Old Enzio’s dog followed him everywhere. He was one of those dogs made up from every other dog on earth … four long legs supported a stocky body from which various coloured hair sprouted … like old bits of coir that had escaped from a worn mattress.
His head was elongated and faded old eyes peered out from bushy eyebrows. From underneath his jaw he sported a grey flecked goatee. His name was Ringo, why I never knew, and if you ever wanted to know where Enzio was, well – you just had to look for Ringo. ‘He adores that dog,’ said Leila, ‘I don’t know what he’ll do when Ringo goes.’
And so we watched Ringo’s failing health with trepidation, for as summer declined, so did he. His legs were shaky and many’s the time he would sit on the gravel road watching Enzio work in the field below. He was just too tired to get down there.
By Christmastime Enzio and Leila had decided that Ringo could not last the year out and that it would be best to get a new dog straight away. And what better Christmas present than a little puppy for their grand-daughter Rosanna? Rosanna would be thrilled, Ringo could teach the puppy good habits, and it would lessen the pain for everyone when Ringo did go. It seemed a neat solution all round.
The morning after Christmas there was a knock at our front door, and we heard a small voice calling ‘permesso?’ .. may I come in? And there stood Rosanna with a tiny bundle of spots in her arms. It seemed sort of like a Dalmatian turned into a plump little milk bottle, sporting legs. ‘She’s called Lily,’ Rosanna told us, ‘and she’ll be Ringo and my friend.’
Over the next few months Lily grew into a lovely, but wild dog. Ringo’s innate good manners seemed to pass her by as she happily dug up our bulbs, tipped over boxes of grass seed and sat on small plants. More Dalmatian and less brain seemed to be the order of the day.
Then, even though she was still only a puppy, Lily suddenly lost her exuberance. She seemed lethargic, content to lie under the shade of a tree and let the garden be. And even though we are surrounded by solid country folk, who know all about the birds and the bees, we all missed it. Lily was pregnant.
But how? Our big house has no other dogs and our small valley is isolated. No-one even thought of Ringo, who by this time was virtually at death’s door, and could barely stand for more than a couple of minutes.
Then Lily’s puppies were born … all nine of them. Eight tiny little girls with soft white fur and little black spots, and the ninth, oh yes, Ringo’s son. There the little chap stood. A true chip off the old bloc. Patchy coir hair, bushy eyebrows, and even a moustache under the chin. There was no mistaking it.
Once again Rosanna stood with a small puppy in her arms, and once again she had the honour of naming him. ‘I am going to call him Beethoven,’ she said, and like his father Ringo, no-one quite knew why that particular name was chosen.
Everyone came to admire the little miracle, but there was none prouder than the ancient father. For Ringo had lived to see his son, and as if his mission in life had finally been accomplished, shortly after this he simply rolled over and died.
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