Before I can stop Digger, he is greeting Cass and Sal with an enthusiastic leap, boffing Sal on the chest and then, warming to Cass’s scent (Ralph Lauren Notorious if I’m not mistaken), latching on to her leg and giving it a good old hump before I can yank him off and shut him in the bathroom.
‘Sorry about that,’ I say, ushering Sal to a chair. She rummages in her bag and pulls out her inhaler.
‘What was that?’ asks Cass, putting her basket on the floor and taking off her old shooting coat to reveal a black scoop-necked top and a stripy pencil skirt.
‘I say.’ I look her up and down admiringly. ‘Everso Notorious.’
‘And whose is it?’ continues Cass. ‘Not yours, I hope.’
‘No, he’s Dan’s. Digger. It’s a kind of try-out, because I’m going into the dogminding business. I’m working up to 8.3 recurring dogs a day.’
‘There’s a law against that now,’ says Cass.
‘No! Don’t tell me there’s a law against 8.3 recurring dogs!’ I twist the ice tray over a glass and send cubes cascading over the kitchen worktop.
Cass is shaking her head. ‘Where did you get that figure from?’
‘I had a life coaching session with Meredith, my American friend from Hong Kong, after I last saw you, and she worked it out. 8.3 recurring dogs equals 45 grand a year.’ I scoop up the ice cubes, clink them into our glasses and pour in the mojito that I efficiently made earlier.
‘But you’d have no recurring friends if you had 8.3 recurring dogs,’ points out Cass.
‘That’s true,’ says Sal, breathing steadily again. ‘And you’d smell.’
‘You’re right,’ I say, sticking a sprig of mint in the glasses before handing out the cocktails. ‘I’d smell, my house would smell… it already does after one night with Digger.’
‘I wouldn’t be able to come in,’ adds Sal. ‘I’d have to have so much anti-histamine… Ooh! That’s strong! I’ll fall over after one of these!’
‘You’d be driving round in one of those vans with mesh between you and the dogs,’ says Cass. ‘Mmm! What’s in this?’
‘Oh, just rum, fresh lime, soda, sugar, mint... I suppose I’d never pull another man, except perhaps a dog-fancier,’ I add.
‘You don’t want doggy people sniffing round you,’ says Cass.
‘No, you’re right. I’m not that doggy myself. I’m only selectively retrievery and labradory.’
‘Maybe that’s where you’ve gone wrong,’ Cass says cryptically.
Dusty, I notice, has emerged from under the table and is sniffing Cass’s basket with interest. ‘Have you got some food in there?’ I ask.
‘No, it’s Plum. Get your nose out, Dusty!’ And there, curled up in her African shopping basket, is Cass’s new Jack Russell puppy.