Mika’s blog (4): Once upon a time…

Bibilical first human beings Adam and Eve were queueing at the Immigration counter before checking out of the Garden of Eden. Adam held their brand new passport – just one – in his hand which said: “Human, male, sinner”. Eve had been entered in Adam’s passport since she was made out of his rib. She’d be applying for a separate passport when they arrived in the other world, that was the plan.

God knows how long it would take for Eve to get a new passport, the snake had said and they hadn’t dared ask God. But the snake had heard that it might take anything from a few million to a couple of hundred thousand years before Eve got her own passport. After that even Eve hadn’t had the heart to talk about voting rights or equal pay – Adam was laughing already, so she had simply kept the thing about gender equality to herself. Would be occasion enough to ask the question and give Adam something to laugh about in the millennia to come.

And then we might think of Mary and Joseph, those ultimate refugees whose travels took them from Nazareth to Bethlehem (80 miles), from Bethlehem to Jerusalem (6 miles); from there to Egypt (40 miles); and from Egypt over Judea and Bethlehem back to Nazareth (106 miles). That’s a total of 232 miles, a distance a commercial jet would be able to cover in 25 minutes and the rocket-powered X-15 of the NASA and the U.S. Air Force in just three, yes, just three minutes, for instance during its record Mach 6.7 flight sometime during the ’sixties.

Imagine Mary and Joseph aboard the X-15, the fastest military airplane of all time. Jesus would have had exactly three minutes to be born, Christ! No wonder they retired the X-15 in 1970.

Mika’s ancestors had been around during all such biblical wanderings, Mika claims. Eve had hidden her Mika – still very young, a cuddly little thing with paws almost larger than its head – she’d hidden Mika carefully amongMika2 her spare fig leaves but they discovered the stowaway anyway. Adam had to explain that Mika was not a pet but provisions for the journey in the sense that they intended to eat Mika if they felt hungry during the trip, a perfectly valid explanation in those days. The Immigration Officer was asking whether Mika – everybody in Mika’s family has always been called Mika since Adam – and since Eve, come down to think of it (about time somebody did). Well, the I.O. was at least clever enough not to ask for Mika’s vaccination papers, there being no vaccination nor diseases of any kind in the Garden of Eden.

How did people – and animals – die in the GOE? I was asking Mika.

People? There was only Adam ’n’ Eve, Mika said, as if he was talking about Rock ’n’ Roll. As for the animals, they died of boredom, if we are to believe Mika. Apparently they just curled up and went to sleep, telling the others not to wake them till Eternity – or until Eve had given Adam the apple and they’d put on their fig leaves and things had generally got interesting.

For example, soon after their arrival in the sinful world, ‘Adam knew his wife Eve intimately, and she conceived and bore Cain’. Abel came along by and by. Cain became a farmer while Abel became a shepherd. And then Cain killed Abel – so not just sex but violence and Hollywood was born.

“My ancestor had naturally attached himself to Abel – he was actually the first sheep dog in the world, we turned into hunting dogs later,” Mika recalled with some pride. “My ancestor was regularly getting all those succulent scraps from the ‘fat portions’ Abel was offering to the Lord. And then that grain-eating monster Cain not only killed Abel but chased away my ancestor,” Mika would have shed a silent tear if he could, but had to be content with drooling instead, whether for his ancestor or for the succulent scraps, I am not in a position to tell.

“And what about Mary and Joseph? Did they have a Mika with them too?” I asked.

“No, but you know the place where their child was born?”

“You mean the manger?”

“The child wasn’t born in the manger. Mary laid him there after the birth,” Mika corrected.

“And your ancestor?”

“The manger was the feeding trough for the cows. My ancestor used to lie on top of the fodder and have fun snarling and growling and scaring away the dumb critters. But when Mary came, with the child…” Mika broke off, which is unusual for him.

“Yes?”

“The cows were avoiding the manger because my ancestor was in it, but Mary thought the manger was empty.”

“Which it wasn’t?”

“Mary saw Mika at the last moment and got a scare because Mika bared his teeth, like this,” Mika bared his gums. He looks like a baboon when he does that. It is not a pretty sight.

“And then?”

“Mary called Joseph who said something to Mika so that Mika got up and sprang out of the manger. Went out of the stable altogether and sulked outside, which is why he missed the photo op at the Christmas crib.”

“What did Joseph say to Mika?”

“‘D’you want me to tell the world that you were the first dog in the manger?'”

