Marlow’s face twitched nervously. He said to Buddy, “You’re kidding, right?”
“By woof I’ve never been so serious in my life!” exclaimed Buddy. “What better way for humans to learn of their inner canine instincts, than to see an example of a rich and successful dog man? I would do it myself, but I am busy here managing the football league on this side of the galaxy.”
“Well,” said Marlow, “thanks but no thanks. It’s not a deal I can do. Once again, I’m glad you found happiness as a dog, and I’m proud to say that of my two best friends, one is furry and four-footed, but as for myself, I like being human and I intend to stay that way.”
“Suit yourself,” said Buddy. “I hope you enjoy being poor, because I could have made you the richest dog-man on Earth.”
“Poor, but human,” said Marlow.
We wished our strange host goodnight, and returned via the sky-train to our kennels. I was looking forward to one more sound sleep under the influence of good old gravity before returning to our spaceship and resuming our weightless wanderings. I curled up but as I was dozing off, my ears waggled with the sound of my friends talking.
The parrot was saying, “Of all the conundrums and contradictions we’ve come across in this universe, a super-intelligent dog is the strangest yet.”
“Astropup always says a dog is not about intelligence, but about love,” agreed Marlow, “which is why a computer will never replace him. But I don’t see much evidence of a dog’s heart in Buddy.”
“He’s living proof that a hairy face and a wet nose don’t make a dog,” said the parrot. “It’s what’s going on, or not going on, inside that counts. A dog needs a warm heart and no more than three thoughts in his brain – loyalty, food, and walkies. If he thinks any more than that on a regular basis, he’s no more of a dog than you or I.”
I dozed off, happy that I had finally understood a clever conversation between my friends. Yes, I thought. A dog is about more than just a wet nose and a hairy face. How true, how very, very true…ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
In the morning, the lights of the artificial planet gradually brightened. It was a new day. I had the overwhelming question in my head… what’s for breakfast?
As I was pondering this matter of great interest, I opened one eye. I could see across the way into Marlow’s kennel. He had trouble fitting his 6 foot two inch body into it, poor fellow. But it seemed that he had gone to sleep elsewhere, because his spot was occupied by a dog that I had not seen before. He wasn’t a breed I recognised but he was strangely familiar. He might have had a bit of bloodhound in him.
Perhaps he had a doggy sense that I was looking at him, for he too opened an eye and for a moment we gazed at each other in monovision.
“Rrrrr, Good morning, old friend,” he said.
Now this was a turn up for the books. The dog across the way spoke in human language. This is a feat that I manage for storytelling via an alien technological loopy thing that is built into our recording studio here. But there was no such loopy thing overthere. He just spoke like a human, only with a bit of gravel. In fact, he sounded rather like Marlow.
“Hello,” I answered back in our doggy woofy language. “Who are you?”
He started to haul himself out of his kennel, in an odd, not very dogged sort of a way, and then, after rolling a bit on his back to satisfy an itch, he stood up on two legs.
Now, I’m not really a guard dog, but when somebody strange comes along, like the postman or a creature whose half human half dog, I can’t help myself. I have to bark, “Woof woof woof!”
“Calm down Astropup,” said the dog man.
“Hey, that is Marlow’s voice,” I said. “What have you done with him?”
The dog man put his head on one side, puzzled like.
“He’s not done anything with him,” said another familiar voice. I turned my head and saw that the parrot was perched on the roof of his kennel holding a little budgie mirror. It was a free gift, courtesy of management, along with a water bottle and some seed.
“Just take a look at yourself,” he squawked.
“I know I could do with a shower and a shave,” said the strange person – a most unlikely thought for any type of dog, I must say.
The parrot fluttered over and held up the mirror to him.
“Who’s that?” asked the stranger who had stolen Marlow’s voice. He was peering at his own reflection – not very bright even by canine standards.
“It’s you, Marlow,” squawked the parrot. “You’ve turned into a dog.”
“Oh no!” said Marlow. And then he looked up at the sky of our artificial world and let out the most pitiful howl:
He sat down and held his head in his paws.
“How can this be?” he whimpered. “Didn’t I say no way Jose to the idea of becoming a dog?”
“Well,” said the parrot, “there is only one explanation. Our friend Buddy did not need your permission to crush one of his dog pills into your food last night. He’s determined that you and indeed all humans should turn into dog people like him, whether they agree or not.”
“You know what the worst thing about this situation is?” said Marlow.
“You mean the future of the human race is in doubt?” asked the parrot.
“Well there’s that, but right now, I’ve got an irresistible urge to scratch my ear with my hind foot. Astropup how do you live like this?”
“Oh, it’s easy,” I said. “I just scratch.”
Marlow looked so sad that I felt I had to give him some words of comfort. “Look, cheer up old friend, a dog’s life is not so bad. All you need is a kind master, and you’re set for life, especially if they let you sleep on the sofa. You haven’t tried dog food yet, have you? It’s delicious. And ‘fetch the ball’ is the best sport in the Universe, next to running into a flock of geese and setting them off honking and flapping. Honestly, it’s great being a dog.”
