When the babies fail to come, he begins to think about getting a dog, for her of course, not him.
A gift for her, something to fill the gap, fill her days, fill the silences that fall between them more and more.
He is not a dog person, actually he is not an animal person at all.
if pushed, he will admit a mild fondness for cats, at least he is fond of their independence, their rugged self reliance, their ability to manage themselves and their ability to survive a level of healthy neglect.
Dogs he considers to be too needy, too demanding, simply too much.
The demands of babies, their neediness was pushed to the back of his mind, firmly packed away in a mental box labelled “do not open” and he threw himself instead into the making of babies.
Sex early in the morning, sex late at night, sex as dictated by the thin red line on a thermometer, by the stars and moon, sex with orgasm, sex without, sex followed by her adopting a partial headstand position, sex followed by a terrible silence.
And when, finally, all talk of babies was over, when all talk was over and she lay, night after night, a resentful, silent hump under the duvet, he began to consider a dog.
The breed was important, something small, almost fur less, skin colored, baby shaped. Something that she could hold, caress, love. Something to fill the gap.
After much research, he settles on a pug and in due course arrives home one day clutching a 9 week old puppy, allegedly fully weaned and ready to go.
She, wearing the dressing gown that has become her habitual day and evening wear, sits up in bed and stares at him and the whining, shivering dog and then slowly, deliberately, she rolls over and pulls the duvet over her head.
The puppy is far too young, not weaned and cries all night.
He wakes every 2 hours and hand feeds it the mashed puppy food the breeder pressed upon him. The animal is cold and shakes, digging about in the cupboard under the sink, he unearths an old hot water bottle and swaddling it in an old jumper, he carefully places the puppy next to the heat.
He dozes on the sofa, in case the puppy wakes afraid, lost.
Three months later, she moves out and doesn’t take the tiny dog with her, but by then it is too late, he is besotted.
The puppy is weakly, often ill, he spends nights nursing it, watching its tiny chest move up and down as it struggles to breathe.
As it grows larger, it learns to spend hours laying on his chest, panting, its bulbous eyes fixed adoringly on him.
It feels the cold, shiver easily, he finds specialist web sites, buys tiny jumpers, t-shirts, coats. By the time is is 8 months old, it has an extensive wardrobe and he finds himself planning its outfits for their daily outing to the park.
He knows they look ludicrous together, the tiny, delicate dog and he, burly, head shaven, still wearing his work boots but moving carefully, lightly around the animal,making sure that he doesn’t tread on it.
Late at night when they lie together, his finger traces the whorl of beige fur on its’ belly.
The silence between them is comforting.