Florence held her breath and snout-dived into the dish.
If she’d given this some thought she wouldn’t have mustered the bravery. But the call of the dog dish beckoned at some primal level.
She sunk deeper and deeper, until the water was no longer fresh and clean but salty and greenish and weedy.
She kicked and she crawled until she reached the surface.
Florence was now bobbing about in a salty sea.
A bit of relevant background: Florence Mutt had been kicked out of swimming lessons at the local indoor pool, mostly for running around on wet concrete, but also because she refused to practise proper strokes.
Luckily Florence is a natural at dog-paddling. She started paddling now. (The trick is to run with all four limbs at once and hold your snout-chin high.)
But who had been calling her name? No one else was here. In her enthusiasm to dive into the dog dish she may have imagined it.
Another echoey voice called desperately from the silver sky above. She wasn’t imagining this bit. This was definitely Fluffikins.
Florence craned her neck and gazed up. Fluffy’s blurry face filled the sky.
“Watch out!” said Fluffy from above. “I’ll save you!”
Preparing for a massive dive bomb, Florence sunk under the surface.
She felt the impact of a large something dropping into water nearby.
When she re-emerged for air, she looked around for her best friend. Before shaving himself he’d always looked hilarious with his fluff all wet and clinging to his bones. With that big coat on he’d look like a big brown lily-pad, maybe.
She did not see Fluffikins.
She saw a slipper. A massive fluffy slipper, about the size of a dinghy.
This was Mrs Mutt’s old slipper from two Mothers’ Days ago. It was a perfectly good slipper, apart from a few of Florence’s chewings. Which is why Mrs Mutt had never thrown it away. She kept it on the shoe rack in the entrance hall. But still she refused to wear it. Not since the dreadful day when she stepped outside to check the mailbox, only to land in something terrible.
The pooey slipper had floated around for days in a bucket of bleach water until the next load of washing. Then it banged about in the washing machine, all by itself. When Mrs Mutt opened the lid of the washing machine she saw it was clean as a whistle* but no longer a slipper.
Bent and warped, this former-footwear was not even close to the shape of a mother’s foot. If Fluffikins were called upon to describe it, he would say the slipper was “the shape of a rescue boat”. Which is how he came up with the idea of poking it into his water dish to save a floundering Florence.
Florence dog-paddled to the slipper and dug her claws into the sides — not enough to perforate the fluffy fabric but enough to climb to safety.
She lay flat against the slipper floor panting heavily, cradled by the aroma of mother’s foot.
There was a long moment of nothing from above, while Fluffy’s head disappeared from view.
Next, Florence saw some sort of rope being lowered from the sky. It had a metal clasp at the bottom and was made of woven strips of canvas. This was the dog leash. Fluffy was lowering his dog leash into the dog dish and Florence was meant to attach her collar to it. She would then be hauled to safety.
But Florence did not want to be hauled. She could see the island shore from here, with flea-sized creatures running up and down a sandy beach, and palm trees in the background. If she could just row this slipper to shore she might see what all the fun was about.
“Come on Florence, hurry up,” came Fluffy’s echoey voice. “I’m trying to save you and all you’re doing is lying in that slipper, enjoying the float. Halloween was tiring and I would like to go to bed.”
“Go to bed, then!” Florence yelled. “I’ll haul myself out in the morning!”
“But Florence! What if you get caught in a rip and the tide takes you far out to sea? What if you’re floating in shark infested waters with nothing but a smelly slipper for protection? What if you die of hunger or something?”
“I won’t get hungry,” Florence replied. She sounded overconfident but had good reason: Florence could smell BBQ sausages, wafting from the island on a light summer breeze.