This short story appeared in Love Sunday magazine on 18 October and we wanted to share it with you. It’s based on an extract from Monty & Me, Louisa Bennet’s new novel, to be released on 22 October!
Here’s part 1, for your to enjoy. Part 2 will be posted on Monty’s Dog Blog tomorrow.
My cage is one of fifteen in a row with concrete floors and no natural light, just glaringly bright electric light bulbs that hang at regular intervals from the ceiling. I have a water bowl and a cheery grey breeze-block wall to stare at. If I was dressed in orange overalls you could’ve mistaken this for Guantanamo Bay, otherwise known as Gitmo. No wonder this place is called ‘Dogmo’ by my furry brothers and sisters in captivity at the Peasemarsh Pound. There is a constant cacophony of barking as my fellow canines call out for their owners to save them.
There’s a rumour circulating on Cell Block D, my block, that I’m in for murder. It’s well known outside these walls that Paddy, my beloved master, was stabbed and I tried to save him. News on the wee-vine travels fast. But the rumour within the pound’s perimeter is that I took my revenge on the killer and ate his leg. While he was still alive. I suspect the gossip started with Lola, the Chihuahua, who sits on her pink cushion all day nattering to anyone who’ll listen. I feel I need to set the story straight. Where’s a lawyer when you need one?
In a cage on my right is a heart-broken Staffordshire Bull Terrier, whose master threw him out of a moving car because he was ‘allegedly’ a lousy guard-dog. ‘But nobody ever proved nothin’,’ he told me. He’s been here longer than most, recovering from his operation and now has three legs. With no microchip and no collar, he’s been given the name of Ralph. On my left is a black and white mongrel – a bit of Terrier and a bit of Border Collie called Taz. He leaps against his cage door and howls constantly, swearing at the guards, effing and blinding in doggie-speak. He tells me he’s suspected of aiding and abetting a terrorist. The terrorist turns out to be Molly, a rogue sheep, who made a bid for freedom from his master’s farm. Instead of rounding her up, he ‘allegedly’ opened the gate for her. The farmer dumped him at Dogmo.Me? I’m a Golden Retriever named Monty. A council dog catcher snared me as I pursued Paddy’s killer. Nobody will claim me so I’m for the chop. I have to make a break for it.
It’s late in the evening and the last person has left for the night. My fellow inmates are sleeping. Some whimper in their slumber, others jerk their paws and utter closed-mouthed barks, dreaming of running wild and free. I stand and place my right forefoot into the gap in the criss-cross metal bars. My paw is too big to fit right through, but I can get it far enough to feel the hook of the latch against my toes. I focus hard and lift my paw. The latch pops up and out of the metal loop. The door falls ajar and with my forehead I push it wide open.
‘How the flying-ferret did you do that?’ asks Taz from the next door cage. He has gone from being sound asleep to totally alert in a matter of seconds.
‘I leant a few tricks from the Queen’s Corgis.’
It’s true. As a puppy, I lived with a Windsor Castle gardener.
‘OMG!’ yaps Lola, lifting her head. ‘Get outta here! How do you know them royals?’
‘It’s a long story.’
Outside my cage, I indulge in an almighty shake, from the point of my nose all the way down to the very tip of my tail. Everything is moving and flapping. It’s the best feeling.
By now most of my fellow prisoners are awake and lined up at their cage doors as if awaiting an inspection by the screws.
‘Anyone want to come with me? I can get you out of here, but after that you’re on your own.’
They all bark at once.
‘Quiet!’ I say.
Silence, except for a whimper from cage fifteen.
‘I’m leaving right now, so stay close to your door if you want to be freed. If not, step back.’
Lola stays on her pink cushion. ‘No thanks, a stray’s life is sooo not my thing.’
Taz, on the other hand, has his face squished against the door so that his fur is indented with metal squares. ‘I’m in. I’m in. Oh yeah, I’m in.’
I lift his latch and he charges out, bolting up and down the concrete corridor with glee…
Hope you enjoyed it so far!