Rozz Lewis is a primary teacher living in Carlow. She runs a literary blog at rozz.ie and is a member of Carlow Writers. She has been published in the anthology What Champagne Was Like, and literary magazines like Boyne Berries, Spontaneity, Wordlegs, Silver Apples, Bray Arts Journal and Literary Orphans. She has been listed for New Planet Cabaret, Penguin Short Story and Fish Fiction Prizes.
Hear the dogs barking
I can’t sleep. There are dogs outside at the back of my estate and they’re barking. No one loves them and I make up my mind to report the owners tomorrow. When we were little, we always put the dogs in at night.
The first dog
I didn’t really like Sam. A small, nippy Jack Russell. He is there in all the photos of when we lived in England. When we moved back to Ireland, he came with us on the ferry. He was hidden in a box in the back of our packed car. Even though I didn’t like him much, I knew it was wrong to leave him all anxious in the back with his little head bopping up out of the box while we left to go up deck. Mum and Dad were laughing at him and me. They told me he would be fine.
He scared me sometimes. He would bite me when I wasn’t looking. He would seem friendly, sitting on my lap and then NASH, a subtle growl and nip to my hand or whatever was free for him to go for. Dad loved him. Sam was his dog and not Mum’s. It put me off Jack Russells for life.
In Ireland, Dad was bored as there were no jobs for him. Mum asked her brother, Uncle Frankie to find him a new hobby. They went hunting after foxes at night. I’d imagine a glaring moon shining in the night with the men walking strongly through the fields. They told me that they didn’t kill or hurt any foxes or hares and that it was only a bit of fun.
One night, they were later than normal and it was nearly bedtime when they came back. Uncle Frankie had brought Sam on the hunt even though Dad hadn’t wanted to. Sam was sat shivering in a blanket by the fire. His gums purple with blood, teeth hanging on and some were missing. An animal I didn’t like was pained and unhappy. Dad looked worried while Mum made hot drinks with milk and poteen in a saucepan over the turfy fire. Uncle Frankie laughed at Sam and I wanted to hit him for that. I started to cry and I was told to go to bed and that Sam would be fine. He was a dog and dogs were meant to hunt, Uncle Frankie said. Dad kept telling the same story about Sam being brave and trying to go down a foxhole, dragging the fox out and ending up in a full on fight. Sam won, Uncle Frankie said. Mum looked after him until he was better. He didn’t go hunting again and he liked to just sit, shivering at the fire. I still stayed away from him as I was sure he hadn’t lost his bite.
The next dog we got after Sam was a fluffy and lovable one. His name was Russell and he was my dog from the start. Mum wouldn’t let this one in the house. Dogs are meant to be outside, she’d say but she’d let him sneak into the hall and look in at us, his tail patting away at me.
But, Russell got sick and Mum told me that he was dying. Uncle Frankie was brought in to take the body away while I wrote poems and stories about him to go into his grave.
My brother Chris and I held a fake funeral. Uncle Frankie told us where he was to be buried, right out by the stack of turf. I made a funeral essence with petals and Chris wrote out a speech.
I cried all through Chris’ speech. Russell had never bit me; I couldn’t understand it. That night, I heard Mum and Dad arguing in the sitting room while we lay in bed. Afterwards, Dad came in to us and talked to us about Russell. About where he was and why he died. He told us that Uncle Frankie and Mum had killed him. They had put him down instead of taking him to a vet. I listened, confused and silent, not sure who to believe.
A few weeks after, Dad went to England to find work and some hobbies and he said he would be back at Christmas. I’d look at the photos of Russell, Uncle Frankie and Dad. My favourite one was of them and the big salmon they had caught.
We didn’t get any more dogs until after I left for college. We only had the same mother cat who had loads of kittens and was forever pregnant. A thin cat with swollen belly for her little ones. Mum said dogs were too hard to keep and look after. Who would mind them when she was out at work? I said I could stay off school but she never gave in and we never did have a dog again until I left home.
Mum got a small dog called Mixie. Mixie had some brain issues but he didn’t bite. He was knocked down by a car one evening, Mum searched for him for days and found him, opened up but still wanting to be alive. She took him to the vet but he died at some point. She says she will never get a dog again as they were too much hassle and she wouldn’t be able to go anywhere or keep them from getting knocked down. She keeps a photo of his face up in the kitchen, tucked into the clock.
Hear the dogs bark
I’m still awake. It’s four in the morning and I can hear the rhythmic barking of two dogs in the estate behind me. I get up and open the window, letting the freshness singe into the bedroom. I shout out to them to quieten but it makes them worse. I go back to bed, moulding myself into my husband.
Can we get a dog I ask him. No answer until the morning when I bring it up.
You can get a dog but you will have to mind it, I’m not doing it.
We don’t get a dog. The house is empty, just me and him. I hear those dogs barking every night and when Mum comes to stay, she says she can hear them too sometimes if she is awake.