Marlow did not look cheered up – not one bit. He hung his head like a dog in the rescue pound, and said quietly, “Please don’t take offence Astropup my friend but…” And then, after a short pause, he threw his head up in the air and howled. “Can’t anyone understand? I don’t want to be a dog!!!!!!!!!!”
“Can’t say I blame you,” said the parrot. “Let’s get back to the spaceship. I need to work on my computer.”
It took us a while to remember where we parked our ship, but Marlow sniffed it out eventually. Back inside the familiar but not so comfortable surroundings, the parrot started to work on his computer, while Marlow curled up on the sofa in my favourite spot. Well, I let him have it for now, because he wasn’t having a good day. The parrot said:
“Astropup, what’s the dog password?”
“I can’t tell you that,” I said. “It’s the biggest secret we dogs have.”
“Well if you can’t share that information with us, then I’m afraid I can’t save Marlow.”
Marlow jumped off the sofa and adopted a begging position on his knees with his front paws hanging down at the floor. “Oh, oh please Astropup,” he panted. “Do tell the parrot the dog password. It’s my only chance.”
This was a difficult one. Should I be loyal to dog-kind or to my friends?
The parrot squinted his eyes and said:
“I promise to forget it as soon as I’ve used it.”
“Oh well alright then, so long as you cross your heart and hope to die, I’ll tell you,” I said.
“Go on then,” said the parrot. His beak paused above the keyboard of the computer.
“The password,” I said in a low voice, “is woof woof woof.”
“Is that it?” asked the parrot. “Woof woof woof?”
“Yes, it is the greatest secret known to dogs,” I said.
“Typical. Too stupid to guess,” said the parrot, and he tapped it into the computer. “Right-oh – here we are. I’ve hacked into Buddy’s laptop. He’s not so smart as he thinks, hey? Now, I need to find the formula for his dog pill. I suspect it’s under pills. Nope, here it is. He’s filed it under ‘genius inventions’. Let no one accuse him of false modesty.”
“Have you remembered to forget the password?” I asked, because that was the deal we had struck.
“Shut up, I’m working,” said the parrot, and for the next two hours he studied Buddy’s formula for the pill that turns humans into dogs.
At last he woke Marlow and me from our slumbers with a loud cry of “Eureka!”
“Woof woof!” said Marlow excitedly, before looking embarrassed with his tail between his legs and correcting himself. “Whoops, I mean, fantastic! You’ve found something.”
“I have indeed,” said the parrot. “All it takes is for me to change this little ‘1’ here into a ‘-1’ and the entire process is reversed. This becomes a pill to turn a dog person otherwise known as a werewolf back into a human.”
“A werewolf? I hadn’t thought of it like that,” said Marlow. “That’s even more creepy. Well go on, do it. What’s holding you back?”
“I have already changed the formula,” said the parrot.”
“Well I don’t feel any change.”
“Well you wouldn’t, would you? My dear dumb dogman, you haven’t taken the pill yet. We need to run one off on a pill making machine. I saw such a machine in the corner of Buddy’s room. You wait here, and I’ll go back and ask him to give me a few of these pills for the dog cure.”
“Do you think he will?”
“Yes, I do,” said the parrot, who was already making his way over to the exit chute.
And so we sat down and waited. Marlow, who had only about 12 hours practice at being a dog, was not yet very good at curling up and going to sleep with one ear open to listen out for the postman. He was impatient and kept on pacing up and down.
“Now I know what Noah felt like when he was in the ark waiting for the dove to come back with a leaf in its beak,” he said. “Only this time we’re expecting a parrot with a tablet.”
We waited, and waited, and waited and waited… until, at last, the parrot flung open the door of the airlock and said, “Ta! Ta!”
In doing so, not one, but three little tablets dropped onto the floor of the spaceship.
“Wow,” said Marlow. “Will that little tablet turn me back into a man?”
“Fetch a drink of water,” said the parrot.
Marlow came hurrying back from the tap with a syringe full of water. We were equipped to squirt water into our mouths in the weightlessness of space, or else it might have gone flying all over the place. He popped the pill onto his tongue and washed it down his throat with water.
“I don’t feel anything yet,” he said.
“You will… in 12 hours time,” said the parrot.
“Why did Buddy give you the pills?” I asked.
“Because,” said the parrot, “he had no idea that I had reversed their effect. He was happy to print them off the machine after I told him that I would slip them into the food of the World President, the singer, Fiancé, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. They would all turn into dogs and then everyone would want to follow suit, where as in actual fact, we could use one on Marlow to turn him back into our human companion of old, and I’ve kept two, just in case.”
“Just out of interest,” I said, “what would happen if I ate one?”
“That would be extremely unpredictable,” said the parrot. “Perhaps you might become smart.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t want that,” I said. “Besides, they don’t look like they would taste very nice. I’ll stick to Waggies, my favourite cheesy treats.”
“Yes, you do that,” said the parrot.
And before taking off we lay down and waited for Marlow to turn back into a human.
Thankyou Astropup. We’ll leave you there. Hopefully Marlow will be back to normal by the time of the next episode.