures. The ‘six weeks to live’ prognosis given by the vet had turned into six months and Cody hadn’t deteriorated one bit. He slept on his blanket on the floor in our bedroom and to combat the cold DouDou covered him with another blanket. In the morning he would stand up draped in the tartan blanket and shivering uncontrollably, his teeth chattering waiting to be let out. Sometimes he didn’t make it in time and we would wake to the stench of dogshit. Cody always looked suitably ashamed. We had deferred our honeymoon until his demise, not realising he would go on forever. We were stuck at home for as long as Cody was alive. Maite at the chemists sold us pills that relieved his joint pains and he continued to stagger around the orchards every morning and evening, carefully avoiding the electric fence.

Finally, Cody found it too hard to stand up. Raquel, the dog-killer was called and whilst DouDou cradled his head Raquel gave him an injection in the saggy folds of flesh around his neck. He died in DouDou’s arms and I built a huge funeral pyre of lopped apple tree branches, wrapped him in his favourite blankets and cremated him in the orchard. We planted crocuses in the bare patch of soil that was left after the fire and each year they would be the first flowers to appear after winter.

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