I live with Mongrel Beast. It’s not a choice I had. (And perhaps that’s why I resent its presence so much). To think of Mongrel Beast as a dog isn’t really fair to any canid and doesn’t really do justice to what it’s really like living, trying to live, with such a creature. But perhaps that is the easiest to comparison to help us, both you and me, to get a handle on what this Mongrel Beast of mine is really like.
So, if Mongrel Beast were a dog, it would be one of those smallish curs that you see in some urban places wandering aimlessly about, purposeless and friendless. It has never been wanted and it has never been loved. It is welcome nowhere. Survival is more a matter of chance than anything else yet it still holds tenaciously to life, even bereft of sight or hearing, ear(s) or limb(s). It is of dubious parentage and even more dubious manners.
I say ‘small’ but if Mongrel Beast were a dog, it’d actually be quite large, you know, one of those all-consuming masses of hot, heaving, smelly, hairy dogdom that even the most determined dog lover would feel the need to apologise for any time anyone came to the house. The kind that doesn’t moult but sort of oozes clouds of fluffy hair; the kind that drools lazily but consistently; the kind that feels the need to pump stale, foetid dog breath in your face; the kind that farts, loud and repugnant, as an icebreaker and room-clearer; the kind that drapes itself casually but possessively across any sofa or bed regardless of its own size or filth.
If Mongrel Beast were a dog, it certainly wouldn’t be the discreet kind of dog that you could maybe sneak into your local pub or even better heeled locales. It wouldn’t be the kind of dog, regardless of the (im)purity of its bloodline, that could tempt or even charm with looks or eyes even the hardest hearted of dog haters. Mongrel Beast would be the shaggy, ill kempt monstrosity that all the other dogs wouldn’t be seen dead greeting in the park. Boycotted by all kinds, given a wide and suspicious berth, Mongrel Beast doesn’t really belong anywhere and it certainly isn’t welcome.
If Mongrel Beast were a dog, it wouldn’t be a stray with all the other strays in an area or region where such dogs are to be found. Oh no, Mongrel Beast haunts respectable neighbourhoods, a lone spectre of decrepit bad taste, lowering the tone, frightening the children, leaving whispered fear, shock and horror in his wake. The kind that no kind or soft-hearted stranger would ever consider giving a chance. It would lurk, wild-eyed, just within sight of the swings in the park; apart from community and society but far too close for comfort.
Mongrel Beast is not the kind of thing that you can take anywhere; it doesn’t do polite company or in fact, company of any kind. It runs to its mysterious wills and whims, scorning conventions and expectations, acknowledging no master. It follows you along, like a slinking cur, possessive and obsessive, and impossible to shake off.
Society has tried to name and thus, hopefully, tame a few of its cousins. (Although whether by naming the beast it is actually tamed or whether the name just allows a formal introduction, a handle by which we can grasp and try to explain the presence in our lives to the rest of society is a different debate). There was the Hound of the Baskervilles, of course, a creature whose actual substance still remains contested yet looms large and fearsome in the popular consciousness. Then there is the more slowly popularised Black Dog whose presence and impact cannot be contested but is still a highly unwelcome visitor.
The impact it has had on me is similar (perhaps scarily so) to that portrayed by the pictures and words of Matthew Johnstone as he charts his relationships with his own beast, Black Dog. After all, it’s not the nature of the beast that is hardest to deal with, to live with, to explain but the impact it has on our lives, our relationships and our outlook. Perhaps by talking about these creatures openly and honestly we can start to address the issues in a better, more reliable manner. Perhaps that’s why they need names.
I live with Mongrel Beast.