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Mika’s blog (3): Canine Heaven

It’s naturally difficult, if not impossible, to catch Mika in the right mood for a conversation about the higher things in life. You have to wait for the right moment, such as when he’s relaxing. How does Mika relax? Well, it looks very much as if he’s sleeping or he is dead, which he isn’t, he’s very much awake; just ask him, ‘Mika, are you sleeping?’ and you’ll see the tip of his tail go this way and that to tell you, ‘No, I’m sleeping, can’t you see, you twit? And haven’t you heard the thing about letting sleeping dogs lie?’

Mika is lying on Kasia’s fully made bed, as usual; Mika will never jump on to an unmade bed, a bed unmade, as Shakespeare would have put it. Mika relaxes roughly like Goya’s la maja desnuda, that’s the Maja Nude for you. Only that MiWP_20160224_07_16_11_Proka has his paws in the air and Mika can’t cross his legs, nor does he bother, so that his reproductive parts are fully on display. Looking at them sometimes makes you feel like Goya, who painted a maja vestida or Clothed Maja as well, which only perverts look at. And to paint a Clothed Mika Goya would have needed a lion tamer first, just to put Mika in those clothes, Mika being fully wild and not having possessed so much as a piece of underwear in his life.

So Mika lies on Kasia’s bed in the pose of the Naked Maja and pretends that he is asleep with his eyes open, which follow you around the room revealing the whites either from this side or that, giving you an uneasy feeling as if Mika were the Hound of Heaven à la Francis Thompson. That’s what gave me the idea in the first place: ‘Mika, tell us something about canine philosophy,’ I said.

‘What is canine?’ Mika asked. I explained. ‘Ah, you mean doggie philosophy?’ Mika said, ‘I know all about it. Every dog knows about it. Even bitches know about it. Don’t know about puppies.’

‘Give me the gist,’ I said. ‘Is it anywhere near as simple or as mysterious as Jack London made it?’

‘Ah, that man in Alaska who thought he was a wolf? Oh yes, he was one of us!’

‘That’s very sweet of you, Jack would have been pleased.’

‘Of course he was a dog, that man. All dogs think that they are wolves. Some even go a step further and think that they are lions or tigers. The only thing a dog will never think is that he is a man. A man might be a dog – your Shakespeare is full of that, isn’t he? – but a dog will never be a man.’

‘Is a dog afraid of death?’

‘A dog is afraid of pain, otherwise neither of life, nor of death. We don’t waste time on such things.’

‘Where do you get your confidence?’

‘Don’t you know? A dog lives in the right hand of God, like a newborn puppy in the hand of the Great Big Man. And when the time comes for the dog to die, the Great Big Man simply transfers the puppy from His right hand to His left hand. So we are never out of God’s hand, why should we be afraid? But there’s this story old dogs tell about two silly human beings, a man and a woman, who fell out of God’s hand. Must have been dozing on their watch.’

‘Or doing worse things. What’s canine heaven like?’

‘Boy, the things that are happening to your English since you started blogging… well, it’s your business, I suppose. Canine Heaven is like a huge garbage dump, like a landfill; everything that you throw away here, lands there; so all dogs and birds and all other animals have a field day; everybody’s a scavenger and nobody has to hunt, and if they do, even if they eat each other, there’s no pain and no cries except of the kind you hear at a football match. Nobody really gets hurt and everybody gets up and dusts themselves and curls up for the night to go to sleep.’

‘Eternal night?’

‘Which is like eternal day, like at the poles, haven’t you been watching your Discovery and the National Geographic?’

‘How do I get there?’

‘You mean to doggie heaven? Just die.’

‘What!?!’

‘Once you die, they’ll take you to the gate of Doggie Heaven where you’ll be asked whether you know any dogs – they’re very understanding, that way. You don’t have to possess a dog; you just have to be kind to some, maybe just to one dog. Or not even a dog; maybe to a cat, a rabbit, a lion – like that Androcles fellow – what the hell, just be kind to somebody or someone and you’ll be in heaven.’

Mika saw that I was getting confused – being only a man.

‘Don’t worry, when you arrive, they’ll call out for me or for Gypsy to come and vouch for you. Then we’ll have to come and say, yes, we know that man, he’s not all that bad. And they’ll let you in. And then we’ll be able to bite you to our heart’s content but don’t worry – it won’t hurt.’

‘But that hurts! Would you bite me if you could?’

