A Puppy Called Hugo Fiona Harrison Following hot on the paws from the bestselling A Pug Like Percy, the nation’s favourite pug is back! And this time, Percy has puppies…Percy the pug has found a loving home with Gail, Simon and their daughter Jenny. But now it’s time for Percy’s new puppies to fly the dog bed, and become a companion to someone in need – which turns out to be closer to home than the family first think…On a visit to Gail’s parents, Percy begins to suspect that all is not well with Eric, Gail’s father. And when he suffers a nasty fall and is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Percy knows just who to send to the rescue – adorable pup Hugo.Can Hugo help Eric through the tough times, and grow into the kind of Pug to make Percy proud?Warm, charming and uplifting, A Puppy Called Hugo is perfect for fans of A Street Cat Named Bob and Alfie the Doorstep Cat. FIONA HARRISON has been a freelance journalist, writing for a wealth of publications including the Sunday Mirror, Daily Express, Prima, Woman and Grazia for several years. Originally from Cornwall by way of Bath, this is her second novel, following on from A Pug Like Percy. She lives in Berkshire with her husband and when she is not writing can usually be found devouring other people’s novels. Also by Fiona Harrison (#ua18e5914-8bc1-5162-b604-74ae6c37a2aa): A Pug Like Percy For pug loverseverywhere Contents Cover (#ua8dba1df-bc0f-5d83-949b-664240fa2e88) About the Author (#u7e299c75-9ab8-5abf-be3f-f798efec7c7f) Also by Fiona Harrison (#u9694e862-68e8-5157-8688-c5bb27cc4f60) Title Page (#u7e56da42-14cf-5283-8e40-7277c0aeb586) Dedication (#u115a8f51-18b8-5901-887e-6dae9a4d3c53) Chapter One (#ulink_839d74c1-a681-5fe7-89fd-1bb06b325248) Chapter Two (#ulink_77df923c-42cd-5cde-997c-a1c72dcfbd45) Chapter Three (#ulink_d4283451-861b-5940-9687-10a5f356db3b) Chapter Four (#ulink_5fa643b0-7358-56e5-99fb-e6dbe6dd512a) Chapter Five (#ulink_93863165-2909-51a6-975f-9dcbb79b5904) Chapter Six (#ulink_caf10bfb-66ad-5b3a-be5c-2ddec445bd66) Chapter Seven (#ulink_cd7470d3-84e8-5046-b047-96ed92955efd) Chapter Eight (#ulink_c4e8f6c6-3d1b-55e2-aa7d-e7293527e098) Chapter Nine (#ulink_c3b73e91-92cd-5aef-87ba-332c1444655e) Chapter Ten (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Eleven (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Twelve (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Thirteen (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Fourteen (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Fifteen (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Sixteen (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Seventeen (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Eighteen (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Nineteen (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Twenty (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Twenty-One (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Twenty-Two (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Twenty-Three (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Twenty-Four (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Twenty-Five (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Twenty-Six (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Twenty-Seven (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Twenty-Eight (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Twenty-Nine (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Thirty (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Thirty-One (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Thirty-Two (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Thirty-Three (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter Thirty-Four (#litres_trial_promo) Epilogue (#litres_trial_promo) Acknowledgements (#litres_trial_promo) Extract (#litres_trial_promo) Copyright (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter One (#ulink_89fc5531-41b1-5cbe-9c7f-d0e500e6187d) There is nothing I enjoy more than catching the odd forty winks during the daytime. I am more than happy to curl up in most places, but my favourite has to be the large sunny kitchen at the home in Perivale I share with my gorgeous owner, Gail. It’s there I have a lovely basket placed between the oven and the door so I’m never too hot or cold. And it’s there I can always enjoy an undisturbed nap safely out of anybody’s way, complete with the blanket Gail lovingly knitted for me when she first adopted me. Now, I was in my very favourite spot enjoying a cosy few minutes of sleep when an ear-piercing crash, bang and wallop had me jumping out of my skin. Getting uneasily to my paws, I looked up at Gail’s twinkling blue eyes, heart pounding. ‘Was that what I think it was?’ I barked, trembling. Gail shrugged, her long, straight chestnut hair skimming her shoulders as she did so. ‘Only one way to find out.’ Together we trooped out of the sunshine-filled kitchen and into the hallway where the slightly sickly sweet fragrance of dried flowers assaulted my senses. It didn’t take long to discover the cause of all the trouble. There, by the front door, was my beautiful but mischievous four-month-old son, Hugo, surrounded by what could only be described as chaos. My owner let out a gasp of horror as we both took in the mess that stood before us. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. Scatter cushions had been ripped to shreds, the stuffing from their innards covering the hessian carpet that lined the hallway. Elsewhere the vanilla and lime potpourri had been thrown across the doorway like confetti at a wedding, while large cream pillar candles had been chewed to nothing, wax deposited all over the wooden banisters and carpet. Quickly, footsteps raced towards us as Gail’s husband Simon, clutching their baby son Ben, and their teenage daughter Jenny appeared. ‘Is it Hugo again, Mum?’ Jenny piped up. ‘What’s he done this time?’ Simon sighed, his chocolaty eyes full of concern as he peered over Gail’s shoulder. Gail turned to each of them, despair written across her face. ‘The house-warming presents, he’s destroyed Mum and Dad’s house-warming presents, they’re ruined.’ As Gail stood rooted to the floor in shock, Jenny rushed towards the box and frantically rifled through in a bid to salvage something. ‘You’re wasting your time, love,’ Simon called tightly. ‘Hugo’s done what he does best, ruined everything in sight.’ ‘Don’t say that, Dad,’ Jenny replied, ever the optimist. ‘There has to be something here we can fix at least.’ But I knew Jenny’s efforts were pointless. Shaking my head, I walked gently towards my son who was now standing next to the box and looking proudly at his destruction. With his blond fur, black markings and dark eyes he was without doubt a real cutie, but every day he was always getting into trouble, and today, on this super special day that was important to the whole family, Hugo had managed to ruin it with his tiny paws all over again. ‘Look what I did, Dad,’ he yapped excitedly. ‘I never knew Gail had bought me so many toys.’ Fury rose, and I did my best to choke it down. ‘Those are not toys. They are gifts for Gail’s mum and dad. You were told that last night.’ ‘Was I?’ Hugo asked, his brown eyes filled with innocence. ‘You know you were,’ I barked angrily. ‘I explained that today was a big day because Doreen and Eric were moving into their new house around the corner and that all of these things in the box were presents, ready to welcome them into their new home.’ ‘But I thought you said they were toys for me,’ Hugo protested. I opened my mouth ready to bark, when there was a knock at the door. ‘Oh Christ!’ Simon groaned, passing the baby to Gail so he could open the door. ‘That’s all we need.’ ‘Simon,’ Gail hissed, as she cuddled the nine-month-old and kissed the fine blond hair that was springing up all over his head. ‘They’ll hear you.’ ‘Don’t worry,’ called Jenny, who from her position next to the front door was peering through the little spyhole. ‘It’s only Sal and Peg.’ ‘Well, don’t just stare at them,’ Gail said. ‘One of you let them in.’ Immediately, Jenny pulled the door open and smiled warmly at a small blonde woman with kindly blue eyes and a beautiful blonde pug standing on the doorstep. ‘Come in, guys!’ She beamed. ‘Welcome to chaos.’ As Sal stepped into the hallway she let out a low whistle as she took in the scene. As for me, I bounded over to my love, all thoughts of Hugo and his crimes temporarily forgotten. ‘I didn’t know you were coming over,’ I barked gently. ‘I suggested to Sal we lend Gail a paw,’ Peg yapped, greeting me with a lick to my ear. ‘Big day today, her mum and dad moving from Devon to London to help with the family.’ ‘Since baby Ben and of course our Hugo arrived Gail’s been frazzled,’ I admitted. ‘I think she’ll be grateful for all the support her mum and dad can give now they’ll be closer.’ ‘How things have changed since Gail adopted you from the tails of the forgotten all that time ago,’ Peg woofed with affection. I realised that as always she was right, things had changed in the family, but it was all for the best. When Gail adopted me and brought me to the lovely semi-detached home she shared with Simon, little did I realise that their marriage was in jeopardy because they were both so worried about their daughter Jenny. The little girl was suffering from a life-threatening heart condition and needed regular hospital care but she pulled through, and now, Jenny is a very normal teenager with a perfect working heart. ‘I thought you might like a hand today, but I think you need a full-on clean-up operation instead,’ Sal exclaimed, interrupting my thoughts. ‘What on earth’s happened here?’ ‘Good question, Sal,’ Peg barked, looking sharply at me and Hugo. ‘What has happened here?’ Gail sighed, as she pulled Sal into the kitchen. ‘Let me tell you while I make a coffee, I can’t even think about what that puppy’s been up to now. Honestly, Sal, it’s something new every day with Hugo, I never realised having a puppy would be such hard work.’ With that, the two women trooped into the kitchen, followed by Jenny and Simon leaving me and Peg with a very jolly-looking Hugo. ‘Mummy! Mummy! Look at all these toys Dad got me,’ he barked excitedly. Peg eyed him beadily. ‘Don’t try that with me. I was here last night, remember, when your dad very clearly told you these things were gifts for Doreen and Eric.’ Hugo at least had the decency to look contrite as he gazed forlornly at the floor. ‘Sorry.’ But it wasn’t enough for Peg who deftly grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. ‘Are you sorry? Or are you just sorry we’re cross. I don’t know how many times your dad and I have to tell you, Hugo, you must do as you’re told.’ ‘I didn’t mean to cause so much damage,’ he barked quietly as Peg released him from her grip. ‘I just saw all the things and wanted to play with them.’ ‘But those things didn’t belong to you, Hugo,’ I yapped, the thread of annoyance still burning bright. ‘Last week we had to have this bark when you ran off with Ben’s toys. They’re human toys not your toys and Ben was very upset when you snapped his rattle in half.’ I cast my mind back to the memory of the resounding snap when Hugo broke Ben’s clown rattle into tiny pieces. The look on the infant’s face had mirrored Gail’s one of shock just moments earlier and then the tears had streamed down his little face. My heart had gone out to him, particularly as my son looked delighted with himself when both Gail and Simon told him off. Peg and I had barked our frustrations out at Hugo last week and he had assured us there would be no more mischief, but he had managed to behave for less than a week. Something told me he enjoyed the attention he received from getting into trouble but I knew this wasn’t the way to get through life, something I had tried to teach Hugo. For the minute, I felt defeated and I slumped to my paws, needing a minute to gather my thoughts. Hugo was my son and I adored him but there were times he seriously tested not only my patience but the patience of my family. When Peg and I learnt she was expecting pups last year we were over the moon. We both felt it was the perfect way to seal our love, and discovering we were able to find our litter good homes nearby, we were delighted as it meant we got to see them all almost every day at the park. Our daughter Lily went to Sal’s next-door neighbour, while our two other sons Roscoe and Ralph were taken in by a couple around the corner, who worshipped them as we hoped they would. As for Hugo, well, he was the tiniest little pup in the entire world but as the runt of the litter both Peg and I knew he would have difficulty finding a good home. Gail wasn’t deterred, however, and she placed an ad across all the local social media sites pleading for someone to offer him a good home. Consequently, we were inundated with people wanting to take a look at Hugo. Every time the familiar chime of the doorbell sounded, I, Hugo, Peg, Gail, Simon, Jenny and even baby Ben, held our breath as we each hoped this would be the moment Hugo would find his forever home. Yet as people shuffled into the living room and took one look at my precious boy lying in his sheepskin-filled basket they reluctantly shook their heads. They all wanted a cute little pug to trot around after them. What they didn’t want was a dog who was all paws and squished face as he grew into his body. I tried not to take it personally, but as a father I felt so cross