And I always thought I was a cat person

By Pam Keevil

Published on 11th September 2015

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I saw her again today, striding out along the ridge, her long auburn hair blowing back from her face as the brown dog lolloped in front of her, occasionally stopping, lifting its head to check if she was still following. Tomorrow I’d try to catch her eye. It was time to move on.
But now, I trudged along, pounding the roadway into submission under new trainers, my lungs screaming as I fought to breathe. The waist band of my shorts pinched the soft flesh that was once a six pack but now resembled a barrel. By the time I reached home, sweat was streaming down my face despite the cool autumn air.

‘Well Fred’ I said as the cat curled round my ankles, ‘I knew I’d put on a bit of weight but ‘sfunny how it crept up on me.’ I measured out my porridge.
The phone burbled into life. ‘Hi bro, how goes the new exercise regime?’ If Jack had been here he’d have punched me in the ribs and turned up his nose at my healthy breakfast. But feeling like a beached whale when all the other lads had been splashing in the pool and showing off to the assorted lovelies stretched out on the sun terraces had made me realise I had to do something if I was ever going to get back in the dating game. ‘Are you coming for a beer tonight?’
‘No. Alcohol is for weekends only now, I’ve told you.’
‘You’re beginning to sound like an old married man—‘ He stopped. ‘Sorry but you know what I mean.’
‘Yeah. I do.’ I’d been happy being a married man although I certainly wasn’t old. It had been Sophie who had aged before my eyes as the illness robbed her of her strength and eventually her life.
‘Well if you change your mind?’ He left the words hanging in the air. ‘The landlord’s taken on a real beauty but boy is she playing hard to get to know.’
‘If you reckon I’m going to sit around while you make out, think again.’
‘Aw come on. I could do with a bit of support.’
‘I know where you’ll be.’ I hung up. ‘I might give it a go later, ‘I said to Fred and bent down to feed him. He’d only been a kitten when Sophie had first fallen ill and with him still around, it brought me closer to Sophie somehow or at least to the memory of her.

She wasn’t there the next few days and for a moment I thought I’d imagined her. But she turned up the following week with a different dog. Now I don’t know one end of a pooch from the other but even I can remember the first dog was sandy brown and this one was black and white. Perhaps they take turns, I thought. I was just about to call out a cheery ‘Hi there? Nice animal,’ when the dog set off at a jog and she followed it down the other side of the ridge and out of sight. I would try that route tomorrow.
Except the freak weather of snow, gales and thick ice under foot sent me to the gym for a while and by the time I’d got back, it was still dark when I left for my run. I was making good time that morning until I spotted a figure looming up towards me along the roadway. It was accompanied by two sets of flashing lights set low to the ground. I slowed down. The lights came closer…and revealed themselves as the collars of two small dogs. Behind them was the girl. She was dressed from head to toe in blue jogging pants and a sweat top with a head band. ‘Good morning’ she called out as she zoomed past and was gone.

Now those of my fellow males of the species might have thought up a good bit of banter to call out after her, a quick witty repartee that would mean she realised she was in the company of a great guy with a mean sense of humour. But I’m not like that. Besides accosting a lone female, albeit accompanied by dogs on a dark morning is probably not the best start to a friendship. But at least she had broken the ice. It would be easier to start up a conversation tomorrow. But she didn’t reappear again and I was thinking that it was all a lost cause.

Anyway, after six weeks of my regime I felt I deserved a weekday treat so after work, I headed to the local pub where Jack would be ensconced. ‘My son, this is a surprise.’ His eyes lit up with the prospect of a drinking buddy. He signalled to the bar tender. ‘A pint of your special on tap for my pal here and one for yourself.’
‘I’ll have mineral water. Thanks.’ I stopped dead in my tracks. It was the girl. ‘Hi,’ she said. ‘How’s the jogging going?’
‘You two know each other?’ Jack‘s mouth was hanging open as if he was a bloodhound.
‘Only by sight.’ I said. ‘How are your dogs?’
‘Which ones?’ she placed my pint on the bar and I noticed how her eyes were like the colour of the beer, rich and golden brown. I must have pulled a face as she added, ‘I’m a dog sitter and walker so I have a number of charges that need regular attention.’
‘And you work here too?’
‘I have to. I’m paying my way through a course in dog care. Sorry, got to go serve’ and she took that slender body to the other end of the bar. ‘See you out running tomorrow?’
‘Which dog will it be? Those ones with the lit up collars are cute.’
‘Sorry. It’s Bruno the collie tomorrow.’
‘My favourite animal, ‘I lied. ‘I’ll be there.’

Jack was sitting, cradling his pint. ‘I have spent pounds in this bar, listening to old boys talk endlessly about the intricacies of cricket. I have discussed Saturday football results until Wednesday in microscopic detail and I’ve even taken an interest in pub quizzes. And what for? Hi Jack. The usual? You turn up and get talking to the lovely Tasha in one go. I just don’t get it.’
‘We have plenty in common.’ I preened myself and took a sip of my beer.
‘Well dogs and running of course.’
His reply was unprintable but I had a feeling I might be seeing a lot more of Tasha in the next few weeks. I only hoped she liked cats too.

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