There is a cynical misconception that homeless people acquire dogs purely for the sympathy factor. For most, in my experience, the reason is not economical, though it does undoubtedly lead to more attention and more money. Homeless people need a companion on the busy but lonely streets, where real friends are few and far between. No man is an island, and dogs are man’s best friend.
Pete and Lloyd have a dog, a black mongrel called Bailey. Pete acquired him as a puppy when he still lived up north, and Lloyd became his stepfather once he and Pete became friends.
Bailey is Pete’s best friend. Pete talks to him all day. He confides in him as if he were human. Upon reflection, Bailey is trustworthier than many a human friend. He just listens. Lloyd pretends not to love Bailey, and refers to him as ‘the dog’ or ‘Pete’s dog’, usually sandwiching a profanity or two in there.
Brighton, being the dog-mad town that it is, is kind to Bailey. He is very popular. Pete and Lloyd often have more dog food than they know what to do with. The funny thing is that Bailey doesn’t like it. His diet consists predominantly of takeaway – curry, stir-fry, chippy – which are left charitably at Pete and Lloyds’ pitch for them to eat, and the dog polishes off the leftovers.
Now, our story.
Sat at their pitch, on the pavement, outside the dole office, under some scaffolding, just down the road from Brighton train station, Pete tells me what he wants to do for Bailey’s birthday. Whispering hoarsely into my ear, so the dog cannot hear, he tells me he wants to surprise Bailey with a birthday cake. But not just any old birthday cake. A birthday spacecake.
After an evening of port and pot, this idea sounded great. Inspired, even. Cooking your canine companion a cannabis cake – what a nice and thoughtful birthday surprise! What escaped Pete, and what sobriety confronted me with the following morning, was the potential ramifications of drugging a dog with hashish by way of a birthday cake containing other things suboptimal to its health.
Pete was set on this idea, I could not persuade him otherwise, even laying it on thick about how he could potentially kill his dog. “But Bailey likes to smoke, he smokes all the time,” Pete assures me, by which he means that the dog does not recoil when he exhales hash smoke in his direction. Lloyd could not give a toss either way, as long as he has a slice of spacecake for himself.
What to do?
Leaving the baking up to Pete, a perpetually drunk and high homeless man who can barely read or write, was not a feasible option. I took the initiative for Bailey’s sake and offered to bake the birthday spacecake. That way, I could ensure it did not contain chocolate, and, rather more relevantly, ensure we were not drugging the damn dog.
I baked five spacecakes containing a significant whack of their hash. One for me, one for Pete, one for Lloyd, one for their homeless Australian companion, and one for Bailey, containing only dog-friendly ingredients, 100% hash-free (or your money back).
So to the pitch! It’s only lunchtime but Pete and Lloyd are making merry, their Australian pal is barely conscious, and Bailey seems quite unaware that it is his birthday. They’ve written “Happy Birthday Bailey” on the plywood opposite their pitch. They are doubly celebratory as they have had a particularly profitable morning tapping coin, probably aided with the festive spirit and all.
Pete has purchased candles for Bailey’s birthday spacecake. After lighting the candles and loudly singing happy birthday to Bailey, Lloyd exclaims, “Now let’s get fucking stoooned!” We attempt to eat the spacecakes. I am no master baker. They are sludgy and unsweet, and the special ingredient gives it a sickly aftertaste. Bailey is the only one who does not harangue me for my baking skills, or lack thereof, and wolfs his hash-free birthday cake down. Our Australian friend is struggling to retain consciousness; slumped up against the dole office window, beer spilling from one hand, spacecake nestled in the other; his day is done as ours has just begun.
Bailey, that dog, that damn dog, trots over to the barely conscious Aussie, and in an instant wolfs down his spacecake, right out of his hand.
Bollocks. Bollocks. That did not go to plan.
Pete and Lloyd find it hilarious. I cannot help but laugh at the whole situation. And laugh, and laugh, and laugh. The Aussie is all but unconscious, so we leave him on the spot to guard the pitch whilst we go to the pub for pints and pool – of course!
En route to the pub we bump into another delightful and totally toothless homeless fellow, who asks us for a lighter. We oblige him, and he proceeds to produce his crack pipe and smoke crack in the middle of the street in broad daylight. He told me that smoking crack will help his teeth grow back. Upon reflection, I think he may have had it the wrong way round.
This pub is perfect for homeless chirpers; the landlord does not care that they are there, just that they spend some money; plus there is a real log fire. We float towards the bar, and Bailey bee-lines to the fire, curling up in a ball besides it. A very welcome change to the wintertime pavement.
We attempt a game of pool, and quickly lose track of whose turn it is, who is red, who is yellow – who is white? Who am I? What on God’s green earth am I doing here with these superb cretins, and their doped-up dog?
The dog! I go to check on Bailey by the fire. He has not moved an inch. Totally motionless. I check if he is alive and give him a pet. He remains totally motionless, but for his two eyes, opening, revealing the reddest eyes I have ever seen in any living being. Bollocks. I drugged the damn dog with cannabis cake.
Lloyd has followed me over from the pool table to gawp at Bailey. When he sees Bailey, high as a kite, with his plaintive, crimson puppy-dog eyes looking up at him from within his immobilised body, he bursts into raucous laughter. “The dog’s stoned! Pete! Yer dog’s stoooned!”
Bailey survived his ordeal. Pete told me the next day that he ate much of the dog food left him by Brighton’s dog fanatics. Bailey seemed tired, the poor sod, but he survived, and has survived worse.
My only worry is that Bailey’s future birthday surprises will be organised solely by Pete and Lloyd. I’m no master baker, but I wouldn’t trust their birthday cakes.
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