Fluffy’s human-ness was mostly hidden owing to his overlong fluff, though he seemed to be growing taller with each passing day.
Fluffikins did not behave like regular dogs. Mr Mutt knew all about regular dogs because he’d kept a golden retriever as a boy.
“My old retriever used to fetch slippers but he never did polish my shoes.”
Mr Mutt’s retriever had been the regular sort of dog who eats grass and throws it back up onto the welcome mat. To Mr Mutt’s way of thinking, a regular dog licks faces, rolls on its back in piles of autumn leaves and buries bones in the garden.
Fluffikins did none of those things.
t’s almost like Fluffikins was more human than Florence. Each day he grew a little more human and a smidgen taller.
“There there,” said Mrs Mutt, who had marvelled at the same coincidence.
Privately she didn’t mind Fluffikins’ utter lack of dogginess. “Look on the bright side,” she said to her husband the following day. “Some of the dog’s good behaviour might eventually rub off on Florence.”
“What good behaviour?” Mr Mutt groaned. “I’ve told that dog to keep off the furniture!”
With that, Fluffikins placed a bookmark in the Suburban Gardening Guide that Mr Mutt had bought but never actually read, and slid heavily off the sofa. He used the underside of one arm to brush fluff off the squab, but only left another clump in its place.
Mr and Mrs Mutt watched in silence as Fluffikins strode over to the kitchen cabinet. He rummaged around in the bottom drawer then produced the clothes brush. He turned around, blinked at Mr Mutt, then slowly and deliberately set about de-fluffing the sofa.
“I only dream of Florence sitting quietly on the furniture,” said Mrs Mutt, “let alone cleaning up after herself.” She glanced out the window to check on her dog-daughter. Florence must be baking mud pies. As usual, the view into the back yard was obscured by enthusiastic smatterings of ‘pie’.
No one thanked Fluffikins for cleaning the window afterwards. No one thanked him for the salad, either. And no one asked Fluffikins about the gardening tips he’d learnt from the book. He was an unwelcome lodger in the Mutt household.
Now they spoke as if he couldn’t hear.
“I’m beginning to think that dog understands everything we say,” muttered Mr Mutt. “You know Denise, I read on the web somewhere that the average dog understands 165 words.”
Mrs Mutt caught Fluffy’s gaze and felt suddenly unsettled. “That, over there, is no average dog,” she mouthed to her husband.
“Noooo av-er-age doooog,” she mouthed again.
Fluffikins, with his super-canine hearing, could hear Mrs Mutt’s breath sounding out the words.
From that day onwards, Fluffikins tried to be an even better visitor.
In turn, Mrs Mutt noticed the huge gap between the dog and the daughter.
Namely, Florence listened to nothing her parents said, whereas Fluffikins hung on to every word.
“Gosh I’ve had a hard day at work. I could really use a—”
Florence was always losing hats and lunch boxes. But Fluffikins kept tabs on everything.
Florence never did a job properly whereas Fluffikins paid attention to details. When Fluffikins set the dinner table (without being asked) he knew the difference between a dessert spoon and a soup spoon. He even folded napkins into the shape of little rabbit faces.
He re-established the pre-Florence Mutt Family Tradition of lighting the candelabra and putting on classical music, to ease digestion.
You would think Mr and Mrs Mutt grateful, wouldn’t you? But no. They said he was ‘creepy’.
They thought he was the creepiest creepy thing they’d ever seen, but they hadn’t seen creepy at Halloween.