DOG PEOPLE • by Ian Rochford

Everyone agreed that James and Millicent Harrington in number twenty seven were a lovely couple. Their house was always clean and well-kept and their dogs were the same. All twenty of them. The high wire fence around their back yard stopped the dogs from getting out into the neighbourhood, which was also clean and well-kept, and at night the dogs retired to their kennels and hardly barked at all. The situation of their house, in an awkward block at the end of Primrose Lane, meant they had no immediate neighbours to disturb other than the frogs and small animals that lived in the scrub by Whipple Creek, which gave the quiet little suburb its name.

The Harringtons were middle aged and their dogs were the centre of their lives. They had spaniels and retrievers, poodles and terriers, two Labradors and a tiny mongrel named Elmer. Most of the dogs were pure-bred and would undoubtedly have placed in dog shows. Indeed, the Harringtons had blue ribbons from the old days, when they used to travel around the country with their original show dogs. Occasionally friends and neighbours were invited in for tea and had the chance to view these awards, along with a surprising number of trophies and plaques from dog shows past. Some of the smaller dogs were also allowed into the house during these visits, though it was clear from the number of toys and unavoidable claw and tooth marks on the furniture that many more were allowed in when there were no visitors.

No one was ever taken out to see the kennels, however. James admitted that he was very proud of the structure, which was built better than some houses and covered two-thirds of the spacious back yard, but it was a matter of safety — just in case, you know. It was clear that the Harringtons were what everyone smilingly referred to as “dog people”. They had no children, nor seemed interested in having them. Indeed, the few people who took their children on visits to number twenty seven noted that the Harringtons actually seemed to dislike children, though they were polite and hid the fact as best they could. Well, that was fair enough, the people of Whipple Creek decided, not everyone had to like children, or even be nice to them.

They were a lovely couple, that was the consensus, and they truly loved their dogs, so when they were killed by a drunk driver on the highway while returning home from Church, it was with heavy hearts that that the neighbours watched as Animal Control handlers arrived to round up the dogs and take them away in vans.

Two secrets came to light, which provided fuel for chatter for years to come. The Harringtons had not been childless after all, and not all of the kennels were occupied by dogs.

Ian Rochford is an occasional TV writer (ostensibly of comedy) who recently rediscovered the pleasures of writing short stories (i.e., unemployed). Now plundering his fading memory for all the good ideas that came and went unrecorded, which probably accounts for the maddening inconsistency of his output.

This story was sponsored by
Naked Metamorphosis — All the world’s a stage… and Franz Kafka wants to direct. An absurdist’s version of Hamlet complete with heretofore unexplored heights of depravity, cockroach transformation, Shakespearean bawdiness, and split infinitives!

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Every Day Fiction

  • I was expecting to be shocked (would have given reasons why, except that would give the story away to those who have yet to read) but I loved the way you shocked me! Five!

  • I always knew dog people couldn’t be trusted. Good one, Ian.

  • Congrats Ian 🙂


  • This is a strange one. It seems to be more a character sketch than a story right up to the end, when all of a sudden we get an O.Henry ending. In fact the ending felt TOO sudden.

    Nice writing, though.

  • Amy Corbin

    Gruesome ending, just gruesome. Good writing.

  • J.C. Towler

    Warped. Much like people in real life who do similar things.

    I think that the story works against itself by spending so much time painting the idyllic scene. First, it is boring. Second, it is a sure signal that something twisted is inevitable. Yes, it sets up the end, but that could be done in a variety of ways that don’t leave it looking like, as Jim(#4) said, a character sketch.


  • Margie

    Absolutely wicked!

  • Nancy Wilcox

    I knew what was coming. It was inevitable, given the kennels, and the privacy. But it was well done.

  • Loved it! What a great, wicked twist at the end. A 5 from me.

  • Jen

    At first I thought this was an ordinary slice of life story about pwoplw that liked dogs obsessivly, there are many people like this in real life. But that ending was a great twist! An absolute five from me!

  • Absolutely delightful! I grinned and chuckled aloud at the ending. Lovely!

  • Sharon

    I knew something was coming, but not what and when–the ending smacked me upside the head. I like stories that do that. 5 paws way up.

  • Neat tale! Led me right down the garden path even tho I knew something was coming. Nice twist.

  • Lisa C.

    Nice character sketch. Nothing happens, though, until the last paragraph, when we get the surprise. There’s twist endings that work, and twist endings that don’t. I knew something had to be coming because of the volume of character description (90% of the story), but by the time it did (out of the blue), I didn’t really care. It didn’t work for me, sorry. Nicely written, though.

  • Thanks to all who read this – Jim, J.C. & Lisa, yes, probably too much character sketch and not enough story. Mea culpa, and thanks for your honest assessments.

  • Spike

    While the story does have some flaws, such as broadcasting an O-Henry ending and not engaging the reader until the end, it is a good idea. My suggestion to you Ian, is to get MORE character in the story, as I don’t agree with the above posters that this was a character sketch. People want to read about people. I’d try rewriting this one, and focusing on one of the characters, so that when the ending comes, the reader will have no choice but to care what happens.
    Best of luck to you.

  • Spike wrote “People want to read about people”.

    Wrong, in general. Only people persons do. For the rest of us (task oriented like me, or information oriented), that’s just background. It may be necessary to provide it so that actions (say) have subject matter, but putting more in just slows the pace for us and ends up distracting from the story and draining for the reader (if he or – far less often – she is of one of these other types). If you’re only trying to reach a narrow audience of people persons it’s sound advice, but if you’re trying to reach a broad audience you have to find and then apply writing techniques that deliver for all the segments you want to reach, without imposing too much cost on the others.

    Here’s a case in point: many years ago I saw a one man theatre production based on the life of Rudyard Kipling. At one point, the playwright had really screwed up this way from complete incomprehension of other types of people. There is a one or two page passage in the Kipling short story The Devil and the Deep Sea in which he describes how various parts of a ship fail, leading to loss of the whole ship, all in intimate detail. The playwright couldn’t make sense of it – no people, you see – and made his Kipling make excuses for it as irony; he himself found it tedious and inexplicable on its own terms, though please note that that didn’t stop him enjoying the whole story (which is what I wanted to bring out, about catering for a broad audience). Yet I had read that story before, and I had found that passage the most riveting part! Kipling had actually written for all types of people, but that playwright was so much a people person that he made his Kipling narrow too, which rang false and damaged the play for me. The playwright wasn’t large enough to carry Kipling.

  • Dave (evertsen) Powell

    The idea is too good to resist. Would like to see another dimension to the ‘dog people’ that would really wrong foot the reader.


  • Alvin

    Four paws and a ripped couch.

  • The twist ending got me. I was expecting something, but not that. I thought the journey to get to the ending could have been trimmed down a bit.

  • Serin

    Well done Ian, I could hear the desperate housewife style of narration in the background- that, in my mind, is a big compliment.

  • April

    Awesome final twist–what a gasping surprise:}

  • I know I’m coming in very late, but I think this was very well done Ian. I think this is a style that is different, and therefore still worth reading.

  • Thanks Bernard! And thanks to those others who left a comment… where did last year go? I actually tracked down that Kipling story, a good read. Thanks Spike, ev, alvin, erin, serin and April.

    I must get around more and read some EDF posts.

    Happy New Year!

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