The RSPCA shelter didn’t tell us too much about Storm, the nine-year-old rough-haired lurcher, other than that he’d been ‘surrendered’ along with Biscuit, a knuckly little tan terrier with a ratty tail. The ‘surrendered’ description was odd. It made it sound as if the inspectors had surrounded a bungalow, and after a tense standoff, the dogs had come out with their paws up.
In fact, if they hadn’t told us which dog was which, I would’ve thought the terrier was Storm and the lurcher, Biscuit – particularly if the biscuit was made of shredded coconut and lightly toasted. Apparently Storm doted on Biscuit but the feeling wasn’t reciprocated and they weren’t up for adoption as a couple. They were sharing a cage on our first visit, though, Biscuit raging up and down the pen, Storm sitting in his basket sadly observing all the comings and goings as if he’d expected this all along. We were told that Storm had been reserved by someone who lived on a canal boat – which seemed about right. I could imagine Storm in a flat cap and neckerchief, whistling sadly as they entered a tunnel. He was cute, and looked like a good match for our lurcher, Lola, but the fact was, even if he was available, he looked quite leggy and might not fit through our pet flap. Biscuit looked too much of a handful. Like adopting a gangster.
When we came back for a second visit Biscuit had gone and Storm was on his own in the pen. The boat deal had fallen through and Storm was back on the market.
‘Why don’t you take him for a walk?’ they said. ‘He’s such a lovely dog. He’s had a tough time. He needs a break.’
Apparently the previous owner hadn’t been able to cope with either of them. Storm had been so badly malnourished his coat was threadbare, he’d had some kind of skin problem, half his teeth were rotten, and he’d had so little exercise his back legs buckled when he walked. But the RSPCA had set him on the long road to recovery, first with a visit to the vet who took out fourteen teeth and treated his skin condition, then with an intensive programme of nutrition and exercise.
The trial walk went well. Storm trotted along with an insouciant kind of wobble. Barked at some other dogs in an unexpectedly booming voice that was more like a toothless wolf than a pet. Maybe that was where the name came from. But he was endearing and lovely and we thought we’d come back for a second visit, this time with Lola. They walked together well enough, and if it wasn’t love at first sight, at least it looked like a workable kind of tolerance. We signed the papers, bought a new collar and lead – and brought the Storm home.