Sunday, 3 February 2013

We need to talk about Billy

Years and years ago, the world’s fattest, most annoying dog appeared, out of nowhere, on my parents’ front doorstep.  Having just gotten rid of the world’s most stupid dog (to the Grim Reaper) they were – understandably- reluctant to take on another pooch.  However, as often happens with stray dogs - particularly greedy, tenacious stray dogs - one night became two, became 7, became 10 years.

Throughout this time, the dog – now named Billy – got bigger and fatter and more annoying with every passing day.  Which didn’t stop the Boy from adoring him;  on the contrary, his abnormally high levels of irritation seemed to appeal to the Boy, who delighted in particular in feeding him whole, raw potatoes. 

Years passed, and Billy eventually got so annoying sick that he was, last year – more perhaps? – given a one-way ticket to the great potato patch in the sky. His absence under our feet at the dinner table during visits to Dublin was explained by “holidays”.  “He’s on his holidays,” I’d say, when asked, on a loop, where Billy was.  “Still on holidays,” I’d say, 6 months later. 

Not that the Boy’s queries were confined to our visits to Dublin;  periodically he’s brought up – in memory only – here. (He was, however, responsible once for literally bringing up his predecessor;  the memory of him gambolling about with something – what is he holding? Oh sweet Jesus... – in his mouth is one which will haunt me forever.  Let that alone serve as a warning to NEVER bury a dog in a shallow grave in a back garden.  Remember: Even fat dogs can dig.)

Months having passed since the last enquiry, I assumed that Billy has finally been forgotten.  Then last night, while discussing a forthcoming trip to Dublin:  “We’ll see Billy!!”. 

I decided it was time to tell him the truth.  We’ve spoken about death ALOT so I figured there wouldn’t be too much explaining to do.

“Billy is dead, sweetheart.  He died a long time ago.”

“Why did he die?”

“He got very old, and his body stopped working, and he died.”

“Why did his body stop working?”

“It just did.  So, back to Dublin.  Who else...”

“Where is he now?”

“He’s dead honey.”

“Yes, but where IS he?”

“His body is buried in the garden.” (Will they never learn?)


“When he died Pops buried his body in the garden.”  [Actually, thinking about it I think they had him cremated. I know!  A dog!  Either way, we were always going to hit a sticky spot here.]


[At which point I realised, notwithstanding having been through this dozens of times already, he still doesn’t get it.  Not that it’s the easiest concept to get, of course, but I thought by now he’d at least grasped the fundamentals.]

“He won’t.  When you’re dead you don’t move any more.  You go to sleep and never wake up.”

“Do you have dreams?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Why not?”

“Your brain has stopped working.  All of your body stops working.  So it’s like sleep, but forever.”

“For EVER???”

I nod.

“And THEN what happens??”

“Um... you sort of... [cough]... melt into the ground and then... [splutter]... turn into soil.”


[OhGodohGodohGod.  Then:  brainwave!] “It’s the circle of life.  Like in The Lion King.  You start from nothing then go back to nothing.”


[By now I am wishing that I could melt into the ground and turn into soil]

“Do you remember before you were born?”

[He looks at me sideways.  I know and he knows - and he knows that I know - that he can barely remember yesterday]

“Well, it’s like that.  Before you were born you didn’t exist.  And after you die, you don’t exist.” 

“I won’t essist?”


“Will you essist?”


“Nobody will essist?”

“Eventually, no.”


And so ended another traumatic bed-time chat. 

Or so I thought.  This morning, he was lying on his bed, pjs off, tugging on his willy.

“Willy, someday you won’t essist.  You will get old and stop working and then I’ll bury you in the garden.” 

I think we might be back to square one.


  1. Oh bless him! This reminded me of when our dog died and my son was 3. I told him that Jack had gone up to heaven (why I said this when we're all atheist I still don't know!)Ollie then asked me how he got up to Luckily, he came up with his own theory that God must drop down a rope for Jack to climb up. Yes, I said, that must be how it happens. The situations we get ourselves into!x

  2. My dog is clearly concerned about my continued assistance, I am laughing so much at this.

  3. My mom had one of our dogs cremated. I know, weird, right? But eldest brother was in Virginia or DC or New York or some place, Teacher was in Long Island getting his Masters, and I was in England for 3.5 months. She was so afraid that we would all think she'd just waited for us to leave to "kill" our dog that she had Noodles cremated so that we could all say goodbye (Teacher lived in Arizona, where Mom is now, when Isabel died so that doggie did not get the same treatment.)

  4. Poor Billy, poor Willy, HAHAHA!

  5. Oh my heavens. It's always penis first, isn't it? First, last, and always.

  6. Jeez - tough love! This got me thinking - I wonder did Richard Dawkins tell his kids there was no Santa?

  7. the reason, you seem to forget, that billy was cremated is because a bulldozer would have had to be hired to dig a hole that big.

  8. One of my sons once asked if nanny went to heaven on the bus! What can you say? He's now a little older and things are even more confusing for him and his brothers - they asked what the 2 jars were in the loft and without thinking we said "It's Nanny and Grandad" so now they are trying to work out how they are in heaven whilst similtaneously being a stored in jars in the loft (we got round the whole cremation thing by refering to the death of Darth Vadar in Star Wars). There are going to be some very mixed up kids out there....

  9. This is quite possibly the funniest explanation of death I have ever heard I am literally crying with laughter!!!!!!! And just the funniest thing the way you talk about Billy because as you know from my dog blog this is how I talk about Marley!!!!

  10. The dog dug up his predecessor?! I knew there was a reason one doesn't bury the old willies that stop working in the garden. Imagine the dog finding them!

  11. brilliant. just brilliant......still laughing... thank you!

  12. Gawd, how traumatic...I still revert to manically changing the subject whenever anything tricky comes up. Such a chicken, I know.

  13. Oh dear lord.
    I have just created a scene at work laughing until i was very close to weeing, as I have a willie-fixated one year old and I think you have just given me a glimpse into the future.

  14. This is funniest thing I've read in like, EVER!

    I read it out loud to my two just-teens, and Girl had to finish reading it as I couldn't speak from laughter and tears streaming down my face :)

    Awesome blog