‘A Dog’s Life’ A monologue by Caroline Briggs-Harris

The Rows in 1645 – The English Civil War

DOG:

This house used to be filled with laughter, but now it’s filled with tears, and despair.  It used to be warm by the fire, but now the hearth lies cold and empty.  I used to have meat in my bowl, or a bone from the broth to chew, but now I just try to catch passing insects with my tired tongue. 

I’ve even been allowed to chew on a chair leg. I’d never have dared to do that before.  Or been allowed to.  It lasted a while, until it was sawn off and burned to keep the family warm.

My master used to ruffle my ears, and tell me that I was a good dog.  He barely has the energy to look at me now.

The actor dressed as a dog
Nathan Smith as ‘The Dog’

I see my master and his wife, sitting in the cold, in the dark.  I used to hear their stomachs rumble with hunger. Their stomachs don’t rumble any more, but I can tell that they still ache.

I have heard arguments – about the house next door. They say that next door they’ve been hiding food, whilst my master’s baby became thin and failed to thrive.  The baby became so very sick.  It stopped crying a while ago now.  I haven’t seen it for a few days. Perhaps it is sleeping for a while.

I used to have a friend here. His name was Joe.  We had some good times together.  We had our own cosy place by the fire and would snuggle up together whilst my master and his wife played cards. The master would secretly nudge us with his toes if he thought he was about to win a game.

That was before the baby came.

Joe and I would share bones together – even the really good ones. I didn’t mind.

Now, I just look at bones – the bones of my master and his wife, protruding through their tattered clothing.

One day, one awful day, Joe was gone. But there was food.  At first, I could not understand.  I could not understand why people who were so hungry wept as the food was prepared.  I could not understand why they looked at me so forlornly as they built the tiny fire, heated the broth, and stirred the pot. 

And then I understood. 

I did not stay with them whilst they ate Joe.  I went to another room in the house.

That was a little while ago now.  And I look at myself.  I too am bones. Not much meat on me.  Yet I know what they are thinking.

I was their first dog.  I used to think I was their favourite. Perhaps I am.

Perhaps that is why they chose Joe first.  But soon they might choose me.

What should I do?  Should I stay, and nourish those who have given me so much?  The thought seems unbearable, but perhaps that is my duty.

I could leave.  I could go outside.  But my fate would be the same. 

On someone else’s table. 

And so, for now, I stay.  Resigned.  Loyal.  Their dog.  Forever.