on Hugo’s behalf. To me, he was a beautiful bundle of joy and I knew that when he was older he would be just as perfect as his brothers and sisters. Sadly, nobody seemed to share my view and I lost count of all the people who uttered polite thanks, but no thanks as Gail showed them the door. I couldn’t help worrying over the boy’s future. As dogs it was our purpose to serve our owners and shower them with love when we found our forever home, proving the bond between human and dog was the strongest one on earth. Thankfully, Gail had finally stepped in at the eleventh hour and said we could keep Hugo until he was bigger, and look for a home for him then. She had done this for me even though space was tight with a new baby in the house, which had meant Simon had been forced to give up the spare room, otherwise known as his man cave that he had once treasured. I had been beyond grateful to Gail and had assured her repeatedly with plenty of loving barks that Hugo wouldn’t be a burden. However, during the four months he had been with us, much as I hated to admit it, burden was the one thing he had become. He got into trouble every single day and no matter how many times I begged him to behave, my barks fell on deaf ears. Looking at him now, still glancing at the mess he had made with a look of sheer pride across his face it was hard not to feel a sense of failure. I had taken it upon myself to show him the ropes, teaching him how to behave in a domestic environment. After all, nobody would want Hugo if he didn’t mind his manners, something he didn’t seem to understand. I myself knew more than anyone what it was like to be abandoned, and spending day after day hoping to find your forever home. My previous owner, Javier, had left me in the local shelter or the tails of the forgotten as it’s better known amongst the dog community. Although I had been well cared for, it was by no means a substitute for a loving family and I didn’t want Hugo to suffer the same fate. I had spent days performing tricks for would-be adopters and putting a brave face on my little snout as families adopted all my friends but left me behind. I had been broken hearted, until I met Gail, which was why I had made it my new purpose in life to get Hugo to grow up so he would find his own happy-ever-after. I felt at the end of my lead with him. I glanced at Peg hoping she would have some answers, but she looked as worn out as me with it all. ‘Come on,’ she barked eventually. ‘The least we can do for Gail is to clear this lot up. And, Hugo, you’re helping.’ ‘OK, Mummy,’ he said, bounding into action. Together we worked, quickly pushing the potpourri into a big pile in the corner, and picking up the larger portions of the cushions into the box. Suddenly, Hugo stood stock-still in front of me fixing me with a wide-eyed gaze. ‘What is it?’ I barked in frustration. ‘I don’t feel well, Daddy,’ Hugo grumbled. I exchanged knowing looks with Peg. Was this yet another drama created by my son to get out of cleaning up after himself. Peg dropped the bit of cushion she was holding and glared at Hugo. ‘How do you feel?’ ‘Very, very, very sick,’ Hugo replied, his little voice lacking the vim and vigour of earlier. I looked at Hugo again. I had to admit my boy looked green and, judging by all the candle wax and potpourri he had devoured, it was hardly surprising. I shook my head, waves of despair crashing over me as I realised that not only had my son cost my owner some gorgeous house-warming gifts but she would also need to pay for a weekend visit to the vet. Chapter Two (#ulink_4066e677-fba2-50d5-8e24-30b60948f019) It was several hours later by the time we finished at the vet’s and arrived at Doreen and Eric’s new home. To Gail’s credit she took the entire incident much better than I expected. Instead of having a breakdown when she realised Hugo needed an emergency visit to the practice, she burst out laughing, her eyes crinkling with mirth and wouldn’t stop no matter how much I barked. At the vet’s, Gail, Simon and Jenny all had great fun explaining what had happened to Hugo. As Gemma, our vet, had a good look down my boy’s throat, I shuffled anxiously from paw to paw waiting for the diagnosis, the clinical smell of bleach making me feel even more agitated. ‘Is it serious?’ Gail asked anxiously, biting her nails as she waited for the verdict. The vet said nothing for a moment as she tried to hold the wriggling pup still while taking his temperature. ‘Yes, does he need medication? Or even surgery?’ I barked desperately. Gemma grinned at me as she removed the thermometer and patted Hugo gently on the head. As she turned to tap something on her computer keyboard, I pushed my anger to one side as I offered him a sympathetic howl. Even though it was clearly Hugo’s fault, he now looked so poorly lying there on the long black consulting table that my heart went out to him. Usually Hugo made a monkey of everyone when we brought him in for a check-up. He would jump in the sink, run across the computer, climb the furniture, and once he even got his head stuck in the window. But today it was as though as he was a different dog, he was so quiet and sad. ‘Well?’ I barked in frustration. Gemma turned around and smiled reassuringly at us all. ‘The good news is, it’s not serious, Hugo doesn’t need any medication or surgery and this will all pass naturally.’ I let out a bark of relief. ‘Did you hear that, you’re going to be fine.’ Hugo cast me a baleful look. ‘I don’t feel fine, Daddy.’ Simon sighed as he looked from me to Hugo and then back to Gemma. ‘When you say pass naturally, you mean Hugo is going to be going to the toilet a lot is that right?’ ‘Not necessarily a lot, but perhaps a bit more than usual,’ Gemma explained. ‘It’s nothing to worry about, although Hugo might be a bit uncomfortable. All he’ll probably feel like doing is sleeping.’ Jenny pushed her brown hair behind her ears and smiled. ‘He does that a lot anyway,’ ‘Like father like son.’ Gail chuckled, ruffling my ears affectionately. ‘Do we need to do anything else?’ ‘No, just keep an eye on him.’ Gemma grinned, writing something on her pad. ‘Bring Hugo back in a couple of days for me to check he’s on the mend. He shouldn’t take a turn for the worse but if he does we’ll have a poke about.’ ‘I don’t want to be poked about, Daddy,’ Hugo woofed with worry, as Simon scooped him up from the table and thanked Gemma for her time. ‘Well, let this be a lesson to you,’ I barked. ‘Now, one of us will have to look after you instead of helping Doreen and Eric. Honestly, Hugo, it’s vital we dogs put humans first rather than ourselves.’ ‘Sorry, Dad,’ he yapped as we walked outside into the sunshine. ‘It won’t happen again.’ I barked nothing as I breathed in great lungfuls of fresh air, enjoying the scent of something other than bleach. Whatever Hugo yapped in his defence, I had a feeling that this, or something very like it, would happen again. * An hour later, all of us, together with a sleepy-looking Hugo, were inside Doreen and Eric’s lovely new bungalow. Instead of the candles, cushions and potpourri Gail had planned to give her parents, she had resorted to a huge bouquet of gerberas and chrysanthemums from the flower shop on the High Street. After presenting them to her mum, Doreen professed to adore them and immediately put them in pride of place in the front windowsill. Doreen and Eric’s new house was only a ten minute walk from Gail and Simon’s and was what I heard lots of people describe as a new-build. I had never been inside a bungalow before and wasn’t sure what it was. Yet my quick scamper around with Doreen as she gave us all a guided tour told me that the only difference between a house and a bungalow was that there were no stairs. It was, it appeared to me, like Sal and Peg’s flat, just a bit bigger and with a huge garden they didn’t have to share with other people. Watching my owner’s lovely mum and dad proudly take us from sunny room to sunny room, I glanced at each of them, noticing the happiness they basked in. Doreen was petite with hair in a neat bob and a warm, open face. As for Eric, well he was the double of Gail, with his chestnut hair that was now almost grey all over, and friendly, welcoming face that always made me feel at home. As well as the huge garden there were three bedrooms, a bathroom, glass like in a greenhouse that Doreen reliably informed us was a conservatory, whatever that was, along with a huge kitchen and a funny-looking worktop that stood in the centre of the room. ‘That’s my island,’ Doreen told us proudly, as she brought the tour to a close. ‘It’s beautiful, Mum.’ Gail smiled. ‘So pretty,’ breathed Jenny. ‘Very nice,’ put in Sal, her blue eyes filled with admiration as she stroked the dark surface. ‘It’s lovely how it matches the slate tiles.’ ‘Well, you wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?’ chirruped Doreen, her silver hair gleaming in the sunshine-filled room. ‘You wouldn’t, dear,’ Eric grumbled good-naturedly at his wife. ‘Shall I make tea?’ Doreen nodded her assent. ‘Good idea. Let’s all go through to the living room before we get stuck into some unpacking.’ As we turned to follow Doreen out of the room, I couldn’t help wonder if I was missing something. I turned to Peg who was standing in the doorway with Hugo beside her. ‘I thought islands were things surrounded by water,’ I yapped in curiosity. Peg nodded sagely, her blonde fur jiggling almost as much as her lovely jowls. ‘They are. That’s why you never want to get stuck on one. Unless it’s England of course, that’s quite big.’ I turned back to the island and looked at the floor and tiles suspiciously. ‘I’ve got it!’ I barked in excitement. ‘Doreen’s going to put the water around the island separately.’ ‘That’s why it’s important the tiles match,’ Peg put in wisely. ‘It all makes sense now.’ ‘Does that mean we’ll go on boat trips then, Daddy?’ Hugo asked, his pace matching mine as we joined the others in the lounge. ‘Will I need to learn to swim?’ I nodded. ‘I think there’s every chance you’ll need to do that, Hugo. But don’t worry, us pugs are natural swimmers, you’ll be doggy-paddling around Doreen’s island like there’s no tomorrow.’ Pleased to have solved that little problem, I looked around. There was no denying it, the place looked as chaotic as Gail and Simon’s when we left it. There were boxes everywhere, all piled on top of one another in various states of disarray. Some were half open, some had contents like duvets, pillowcases, lampshades and even cutlery spilling out and some had been emptied, flung to a corner of the room, to be dealt with some other time. I looked across at Peg and saw her glance at the upended cardboard. She was rather partial to curling up in a box for a nap, just like me. For a moment I imagined the two of us snoozing the afternoon away nestled in the warmth of each other. But no, there was work to do. Shaking my head to free myself from such thoughts, I glanced up at Gail, who rewarded me with a beaming smile, just as Doreen came through from the kitchen. She was clutching a tray piled high with tea and cakes and I saw with delight Eric appear just behind her, carrying goodies for all us pugs. ‘Water and a bone for you all,’ he said, setting the treats on the floor. ‘Thanks, Eric,’ I woofed along with Peg. We turned to Hugo to remind him of his manners. Only to find he had started on the chewy treats already. I opened my mouth, about to tell him off, when Peg beat me to it. ‘Hugo, that’s enough,’ she yapped. ‘Do not show me and your father up in public. You know you don’t eat a treat without saying thank you.’ At the sound of the sternness in his mother’s bark, Hugo dropped his bone to the floor in horror. I could see the fear radiating from his eyes. ‘Oh, Peg, don’t be too harsh on him,’ I whined, my heart full of concern for my poor boy. ‘He’s poorly, he’s not himself.’ Hugo rewarded me with a gentle rub on my snout as he looked apologetically at his mother who was settled by the fireplace. Peg gave me a lick as she gestured for Hugo to continue. ‘Maybe you’re right, Percy. Perhaps I am being too hard on him. But, honestly, why is he so badly behaved all the time? Is it us? Are we doing something wrong?’ Before I could answer, I saw Hugo had lost interest in the bone and was charging up and down the living room, wagging his tail, scampering through the boxes. ‘Hugo!’ I ordered. ‘Calm down.’ Only my barks fell on deaf ears once more as Hugo darted over to Doreen, who had her hands full of teacups, and jumped up at her. ‘Easy now, love.’ She smiled down at my son. ‘You nearly had me over.’ Hugo didn’t reply. Instead, he charged away from Doreen and rushed over to Eric who was sitting in a chair by the windowsill trying to do the crossword he had found wrapped around a plate. ‘Eric! Eric!’ Hugo barked playfully, sitting at the older man’s feet. Eric lowered his paper and beamed at my son affectionately before scratching his ear. ‘Hello, Hugo. Heard you ate some potpourri. Can’t say I blame you, it’s all it’s good for.’ ‘That’s what I thought!’ Hugo replied, thwacking the floor with his little tail. ‘Did us a favour, boy. Can’t abide the stuff,’ Eric grunted with alarming honesty, causing Simon to burst out laughing. ‘What did I tell you?’ he chuckled, turning to Gail. ‘I said Eric wouldn’t be interested in all that smelly nonsense!’ Jenny sighed and shook her head in mock-exasperation at her father. ‘Dad! It is not nonsense, it’s stuff to make your house pretty.’ ‘You tell him, Jen.’ Gail giggled, as she sat cross-legged on the floor and bit into one of the cupcakes her mother had laid out on a plate. ‘So did I really do you a favour, Eric?’ Hugo barked, his eyes shining with pleasure at the thought of one of his actions doing someone a good turn. ‘You can knock a bowl of potpourri over for me anytime.’ He smiled and gave Hugo one last affectionate pat on the head, before turning back to his crossword. Clearly moved, Hugo jumped up onto Eric’s lap, determined to give Gail’s dad a cuddle filled with gratitude. Yet the sudden movement left me wide-eyed with horror as, despite Hugo having the best of intentions, my boy had jumped on top of Eric’s lap with such gusto he sent the vase filled with Gail’s fresh flowers cascading all over Eric. ‘Oh you dammed dog!’ Eric howled, clearly soaked through. ‘What were you doing?’ ‘Is it like the island?’ Hugo barked excitedly. ‘Will I need to swim?’ I rushed over to my son, determined to get to Eric’s aid, but was beaten to it by Doreen, who handed her husband a towel. ‘It was only an accident wasn’t it, Hugo?’ Doreen crooned, picking up the flowers that now littered their new living-room carpet. ‘An accident that could have been avoided if Hugo hadn’t been charging about the place,’ Eric fumed, drying his navy chinos off. ‘Honestly, this dog’s a menace.’ ‘He’s not that bad, Dad.’ Gail bridled, as she, Sal and Jen helped Doreen replace the flowers in the vase. In that moment I loved my owner more than I ever thought possible. Even after all Hugo had done today, she was still defending him. ‘Hugo, come here now, please,’ I ordered from my place next to Peg. ‘Just stay out of the way while Doreen and Eric sort themselves out.’ Obediently, Hugo did just as I asked and, as I gave him a lick, I exchanged a worried glance with Peg. There was no way our son would find his forever home with behaviour like that. Jenny sat next to Sal on the edge of Doreen’s brown leather sofa and grinned at us. ‘Don’t feel too bad, you guys, it’s hard being a parent.’ Doreen let out a low chuckle as Eric returned to his crossword and she took a seat next to her granddaughter. ‘Know all about it do you, chicken?’ Jenny shrugged as she bent down to kiss my head. ‘No, ‘course not, but I know Mum and Dad had a pretty tough time when I was sick. It can’t be easy raising a family, that’s all I’m trying to say.’ ‘Oh bless you, child.’ Doreen smiled, kissing Jenny’s cheek. ‘Why weren’t you more enlightened at this age, Gail?’ Sal roared with laughter. ‘Yes, Gail, why weren’t you more enlightened?’ I looked up at Gail and watched as she spat her tea everywhere. ‘What’s that supposed to mean, Mum?’ ‘Nothing.’ Doreen sniffed. ‘Just our Jenny has a very wise head on very young shoulders.’ ‘You’re not wrong there,’ Sal agreed, smiling at Jenny. ‘Very true,’ I barked in agreement. Gail raised an eyebrow. ‘And while it might be true, Mum, if you want a hand getting these boxes unpacked I’d start singing my praises, and possibly Sal’s as well as Jenny’s if I were you.’ ‘Fair enough.’ Doreen chuckled, her green eyes radiating the same kindness as her daughter’s. ‘You know I think the world of you, you’re my favourite child!’ ‘I’m your only child,’ Gail said, returning her grin. ‘I’m so happy you’ve moved here, it’ll be wonderful having you and Dad on the doorstep.’ Getting to her feet, she pulled her mother in for a hug. Doreen returned her daughter’s hug, and rubbed her back as if she were no more than Ben’s age. ‘And it’ll be wonderful for us having you so close by. We’ve missed you.’ ‘And we’ve missed you,’ Jenny cried. She rushed towards her mum and gran and wrapped her arms around them. I gulped, I didn’t want to miss out on a family hug. Together with Peg and Hugo, we bounded towards the women and pushed our noses into their laps and knees, much to their delight. ‘They’re everywhere.’ Jenny giggled in delight. ‘Oh you dogs are gorgeous.’ Doreen smiled, bending down to smother us with kisses. ‘And we think you’re gorgeous,’ Hugo barked, licking her hand. ‘But not as gorgeous as Peg and Gail,’ I barked loyally. Gail beamed down at me, and planted a sloppy kiss on my snout. ‘Percy, you’re the best boy in the entire world.’ I howled in delight. There was nothing nicer than being surrounded by family. As we broke apart, Sal glanced balefully at a box marked ‘outdoors’. ‘Shall I take this out to the garage?’ Doreen flashed her a grateful smile as she got to her feet. ‘Thanks, love.’ ‘And I should get cracking as well.’ Gail smiled, as she finished her second cupcake. ‘Where do you want me?’ Doreen handed her daughter a pair of scissors and gestured to a box with black writing all over it. ‘The pots and pans are in that one,’ she explained. ‘Can you give your father a hand with them in the kitchen. He knows where everything goes.’ Nodding, Gail picked up the box and turned to Eric who was still engrossed in the paper. ‘Are you ready, Dad?’ she asked. Eric glanced up from the crossword in surprise. ‘Ready for what?’ ‘To help me unpack the kitchen stuff,’ Gail replied patiently. Eric looked blank as he scratched the bald patch on top of his head. ‘If you want, love, though I don’t know where any of it goes.’ ‘You do,’ sighed Doreen in exasperation. ‘We discussed it not half an hour ago!’ ‘Did we?’ Eric narrowed his blue eyes in confusion. ‘Yes! What’s wrong with you?’ she grumbled. ‘You’re always forgetting things these days.’ ‘Am I?’ Eric asked, his blue eyes rich with surprise. ‘Yes!’ Doreen sighed again. Gail raised her hand in between the two of them. ‘Come on, you two, there’s no sense arguing now. Dad,’ she said, turning to Eric, ‘why don’t you come and help me with all this. I’m sure that together we can work out where everything’s meant to go.’ Eric put down the crossword and obediently got to his feet. ‘All right, love.’ Together they trotted off to the kitchen leaving Doreen alone in the living room. As she set her teacup on the coffee table, she sank her head into her hands. Watching the rise and fall of her shoulders, I suddenly realised she was crying. Turning to Peg, I gave a little bark of worry and we padded across to the elderly woman. Getting nearer, I saw her body was wracked with sobs. I was dumbstruck. Doreen always put a brave face on things and I had rarely seen her cry, not even when Jenny was so poorly. She was known for her strength, something Gail had relied upon when they had faced difficult times. Exchanging worried glances with Peg, we did the only thing we pugs can do in times of crisis. We used our tongues to mop up Doreen’s salty tears, determined to be there for as long as she needed us. ‘Do you think she’s all right?’ I whined quietly to Peg in between licks. ‘Fine,’ she yapped in reply. ‘She’s probably just upset because she’s tired with the move. It’s very distressing you know, upending your home.’ As Doreen’s cries became quieter and she stroked each of us in turn, I moved my head and crawled onto her lap to show her how much I loved her. Breathing in her warm, homely scent, my doggy instinct fired on all cylinders as something told me there was something very wrong indeed. Chapter Three (#ulink_e265e544-ebb6-5304-a98e-84faa6ef72b3) The next morning I woke to what I could only assume was all hell breaking loose. Opening my eyes and sitting bolt upright in my basket in the kitchen, I tried to make sense of the scene playing out in front of me. Gail was standing at the stove, balancing a screaming baby Ben on one hip and heating his bottle with the other hand. At the table, Jenny was bellowing into her mobile phone, making plans to meet a friend at the cinema, while Simon was sat at the pine kitchen table engrossed in paperwork and furiously typing away at his laptop. Blearily coming to, I looked around for Hugo, but he wasn’t in his basket or in the garden. Anxiously, I padded out of the kitchen and into the sitting room. Even though it was the middle of summer Hugo loved nothing more than curling up on the sheepskin rug by the fire, but he wasn’t there and neither was he anywhere upstairs. Returning downstairs, anxiety gnawed away at me as I wondered where Hugo would go. He was still poorly, so he couldn’t have gone as far as the park and, besides that, he knew never to go there alone. There was a chance he could have gone to see Peg, I thought, but again, he had never been there on his own, and I knew that the times we had visited he hadn’t taken in the route as he had constantly yapped all the way there. A creeping sense of horror coursed through my fur as I started to imagine all the places he could have gone and all the things that could have happened to him. Just as I was imagining Hugo being eaten by a hungry pack of wolves, or abducted by a Cruella De Vil type, the house phone rang, interrupting my nightmare. ‘Oh you’re kidding, Mum,’ Gail gasped into the receiver, still jiggling Ben on her hip. There was a pause before she spoke again. ‘We’ll be right over, and again I’m so sorry.’ I watched with interest as she hung up the phone and turned to Simon. ‘You’ll never guess what’s happened.’ ‘I dread to think looking at the expression on your face.’ Simon grimaced, glancing up from his computer. ‘Hugo has just turned up at Mum and Dad’s,’ Gail explained with a sigh. Simon raised an eyebrow. ‘On his own?’ ‘On his own,’ Gail confirmed. The family fell into silence as they contemplated this news leaving me to consider what I had just heard. On the one paw, I felt a huge wave of relief crash over me as I realised my little boy was now safe. But on the other what was Hugo thinking of? Fury ate away at me as I realised how little he had learnt since being under my charge. I had told him repeatedly never to go anywhere alone, but here he was not only disappearing before my very eyes but bothering poor Gail’s parents just as they had moved in. ‘But how did he get there?’ Jenny asked eventually, putting her phone down for the first time that morning. Gail looked pointedly at Simon. ‘I guess through that cat flap we’ve never got around to fixing.’ ‘Ah.’ Simon winced. ‘Sorry, I’ve been meaning to mend that for ages. I will get on to it, I promise.’ ‘It doesn’t matter now. All that matters is Hugo is safe,’ she sighed. ‘I said I’d go and get him, but I’ve got to get Ben down for his nap and then I said I’d take Jenny into town, to buy her some new shoes.’ ‘That’s OK, why don’t I just go on my own?’ Jenny suggested. ‘Because you’re fourteen, young lady, and I’m not letting you run amok with my money!’ Gail admonished. Simon stood up and shut the lid of his laptop. ‘I’ll go then. Me and Perce can pick up the whippersnapper and while I’m there I’ll see if your parents need anything doing.’ The relief on Gail’s face was palpable. ‘Would you? Oh thanks, Si, that’s such a help.’ Simon grinned, as he walked across to his wife and kissed her on the cheek. ‘My pleasure,’ he told her, before turning to me. ‘Come on then, mate, let’s rescue Hugo before he destroys Doreen and Eric’s place like he does here.’ * Simon had barely finished knocking on the door before Eric flung it open wearing a big grin, Hugo in his arms. I glanced in astonishment at them both, never before having seen one or the other quite so content. ‘Hi, Eric,’ Simon said evenly, stepping into the hallway. ‘We’re here on a rescue mission, heard Hugo had been bothering you.’ Eric chuckled and clutched Hugo tightly to his chest. ‘Nonsense, it was a very pleasant surprise to see this one in the kitchen earlier. Little so-and-so must have got through the conservatory door.’ ‘I’m very sorry, Eric,’ I barked seriously as I followed Simon inside. ‘It won’t happen again, will it, Hugo?’ As Eric set Hugo on the floor, my son hid behind the older man’s trousers. ‘Sorry, Dad, didn’t mean to make you worry.’ ‘So why did you?’ I barked grumpily, as we followed Eric down the long hallway and into the kitchen. There was still mess everywhere with half-unpacked boxes all over the place. ‘Sorry the house is a bit of a tip,’ Eric apologised, filling the kettle. ‘We’re still up to our eyeballs and Doreen’s had enough so she’s popped to the shops for a coffee and a break.’ Simon settled himself on one of the high chairs at Doreen’s island while Hugo stood next to Eric, almost as if he was waiting for him to issue his next instruction. ‘That’s the other reason I thought I’d pop by, see if there’s anything I can do.’ Eric smiled at his son-in-law as he reached for a pair of mugs, tripping over Hugo in the process. ‘Oh sorry, Hugo, didn’t see you there.’ ‘That’s OK, Eric,’ my son barked, wagging his tail. Turning back to face Simon, Eric scratched his head. ‘Sorry, Simon, what were we saying? Honestly, I feel as if I can barely remember anything at the minute with this move.’ Simon chuckled, the frown lines on his face crinkling around his eyes. ‘I can’t say I’m surprised. Moving gets the best of all of us. No, I was just offering to lend a hand.’ ‘That’s very good of you, Simon, but Hugo here has just been helping me sort through a load of boxes and we’ve got a lot done, haven’t we?’ Eric grinned, bending down and pulling a tomato from his pocket to give to Hugo. I watched in amazement as Hugo ate the fruit greedily from Eric’s palm. ‘I didn’t know you liked tomatoes,’ I barked in astonishment from my position by the doorway. ‘Oh yes!’ Hugo yapped, licking his lips and looking up at Eric, clearly hoping for more. ‘Eric gave me one from the greenhouse yesterday and it was delicious. Today, he found another handful had grown overnight and fed them to me.’ I was barkless and at a loss to know what to do. ‘Just come over here,’ I ordered, as Eric pushed a mug of tea in front of Simon. ‘What is it, Dad?’ Hugo asked, nearing my side. ‘I want to know what possessed you to go running off like that,’ I yapped quietly. ‘I wanted to check on Eric and Doreen, Dad,’ Hugo barked. ‘I heard you bark you were worried about Gail’s parents. I thought I could come and help them for you.’ A rush of love surged through me, at my son’s thoughtfulness. With each passing day, I was beginning to see glimpses of the dog I knew he could become. But, as always, he hadn’t got it quite right. My mission to help him was far from over. ‘You can’t just dash off without barking something,’ I told him gently. ‘It was a lovely idea to help Gail’s parents but you’re too young to do these things on your own.’ Hugo hung his head in sorrow. ‘Sorry, Dad. I was only trying to help. But listen, I’ve got to tell you something. I think you were right about something being wrong with Eric and Doreen. He keeps forgetting things, Dad. Earlier on he kept saying to Doreen that he was going to go bowling and she kept telling him that he couldn’t do that any more as they didn’t live in Barnstaple any longer. He got so cross, Dad, he went out into the garden for a walk around the tomatoes and then he gave me some and then he seemed OK again.’ I shook my head impatiently. I realised Hugo meant well but the fact was that running off, causing people to worry, was not what a forever family would be looking for in a dog. ‘Hugo, I know that you acted with the best of intentions today so I don’t want to go on at you too much. But dog obedience is so important and it’s vital I start to see some from you. Do you understand?’ Hugo nodded. ‘But didn’t you hear what I said about Eric and how he forgot where he lived? It was a good job I came, Dad. I made him remember I’m sure of it.’ I let out a sigh. ‘Let’s just drop it, OK. Now not another bark, do you hear me?’ ‘Yes, Dad,’ Hugo yapped forlornly. ‘Good, now let’s get ready to get you home. You need to rest after all that rubbish you ate yesterday.’ ‘Yes, Dad.’ Hugo sighed again. I rubbed my nose against his to show he was forgiven and then watched him settle at Eric’s feet. Surprise ebbed away at me that they had forged such a close bond already. Watching Eric reach down and fondle Hugo’s ears I felt a pang of regret. The duo seemed so close. What a shame he couldn’t do that with someone able to offer him a more permanent solution. Chapter Four (#ulink_8b23480c-d72b-53a3-9dd2-5cfdf295c503) The following morning I felt a surge of optimism that Hugo had got the message about his behaviour. Not only had he walked all the way home to heel but he appeared to have a spring in his step. I wondered if it had done him some good to spend some time with Eric, or perhaps Eric had slipped something in those tomatoes Hugo had apparently developed a bit of a taste for. Only now, as I watched my son whine in the kitchen at the top of his lungs looking rather green, I wondered if it had been such a good idea. ‘You all right, boy?’ I asked, ignoring my breakfast as I got to my paws and walked towards him. ‘Fine,’ he yapped quietly. ‘Just a feel a bit funny. I’m never eating feathers or candle wax again.’ ‘I’m very glad to hear it,’ I told him, determined to remain cross. Only looking at my son’s mournful little face, it was hard to stay angry. No matter how badly behaved, Hugo was my gorgeous pup, and I loved him more than a bag full of chewy bones! Licking him gently on his cheek, I crooned into his ear. ‘You’ll feel better soon, I promise. The worst is over now. Give it a few hours and you’ll be bounding about with your pals at the dog park just like before.’ Hugo brightened considerably at this news and scampered up and down on the floor to show his excitement. ‘Will I, Dad? Do you think I’ll be able to go to the dog park today? I want to see Bugsy. He promised to tell me all about the shadow monster today.’ I shook my head. Bugsy was a Border collie and together with Jake, an elderly cocker spaniel, and Heather, a mumsy German shepherd, was one of our best friends. However, the last thing Peg or I needed was Hugo listening to Bugsy’s ridiculous theory on how shadows weren’t really shadows, but were actually sinister monsters out to taunt and humiliate us dogs whenever the sun shone. Still, now was not the time to dash his hopes. ‘We’ll see, maybe later.’ ‘This lad is definitely going to the park later,’ Simon added, with a flash of understanding. ‘If he feels ill he can be ill over there.’ Just then, Gail let out a massive squeal. I spun around from my position next to the fridge, only to see Ben had turned his bottle upside down, spilling the contents all over Gail. ‘Are you all right?’ I whined, trotting over to her. ‘You look like a massive marshmallow.’ Simon chuckled, looking up at the sight of his wife covered in milk. Gail rolled her eyes. ‘Thanks, love. Just what I needed to hear after a night of no sleep.’ I rubbed my head against her denim clad shins. Gail had been pacing up and down with a teething Ben most of the night. She had done her best to get him to sleep and had sung to him, read to him, offered him a bottle, her finger to chew, but nothing would quieten him down. In the end I had got up with her and tried to sing him a song as well, but Ben hadn’t approved of my attempts either and so Gail and I had both given up. Instead, we collapsed in a heap on the velvet sofa, urging sleep to find Ben and us. ‘Not again, love,’ Simon said sympathetically. ‘I didn’t hear anything.’ ‘No, I know,’ Gail grumbled. ‘I saw you were sound asleep.’ Simon looked shifty. ‘It’s not my fault I’m a sound sleeper.’ ‘No, but it is your fault you wear earplugs,’ Gail replied, as she looked down and smiled at me. ‘If it wasn’t for Percy keeping me company last night, I’d have gone mad.’ I nuzzled my head against her legs once more, wishing there was more I could do. ‘Well, like I said, I’m sorry, love.’ Simon shrugged. ‘I’ve a lot on at work at the minute, and I’d like it to stay that way with all these extra mouths to feed.’ Gail sighed as she glanced down at her sticky fleece. ‘I know, I do understand. Look, just take Ben a minute can you, I need to get changed.’ ‘I can’t, I’ve got to go to work. I’m late fixing Mrs Gaston’s boiler as it is,’ Simon replied, already backing out of the door. ‘Can’t she wait a few minutes?’ Gail hissed. Sensing discord between his parents, Ben chose that exact moment to let his feelings on the matter be known. Opening his mouth, he let out another scream at the top of his lungs. I looked up at him in horror. How could such a big noise come from such a tiny person? Simon wasted no time reaching for his van keys from the nook by the fridge. ‘Sorry, love. I’ll only be an hour. Call me if you need anything,’ he insisted, making a phone gesture with his hands. As the front door slammed shut, Gail looked helplessly at me, still drowning in milk. ‘Can I help?’ I barked helpfully. ‘As Jenny doesn’t have school, should I get her up perhaps to give you a hand?’ But Gail merely let out a sigh as she sat Ben in his high chair, and began mopping herself down with a tea towel. With Gail temporarily engrossed, I wondered if this was the perfect time for a chat with the young fella. I padded across to his high chair and sat with my head cocked, gazing into his eyes. Mollified by a dummy Gail had just plonked in his mouth, I had to hand it to him, when he wasn’t crying he wasn’t bad. Like his mum he had blue eyes that sparkled when he gave off one of his trademark grins. ‘Now, Ben, I know you’re just a baby, but you need to give Gail, your mum, a break. She’s tired, she’s got a lot to do all said, and all this crying, well it’s not the way,’ I barked up at him. I paused, allowing the suggestion to sink in, but judging from the way he banged his fists against his high chair it didn’t look as though Ben had understood a bark I said. With a sigh, I tried again. ‘Look, Ben, you know how much everyone loves you, especially me. But do you think there’s any way that you could think about easing up on the tears for just a little bit. I would be so grateful, I’ll even let you pull my ears without fuss from time to time.’ The moment the bark left my lips, I regretted it. For a baby, Ben had a monstrously fierce grip, and allowing him free rein over my precious ears would be a sacrifice, and not one I was sure I would be willing to make. Just then, Ben fixed me with what I called his excitable face and, as if by magic, he let out a happy gurgle. The sight of him looking so adorable left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside and I knew that I wouldn’t just sacrifice my ears for peace and quiet but Hugo and Peg’s too. As Gail finished cleaning herself up, she bent down to tickle my chin. ‘Look, you got him to stop crying! I don’t know how you do it, Percy. You’ve got the magic touch.’ She grinned. ‘There’s no magic to it, I’ve just bargained away my soul,’ I barked in all seriousness. Gail smiled, then stood up to plant a kiss on Ben’s head. I looked at her as she bustled around the kitchen, appearing happy and content. ‘So, Perce, I thought you and me could go to the shops when Simon gets back. He can mind the kids and Hugo for a bit, what do you think?’ I thumped my tail on the floor to signal my delight. Talk about bliss! Gail and I hadn’t spent time on our own together for what felt like months. It would be wonderful to be in her company without distraction even for just a few minutes. * Just as he promised, Simon returned an hour later, more than happy to look after the kids and Hugo, giving Gail and me some much needed time to ourselves. Eagerly, I followed my owner out into the hallway. Quickly, she slipped her trainers on and shoved a treat and my lead into the pocket of her wax jacket. I hadn’t used a lead in over a year, but Gail always liked to tie me to a post outside the supermarket when she nipped in for groceries, just in case anyone stole me. ‘Jen, we’re off now. Any problems give me a ring, OK?’ Gail called up the stairs. ‘OK,’ came Jenny’s muffled voice. Gail rolled her eyes as she opened the door and we stepped out into the fresh air. ‘Teenagers eh, Perce?’ she groaned. ‘I remember when Jenny was Ben’s age, she was such a sweet little thing. Now she spends all her time on her mobile phone playing games or chatting to her friends.’ ‘She still is sweet,’ I yapped as we walked along Barksdale Way, the trees rustling in the wind. ‘She’s just making up for lost time. Don’t forget she was sick for so long, you can’t blame her for wanting to be a normal kid again.’ ‘You’re so wise, Percy’– Gail smiled – ‘I don’t know what I’d do without you.’ ‘You’ll never have to find out,’ I told her seriously. I meant it too. I would be with Gail until my dying day. She had showered me with love and kindness ever since the day she adopted me from the tails of the forgotten. I would never forget her loyalty. As we turned the corner, I could see the shops up ahead and Gail and I quickened our pace. ‘You were a big help at Mum and Dad’s the other day,’ she said suddenly. ‘I just wanted to say thanks. All that fetching and carrying you were doing, dragging things from boxes, moving things out of the way with your snout, didn’t go unnoticed, not to mention going to get Hugo as well yesterday.’ ‘It was nothing,’ I barked in reply. ‘Why do you think Hugo went off like that?’ Gail mused. ‘I thought we were making progress with his obedience, but after that and the potpourri I’m not so sure.’ My ears prickled with horror. Had Gail had enough of Hugo and his bad behaviour? ‘We had a good chat,’ I barked quickly. ‘I think I got through to him, I think he just wanted to help your parents.’ ‘It’s going to make such a difference having them around.’ Gail sighed as we reached the supermarket entrance. ‘I’d forgotten how much hard work babies are.’ ‘Not to mention an adorable, but still very naughty puppy,’ I added. ‘I know Mum’s missed being around us all too. I think it will do her and Dad as much good as it will us,’ she said warming to her theme. ‘It will be great for us to keep an eye on them now they’re getting older too. Of course I know that’s a long way off,’ Gail said, completely misunderstanding my last bark, ‘but it’s good for them to get settled in the area and make new friends before they start to need us. But for now it’s just so perfect having them here! I couldn’t be happier.’ Chapter Five (#ulink_a76ff4e8-d7b6-54ac-9237-e858c0246b49) Returning to Barksdale Way we found the place in relative chaos. Poor Jenny was doing her best to quieten a fractious Ben who had apparently been screaming at the top of his lungs ever since we left. As for Hugo, he was clearly enjoying a surge of energy as he was now running up and down the hallway. ‘The sterilising machine’s broken and Dad’s trying to repair it,’ she wept as soon as we walked through the door. ‘As for Ben, he just won’t stop. I’ve tried everything. A bottle, changing his nappy, but he’s not interested in any of it.’ ‘OK, love, give him to me,’ Gail said, dumping the shopping bags on the floor and taking the baby from Jenny. ‘Where did you say Dad was?’ ‘In the garage,’ she said tearfully. ‘I did my best, I’m sorry.’ ‘You’ve nothing to be sorry for.’ Gail smiled soothingly as she tried to hush her son. Suddenly a loud tearing sound caught my attention and, as I looked at Jenny in alarm, the sound rang through the house again. It was coming from the living room, and together the four of us rushed to the front of the house to find Hugo swinging joyously from Gail’s prized cream-and-blue Sanderson dandelion curtains. ‘What the hell?’ Gail blurted over the top of a still screaming Ben. ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ he barked excitedly. ‘Look how high I can climb.’ ‘I’ll deal with Hugo,’ I barked angrily, taking in the scene. ‘You’ve got enough on your hands with that young man.’ Gail didn’t argue as she jiggled Ben in her arms to try to get him to stop crying. Taking a deep breath, she left the room with Jenny close behind and I continued to watch my son in annoyed astonishment as he carried on climbing up the curtains. I wasn’t normally an angry dog, I never rose my bark or lost my temper. Yet since becoming a father I felt my patience increasingly wearing thin. Now, looking at my offspring running amok in my gorgeous owner’s home, I felt fury rise. How ever would he find himself a forever home if he carried on like this? I stood my black fur on end to make myself look big and scary, then growled loudly. ‘Get down from there now!’ At the sound of my angry tones, Hugo’s expression of jollity turned to fear. He was now nearly at the curtain pole, and turning to look down at me he realised my bark in this case was not worse than my bite. Immediately, he slid down the curtains and stood before me, his eyes wide and pleading. ‘Sorry, Dad,’ Hugo yapped. ‘I didn’t mean to make you cross.’ ‘It’s not only me you should be apologising too though, is it?’ I replied. ‘It’s time you grew up. Just look what you’ve done to poor Gail’s curtains.’ Together, the two of us looked upwards towards the drapes and I shuddered at the sight. Not only were the cream curtains torn and frayed, but they were hanging by a thread from the pole. I knew Hugo was only a pup and bad behaviour was expected as he pushed boundaries, but I had never behaved like this. ‘So how are you going to make it up to Gail?’ I barked eventually. ‘Don’t you think she’s got enough to deal with at the minute?’ Hugo yapped nothing in reply. Instead, he looked at the floor, unsure of what to bark. I knew how he felt. Just how could I get through to him that it wasn’t acceptable to treat his home like a playground? A night in the tails of the forgotten would teach him how lucky he was to have a roof over his head as nice as this one, not to mention a family that adored him, I thought sagely. Just then I had an idea. Seeing my boy was still excitable from his session with the curtains, I decided that what he needed most was some fresh air and a lesson in the importance of family. Less than twenty minutes later and we had arrived at Doreen and Eric’s and were creeping through the permanently open conservatory door and into their kitchen. ‘Daddy, this is very nice,’ Hugo barked as we stepped into the kitchen, ‘but I still don’t know why you made us come here.’ I stopped by the mystery island and turned to face him. ‘Because if you’re well enough to run up and down curtains then you’re well enough to help out here,’ I growled before turning my back and walking towards the living room. ‘You saw how much needed doing when you came of your own accord yesterday.’ It didn’t take long to find Doreen. Sat on the sofa, she was busy polishing her china ornaments. Seeing the two of us pad into the lounge, she rewarded us with a big grin. ‘Hello.’ She beamed, putting her polishing cloth aside and getting up to greet us all with a tickle to our bellies. ‘Gail just rang me, said you’d gone off wandering and thought you might fetch up here.’ ‘That’s right,’ I told her, ‘thought we’d say hello.’ ‘Well, Eric’s in the garden, didn’t you see him on your way in?’ she asked. ‘Afraid not,’ I replied, before turning to Hugo. ‘Did you see Gail’s father?’ ‘No, but I did see some tomatoes,’ he barked hopefully. I shook my head in despair, and beckoned him to follow me and Doreen out of the living room and outside. As soon as we set one paw onto the grass, it seemed the effort of being well behaved for five minutes had taken its toll and Hugo ran round and round Eric’s shed, sending mud flying in the direction of Doreen’s clean washing. ‘Will you stop that?’ I growled. But Hugo took no notice of me as he continued to play chase with himself. ‘Pay no attention, Perce.’ Doreen sniffed as we walked across the garden to the shed. ‘He’s a child, it’s his job to wind you up.’ I looked at her in confusion. ‘What did she mean by wind me up? I knew some of Jenny’s toys when she was smaller needed winding, and one of Simon’s watches apparently always needed winding too, driving him ‘up the bloody wall’, but I had no idea why I needed winding or why Hugo would try to do it. I was just about to open my mouth and ask why when I caught sight of Doreen’s face, it was the picture of concern. ‘Eric was only here a moment ago,’ she said to herself as we reached the open shed door. ‘He wanted to propagate some lavender he said. So where’s he gone?’ Quickly, she peered inside the wooden shed, which was filled with garden supplies, but it was clear to both of us that the empty structure contained no lavender and no Eric. Just then, Gail appeared at the garden gate with Ben on one hip, Jenny and Simon just behind. Even though I’d only seen them less than an hour ago I still felt a pang of joy at the sight of my gorgeous family. ‘Thought I’d come and take those dogs off your hands.’ Gail grinned, her hair shimmering in the midday sunshine as it always did. ‘And we fancied a bit of fresh air, didn’t we?’ ‘Certainly did.’ Simon nodded, looking up at the blue skies with a smile. ‘Thought you might like me to have a look at those shelves in the kitchen you wanted putting up too.’ But Doreen merely nodded as Gail caught sight of her mother’s worried expression. ‘What is it, Mum?’ ‘It’s your father,’ she said quietly. ‘He’s disappeared.’ Gail narrowed her eyes in confusion. ‘Are you sure?’ ‘He was just here a minute ago. And now he’s gone.’ ‘Well, maybe he’s nipped to the shops or something and you didn’t hear him call to tell you that’s where he’s gone,’ Gail suggested, adjusting Ben on her hip. About to open her mouth to reply, Hugo rushed past Doreen, almost toppling her over with his speed. ‘Will you stop it,’ I yapped crossly. ‘Go and lie under the tree in the shade and calm down.’ Looking contrite, Hugo retreated immediately while my eyes rested on the older woman. In that instant I saw that same look of fear that I had witnessed yesterday. There was clearly something very seriously wrong. ‘It’s not the first time he’s done this,’ Doreen admitted shakily, sinking onto the wooden bench that stood nearby. ‘He vanished a few weeks back, turned up at Instow wandering the shoreline of all places.’ ‘You never said,’ Gail exclaimed, taking a seat next to her mother. ‘What happened, Doreen?’ Simon asked, his voice rich with concern. Doreen looked at the floor. ‘Just that, love. I came home from line dancing, cross because he was supposed to have picked me up and he’d clean forgotten. Gone for a walk along the coast, he said, no apology nothing. Said I’d got confused! Me!’ ‘That’s why you were so upset about him forgetting where the stuff in the kitchen went yesterday,’ Jenny gasped. ‘Yes, love. I thought a move up here might give him a change, refresh his energy levels a bit, you know.’ Doreen sighed. Gail smiled sympathetically at her mother as she jiggled Ben in her arms. ‘Look, he’s just getting a bit forgetful that’s all. He’s had a lot on his plate, you know what it’s like when you’re anxious about something.’ Silently, Doreen nodded. ‘Well, that’s it then.’ Simon shrugged, stuffing his hands in his jeans pockets. ‘He’s just a bit overwrought with the move that’s all. We’ll keep an eye on him, but I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about. Let’s just think about where he might have gone now.’ Doreen rested her head in her hands as she obviously tried to think about where her husband could have gone. ‘I just don’t know,’ Doreen said tearfully. ‘We’ve only been here a few days and the only other place he knows is your house.’ ‘Right,’ said Gail determinedly. ‘Jenny, can you nip back and see if you can find Granddad at ours.’ ‘OK,’ Jenny replied, before a flicker of confusion crossed her freckled features. ‘Just one thing though – where’s Hugo?’ Alarm shot through me as I glanced around the garden and saw that my son too had vanished. Frantically, I raced around the lawn, bypassing the rose bushes, dodging the pergola and checking the rockery to see if I hadn’t somehow misplaced my son. But he was nowhere to be found. Panic washed over me and I slumped to the ground, the grass tickling my nose. Where on earth could Hugo be? Hadn’t he listened to me yesterday when I drummed it into him that he was not to disappear? Panic coursed through my fur at the thought of my boy all alone, wandering the streets of London. Had he vanished because I lost my temper? Was it my fault he had disappeared? In that moment all I felt was guilt for every harsh bark I had ever uttered in his direction. He wasn’t naughty, he was young and I would trade everything if Hugo was safe. Chapter Six (#ulink_46cf904c-af80-5584-a5c4-ef49ce314115) As we all looked at each other wild-eyed, I knew this wasn’t the time to panic and we had to keep calm. Eric was a grown man, he was perfectly entitled to go for a walk if he wanted to. As for Hugo, well he might be young, but he wasn’t stupid, of that I was sure. ‘OK,’ said Gail, as if reading my mind. ‘Let’s try and think logically about where each of them could be. Is it possible they could be together?’ I glanced at Gail as if she were some kind of genius! Yes, of course, Hugo must have gone to find Eric. After all, they had appeared to have developed some sort of bond. Why hadn’t I thought of that? ‘So, Mum, you said Dad was in the shed right?’ Gail continued. Doreen gave a small nod of her head. ‘So if gardening is on his mind, then he’s likely nipped out to find a garden centre,’ Gail reasoned. ‘But Hugo doesn’t know what a garden centre is,’ I whined. ‘How will we even know they’ve ended up together?’ Gail handed Ben to her mother, and stroked my head, picking up on my worry. ‘Don’t worry, Percy. I’ve never lost one of my children yet, I’m not about to start with one of yours.’ I licked her hand, grateful she was trying to calm me down, but while we had come up with a plan to find Eric, would we find Hugo? All of a sudden, images of telling Peg I had mislaid one of her children flooded my mind. She wouldn’t just be upset she would no doubt set the dogs on me at the news. I couldn’t let her down. ‘So,’ Gail said looking at Doreen. ‘Can you help Simon mind Ben while I nip to the High Street and see if any of our missing men are there?’ Simon raised an eyebrow. ‘I don’t need help, love, and surely it’s best if I go?’ Gail shook her head. ‘I’d rather you stayed here if that’s all right. He’s my dad, I feel responsible, as long as you and Mum don’t mind?’ Doreen nodded, her face lined with worry. ‘’Course, love, thanks. Keep your phone on you, won’t you? Then I can let you know if Jenny has any news or if they turn up.’ ‘OK,’ she agreed. ‘Let me just nip to the loo and I’ll be off.’ As Gail went inside, I thought about what I could do. Perhaps the best thing would be to send out an alert on the dog telegraph appealing for help over Hugo’s disappearance. The dog telegraph was a brilliant way of communicating with dogs all over the country, if not the world, and most of us were happy to while away an evening exchanging news with loved ones. Glancing around the garden, I looked for a suitable spot. Finding a large cherry tree in full bloom at the end I made my way over there and got ready to bark for all I was worth and sound the alert. Only I had scarcely made one woof, when a sudden shout from Jenny made me jump. ‘Cooeee,’ she called at the top of her lungs. ‘Look who I found.’ Turning to look at my favourite little girl, wearing a smile a mile wide, joy washed over me. Because there, bold as brass, looking for all the world as if they had just been for a stroll in the park was Eric, walking side by side with Hugo. The two of them looked as if they were deep in conversation, never once giving a thought to us and how their disappearing acts had driven us around the bend with worry. At the sight of them, Gail, Doreen and I flew at them, and wrapped our arms and paws around their necks. ‘Where have you been?’ I demanded, reluctantly breaking away from my son. Hugo was just about to answer, when Eric beat us to it. ‘I only popped to the High Street. I told you that’s where I was going, love,’ he said to a worried Doreen. ‘Mum says you didn’t,’ Gail suggested gently, looking at her father with tenderness in her eyes. A look of anger flashed across Eric’s features for just a moment. ‘Well, I did say. Your mother’s got selective deafness.’ ‘Come on now, Eric, the girls are just worried about you, that’s all,’ Simon cautioned, holding Ben tightly against him. Eric sighed in frustration and ran his hands through what was left of his hair. ‘There was no need. I told you where I was going, and this one just fancied a walk, didn’t you, boy?’ ‘Yes! Walk!’ Hugo yapped happily, nuzzling his body against Eric’s legs. Doreen looked at the pair of them, ready to say something, before clearly changing her mind. ‘Well, the good news is you’re here now.’ She smiled and turned to me and my son. ‘And little Hugo’s safe as well.’ I barked happily as Doreen, Gail, Jenny, Ben and Simon went inside. Hugo went to follow, but I stood in front of him blocking his path. ‘Not so fast,’ I barked quietly. ‘Are you all right, boy?’ Hugo nodded. ‘I just wanted to help, Dad. You said I needed to grow up. I thought rescuing Eric would make me a grown-up.’ ‘It does,’ I yelped tenderly, rubbing my nose against Hugo’s. ‘But you can’t just go off like that. Didn’t you listen to a bark I had to say yesterday?’ Hugo looked contrite. ‘Anything could have happened, and your mother would have made mincemeat of me,’ I woofed, more gently now. ‘Sorry, Daddy,’ he replied softly. I looked at Hugo and saw he did appear to be genuinely sorry he had caused us some worry and I didn’t want to punish him further. ‘Still it took a lot of guts to do what you did, Hugo. I’m proud of you.’ At the praise, Hugo beamed. It was true, I was proud of my boy. For once I felt he had been listening to the message I had been drumming into him. Humans first, dogs second. ‘So was it like Eric said?’ I asked gingerly. ‘Did you find him in the High Street buying stuff for the garden?’ Hugo thought for a moment before answering. ‘Yes. But he wasn’t in a shop, he was just wandering about muttering something about the ever-changing face of Barnstaple.’ ‘That sounds strange,’ I replied. ‘It was a bit scary, Daddy,’ Hugo admitted. ‘Don’t you remember I told you yesterday he seemed to have trouble remembering where he lived? Well today, Eric kept saying the same thing over and over. I know you had told us that Barnstaple was where they used to live and I tried to bark at him to tell him that he lived in London, but he didn’t understand.’ I shook my head. I couldn’t remember Hugo telling me a thing about Eric’s forgetfulness but then it wasn’t surprising, I’d had a lot on my mind. ‘So then what did you do?’ I asked, returning my focus to my son. ‘Luckily he recognised me straightaway,’ Hugo continued. ‘And when I whined at him to follow me home, it was clear he didn’t know what I was trying to bark, but he did it anyway.’ I nodded. This was good news, but it still didn’t explain why Eric thought Perivale’s high street was Barnstaple’s. I had no answers, but just for the moment I didn’t need any. Everything I needed was right in front of me. Feeling a rush of love, I wrapped my paws around Hugo’s neck once more and clung to him. There weren’t enough barks in the world to tell him how proud I was of him for looking out for his family, but one thing was for sure, I didn’t intend to let him out of my sight ever again. * I woke to a sharp citrus tang of what smelled suspiciously like oven cleaner and coughed, the noxious smell overpowering me. Opening my eyes, to my surprise, Jenny was standing with her head inside the oven and appeared to be furiously scrubbing the inside. ‘What are you doing?’ I whined, getting out of my basket and shaking the sleep from my eyes. Jenny pulled her head from the oven, looked at me and smiled. ‘Shhh, Percy! Don’t wake everyone. I wanted to surprise Mum.’ At the sight of Jenny in her mother’s apron and her rubber gloves, I felt a rush of love for the youngster. She was always helpful, even when she had been poorly, and now, sensing Gail needed an extra pair of hands, she had risen to the challenge. Padding across to the little girl I loved so much, I rubbed my head against her shins causing her to smile and bend down. As she nudged my forehead with her nose, just as she always had, a small part of me wished I could time travel back to the times when it was just me and Jenny in the kitchen first thing in the morning. When I had first arrived from the tails of the forgotten it had been Jenny who always let me out for a wee and gave me my breakfast first thing. Over time, Jenny had grown older, Ben and Hugo had arrived and we seemed to have less time together than before. Of course I knew it was only natural and right that she should want to be with her mates instead of her silly old dog, but at times I missed her dreadfully. ‘So what’s all this about then?’ I barked, trying to change the subject. ‘Well, a couple of things,’ she admitted. ‘Firstly, after everything that happened yesterday I want to give Mum a treat.’ ‘And the other reason you’re keen to help your mum out?’ I woofed. Jenny grinned. ‘Tonight’s the Ed Sheeran gig at the arena across town. Mum’s giving me and my friends a lift there and picking me up.’ ‘That is generous,’ I barked. ‘So I want to say thank you to her.’ Jenny beamed. ‘She’s been under a lot of pressure lately, so I thought I could clean the oven. I know she’s been meaning to get around to it for months.’ Just as Jenny stuck her head back in the oven, I felt a nose against my side. ‘Morning, son,’ I barked, licking him lovingly. ‘Sleep well?’ Hugo blinked sleepily up at me. ‘Need a wee, Daddy.’ ‘I’m sure Jen will get to it in a minute. Can you just wait?’ ‘I’m not sure, Daddy.’ Hugo almost wept. ‘After all the feathers I didn’t need to wee for ages, but now I’ve needed to wee all night. I even dreamed about going for a wee.’ I gave him a lick once more and gave Jenny a little bark. Although she had always been able to understand what I was saying since the day Gail brought me home from the tails of the forgotten, Hugo’s barks were something of a mystery to her, and the rest of the family come to that. Nudging Jenny in the shin once more, she pulled her head out of the oven and looked at me. ‘Everything all right, Perce?’ ‘Fine,’ I yapped. ‘Just Hugo needs a wee. Can you open the back door for him to have a tinkle in the garden, please?’ ‘OMG! Sorry, Hugo must be desperate!’ Jenny exclaimed, ripping the rubber gloves from her hands. ‘I’m so sorry, I should have opened it as soon as I got up. I didn’t think.’ ‘Erm, Daddy,’ Hugo interrupted. I spun around as Jenny walked across the kitchen to the back door. ‘What is it?’ ‘I just want to say I’m really sorry.’ ‘What for?’ I barked, puzzled. My son had only just got up. There hadn’t been time for him to get up to mischief just yet. ‘Sorry, Daddy,’ Hugo whimpered. ‘I couldn’t hold it in any longer.’ I groaned as I caught sight of the little puddle of liquid Hugo had obviously just created. ‘We’ve been working so hard on toilet training, you haven’t done this for ages.’ ‘I’m sorry,’ Hugo whimpered again. ‘It was an accident.’ Rather meanly, I rolled my eyes, despite the fact I knew it couldn’t be helped. It just felt that Hugo’s progress was a case of three steps forward and two steps back. As Hugo jumped up and down with glee at the breakfast Jenny placed in front of him, I gritted my teeth, remembering how yesterday I had felt so guilty for any cross bark I had thrown in his direction after his disappearance. Who said fatherhood was easy? No pug I knew, that was for sure. Chapter Seven (#ulink_49959221-77f4-5042-bda7-a1077cd685cd) Together with Jenny we worked overtime to clean up the mess my boy had made. As Jenny ripped off several sheets of kitchen roll for me, I saw she had burst into fits of giggles. Suddenly feeling very tired, I looked across at my favourite teenager to find out the cause of all the hilarity. It didn’t take long to see that although Hugo had tinkled all over the floor, he had managed to do it in the shape of a heart. ‘Oh, Perce, you have to admit that’s sort of adorable,’ she whined, as Hugo walked back inside. ‘I’ll admit it’s adorable when he can clean up after himself,’ I yapped crossly. ‘Come on, it’s almost like art,’ Jenny tried again. ‘It would be better if Hugo did his art outside,’ I barked, before turning back to face my son. As Hugo silently scarpered towards his bowl, I carried on mopping the floor dry with my paws. I had no idea how Gail managed each day raising two humans, never mind all the other stuff she had to do. As I dabbed the last of the floor dry, my thoughts turned to Simon. I knew he thought that things were a lot easier now Jenny was strong enough to go to school and no longer needed teaching at home, but I still thought Gail was a marvel. Right on cue, my owner appeared at the doorway, washed and dressed in leggings and a sweatshirt. Ben gurgled happily in her arms, and she kissed the top of his head as she placed him in his high chair. Looking at me and Jenny going about our various cleaning duties, she smiled at us questioningly. ‘What’s all this?’ ‘Just because we love you.’ Jenny beamed, kissing her mum on the cheek as she returned to the oven and rinsed it for the final time. ‘That’s right,’ I barked solemnly. ‘And I love you too,’ woofed Hugo, looking up from his breakfast. Gail chuckled, as she flicked the kettle on and reached for a pair of mugs. ‘Well, then it’s a good job I love every single one of you as well,’ she said, her voice full of warmth. Quickly, I checked the floor. So far so good, it was all nice and dry and nobody would be any the wiser. I passed the used towels across the floor to Jenny with my front paws, who promptly bent down and stashed them in the bin. Standing up, she fixed me with her best, bark nothing look. ‘So what are you all up to today?’ Gail called over the whistle of the kettle. ‘I’d like to go for a walk in the park and I’d like to see my family and friends,’ I told Gail seriously. ‘OK.’ Gail nodded as I finished barking. ‘Park for you, Perce. Sure we can manage that. And you, lovely daughter of mine?’ ‘Tonight’s the concert.’ Jenny grinned excitedly as Gail handed her a mug of tea. Gail’s hands flew to her mouth. ‘Oh my God, I completely forgot. It’s tonight?’ Jenny’s face dropped like a stone. ‘Mum! How could you forget? It’s only like the most important night of my life!’ At the sight of Jenny’s shocked face, Gail burst out laughing. ‘Your face! Priceless! ’Course I didn’t forget, love, it’s written on the calendar in bright red pen, look.’ She laughed, jabbing at the calendar hanging on the wall with her forefinger. ‘Very funny!’ Jenny grumbled, sitting at the table to drink her tea. ‘I thought so.’ Gail continued to chuckle. Once Ben’s breakfast had been heated, Gail sat at the table and spooned the purée into his open mouth. With Hugo still eating, I let Jenny scoop me up and I sat contentedly on her lap while she fondled my ears. As I basked in her attention, all thoughts of my troublesome start to the day were forgotten, until Gail opened her mouth to speak. ‘So, are you all right if I take you along at about seven tonight, Jen, after I’ve taken Hugo to the V-E-T for his check-up?’ Gail quizzed. At the mention of the dreaded word, both Jenny and I inhaled sharply. Just the hint of a trip to the vet’s meant Hugo had a tendency to create havoc all day until his visit was over. He would hide under sofas or in cupboards, and lately had even taken to hiding in the garden shed when a visit to the vet’s was imminent. Hugo’s ingenuity was impressive. Yet I knew it was vital Gemma examined him properly to make sure there was no lasting damage following the feathers, potpourri and candle wax incident. ‘Yes, Mum, that’s absolutely fine, thank you,’ Jenny said quickly. ‘What are you doing today?’ ‘The health visitor’s popping over to give Ben his nine-month check this afternoon.’ Jenny raised her eyebrows as she leant over to pinch Ben’s cheeks. ‘How is this little monster nine months old already?’ Gail laughed. ‘I say the same thing about you! How on earth are you fourteen all of a sudden? You were two weeks old yesterday.’ ‘I’m only just fourteen,’ Jenny said helpfully, taking another slurp of her tea. ‘If that makes you feel any better?’ ‘It really doesn’t, and no doubt I’ll be saying just the same thing about this little one when he’s fourteen.’ She smiled. I looked at Ben sat in his high chair. He was happily eating his breakfast, purée all over his face as he gurgled and banged his fists on the little white table in front of him. Even though he was definitely wearing more of his breakfast than was in his mouth, he still looked strangely adorable and a part of me was as excited to see how Ben would turn out. I already knew I liked him. After all, he was fun most of the time, especially when he wasn’t crying. ‘And then this morning I’m going shopping with your granddad.’ Gail continued, raising another spoonful of fruit purée into Ben’s giggling mouth, ‘he wants me to take him jewellery shopping. It’s your grandparents’ golden anniversary soon and he wants to get your gran something special.’ ‘Awww,’ Jenny squealed. She clapped her hands excitedly, making baby Ben copy the move. ‘I take it Gran has no idea then?’ Gail shook her head. ‘No, she thinks we’re going out together while she’s at yoga this afternoon to get him some more crossword and Sudoku puzzle books or something, keep his mind active.’ ‘His mind is active.’ Jenny frowned, her long fringe hiding her eyes. ‘Granddad’s always busy doing something. If he’s not playing golf, he’s in the allotment, volunteering in the homeless shelter or playing bowls or dominoes in the pub with his friends. ‘But those were all things he did in Barnstaple, love. Your gran’s worried that since the move he’s getting forgetful. To be honest, what happened yesterday shows you she’s probably got a reason to be.’ Gail sighed. ‘I don’t see how Sudoku and crossword puzzles are going to keep Granddad from forgetting his mates aren’t around any more,’ Jenny pointed out, not altogether unreasonably. ‘You make a good point.’ Gail smiled, spooning the last of Ben’s breakfast into his mouth. ‘But Mum’s still worried about him. As if yesterday wasn’t bad enough, she told me last night that he went out two days ago and left the kitchen tap running. She’s still mopping up now, so if getting a few crossword puzzles for your granddad keeps her happy, I’m all for it.’ Jenny looked at her mother earnestly. ‘Granddad is all right though, isn’t he? I mean, if he’s forgetting things like telling people he’s going into town and leaving the tap on, shouldn’t he go to the doctor’s?’ Gail shook her head and smiled. ‘Your grandfather’s fine! You’re as bad as your grandma worrying about things. I think it’s just all the stress of moving house. It’s difficult enough for anyone, never mind when you get to Mum and Dad’s age. Dad’ll be right as rain in a couple of weeks I’m sure, once everything settles down.’ I snuggled deeper into Jenny’s lap, enjoying the warmth of her legs. I was about to shut my eyes and enjoy a snooze, when a sudden squeal from Gail made me jump out of my skin. Looking across at her, I saw she was staring in horror at Hugo. ‘Tell me that’s not what I think it is? It’s bad enough changing nappies, never mind cleaning up after a pup as well,’ she snapped. A sense of cold dread enveloped my fur. Lifting my head, I saw that once again Hugo needed the loo. This time, despite the fact the back door was wide open he had still failed to make it outside. ‘Why didn’t you go in the garden?’ I howled, taking in the pair of puddles next to his behind. ‘I made Gail a present,’ Hugo whined dejectedly. ‘You and Jenny said a wee in the shape of a heart was adorable.’ I stared up at Gail’s horrified face and saw she hadn’t quite appreciated the love he had shown. A pang of sorrow flooded through my fur as I gave Hugo an affectionate lick on his ear. As he stood there, his eyes downcast, his bottom lip quivering, I knew he didn’t mean to cause trouble, which was half the problem. Hugo often meant so well, but although good intentions were all very well, they wouldn’t necessarily guarantee him a forever home if he continued with them. Chapter Eight (#ulink_428ec330-26ff-56e6-923f-e5ba263420f2) After Gail took Ben shopping with Eric, Jenny and I set about clearing up Hugo’s mess for the second time while he napped in his basket. Along with the heart shape, Hugo had also chosen to show his affection for Gail by running across her bed, getting muddy paws all over the sheets and upending the laundry basket in a game of chase with himself. I looked helplessly at Jenny, wondering where to start. If anyone understood how much I needed Hugo to behave it was Jenny. When Gail had first adopted me, Simon had been hesitant to keep me, afraid I would be too much work with Jenny so poorly. However, thanks to Jenny, Gail and the love they had shown me, Simon had come around and realised I was their forever friend. With the threat of the tails of the forgotten looming large over Hugo’s head, I desperately needed my son to stop being so naughty. ‘He’s just being a puppy, don’t worry,’ Jenny said soothingly, as if reading my mind. ‘It’s not sweet,’ I whined. ‘It means trouble, and not everyone wants trouble.’ ‘You didn’t think Hugo was trouble yesterday when he went off to look for Granddad,’ Jenny said accusingly. ‘Then you thought Hugo was a hero.’ I barked nothing. Jenny was of course right. I had thought Hugo was a hero and when I fretted I would never see him again I knew I would trade my own life in a heartbeat to save his. Looking at him now, snoring away, head rested on the 101 Dalmatians dog blanket Jenny had bought him, as though he didn’t have a care in the world, I felt myself softening. Mouth open, head rested on paws, Hugo looked like a mini statue. I wasn’t sure I had ever seen him so still. I saw Jenny also had a look of love in her eyes. I had to admit, she had a point. Hugo could be very cute at times. Watching him now, his little eyelids fluttering gently, it was hard to resist leaning over and giving him a huge cuddle. Reluctantly, I brought my attention to the here and now. ‘So, shall I tug the sheets off the bed?’ I barked in suggestion. ‘I’ll do the kitchen floor again,’ Jenny sighed. Together we raced off to our respective jobs and worked hard to make the place sparkling for Gail when she returned. I know many humans were surprised when they discovered I took on household chores, but when Jenny had been in hospital and Gail and Simon had been out of the house so much I wanted to ease the burden. So I learnt to dust what I could, as well as strip beds and clean the floor. I could even fold sheets at a push. I always thought that if things got really sticky for me in Barksdale Way I could become a service dog like one of those canine helpers that’s trained to assist their lovely owners around the home. I had always enjoyed helping others, especially the family I loved, and considered it my purpose as a dog. Whipping around the king-size bed, I tugged off the last of the Egyptian cotton sheets, and pushed them all into a ball in the corner of the room. Then I ran down the stairs to help Jenny. She had already cleared up enough of Hugo’s mess today, without doing any more. Finding her in the kitchen wiping up the last of the stains, my heart pounded with love for the little girl. With her ponytail swinging as she worked, she had a huge, sloppy smile on her face. Given the job she was doing, I thought this was unusual and told her so. ‘It’s just the concert tonight that’s making me so happy.’ She beamed. ‘Is this Ed Sheeran good then?’ I barked. ‘Ed Sheeran is epic!’ she exclaimed. After balling up the dirty kitchen roll and throwing it out with the rubbish, she turned to me, her face thoughtful. ‘But you know it’s more that this will be my first ever concert, Perce,’ Jenny said, quietly. ‘There was a time I wondered if I would ever get to see a gig, and now look at me.’ As she stood there looking bashful, I rubbed my head against her legs. She picked me up and cuddled me to her chest. Just listening to her heart beat proud and strong made me dizzy with delight. Jenny had been through so much, had nearly lost her life. She was right to feel excited about her very first concert and I couldn’t be happier for her. Something I told her with a gentle lick to the ear. Just then the front door opened and Jenny and I exchanged looks of surprise. ‘Mum? That you?’ she called. Gail appeared with Ben fast asleep in his carrycot. ‘Who were you expecting? Father Christmas?’ she replied sharply. ‘Sorry.’ Jenny raised her eyebrows in surprise at her mother’s tone. Gail held her daughter’s gaze and sighed. ‘No, I’m sorry, love, that was a stupid thing to say. Ignore me I’ve had a tough morning.’ ‘That’s OK.’ She shrugged, setting me down on the floor with a kiss to my head. ‘What are you doing here though? I thought you were going shopping with Granddad.’ ‘I was,’ Gail explained. ‘But when I arrived Dad didn’t know anything about it.’ I watched Jenny’s brow crinkle with confusion. ‘What do you mean? I thought Granddad asked you to go shopping with him? I thought it was his idea.’ Gail nodded, as she took off her cardigan and hung it from the back of a kitchen chair. ‘Yes, it was. We talked about it only yesterday after his vanishing act. But when he opened the door, he seemed genuinely surprised to see me.’ ‘But didn’t you tell him you were meant to be shopping, that you’d sorted things out here so you could go into town together?’ Jenny pressed. Gail gently placed Ben’s carrycot on the floor and sat down heavily in the wooden chair. Eager to give her a cuddle, I hopped up onto her lap. My lovely owner looked as though she had the weight of the world on her shoulders; the least I could do was offer her a bit of comfort. ‘I tried.’ Gail smiled, fondling my ears. ‘But the more I talked about it the more distressed your granddad got, so I left it and made out it was all my fault and I’d got the wrong end of the stick.’ ‘Was Gran there?’ Jenny asked, sitting opposite her mum. Gail shook her head. ‘She was at yoga and it was probably for the best. She would only have got upset if she’d seen him like that. Honestly, love, the way your granddad looked at me, it was frightening. He seemed so distressed when I implied he might have forgotten something. He insisted it was me who had got it wrong, that I was just like Mum and never listened to a word he had to say.’ ‘Do you think there’s a chance that you might have got hold of the wrong end of the stick?’ Jenny suggested gently. Gail ran her hands through her chestnut hair and sighed. ‘I’ve been wondering that all the way home. It seems unlikely after what happened yesterday, but it could be coincidence. I mean, maybe I did get it wrong, I’ve had a lot to juggle lately. Perhaps it is me that’s having trouble keeping track of things.’ Jenny leant over to clasp her mother’s hand. ‘I mean maybe you could talk to Gran later, if you’re worried.’ Gail smiled and stretched across the table to kiss Jenny’s cheek. ‘Yes, maybe I’ll try to subtly mention something, without spoiling the anniversary surprise, of course. Now, just what did I do to deserve a daughter as wise as you eh?’ ‘Something pretty special.’ Jenny chuckled. ‘And to think, I don’t ask for much in return, just a lift to the stadium later.’ ‘All right, all right.’ Gail laughed, quickly getting to her feet, causing me to jump to the floor. ‘Don’t worry I haven’t forgotten. Now let me get changed, and how about I take you two pugs to the park?’ At the sound of my favourite walk, my ears pricked up and unsurprisingly so did my son’s. At breakneck speed Hugo got to his feet, drool hanging from his mouth and sleep crusted in the corners of his eyes. ‘Walk! Did Gail say walk?’ Hugo barked excitedly. ‘Yes,’ I yapped quickly. ‘Now get ready, Gail will be ready to leave in a minute, and I’m not waiting for you.’ Hugo needed no further encouragement and after giving himself such a thorough shaking I thought his head might fall off, he walked briskly to the front door. ‘Ready,’ he barked, jumping up and down so excitedly he sent the little blue-and-white china bowl of potpourri Gail kept on the table by the door flying. I stared in horror as the bowl crashed to the floor with a resounding thud, sending scented flowers and shards of china everywhere. Rooted to the spot in horror, I gazed at Hugo as Gail’s voice bellowed down the stairs. ‘Percy! What’s happened now?’ My eyes met Hugo’s and he stared at me apologetically. ‘Sorry, Dad,’ he yelped forlornly. As Gail and Jenny rushed to the scene, I let out a heavy sigh. Would my boy ever learn? * The midday sun beamed through the clouds, and I lay on my back, enjoying the warmth on my belly. There was nothing better than a trip to the park. But when the sun beat down like this it felt like a real treat and after the morning I’d had I felt I deserved it. I had always loved this particular park and the fact it was so huge only made it all the more exciting. Although it was just a few minutes away, it was so big it felt as though you were in the middle of nowhere. All you could see for miles was greenery and trees, perfect for jumping and playing in. Yet it was the dedicated dog park right at the heart of the park that was my favourite place in all the world. Not only was it filled with trees and grass, there was plenty of shade and a proper drinking trough for us dogs to use when we needed to cool off in the summer. I turned my head and felt a stab of delight as I saw Sal and Peg walk towards me, accompanied incredibly by Lily, Roscoe and Ralph. Unable to believe my luck at seeing all of my children at once, I nudged Hugo who was napping next to me. ‘Look, your mum and siblings are here,’ I barked. Excitedly, Hugo pushed past me and bounded towards his loved ones. I had to admire his energy and followed as quickly as I could. Within seconds, I had reached Peg, and greeted her with a lick and nibble to the ear while Hugo, Lily, Roscoe and Ralph rolled around on the floor, each displaying their own particular puppy brand of affection. I chuckled. They were all an identical mass of blond and black fur, making it hard to tell where one pug ended and another began. ‘Have you got a lick for your old dad then?’ I barked with affection. ‘Daddy!’ Lily barked, throwing herself onto me. ‘It’s so good to see you, Dad,’ Roscoe added, hurling his little body on top of Lily. ‘I’ve missed you,’ Ralph put in. ‘We’re all together, Daddy,’ Hugo added warmly. ‘Whatever are you all doing here?’ I barked, detangling myself from my offspring. ‘Sal offered to bring Hugo out for a walk,’ Peg explained casually. ‘You know what she’s like.’ I knew just what Peg’s owner Sal was like: big hearted and generous to a fault. Glancing across at Gail and Sal already engrossed in conversation on a park bench, I barked at her welcomingly. As soon as I finished, Sal smiled and blew me a kiss before turning back to Gail who chuckled with merriment. Turning back to Peg, I saw our children had already disappeared, intent on a game of chase. I couldn’t help but watch with pride at the tremendous amount of energy they displayed. I wasn’t known for my athletic prowess so they could only have got it from their mother, I thought admiringly. A loud bark interrupted my reverie. Turning around, I saw my adorable friend Bugsy, bounding towards me while Heather and Jake brought up the rear. It was turning out to be a perfect day. As Bugsy got nearer, I tried to avoid the onslaught of his enthusiasm and dodge out of his way. Only, despite my best efforts, I was too late and he greeted me with all the excitement of a dog that hasn’t seen his owner after a week away and knocked me to the floor. ‘Percy,’ he yapped, licking me ferociously. ‘It’s so good to see you, so good.’ ‘Thanks, but I only saw you the other day,’ I barked breathlessly in between licks. Bugsy paused and let me get to my paws. ‘But it feels like forever.’ ‘Don’t mind him; he’s been in a funny mood all week,’ Heather yapped from behind us. ‘It’s true. Don’t know what’s up with the chap,’ added Jake, slightly out of breath. Bugsy looked at our friends balefully. ‘You know what’s wrong. Bella wants me to go to dog obedience school, but that just means she wants to send me to the tails of the forgotten doesn’t it, Percy?’ I shook myself down, freshly mown grass flying everywhere, and fixed Bugsy with my sternest glare. ‘Just because your owner wants you to go to training classes, doesn’t mean she wants to send you to the tails of the forgotten. It just means she wants you to behave a bit better that’s all,’ I yapped, thinking back to my own pup destroying Gail’s home earlier. ‘But I’m not bad, Percy; you of all dogs should know that,’ Bugsy barked mournfully. ‘Nobody thinks you’re a bad dog, Bugsy,’ Jake barked knowledgeably, looking to Heather for support. She nodded her head in agreement with Jake. ‘Exactly, lovey, it just means she needs you to stop being quite so barky.’ Bugsy looked indignant. ‘I’m not barky.’ Jake, Heather and I exchanged knowing looks. Bugsy had always barked a lot, but lately he had become over-exuberant to say the least. The youngest in our little group aside from our pups, Bugsy still had a lot of growing up to do in my opinion, which was probably why Bella wanted to send him to doggy training school. ‘It won’t be as bad as you think,’ Heather put in. ‘That’s right,’ agreed Jake. ‘It can be rather fun, lots of jumping through things, crawling through tunnels, rolling around in mud and playing with balls.’ Bugsy’s eyes lit up at the thought of rolling around in mud, one of his favourite ways to spend an afternoon. ‘That doesn’t sound so bad, though not the tunnels. I hate tunnels.’ ‘What doesn’t sound so bad?’ Peg asked, joining us with our four pups in tow. ‘Doggy training school,’ Heather explained. Peg nodded knowingly. ‘After Hugo ran off by himself on a rescue mission yesterday it sounds like something he could use.’ ‘I was just thinking the same thing myself,’ I barked thoughtfully. Lily, Hugo, Roscoe and Ralph eyed us in confusion. ‘But not us though?’ Lily yapped, almost daringly. ‘Yeah,’ Roscoe put in, glancing from me to her mother. ‘Not us? We’re good boys and girls.’ As if to demonstrate, Roscoe stood to attention, eyes forward, paws tucked in neatly together, closely followed by Lily and Ralph. Hugo, sadly, didn’t get the hint and thought it was a game, preparing to leapfrog over his siblings. Peg opened her mouth and bit Hugo by the scruff of his neck in warning. ‘That is quite enough of that. You could hurt one of them. You just remember who’s in charge here.’ ‘That’s right,’ I added. ‘And, Hugo, you could do worse than follow your siblings’ example. Look how well behaved they are now. That’s how you find a forever home.’ Hugo let out a large sigh as Peg released him from her grip. ‘It’s true, love,’ Heather barked helpfully. ‘Humans don’t like wilful dogs.’ ‘Sad but true,’ Jake agreed. We turned back to Hugo, who was looking at us with wide-eyed sorrow. Eyes big and mournful, he wagged his little tail on the floor. ‘Sorry, Mum,’ Hugo barked quietly. Turning to Peg, I saw her shake her head. She was as powerless as me when Hugo was apologetic. She was especially susceptible to his wide-eyed look, as was I, which I suspect was why he had turned it on. Now, he was even rolling on his back, paws in the air to show us his tummy. My heart went out to him. Despite his naughtiness he was so little and sweet, something he wouldn’t be forever. I had to stop comparing him to our other kids and finding fault. Just because it made me feel like a failure as a parent, it didn’t mean that Hugo was a failure himself. ‘Go on, you four, go play before Sal has to take you all back to your owners,’ I barked warmly. ‘Why don’t you go and jump up and down in the fountain?’ Hugo looked at me in astonishment. ‘Can we really, Dad?’ ‘Yes, really?’ Ralph asked. ‘You really can,’ I yapped. Rubbing my nose against each of theirs to bid them all farewell, I watched them scamper away. Moments later, the sound of a woman shrieking up ahead made us all turn around. To my horror, I saw a young woman being chased around the fountain by a very excitable pup, namely Hugo. ‘Not again,’ Peg groaned. ‘That’s the fourth time this week.’ ‘What’s he doing?’ Jake asked in wonder. ‘Every time he sees a woman out running in the park, he thinks it’s a cue for him to join her,’ I explained. ‘Sounds quite a nice thing he’s trying to do,’ Bugsy barked. ‘It does in theory,’ Peg barked wearily. ‘The only trouble is Hugo’s idea of fun is to run and jump up at the poor runners.’ ‘Terrifying them out of their wits,’ I finished. ‘Poor runners,’ Heather barked sympathetically. ‘They have enough of a hard time dressed up in those ridiculous outfits, without some puppies going after them, thinking they’re playing chase.’ ‘Leave it to me, I’ll sort it out,’ I barked, gearing myself up to it. Running wasn’t my strong suit, and I would have to work up to it if I had any chance of catching up with my pug, who was now terrorising the poor woman with his antics, while his brothers and sister looked on in astonishment. ‘I’ll go,’ Heather said. ‘Bark some sense into him.’ ‘I’ll come with you,’ Bugsy barked with enthusiasm, wagging his tail as if to demonstrate his delight. ‘I’ll stay here and watch.’ Jake sighed. For once I didn’t argue, and as Jake slumped down a few metres away under the shady beech tree, I watched Heather and Bugsy galvanise into action. The two of them rounded on my son in seconds and barked gentle apologies at the poor runner. As my friends led Hugo and the rest of our pups across the park towards Peg and I, their faces full of joy, I sighed. ‘We should appreciate Hugo more while he’s so young,’ I barked wisely. ‘One day, he might not always be so close.’ Peg looked at me in surprise. ‘Where’s that come from?’ I said nothing. Despite his antics this morning, Hugo had shown he had a responsible, caring streak yesterday and although I wanted nothing more than for him to behave and find his forever home, I had selfishly realised that it could happen a lot earlier than I anticipated. ‘Percy, we need Hugo to find an owner. Gail can’t handle him forever, she’s got more than enough on her plate. We always knew this was temporary.’ Peg sighed. I nodded. ‘I know, it’s just at times I don’t ever want him to leave. I’ll miss him.’ ‘I will too, Percy,’ Peg barked quietly. ‘Despite his faults he’s a sweetheart, but the best we can hope for is that he finds a human who he has an unshakeable bond with, like you have with Gail and I have with Sal. Why don’t you just enjoy the here and now? We’re all together, our pugs have great owners, and after yesterday Hugo has the makings of a wonderfully brave little dog, despite what he’s just done to that poor runner. Isn’t that enough?’ I barked nothing, I knew she was right. Whatever lay ahead for Peg, me, our pugs and our families, I just wanted to enjoy this perfect moment of joy while it lasted. Chapter Nine (#ulink_f4dcf99f-eb85-5e73-bed9-e0cadeee5698) All too soon the park was a distant memory as Sal returned to her flat together with her brood, leaving the rest of us to troop home to deal with health visitors and vets. As Ben had been a little difficult lately I think we were all expecting him to be fractious when the health visitor arrived. Usually he spent the whole time crying as the poor man performed his various checks and measurements and I usually ended up feeling sorry for the little chap. Today, strangely, and somewhat pleasingly, Ben was on his best behaviour as the health visitor arrived. Gail of course laid on the royal treatment complete with matching teacups, saucers and posh biscuits, specially purchased this very morning for the occasion. Thankfully, the visit went well and both Gail and Ben seemed to let out a sigh of relief once it was over. With all the biscuits demolished, largely by Hugo I couldn’t help notice, it was time to get him to the vet. ‘Come on then, Hugo,’ I barked from my position in the hallway. ‘Time for one last check-up with Gemma and then hopefully you can stay out of the vet’s for a bit.’ For once there was silence. ‘Hugo,’ I called again. Nothing. I padded upstairs, walked up and down the hallway, poked my nose in Gail and Simon’s room, Ben’s room, formerly Simon’s man cave, and even checked under Jenny’s bed, a favourite hiding place of his, but Hugo couldn’t be found. ‘He’s not in the loo is he?’ Jenny asked desperately, spotting me peeking in her wardrobe. I turned around and looked at her aghast. ‘Why do you think he’s in there?’ ‘I don’t really. I just saw it in a film the other night; he was watching with me. A pair of dachshunds didn’t want to go to the vet so they hid in the loo and got stuck.’ ‘Well, dachshunds can be particularly daft,’ I barked loftily. ‘But still, perhaps we’d better check just in case.’ Together, the two of us dashed to the bathroom and fearfully pushed open the heavy wooden door. Thankfully there wasn’t a puppy in the loo, but there was an awful lot of rustling coming from the laundry basket. Nodding at Jenny, she stood behind me and lifted the lid. Sure enough, an eager little pug face popped out of the basket, looking for all the world like an adorable meerkat. It was all I could do not to roar with laughter, particularly as my boy had his head firmly stuck in a pair of Simon’s boxer shorts. Jenny had no such manners and, at the sight of my son looking so disgusted by the pants stuck on his head, she burst into a fit of giggles. As I swallowed my laughter, I shot Jenny a mock reproving look and she managed to recover enough to pluck Simon’s underwear from Hugo. He was so excited to be rid of the offending pants that he bolted out, turning the basket upside down for the second time that day. The relief on his wrinkly little face as he sat on the floor breathing in great lungfuls of air almost had me in stitches. Thankfully, I managed to restrain myself and instead concentrated on picking up the rest of the laundry. The last thing I wanted to do was encourage him to do this again by letting him know I secretly found it hysterical. ‘The smell, Daddy, the smell,’ Hugo whined between gulps of air. ‘I thought I was going to die, Daddy.’ ‘Well you’re perfectly safe now,’ I barked. ‘What were you doing in there anyway?’ Jenny chuckled, as she helped me scoop the laundry back into the basket. ‘I got stuck,’ Hugo explained. ‘I was just practising my climbing and jumping skills but ended up falling in.’ Jenny paused for a moment and looked at Hugo, clearly trying to decipher what he was barking. Although she usually understood me perfectly well, the puppies were a different matter. As he looked at Jenny, Hugo did the thing he knew always made her heart melt and slumped on the floor, head on top of his front paws, and looked up at her with big eyes. ‘Oh, Hugo, we’ll make sure you never end up in the washing basket again you poor thing,’ she said, planting so many kisses on his face, he howled in delight. I rolled my eyes. Hugo might not have been with us very long, but he had become a master manipulator when it came to human beings. ‘Anyway,’ I barked, moving things along. ‘You’re OK, that’s the main thing.’ Hugo eyed me fearfully as Jenny got up to stand the washing basket back on the floor, ‘You say that, Daddy, but I’m not sure. I think the smell might have damaged my little lungs. I feel ever so weak.’ With that he gave a little cough, before turning it into a full-on choking fit. It was no good I had to turn away from him. There were times being a dad and setting a good example was the hardest job in the world, especially when all I wanted to do was join in the joke or smother Hugo with kisses. Even though I knew he was trying to do all he could to get out of going to the vet’s, his performance was so good, I was almost tempted to let him off. Almost but not quite. I managed to get myself under control and, without looking at Jenny, who I knew would set me off, cocked my head to one side and regarded him carefully. I barked seriously. ‘I’m sorry to hear that.’ Hugo met my eyes. ‘That’s OK, Daddy. It’s not your fault.’ I licked his ear. ‘That’s sweet of you to yap. But I’m worried about you if you’re feeling this poorly.’ Hugo nuzzled my nose. ‘I’ll be OK, Dad. You taught me to be a big strong boy so that’s what I’ll be.’ ‘I know,’ I barked thoughtfully. ‘But I think if you’re ill, then it’s even more important we take you to the vet’s.’ As Hugo looked at me in alarm, I could almost see the cogs of his little brain cells working overtime as he tried to work out how his plan had backfired. ‘You know,’ Hugo ventured, ‘I think I’m feeling better now and I don’t want to waste Gemma’s time.’ I glanced at him, pretending to give it some serious consideration before I shook my head. ‘Sorry, think we’d better let Gemma check you out even though you have made a miraculous recovery.’ Growling under his breath, Hugo knew better than to argue and instead padded slowly out of the bathroom. ‘What was all that about?’ Jenny asked me as we followed Hugo downstairs. Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». 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