Rufus and the Postman...


Dogs distrust the postman. There’s something annoying about the way he goes round Turleigh delivering his messages. The postman’s never allowed in. But worse, he stuffs things in through the door without asking permission. Many dogs want to give him a good bite on the ankle.

But Rufus has better things to do. You can see he’s got a terrific sense of smell. Out walking he’s always picking up important information. Every day there are new things afoot. Bitches on heat? New arrivals in Green Lane? Discarded Indian take-away boxes? They still haven’t done their bins next door. That sort of thing. He can’t always get out because the gate is often closed but when he can the first thing he has to do, and it’s urgent, is to catch up on these things.

And anyway our postman seems a nice man.

As well as catching up on the latest news, Rufus has to remind people that he’s still around; that he’s always willing to help, and fit as a fiddle. Barking in the garden does announce that OK, but there’s nothing quite as effective for getting your message across as a quick piddle in the regular places; lamp posts, car tyres, doorsteps, that sort of thing. The point here is that there’s so much more information in a quick sprinkle than there is in a bark. It’s site-specific; marking the spot. It announces your identity by scent which is much more useful than the name your human gives you. It tells your age and sex. It can even detect illnesses. Fresh snow is best of all for information-exchange. And of course a quick piddle uses much less energy than a bark. It also lasts longer. The scent of a sprinkle fades slowly telling the sniffer how long ago the message was delivered. This is like dating a letter; humans often forget to add the date, but when one piddles dating is automatic.

And of course there’s always the postman. Ours is friendly; he gives out biscuits from his red van. His name is Russell. Quite a good name for a postman; his father was probably called Jack. But unlike other car drivers who just drive on through, Russell seems to have some sort of village job to do. It’s a bit of a mystery.

Rufus loves to take part in a hunt. Cats and squirrels are the best, but It doesn’t really matter what we’re after, the chase is the thing. When I put him out at bedtime he shouts his head off down at the bottom of the garden. I presume he’s barking at the deer that usually mess about down there without his permission. He loves to go out with Rob and Susie, he often picks them up in the road as they are setting off. Carolyn’s good too. They take him on their long walks. He never seems to get tired.

“Sometimes when I’m out and about I meet a nice person” This is Rufus talking now. “Usually it’s a girl with some poor dog, kept on a lead for heaven’s sake. She’ll have a look at the phone number on my collar. Often I’ll be taken home often by car. Cars always smell richly of their owners’ lives. Of course I know my own way around the village. Following the messages it’s impossible to get lost, but it’s nice chatting to strangers and exchanging sniffs with their dogs.”

“But the best of all is my friend Russell the postman. When I was young and still learning about humans, I used to puzzle about him. I never really saw the point of trying to bite the postman, but what on earth was he up to?”

“But I’ve got it now: it’s obvious really. Russell’s job is to go round the village in his red van staking out his territory by delivering messages to each house. Just like I do. So naturally I help him. While he delivers his messages I deliver mine; I piddle on the doorsteps. It’s an excellent arrangement because that way I usually get in a bit of hunting as well. " Turleigh, 31/1/21