disclaimer, incl. some irrelevant stuff about young earth creationists & freedivers – core sample as awkward literary device – how to handle a horse – varieties of police dog – please brush his teeth – Brodie – round one – round two – therapy for dogs
I don’t agree that it’s been a long time since the last post. It just depends on the scale you’re using. If you’re talking about the life of the planet – about four and a half billion years (although if you believe in young Earth creationism, and think the bible is a work of documentary fact than a particularly vivid and long lived creation myth, then you’ll probably think the Earth is about six thousand years old, fashioned by God, along with the fossils, which He made during the flood, because there’s nothing God likes to do more than confuse people, cataclysms and acts of pestilential vengeance aside) – then it’s really no time at all. But on the other hand, if you’re talking about how long you can hold your breath, well, then – yes, it’s a very long time indeed. (Even if you ARE a freediver and can STILL be cheerfully waving and giving the thumb-to-finger O sign after twenty minutes, and maybe pointing straight down into the abyss as if to say I’m more than happy to go deeper if you want me to….). So no, I wouldn’t say it’s been a ‘long’ time, and neither would I say it’s been a ‘short’ time. All I WILL say, in a noncommittal but still red-faced kinda way, is that it’s simply been ‘some’ time. (And probably not that much longer than it took to read back this last paragraph). And for both, I can only shake your hand and thank you for your indulgence.
Actually, probably what I should do is test the theory of ‘least said soonest mended’, and maybe at the same time see whether you’ve been paying attention or not. Maybe I should simply carry on with the blog as if nothing happened, and no ball was dropped, and no events glossed over, and nothing of significance missed, in the hope that you won’t notice anything strange at all – or, if you do, you’ll put it down to a recent change in medication, or a tendency these days to nod off after lunch.
So please ignore the disclaimer, and carry on as if nothing happened.
Speaking of geology – and yes, I know you’re sighing, because you came here to read about dogs, and don’t have the time or the inclination to want to read about anything else – and I’m CERTAINLY running the risk that starting off the paragraph that SHOULD have landed you straight back in the Stanley-themed action with the phrase ‘speaking of geology’ – will only make you realise what it is you thought you came here for, and what you’re dangerously short of at the moment, and at severe risk of clicking away to something else, because if you can’t visit a blog called ‘The Lurcher Diaries’ without having to wade through a lot of irrelevant crap about geology or bible studies, or wade through sentences that really are a grammatical and syntactical abomination – with WAY too many dashes – sentences you’d only want to start so long as you could play out a spool of fluorescent nylon rope behind you to can keep an eye on the beginning and not lose the sense – as I just did …. so …. erm … full stop?
Geology. That was it. In geology, I think, they use core samples in glaciers and other places to see what’s been going on over the past few thousand years. So in the spirit of the core sample, I thought I’d drill the cursor back down through the sediment of the last four months (you SEE! I TOLD you it hadn’t been long!), and present it as a selection of paragraphs that you can look over and get a feel for how things have been with Stanley.
One: The Return of the Hole in the Hedge Gang
In the field beyond the allotments the horses come and go. I’ve no idea where or why. For all I know they’ve got a beach house somewhere and take six months off surfing. Whatever the reason, they were back at the beginning of the year, as inquisitive and mischievous as ever. There’s one of them – Butch – who seems to take pleasure in putting himself where he knows it’ll cause the most problem, which is almost always the gate. That particular morning he was so far reversed onto the gate it looked from a distance like he was actually sitting on it. So not only would we have to get past him without Stanley barking, but we’d have to go round the back of the horse, which even an amateur like me knows is the zone most famous for kicking.
I tried to remember the advice one of Kath’s friends gave her, a woman who knows a lot about horses, having found herself in the strange position of actually owning one.
‘Don’t show any fear,’ she’d said. ‘Be positive. Let it know where you want it to go by slapping your knee.’
‘So – wouldn’t it just come and sit on your knee?’ I asked.
‘No,’ said Kath. ‘They’re smarter than that.’
I looked at Butch. He didn’t look particularly smart. More intuitively mean.
Stanley was already rising up on the lead, despite the tripe sticks I was frantically feeding into him. I couldn’t think what to do. Butch made no sign that he was bothered about me or Stanley or any other damned thing in the world, come to that. It started to rain. There were no other exits without doing a huge detour.
Luckily, two women were coming down the path on the other side of the fence. One of them I recognised, a wedding planner with a vigorous, no-nonsense manner that I always thought would at least make the wedding finish on time.
‘Help!’ I said.
‘Don’t worry!’ she said – and straightaway tore a branch from the hedge. ‘Move orf!’ she shouted to Butch, tapping the fence with the switch. ‘Get along there!’
And he did.
‘That’s amazing!’ I told her.
‘Not at all!’ she’d said, tossing the switch and slapping her hands clean. ‘Just don’t show any fear!’
Two: To the Vets
Stanley was due a routine check-up, so we took a trip to the vets.
