Chapter 11: Lolloping for Beginners

An awkward confession – Cooking for Elvis – Cars – Neurologists – Lolloping at Crufts – As silent (but not nearly as co-ordinated) as an Owl – Suspiciously the Same Paw

paw print

I keep a dream diary.

Which is, by the way, exactly the kind of diary you can leave out anywhere, safe in the knowledge no-one’s going to read it – certainly not past the first few lines. Because whilst in real life it’s generally frowned on to run screaming down the road when someone says to you ‘I had this weird dream last night…’ so you’re obliged to stand there secretly pinching yourself to stay focused whilst they segue endlessly from being naked in an exam hall to cooking spaghetti for Elvis and so on, and you feel the inevitable so what do you think THAT all means? looming towards you on the horizon like some alien moon, and you’re wondering if a shrug’ll do it – with a dream diary you can just snap it shut and move on.

I only mention it because the way Stanley runs reminds me of a dream I had.

I was in a car that was going faster and faster. And people were jumping out of the way and screaming, and I was desperately pumping the brakes and slamming the gears but nothing worked. And then the steering wheel came off in my hands and I was left grappling with the steering column, twisting it left and right…

(So what do you think THAT all means….?)

I’m sure if you put Stanley through a CAT scan you’d see the reason why.
‘This region here…’ says the Neurologist – a severe looking individual in a white lab coat and fifties specs, hair brilliantined back, holding a clipboard. (And I’m standing next to him, naked…. no, sorry, that’s another dream…) ‘This region here is what we call the Lollopus Ganglious. It’s the region that provides excitability and recklessness to the limbs. In Stanley’s case, I’m afraid this region is twice its normal size.’
‘What’s to be done?’
‘Why – nothing!’ smirks the Neurologist, repositioning his specs, then lighting a cigarette. ‘Just make sure you only let him off the lead in soft areas – ball pits, trampolines, marshmallow factories, that kind of thing. Some owners like to tie cushions around their pets. Others fly them on balloons rather than walk them….’

Then I wake up.

The truth is, though, for whatever reason, Stanley is fantastically uncoordinated. He lacks precision. He has no faculty for fine motor control. He runs like a squid escaping from a laboratory on the moon. Or a puppet dog on macramé legs that a leprechaun brought to life for the craic. In other words, he lollops.

He’s a lolloper. If there was a class at Crufts like fly-ball but for lolloping – points awarded for the number of times you crashed into posts or cartwheeled tail over nose because the front half suddenly and unexpectedly stopped and the back half just kept on going … he’d win the cup. And then fall over it.

The other thing about Stanley lolloping is that he’s completely and utterly silent. To watch him in action you’d think the sound had gone off, or you’d suddenly lost your hearing. He’s the epitome of silent. An owl gliding from nowhere onto an unsuspecting mouse makes more noise than Stanley lolloping (but then, I’m guessing the owl doesn’t tend to disappear off into a hedge in an embarrassing cartwheel when it lowers its undercarriage).

None of this matters, of course. Stanley never had any ambition to go to Crufts. He’s too good for that place. He’d much rather lie on the carpet with his paws over his ears (or somersault backwards into a blackcurrant bush chasing a ball). The only trouble is that he seems to have a weak front left paw (or nearside paw, as the vet said once, like he was a mechanic talking about a dodgy front tire that needed attention). Without an x-ray it’s impossible to be sure, but it looks like he sustained an injury there in the past when he was seriously neglected, and it healed imperfectly. So his lolloping is fine except it means he’s more likely to aggravate that weakness.

As he did today.

It was the most perfect morning. Already warm despite being early. Clear blue sky. A meadow spilling with buttercups and tall grass. Lola and Stanley go charging off through it all, having an amazing time. Lola exploring it with the grave demeanour of a naturalist from the university, Stanley like a long-legged sheep-kangaroo hybrid that had been grazing on magic mushrooms. Which meant that – at the end of the walk – Stanley yelped, stopped, and held his paw up with a forlorn expression.

He did this before, when he ran up to a collie, wiped-out spectacularly in the mud, and we took him to the vets because we thought he’d fractured his paw. At that point he held it in the same way – sitting on his haunches, his left leg up, holding the injured paw so loosely you could bat it with your hand and it would spin 360 degrees (we didn’t, of course).
‘Has he got a thorn in it?’ Kath said, rifling through the fur on his paw. We couldn’t see one.
All we could do was put him back on the lead and walk slowly back home. He gradually put the weight back on the paw, though, and by the time we reached the kissing gate he seemed back to normal.

But I suppose that’s the thing about lollopers. They heal quickly.

They have to.


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