The watchdog was not tall, but squat and broad-chested. Thanks to the long, slightly curly wool, there was a distant resemblance to a white poodle, but only with a poodle, which was never touched by soap, comb or scissors. In the summer he constantly ran from head to end of the tail with spiny “thongs”, in autumn the clumps of wool on his legs and abdomen, sprawled in the mud and then dried, turned into hundreds of brown, dangling stalactites.
The ears of Barbosa always wore traces of “fighting fights”, and in especially hot periods of dog flirting, they turned into freakish festons. Such dogs, as he, are from the beginning and everywhere called Barbos. Occasionally only, and then, as an exception, they are called Druzhki. These dogs, if I’m not mistaken, come from simple mongrels and sheep dogs. They differ in fidelity, independent character and delicate hearing.
Zhulka also belonged to a very common breed of small dogs, those tonkonogih dogs
with smooth black hair and yellow markings above the eyebrows and on the chest, which are so fond of retired officials. The main feature of her character was a delicate, almost shy politeness. This does not mean that she immediately turned over on her back, started to smile or humbly crawled on her stomach as soon as a man spoke to her (this is how all hypocritical, flattering and cowardly little dogs behave). No, she approached a good person with her bold trustfulness, leaning on his knee with her front paws and gently stretching out her face, demanding affection.
Its delicacy was expressed mainly in the manner it is. She never begged, on the contrary, she always had to be asked to take a bone. If another dog or people came up to her during the meal, Zhulka modestly stepped aside with a look that seemed to say: “Eat, eat, please… I’m already quite full…” Really, in it at these times was much less doggy than in other respectable human faces during a good dinner.
Of course, Zhulka unanimously admitted to be a dog dog. As for Barbosa, we, the children, very often had to defend
him from the righteous wrath of the elderly and life-long exile to the courtyard. Firstly, he had very vague notions of ownership (especially if it concerned food supplies), and secondly, did not differ in the toilet. This robber should not have fired one good half of the fried Easter turkey, brought up with special love and fatted with some nuts, or lie down, having just jumped out of a deep and dirty puddle, to the festive, white, snow-covered bedspread of my mother’s bed.
In the summer, he was condescendingly condescending, and he usually lay on the windowsill of the open window in the sleeping lion’s pose, tucked his muzzle between his outstretched forelegs. However, he did not sleep: it was seen on his eyebrows, all the time did not stop moving. The watchdog waited… As soon as a dog figure appeared on the street just outside our house. The watchdog quickly slid from the window, slipped on the belly into the gateway and carried a full career to the impudent violator of territorial laws. He firmly remembered the great law of all martial arts and battles: beat first, if you do not want to be beaten, and therefore flatly refused all diplomatic methods accepted in the canine world, like a preliminary mutual sniffing, threatening growling, a tail ringing, and so on.
The watchdog, like lightning, overtook an opponent, he knocked him off his feet and started bickering. Within a few minutes, amidst a thick column of brown dust, two canine bodies floundered, weaving together a ball. Finally, Barboz won. At that time, when the enemy flew, clutching the tail between his legs, squealing and cowardly looking back. The watchdog with a proud look was returning to his post on the windowsill. It is true that sometimes with this triumphal procession he strongly limped, and his ears were decorated with extra festoons, but, probably, the victorious laurels seemed to him the sweeter.
Between him and Zhulka reigned a rare agreement and the most tender love. Perhaps, in secret, Zhulka condemned her friend for her violent disposition and bad manners, but in any case she clearly never said it. Even then, she held back her displeasure when Barbosa, after swallowing her breakfast in several receptions, lickily licked her lips, approached Zhulkin’s bowl and stuffed her wet, hairy muzzle into it. In the evening, when the sun burned not so much, both dogs liked to play and tinker in the yard. They then ran one from the other, then ambushed, then pretended, with an angry growl, they pretended that they were fiercely gnawing among themselves.
One day a rabid dog came running into our yard. The watchdog saw her from his window-sill, but instead of, as usual, rush into battle, he only shook his whole body and squealed pitifully. The dog rushed around the yard from corner to corner, catching up with panic terror in both its appearance and on humans and animals. People hid behind the doors and feared peevishly because of them, All shouted, disposed, gave stupid advice and podzadorivali each other. The mad dog, meanwhile, had already bitten two pigs and severed several ducks.
Suddenly everyone gasped in fright and surprise. Somewhere from behind the barn a little Zhulka jumped out and ran into a wild dog in all the jumps of her thin legs. The distance between them decreased with astonishing rapidity. Then they collided… It all happened so quickly that no one even had time to recall Zhul’ka back. From a strong push, she fell and rolled on the ground, and the mad dog immediately turned to the gate and jumped out into the street.
When Julia was examined, no traces of teeth were found on her. Probably, the dog did not even have time to bite her. But the tension of the heroic impulse and the horror of the experienced moments did not go in vain for poor Zhulka… Something strange, inexplicable happened to her. If dogs had the ability to go crazy, I would say that she was insane. In one day she was emaciated beyond recognition; then lay for whole hours in some dark corner; then rushed around the yard, circling and bouncing. She refused food and did not turn around when she was called by name.
On the third day, she was so weak that she could not rise from the ground. Her eyes, as bright and intelligent as ever, expressed deep inner anguish. By order of her father, she was taken to an empty wood-burning barn so that she could die peacefully there. (After all, it is known that only a person decorates his death so solemnly, but all animals, feeling the approach of this disgusting act, seek solitude.)
An hour after Zhul’ka was locked, Barbosa ran to the shed. He was very excited and began to squeal first, and then howl, raising his head upward. Sometimes he stopped for a moment to smell the crevice of the shed with an anxious air and wary ears, and then again, piercingly and pitifully howled.
He tried to recall it from the barn, but it did not help. He was driven and even hit several times with a rope; he escaped, but immediately returned stubbornly to his place and continued to howl.
Since children generally stand to animals much closer than adults think, we first guessed what Barbos wants.
– Daddy, let Barbos go to the barn. He wants to say goodbye to Zhulka. Let go, please, dad, – we pestered my father.
He first said: “Nonsense!” But we climbed up to him and whimpered so much that he had to give in.
And we were right. As soon as the door of the shed was opened, Barbos rushed headlong to Zhulka, helplessly lying on the ground, sniffed her and with a low squeal began to lick her in the eyes, in the face, in the ears. Zhulka waved her tail weakly and tried to raise her head-she could not do it. There was something touching in the parting of the dogs. Even the servants, who were staring at this scene, seemed touched.
When Barbosa was called, he obeyed and, leaving the barn, lay down near the doors on the ground. He no longer worried and did not howl, but only occasionally raised his head and seemed to listen to what was being done in the shed. About two hours later he again howled, but so loudly and so expressively that the coachman had to get the keys and open the doors. Zhulka lay motionless on her side. She died…