Best in Show

210 shih tzu 763606‘Best in Show three times’ the advert read. ‘Genuine reason for sale’.

Delores was delighted at the perfectly-behaved five-year-old tan and white Shih Tzu.

Charles Forsythe Tuffnell III looked the part, acted it, even held its own head and tail up, as if she was a judge and 32 Bernett Close was the Crufts Show ring.

“Is that the best price?” Delores asked, holding up the advert.

The man nodded. “You can’t put a figure on breeding.”

“No, I suppose you can’t,” Delores conceded, and counted the bundle of £20 notes into the man’s large rough hands. They and he looked as if they’d been in this profession for years, the rosettes and trophies gleaming behind a tall glass-doored cabinet.

“He comes with a certificate of course,” the man added just as the last £20 note touched the top of the stack.

Delores smiled and watched the man close his hands reverently as if the money meant more to him than the dog.

Charles III was sitting on a red velvet-cushioned chair placed between the couple and looked at one then the other as if watching from the Royal Box at Wimbledon.

As the man folded the notes in half and stuffed them into his khaki trouser pocket, the dog fixed his gaze on Delores as if he’d known the transaction’s significance and that he was now hers.

“So he’s good in the car?” Delores asked.

“Aye. Used to it.”

“Of course.” Delores stared at the colourful cabinet on the opposite wall. She went to step nearer, but the man spoke again, distracting her.

“Have you brought a cage?”

“Erm, no. Just a harness. Will that be alright?”

“I suppose, as long as it’s blue.”

“It’s red. Will that-?”

“I suppose,” the man repeated and walked into the hall and to a small table. He handed her the certificate. “Are you going to show him too? He still has plenty of years left in him.”

The dog looked up at the man when he spoke then tilted its head on one side.

The man opened the front door for Delores and as she passed, he held out his hand which she shook. “Pleasure doing business with you,” he beamed, showing a gold tooth with a ruby inset, that Delores thought hideous.

He slammed the door before she’d reached her car.

She harnessed Charles, gave him a rub under his chin and drove away.

Mistress and dog made eye contact in the rear view mirror. “Best in show, hey?” Delores said half-statement, half-question.

The dog shook its head.

“Do you understand me?”

Charles nodded.

“Wow, you are clever.”

“You don’t know the half of it,” the dog replied, making Delores swerve, almost crashing the car into an oncoming taxi.

She pulled into the kerb, switched off the engine, released her seatbelt and turned round. “You can talk?”

“Sure.”

“And he knew that?”

“Of course not. You saw him, he’s a heathen. Plenty of years left, the cheek!”

“But… wow!”

“I know,” Charles laughed.

“You can talk!” Delores repeated.

“You’ll get used to it.”

“The newspapers will-”

“They won’t. I don’t talk to newspapers. I’m not a commodity. I have feelings. Like when you asked for a discount. It was a bit-”

“I’m sorry about that.”

“It’s OK. I probably would have done the same. It was a lot of money. You can call me Charlie, by the way, none of that Charles III rubbish. I’m not royalty.”

“But the certificate…”

“Fake, just like all those rosettes and trophies.”

“Were you not best in show?”

“Once or twice but small stuff; village fetes. Never Crufts and the likes.”

“Where did he get them all?”

“eBay. That’s why he wouldn’t let you near them.”

“That figures. Are you stolen?”

“Oh, no. He won me in a bet. Still think I’m worth it?”

“Absolutely.”

“Thought so. You’re obviously a dog lover.”

“I am, but what makes you say that?”

“Because you went for the chin rather than a pat on the head. I hate that. So demeaning. So, are you going to show me?”

“I hadn’t planned to.”

“Thank God for that. I’m not religious, by the way, it’s just a saying.”

Delores nodded.

“I love travelling,” Charlie continued, “going to new places, meeting new people. It’s all that preening and prodding. You know.”

Delores had watched every Crufts over the past 20 years but had recently become disillusioned with it. She’d seen buying Charlie as rescuing him. “I do.”

“So what’s the plan?”

“No plan really. Just hang out together.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Delores looked at the dashboard clock. “It’s not even lunchtime yet. Fancy a trip to the Peaks?”

Charlie barked and wagged his tail.

“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’ then,” Delores said, refastening her seatbelt.

***

Picture above courtesy of morguefile.com.

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