EXTRACT: Napoleon Bones by Jenny Hobbs

Jenny Hobbs

Photograph by Gareth Smit

Though I say it myself, I’m the thinking woman’s answer to the ideal companion. Intelligent. Great bod. Noble head. Well-mannered. Keen sense of humour. Quick learner. Protective. Faithful. And affectionate to the point where I’d put my head in her lap at every opportunity and gaze up at her with undying adoration.

Which is not to say I’m perfect. Acute hearing makes me ultra-sen­sitive to noise. I’m claustrophobic. Have my gnarly moments. Garlic and onions and dry biscuits make me fart. And aggro makes me bristle.

The name’s Bones, Napoleon Bones. It started as a bad pun in the whelping box – Napoleon Bones-Apart, because I’d growl at anyone who came near when I was gnawing – and just stuck.

My biggest drawback is that I don’t have a thinking woman in my life. Just a boss who might be a good cop but is so awkward with women that he gets tongue-tied every time he meets a new one. Which limits my operations to street bitches who are nothing to bark about. Pave­ment specials, mostly, since we live in an old part of Cape Town.

Big G is now Inspector Rusty Gordon, one of the top officers in the Western Cape K9 Unit. We’ve been together since I chose him at Dog Training School, when he was still a constable. Inspector Spike Davids is his colleague and friend, and has cozening ways with the liver biscuits he keeps in his pocket, but I’m a one-man dog. When Big G is off shift, so am I.

This is not too convenient when we’re on night shifts. Bitches aren’t around much during the day, so there’s no frolic factor. Hot afternoons really take it out of me. All I want is a cool spot with my head on my paws and drinking water close by. The stoepkakkers in the neighbour­hood reckon that police work makes you dog-tired, arf arf. What do they know beyond a lazy scratch as they wait for the next tin bowl of pellets?

I’m in my element when we’re on day shifts and I’ve got the whole evening to hit the streets until my curfew at ten. There’s nothing like the silver cone of light under a neon street lamp and a gleam in the eye to make a female frisky. Trouble is, too many are getting fixed these days and they lose interest after that. No heat, no hormones, no let’s get knot­ted. Some nights I only score one or two. Willing bitches are in short supply now.

Mother was one: she had six litters in six years. All highly pedigreed until my father scaled the security fence of the kennels and taught her about real dogs. Until then she’d been serviced by pampered golden re­trievers like herself: pukka breed stock with shampooed and brushed coats, manicured claws and dainty ways of trotting like show ponies.

But Mother had grown tired of posh dogs by the time my father came barrelling in and changed her life. When her seventh litter was born with an assortment of patches, dubious brindling, quirky smiles and variable ears, she was banished. Sullied bitches could not have kosher puppies. After the owner had called in the SPCA to find homes for the brats, and the vet to have her fixed, she was retired to a friend’s garden. I often heard her say that her travellin’ man was the best thing that ever hap­pened to her, even though she had only known him for one stolen night of bliss. He was in his prime, a real six-gun stud, she’d murmur. Potent as hell too. There were fifteen in the litter.

She was allowed to keep me for a while: the pick of the bunch with a short reddish-brown coat and feisty as a lion cub. So what if I grew bigger than her, with paws like side plates, ears that pricked in different directions and a ridgeback? My dad must also have passed on blood­hound genes, because I have a nose that can tell wild pelargoniums from the garden variety and dagga concealed in a field of mealies from greenhouse-grown.

Mother’s new owner had been an actress and liked to declaim Shake­speare and poetry while watering her garden, so I learnt to love words and literature from puppyhood. But when I began to eat too much for her slender pension to feed two of us, she offered me to the Western Cape K9 Unit, which had put out a request for suitable canines aged six to twelve months. After running me through various tests – fine odour detection, fitness, temperament under stress – they snapped me up for training. Big G and I clicked from the start. Hence our partnership.

The snip wasn’t an option, thank Sirius. Police dogs need to be fully operational: alert, keen and ready for any emergency, with an obser­vant eye and superior intelligence. I sailed through my IQ and Ror­schach tests. Big G and I passed out first in our class.

Big G calls me Cap’n Bones when we’re not on duty. As in, ‘What shall I do for your supper, Cap’n Bones?’ He doesn’t have to ask. He knows. Meat and veg stew on health bread chunks with a tablespoon of olive oil mixed in. Bones for my teeth. Vitamin pills for my health. Occasional mints for my breath. Snacks and leftovers always welcome – my favourites being the gourmet titbits from Bertrand at Chez Pample­mousse. No questionable cans of minced offal in glop. No Top Choice Health Biscuits (Vet-Recommended for Your Canine Friends). I get a saucer of beer too, every now and then. We’re partners, me and Big G. Brothers in arms.

Napolean-Bones-ThumbMating is another matter. Since the beginning of our partnership I’ve thought we could do with a thinking woman in our lives, and have kept hoping he’d find an intelligent damsel in distress to rescue. But the only females who try their luck with him are (sorry, guys) dogs, in my opinion…

Extracted from Napoleon Bones, published by Umuzi (R180).

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