Book · Summer · West Side Story

Photo shoot

Me: Dave is posing in the living room.

Nell: Yes. They are sending a photographer and he is practising in case.

Me: Who?

Nell: The Daily Growl.

Me: Why?

Nell: Jim’s a farm dog. Harriet is a princess. They are playing the leads in West Side Story and they are in love. Apparently it’s a great story.

Me: Actually I would read that too. Harriet’s not a princess, though.

Nell: Excuse me? Her pedigree is impeccable. She is most definitely a princess in everything but name.

Me: True. Then Dave is a prince.

Nell: I have to say David is really growing into an extremely handsome young labrador.

Me: He’s gorgeous and so good natured too.

Nell: Yes, he has a sunny disposition but I wouldn’t like to see what he would do if anyone upset Harriet. He is fiercely protective.

Me: Yes. Oh my goodness. You don’t think there is going to be a fight, do you?

Nell: I beg your pardon?

Me: Between Dave and the surfers and the farm dogs?

Nell: What are you talking about? This is Devon not New York and as far as I know the surfers get on perfectly well with the farm dogs.

Me: Two rival gangs with Harriet and Jim caught in the middle. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Nell: Then don’t. If I were you, I would go and have a lie down. Your imagination is running away with you again.

Me: Yes, sorry.

Book · Summer · West Side Story


Me: So how did it go?

Nell: Can’t you let me rest first?

Me: No, I have to know.

Nell: Well, David got the part of Bernardo. He did an excellent audition.

Me: And Harriet?

Nell: There was stiff competition for Maria. A young spaniel called Marjorie performed particularly well and we thought she had it in the bag.

Me: Oh dear. Harriet is so shy. She must have been nervous.

Nell: She was. When she went on stage David started cheering.

Me: Bless him.

Nell: Rita was in the wings urging her on and I gave her an encouraging wave, but she faltered.

Me: Oh no.

Nell: And that’s when Jim stepped in.

Me: What do you mean?

Nell: He strode on to the stage, took her paws in his and they sang “Tonight” together.

Me: Jim sang?

Nell: Oh yes, he’s been practising with her.

Me: I didn’t know.

Nell: Well, it brought the house down. Even Ron Gilbert applauded and he is a hard nut to crack.

Me: Who is Ron Gilbert?

Nell: The stage manager. A bad tempered Great Dane from Torquay.

Me: So Harriet is playing Maria?

Nell: Yes, and Jim has been cast as the male lead, Tony.

Me: How romantic. Our very own Romeo and Juliet. Who’s directing?

Nell: Rupert is directing again.

Me: Do I know him?

Nell: He’s a rather flamboyant red setter and an old flame of mine from my time at the RSC.

Me: I didn’t know you were part of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Nell: My Lady Macbeth was legendary. Honestly, I do worry about you sometimes. You live in a world of your own.

Me: Yes, sorry.

Book · Summer · West Side Story


Me: Harriet seems exhausted.

Nell: Yes, preparing for the auditions has tired her out. I’ll have to wake her soon.

Me: Where are they taking place?

Nell: Torquay, so just under an hour away.

Me: How are they getting there?

Nell: James is driving. Poppy will pack a picnic. Just chicken sandwiches, crusts off as a treat, and a few scones. I thought about carrots to keep David busy while he is waiting, but he crunches them so loudly.

Me: Are you going too?

Nell: Yes, I think they need my support. Jim the farm dog has asked if he can accompany Harriet.

Me: How sweet.

Nell: Yes, He is very protective of her. The Cat is coming too, of course.

Me: Are Poppy and Mutley going?

Nell: Mutley has a meeting in London with some forward thinking Boston Terriers. He’s opening a new chain called MuttDonalds. I’m not sure if it will catch on, but everyone likes a burger, don’t they?

Me: And Poppy?

Nell: Poppy is taking the Puerto Ricans on her motorbike. Rita will ride in the sidecar with their luggage.

Me: Not in your handbag?

Nell: Certainly not. I put a stop to that nonsense when I found a half eaten scone at the bottom.

Me: That’s not very nice.

Nell: Quite. Imagine not finishing one of Poppy’s scones? Outrageous.

Me: Well, let me know how it all goes. I do hope Dave gets the part of Bernardo.

Nell: I’m confident that he will. He’s got the dance moves and the swagger. I’m not sure about the sequinned waistcoat but The Cat seems confident.

Me: But Bernardo is mean and Dave could never be mean.

Nell: Didn’t you see him when that farm dog stole his sausage at the last barbecue? Now, let’s wake Harriet.

Me: Yes, sorry.

Book · Summer · West Side Story

It’s too hot

Me: It’s too hot to do anything, Nell.

Nell: Yes, the puppies are resting in the shade.

Me: Those pina coladas last night were a bit strong.

Nell: I told Mutley he should have kept an eye on Rocky and the rum. Those Puerto Ricans can party.

Me: Mutley doesn’t look Puerto Rican.

Nell: Of course he doesn’t. Rocky’s mother Rosaria is from there. Mutley is from London. You know that. His uncle Bob met Rosaria in San Juan when he was playing in a jazz club.

Me: What about Rita?

Nell: Goodness only knows. Harriet finds her exhausting.

Me: Where is she?

Nell: She’s gone shopping in my handbag with The Cat. It’s a blessed relief, to be honest. If I have to hear her sing “America” again I might scream.

Me: When are the auditions?

Nell: Tomorrow, thank goodness, so they will hopefully be going home soon. Although, the Mallorca Rita made me for breakfast was delicious. Poppy is getting the recipe.

Me: I thought Mallorca was an island.

Nell: It’s also a Puerto Rican pastry. David ate three.

Me: Are they going back to Puerto Rico?

Nell: No, they live in Torquay. Rocky runs a nightclub called R & R. Rocky and Rita’s.

Me: I didn’t know that.

Nell: Well, if you stopped gallivanting all over the country you would.

Me: Yes, sorry.

Book · Summer · West Side Story

Beautiful Nell

Me: Look at your beautiful eyes.

Nell: Thank you.

Me: You are such a lovely dog.

Nell: You know you are only going away for one night. No need to get sentimental.

Me: Yes.

Nell: Actually Charlie was rather taken with this photo too.

Me: Was he now?

Nell: Yes. He texted me after he saw it.

Me: Romance is definitely in the air then?

Nell: I certainly hope so as you are off to a wedding.

Me: I meant you and Charlie.

Nell: We shall see.

Me: Have you forgiven Dave?

Nell: Yes, of course. I’ve been helping him with his audition for West Side Story. A Puerto Rican accent is not easy.

Me: Will he have to dance?

Nell: Yes. I’m leaving that to Poppy. I am more of a ballroom girl myself.

Me: I didn’t know you danced.

Nell: Oh yes. The BBC approach me every year to join Strictly.

Me: As a celebrity?

Nell: No, of course not, as a professional. My partner Anton du Bark and I are extremely well known.

Me: I didn’t know.

Nell: Yes. Anton is one of those lithe whippets. Very light on his paws.

Me: Gosh.

Nell: Anyway, you has better get going. Give the bride and groom my love and try and behave.

Me: No dancing on the tables?

Nell: The mere idea. Now drive carefully please.

Me: Yes. Sorry.