‘Would you eat me if you could?’

‘I’d rather die!’

‘And so would I.’

Mika’s Blog (2): Love

We have a slight difference of opinion on that point. Mika is – theoretically – in love with every hot bitch anywhere in the world, or at least in Plittersdorf. (I used to be just as bad when I was young, I seem to remember, but that’s neither here nor there). Otherwise Mika is as non-discriminatory as a draft constitution when it comes to – er, hot bitches viz. age no bar, colour no bar and race no bar, even looks no bar, the only bar being possibly the species. The lady in question should at least be canine, I’d always thought, until I saw Mika trying to cajole – not coerce – one of Kasia’s elder sister’s cats into playing doctor games with him – and getting a bloody nose in the process.

Talking of coercion, there’s no coercion in love in the canine world. Dogs are gentlemen, as a rule, and will never bite a female. I’ve seen tiny female dogs yap away huge hulks of boxers WP_20160220_13_08_22_Proand huskies. Especially when she’s ‘hot’, it’s the female who does the choosing. I’ve heard of a male dog sodomising another male dog just to show who’s king – it was a Leonberger that did it to a German Shepherd. And I’ve seen three male dogs – including Mika – pile on to the back seat of a tiny Fiat in hot pursuit of a lady’s – hot – West Highland terrier. Took self and two other passers-by to untangle the heap, I remember.

A question that I often ask Mika is: Do you have no shame? What is shame? Mika says. There is no shame in love and hunger – Mika says. There is no shame in bites, scratches, yelps and ultimately running away with your tail between your legs. There is no shame in licking your wounds – and other things – in public or in private. And to live for another day and another bitch (to steal Scarlett O’Hara’s punchline).

You see, love and survival are absolutely interrelated issues in the canine view of existence. You need a pack to survive. The pack has to love you – especially if you’re not the alpha dog, who rules by fear. You might be the lowest in the pecking order – originally discovered among chicken – but you still need to be loved, because they’ll bite you out of the pack otherwise, which is the same as death. Ergo, the opposite of love is death. Death is the difference between a little love and no love. Ultimately one dies of lovelessness.

That is why me and Kasia – short for Katarzyna – we form Mika’s pack. As such Mika is ecstatic every time one of us returns, even if it’s just from the cellar or from taking out the trash. In the canine view of life, danger begins right from the stairwell and we – or one of us – might be eaten up by rabbits or squirrels or moles or any or all of those creatures of the dark the moment we set foot outside the door of the flat. Mika never believes when we tell him that we’re just going to do the groceries and will be back in half-an-hour. He assumes the worst. That way he’s just happy to see us – alive. What a simple way of being happy.

Conversely, if we ever happen to leave him with the dog sitter for more than three days, say, he waits for the first 24 hours, mourns for the next 24 and then assumes that we are dead and that he needs a new pack – what luck, he has got a new pack or what’s a dog sitter for! He just transfers his love from the dead to the one who is alive and well and giving him his food and collecting his droppings and wiping his ass if necessary – as simple as adopting a child from the Third World, only the other way round.

Joke is, Mika will be mourning for the dog sitter for the first two days after his return, making us despair – has Mika stopped loving us? No, he has to begin trusting us all over again, trusting that we won’t get lost and go missing and put him through the whole ordeal of re-arranging his loyalties – the other name of love – all for the sake of survival.

It is of course Kasia – short for Katarzyna, which again is naturally only a nom de guerre (French), Künstlername (German) or stage name (English) – who is Mika’s real love. Kasia was supposed to be my real love too, or that’s what I’d told her at the time of our marriage. And then Laura came along, around a year later, weighing just three kilos and two hundred grammes and I had to tell Kasia that I’d married her under false pretences, the real love of my life was Laura. And then when Laura was around eight or nine, Gypsy came along – that’s Mika’s predecessor and a Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen, Mika being a Grand or a larger version of the same…

Ever seen a Basset Griffon? The longest thing about Mika are his ears. He’s a large dog on short legs. When he trots his front part, middle part and the rear sway from side to side like an Indian goods train on wobbly rails. His paws look as if they’d been designed for baroque furniture. He’s got mournful eyes, a mouth full of dangerous teeth and bad smell and a tail like an ensign. He chases everything from flies in the living room to public buses on the road. And he’s got a voice as deep as Nat King Cole’s – with a touch of Sinatra.

