When Florence Mutt was a baby she preferred to do business outside.
Other babies ate mashed apple and carrot from spoons that choo-chooed into their toothless mouths. But Florence had a full set of sharp little choppers at just seven weeks of age.
Florence did not want mashed apple and carrot. For dinner she liked eggs, sausages and liver pâté. For afters she wanted shoes and rubber chickens and electrical cords.
Mr and Mrs Mutt spent a lot of extra money on toilet paper.
Florence Mutt never slept on her back inside a baby sleeping-bag. Whenever Florence was put inside her cot she would turn around three times to make a hollow in the mattress, then curl up into a comfortable ball.
Florence Mutt never crawled on her hands and knees. She ran about on all fours, round and round the house, up onto the tables, leaping from chair to chair, bouncing off sofas.
Florence Mutt never goo-ed and gah-ed. She barked. When Florence finally began to talk she spoke only of dogs.
When Florence Mutt started preschool the principal told Mr and Mrs Mutt to take their daughter to the doctor.
They asked the doctor about Florence’s matted hair, her lack of ears and her back-to-front knees.
The doctor patted Florence’s head and listened to her heartbeat.
Florence sprinted on all fours up and down the corridor, lapped the entire building then rushed back into the room. She sprung over the desk and pirouetted back onto the examination table.
Because Mr and Mrs Mutt insisted, the doctor double checked Florence’s hearing.
“She can hear perfectly well. Better than perfectly well. I wouldn’t worry about her lack of ears.”
“My ears are right here!” Florence grabbed the matted knots on each side of her head and gave them a little tug.
“So they are.” The doctor turned to Mr and Mrs Mutt. “Your daughter’s ears are a little higher than normal but they may move down as her head grows up into them.”
“You have a very healthy daughter,” concluded the doctor.
“But our very healthy daughter thinks she’s a dog!” said Mrs Mutt. “She barks at visitors and scares them away…
… she licks her dinner bowl completely clean and… well…”
Mrs Mutt decided to share a four-year worry. “Our little girl seems to be growing a tail.”
This was said in a very small voice, almost a whisper. Mrs Mutt had never mustered the courage to mention it before. Mentioning made it true. But there it was, growing thick and lush, longer and longer with each passing year. Florence’s tail would soon be too bushy to hide inside her nappy-pants.
“That is a very fine tail, Florence,” said the doctor.
“Fank you,” said Florence, who now had a name for that long thing that wagged when she was happy.
“But human girls are not meant to grow tails!” said Mr Mutt, who had been bullied mercilessly about his surname all through school. He knew this doggy name would catch up with him at some point, and here it was, sitting proudly on the doctor’s examination table, with a slightly wagging rear end.
“Does dogginess run in the family?” asked the doctor.
Mr and Mrs Mutt looked at each other and shrugged.
Mr and Mrs Mutt really did love their daughter. But they had dreamed of the regular, human kind of girl. They had imagined a daughter who liked to wear clothes. They had imagined she would not wipe her dirty paws all over these clothes.
Mrs Mutt had imagined brushing a daughter’s hair. She did not expect to end up with Florence, who hid all the hairbrushes whenever anyone mentioned the ‘h’ word.
Mr Mutt had imagined a tidy, polite girl who ate with a knife and fork, not with her snout in the dish. She wouldn’t even eat with a spoon. Let’s face it. He would have settled for a spoon.
“Everyone’s a little bit doggy,” reassured the doctor. “There’s no shame in dogginess. I keep three dogs myself and love them as children. I suggest you get a family pet yourselves. Perhaps if Florence had her own dog she would see that she herself is not one.”
Mr and Mrs Mutt paid the doctor for the bad advice and drove home in worried silence. Florence sat strapped into the back seat and pointed at all the dogs they passed.
The Mutt family did not get a dog. They already had one part-girl, part-dog and that was more than they could handle.