I've always had dogs in my life, whether it be the greyhounds my parents trained, whippets that I used to rabbit with or walking companions such as Bear. I cannot think of a time when I was actually not in the company of canine souls, all of them special and welcome in different ways, well apart from the black dog that is.
In the short time I have worked my allotment I've already found myself looking forward to the peace and the tranquility to my mind that it brings, allowing not just the harrowing parts of recent years that haunt me fade for a short time , but also allowing more pleasant memories the space to resurface for awhile. I was supposed to be attacking the jungle that is trying to strangle the two cider trees which along came with the plot but the sun was shining and I stopped to listen to a blackbird singing his heart out. As I sat there listening with closed eyes, face upturned to the sun, my mind stopped racing and began to wander of its own accord down paths where distant past memories lie.
I found myself thinking of Fred, not named after my middle name but after Fred Dibner the steeple jack who made quite an impact on me in my youth. I remembered vividly the day Fred arrived, an eight week old white and tan bundle of attitude that sat in the palm of my hand. The family were in blessed ignorance of the reign of terror that was about to begin. At the time I also had a whippet called Whisp, typical of the breed she would sit with snooty aloofness showing about as much get up and go as a knackered old nag. But beneath her disdain, fragile looks, and apparent inability to move from in front of the coal fire there lurked such a gracefully rapid killing machine that was as tough as well oiled leather.
Fred's arrival was looked on by Whisp with total disinterest despite his endless attempts to curry favour and initiate himself into the pack. That was until about a week after his arrival when even I could notice the stench of rotten milk coming from his ears. For Whisp, with much keener senses, this must have been nauseous and finally she could take now more. As he waddled past her lofty station on her favourite chair she reached down as if plucking a tharn rabbit from the grass and as quick as a flash she had him pinned down then she proceeded to spend the next half hour licking all trace of odour from him. It was the beginning of a friendship that only ending with the all to soon visit of the reaper.
As Fred grew it became obvious he had small dog syndrome and was willing to pit himself against all comers, other dogs, foxes, humans, cars and even the feral cats that lurked around the cement work's company houses we lived in. My brother, all six foot four of him, was absolutely petrified of Fred and didn't Fred just know it. The times that I came in from cycling home from work to find my brother cowering in the kitchen corner with Fred snarling and spitting pure venom at him was wonderful. Yes there was a healthy sibling rivalry between my brother and I and Fred tipped the scales to my advantage. When I was feeling particularly evil or we'd had one of our brotherly spats I would make a brew and even some toast before calling Fred to heal. In his short life Fred managed to draw blood from various neighbours and family members including myself, but he made up for this with fierce loyalty and the flip side of his psychotic nature was as endearing as any dog I've known, he just happened to have issues that's all.
Whisp and Fred soon became quite the double act. One of their favourite tricks was to run off together to the cement work's stock pile. An area where mounds of sand, clinker and limestone were piled on high but also where a couple of acres were overgrown with tangled deciduous trees through which a couple of streams ran and the overgrown mounds were dotted with rabbit burrows and a small badger set. This overgrown playground was bordered by fields which also contained a couple of small ponds. They would start by innocently meandering down my parents very long garden towards the permanently open gate which led to the field in front of the stock pile. One they got halfway to the gate without being noticed then they'd pin their ears back and head at break neck speed to the stock pile. No amount of cursing would bring them to heal once they'd made their break. It would always be at least five hours before two knackered, panting, filthy and usually full dogs would stagger through the back door looking very pleased with themselves.
Their excursions did have a disadvantage upon such occasion as when you wanted to leave the house, perhaps to go greyhound racing or the like. Then if they'd done a runner yours truly would have to go and retrieve them. Once found Whisp would surrender without a fuss and walk upto you as if naught had occurred, Fred on the hand would head for the nearest rabbit burrow and dive straight into it turning around so that all that could be seen were two green glowing orbs and he kept up a steady growling as if saying 'you feeling lucky puck?'. I soon learnt to take a long stick and wear me wellies when retrieval was required. As soon as he'd take up in his chosen hole I'd thrust the stick down it knowing he'd attack it with all he had. As soon as it felt he'd sunk his teeth into it I'd pull the stick out with all my might throwing it and the attached Fred as far as I could. Then I'd smartly step in front of his chosen burrow whilst he hurtled headlong towards it. Blocked by my legs he'd launch a full scale attack on them...hence the wellies. I'd then time my grab and snatch him from the ground and carry him from the stock pile. Damn thing was as soon as I hoisted him up he became as playful as a pup.
It's funny the memories that some peace and quiet can let slip back to the surface. I have so many stories and memories from before I lost my mind, it's difficult not to smile when I think of Fred and some of the stuff he got up too, but perhaps those tails can await a tad longer before I recount them to you. My dad used to say that Fred was all teeth and balls.....not a bad thing at times. Yep he was definitely a big dog in a small body......I wonder if you know what type of dog Fred was?
Till the next time, take care