The lockdown has meant that you can’t go inside the practice. You have to wait outside for your appointment time, then handover the dog under a gazebo they’ve rigged up outside. When we got there, one of the vet nurses was waiting under the gazebo. She smiled at us but held her hand up for us to hold back. At the same time, a police car pulled up and an officer jumped out.
‘Hi!’ she said. ‘Thanks for seeing us!’
‘No problem!’ smiled the nurse.
The officer opened the back door and said: ‘Come on Ace! Good boy! Out you come!’
I was expecting an alsatian or something. A big dog anyway, in a kevlar jacket and baseball cap. Instead what jumped out was a spaniel, one of those one hundred percent love & affection dogs who wag their whole body instead of just their tail. I couldn’t think what they used it for, other than for detecting illicit chocolate, or maybe poetry. But then – maybe she’d brought it in for a drugs screen, because corruption happens not just at the highest levels but the very lowest, too.
‘Good boy!’ she said, and they both leapt up the stairs two at a time following the nurse.
Later, when we picked Stanley up after his examination, the nurse was pretty severe with us.
‘His teeth are terrible,’ she said. ‘You really must brush them. Use this rubber thing on your finger.’
She gave it to me.
It looked like a pervy kind of thimble.
I tried it on.
Showed it to Stanley.
Three: Stanley has a fight.
Out on the walk we recognised a friend of Kath’s walking her dog Brodie with another woman and her black lab. We knew that Stanley loves Brodie. I don’t think there’s a creature on this earth that doesn’t or wouldn’t love Brodie. He’s the chillest dog I know. A mountain gorilla could charge through the hedge one minute, and the next it’d be sitting down with Brodie, scratching his head whilst Brodie politely asked him what it was like being a gorilla these days, and had he really met David Attenborough, and was he as charming as he seems, &c. The labrador was more of a risk, of course, but we figured if Brodie was around it couldn’t hurt to let Stanley off.
Everything went well, for a while. The woman threw a ball for the labrador. Lola chased after it, followed by Stanley. (Brodie stood next to us shaking his head, tutting and saying ‘dogs, eh?’) And it all looked pretty idyllic – except, Stanley doesn’t know how to play.
We knew he’d been neglected for much of his life. I’m not sure running after a ball has ever been part of his emotional vocabulary. Consequently, he didn’t seem to be ‘playing ball’ so much as ‘playing at being a dog playing ball’ – a confused and ragged kind of position, that involved a lot of random barking and generally irritating behaviour. It didn’t make any difference how much encouragement or direction we tried to give him, Stanley did the same thing, which was throwing himself around in an approximate way, chasing after the other dogs, then barking in their face when they brought the ball back. The labrador took as much as anyone could be expected to, then snapped, and threw herself at him.
I pulled them apart.
Neither seemed hurt.
Apologies all round (‘think nothing of it, old boy,’ Brodie said, quietly filling his pipe. ‘These things happen’). We said our goodbyes and carried on home.
It was only there we realised Stanley’s ear was bleeding. Not much – just enough to make him look a little forlorn.
‘Oh Stanley!’ I said, dabbing it clean. ‘What are we going to do with you?’
But if he had any idea, he kept it to himself.
Four: Stanley has another fight
For the next few days we were more cautious about keeping Stan on the lead, only letting him off if we were absolutely certain there were no other dogs around – dogs he didn’t know, that is. Or any dog with a ball.
I’d just completed one circuit of the maximum security field – the one with hedges and fences surrounding it – Stanley off the lead and leaping about, when he suddenly froze and adopted the position anyone could tell you is the precursor to action of one sort or the other (and in Stanley’s case, most definitely the other). And suddenly I could make out on the other side of the hedge a woman, walking a long, low and prodigiously hairy dog that looked something like a cross between a dachshund and a snow boot. And before I could say anything or make any of the distance to clip on his lead, Stanley took a springing leap and dived through the hedge with his front paws stretched out. My memory of it is a little sketchy, but I think he did a little half-tuck and quarter-pike, before landing on his feet and hurling himself at the other dog. I had to run round to the nearest gate, leap over and run down to grab him. There was a great deal of snarling and posturing, but at least they weren’t actually going at each other with their teeth. Meanwhile, the woman was throwing treats at them, which was unorthodox, but seemed to work, to some extent. When I’d separated them, and they were back on their leads, the woman caught her breath.
‘Is he alright?’ I said.
‘Physically – yes – I think so,’ she said, checking his ears. ‘But emotionally I’m not so sure. I’m terrified he’s going to need therapy.’
‘He’s not the only one,’ I said.
Time the Great Healer (if not the Great Cleaner of Teeth).
And whilst I don’t think Stanley will ever be the world’s greatest ball player – and certainly not the world’s greatest police dog – I’m happy to say he’s absolutely the world’s best Stanley the Rescue Lurcher, and I look forward to telling you how THAT goes in the next installment (due out later this millennium).