As I said, Kasia is Mika’s true love. I love him desperately but that’s of no consequence. Nothing is of any consequence, it seems. I had this strange dream about Mika going to heaven – heaven looking exactly like our small and dingy flat in Plittersdorf, complete with the nondescript surroundings of an erstwhile fishing village – well, Mika had gone to heaven and who do you think comes along to greet him and says: ‘Hullo, Mika, welcome to Heaven. I’m God.’

‘Is that so?’ Mika replies, ‘Nice to meet you. Have you seen Kasia anywhere?’

That, I realise, is love. Neither divine, nor human, just canine.

Mika’s blog

Not that Mika has started blogging. Mika never blogs. He doesn’t write or speak. He barks from time to time. He gobbles things from the wayside which have been lying there for some time. And then he throws up if it disagrees with him. He eats grass in repentance. The ‘leaves of grass’ – Whitman would have been pleased – travel all the way through Mika’s tummy and come out at the other end. You can’t blog about such things. Wonder whether I can.

Mika is not his real name. His real name is Lucien l’honneur du pied and he’s got an ancestry considerably longer than mine. It’s a French nWP_20150828_20_13_18_Proame which I guess means ‘honour on foot’. Mika is a Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen. His mother, Emmy, used to live in the forests of Westerwald – with Mika’s breeder. Emmy was taken to her ‘husband’ in France, who did a quick one day stand with her, before snarling her away! No wonder nobody understands anything about love, real love, romantic love, in Mika’s family. In any case, Emmy came back to Westerwald with a broken heart and a full belly – the belly got fuller by the day, until Mika and his eleven brothers and sisters saw the light of day, on the same day, being twins, if you know what I mean.

Of course not twins, since there were twelve of them. Emmy had had duodecuplets, from duodecim, that’s the Latin for twelve. I’ll call it Emmy’s dozen – from a baker’s dozen to the Dirty Dozen – and twins, for fear that she might bite me if she heard me calling her darlings – what was the word? – duodecuplets.

When we went to the breeder to pick (yes, pick, which means choose, and not pick up, which you do eight weeks later, good for the ‘socialisation’, we were told, wish I had been raised that way) – let’s start all over again, when we went to the breeder to pick Mika, Mika and his eleven twins were scattered all over the grounds, only Emmy knowing where her pups were. And then Mika fell asleep in the middle of a run, so half a dozen of his twins fell asleep on top of him, in a heap, as if they’d all been shot. So the breeder put the whole lot in an enclosure, where they promptly piled up on top of each other and went back to sleep. K. was making funny squeaking noises of delight and endearment by then. She bent down to touch one of the pixies – only to find Emmy’s cold nose in the way. Emmy did not like her brood being touched or caressed or disturbed in any way. It broke my heart to see her sitting there, barklessly, when we were taking away her smallest – by way of size – in a shoebox eight weeks later. And only a fool believes that a mother’s love – even a canine mother’s – is divisible. Or that she cannot count. We’d stolen ‘honour on foot’ from Squaw Emmy in her wigwam. Stolen goods, maybe that’s why we decided to call him Mika. And I couldn’t reconcile myself to the idea of going through life calling ‘Lucien! Lucien!’ into the shrubbery, or even exploding into ‘Lucien! Come here, you son-of-a-pig!’

‘So what shall I blog about?’ I was asking Lucien, I mean Mika.

‘Hot bitches?’ Mika suggested.

We were out for our usual walk in the Rheinaue, that’s the bit of green on the Rhine which is Bonn’s saving. ‘How can I blog about hot bitches,’ I protested, ‘when I don’t even know which ones are hot?’ Mika has told me that to write ‘in heat’ is sexist and impolite.

‘Can’t you smell?’ Mika said. ‘In that case, just watch me.’ I watched him with his nose to the aft of an absolute beauty of a Bobtail, around three sizes larger than him. It took more time to remove Mika from Ms Bobtail’s stern than it has taken me to write this blog.

And then I had the pleasure of watching Mika bark away an absolutely harmless and sweet cocker spaniel who was trying to be friendly. ‘Why did you do that?’ I asked Mika.

‘Oh, she’s just a bitch. And not even hot,’ Mika said nonchalantly.

‘What d’you mean? I thought she was charming.’

‘Bollocks,’ Mika said, pausing briefly to lick the objects in question. ‘You thought the lady at the other end of the leash was a doggess, didn’t you? Ha, ha.’

And thereby hangs a tail.