Her home was utterly caninised. The visitor was greeted by the smell and barking of the dogs; the old carpet was soil encrusted from the pad-pad-padding of many feet; and doggie blankets furfully festooned the sofas.
Here a dog, there a dog, everywhere a dog-dog.
After the initial excitement of my arrival, they all settled back down into their regular spots. The big old black labrador climbed onto the end of one sofa and dropped her head onto the armrest, her gentle brown eyes following me around the room. Another one, a yellow dog of many breeds, sat on his bed on the floor, leaning against the wall with the curtain draped stylishly over his head. He had some kind of a fabric fetish. An assortment of different breeds and colours dotted the room.
No, dotted is not the right word. They monopolised the room. They were the room ... its decor, its atmosphere, its very raison d'etre.
When I couldn't find a free spot to sit down, the woman rooted around under a chair and pulled out a plastic lid. She placed it over the bin of dried food and beckoned me to sit down. She squashed up with the dogs on a sofa and, after some grunting, one of the dogs reluctantly moved onto the floor.
You've never been somewhere like that? I have. Many times.
"How many dogs have you got now, Maisie?"
"I reckon about 12."
"You know you're not supposed to have more than three?"
"But who'd look after the dogs if I didn't?"
Maisie was one of a special breed herself. An older woman on a pension, living alone (humanwise, that is), she somehow accumulated stray dogs. Lots of them. I'm not going to offer a theory of why she does it. All I know is that the dogs are her entire life.
"I don't know what we're going to do about you, Maisie." Sometimes I just hate my council job.