Big Rufus, Baker Street’s giant dog

Rufus

SO long Rufus, the beast of Baker Street, the star of Marylebone, dog of a hundred size-related nicknames and the basis for a thousand more ‘did you see that huge dog’ exclamations from passers-by. The six foot Pyrenean mountain dog, a truly wondrous spot if you ever ventured out towards west London, has sadly passed away.

If you saw Rufus on the tube, it was impossible not to stare – and impossible not to smile too, even if you were half wondering if this was actually a human in the best fancy dress onesie ever. Even if you’re not a dog person: look at the size of him, look at his face, he came with a quality to make us all soft-headed.

Couples arguing over who forgot to put the bins out, should have simply hired in Rufus just to come and sit in the kitchen and all levels of grouchiness would be forgotten for the night. No doubt he could’ve sat in a pub populated with Arsenal and Chelsea fans and pointless quarrels would fade. And, again, impossible to ignore on the tube, he could unite a carriage of people from different backgrounds and different circumstances – normally either awkwardly eyeballing each other and thinking how rubbish each other’s shoes are or burying themselves in their smartphone games – into one big smile. Twee, but kinda lovely.

So, when Michael Stavrides, his understandably heartbroken owner, who runs the Marylebone Art Gallery, says in an interview with the West End Extra that his death is a loss to “mankind”, it might sound a little over the top and fuelled by the emotion of grief. But its sentiment is true. People stopped to pat and chat outside the gallery or on the tube, the kind of friendly thing which supposedly only happens in Ladybird book utopia, rather than among people rushing from one stress to another in a city which tweets quicker than it can breathe.

Eventually, the dog’s local legend in that part of London was whispered to newspapers and he appeared in all of them. Our one, the Evening Standard, the Daily Mail: lots of ‘next stop Barking’ jokes, but the dog puns were unnecessary, just a picture of Rufus, a friendly old soul by all accounts, was enough. Baker Street will be a little less colourful without him.

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