I freeze, my heart thumping loudly, as I stare at the intruder. For a moment I struggle to comprehend how this stranger has entered my house, but seeing shards of glass on the dining room floor answers that unspoken question. It also explains the purpose of the heavy metal crowbar in his hand.
The man has also stopped in mid-motion. His eyes shift from my face and focus on a point behind me and I realise that he is looking in the direction of my old dog’s bed. As I follow his gaze, I see that the sound of the breaking glass must have penetrated through Tabeal’s partial deafness, for she is awake and doing her get-up-and-go shake”. Oh-oh!
The man hesitantly steps backwards.
Could he possibly be scared of my dog? I look over at her again, wondering what it is about her that could elicit one scrap of fear. On the up side, she is a Labrador and therefore larger than a Spaniel or Jack-Russell. Also in our favour, I suppose, is her colour - black (with a greying muzzle) - probably slightly more intimidating than cream or white. Now if only she would stop wagging her tail and wipe that open-mouthed grin off her face.
The man takes another step back. Well, maybe the grin isn’t so bad. It does show off her large canine teeth. I decide to seize the moment while I am ahead.
“I think you should leave,” I say shakily. “My dog is very dangerous.”
Out of the corner of my eye I see Tabeal cock her head slightly at the sound of my voice.
“She is a trained attack dog,” I continue.
Tabeal is sniffing deeply in her bed, trying to root out a hidden toy, as the man’s eyes dart nervously from her to his escape route, the window.
Spurred on by his fearful indecision, I explain: “She’s like a police-dog. All I have to do is say one word and she’ll bring you down like that.” I snap my fingers for added effect.
Tabeal is now loping over to me, the squeaky ball in her mouth.
“Go back slowly through the window,” I say. “I won’t be able to hold her off for much longer.”
She plops herself into a sitting position at my feet and drops the ball. Her tail is wagging and her eyes are pleading for a game.
The man’s countenance changes subtly, and he takes a step forward. “She doesn’t look very dangerous to me,” he growls.
At the sound of his voice, Tabeal’s attention turns to the man. She gives me a final look, one I know well, which translated from ‘doggy body language’, means ‘you’re no fun, so I’ll find someone else to play with,’ picks up her ball and heads towards the stranger.
The man grins: “Yes I see, a real attack dog, this one.”
I feel desperate as I realise that I’m losing at this facade. For the first time ever I curse my choice of dog. Why was I taken in by a furry, playful Labrador puppy? I should have chosen a Doberman or a Rottweiler. They would have had this man pinned to the ground by now, growling at his throat.
I make one last attempt at regaining control: “Don’t be fooled. The ‘friendly dog act’ is just part of her training. If I say the word, you’ll be sorry!”
“Go on then, say it,” the man sneers.
Just then my cat slinks through the broken window. I see Tabeal’s ears perk up and her body tense.
“Leave-the-CAT,” I hiss.
As always, I am ignored. Tabeal takes off with a leap, knocking over a lamp, hurtling towards the window and the hapless intruder standing in front of it.
The man only manages that one word, before my attack dog, following the most direct course possible, rushes right between his legs and knocks him clear off his feet. The crowbar flies from his hand and his head crashes against the windowsill.
Tabeal’s prey escapes, so she turns her attention to her next favourite activity – rolling around with somebody on her own level. However, this particular somebody is not very responsive, so she settles for just lying on his chest and licking his face.
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