Thursday, June 02, 2005

These things are sent to try us

Yesterday evening, around six o'clock, Barbara and I were walking the dogs in the Forestry Commission woods nearby. Not a half mile from the house, headed homewards, The DevilDog spotted a hare.

Now those of you who know about Patterdale Terriers will understand that they can be wilful beasts. I was aware of this when we got Mortimer as a puppy, and I managed to train a small bit of obedience into him. And before you scoff that a sentence using the words 'train' and 'obedience' in it that refers to terriers must be a lie, the most I ever managed to get him to do was to sit before I gave him a biscuit. To this day he uses that trick to great effect, waiting until he knows you are watching him then sitting down, very purposefully, and leaving it up to you to decide what it is that he wants.

Chiswick, the old Jack Russell (who can't be trained nor will ever be obedient) has also picked up this trick, but he only sits when we are having pizza or garlic bread. But I digress.

The DevilDog spotted a hare. The hare spotted the DevilDog a few moments later and took off in that lazy way hares have, which nevertheless covers the ground with great speed. The DevilDog took off after the hare in that mad, killer frenzy, barking rush Patterdale Terriers have. Both hare and terrier disappeared into the woods.

I gave up calling and whistling after about ten minutes. I can only shout for a short while, and my two-finger dog whistle tends to make my eardrums bleed if I use it for too long. And anyway, I knew it was a waste of time. The DevilDog would return only when he had either lost the trail or caught the hare. Besides, we were close to home and he knew the way.

So the SausageDog, Barbara and I (Chiswick is excused walks nowadays on the grounds of being old and smelly) went home. We had supper and then I headed back up to the woods for some more shouting and whistling.

Still no sign, so I came home again, leaving the garden gate open, a light at the back door.

Later still, when I would normally have taken the dogs out for their late night constitutional before bed, I drove up into the woods and had another shout and whistle. By now the cloud had descended and I couldn't see more than a few feet in any direction, even with the headlights on full. The only noise was the dripping of water from a billion leaves; quite deafening when you're straining your ears for the sound of a terrier stuck down a hole.

Still no sign. Now I was beginning to worry.

It's at times like these that it is a curse to be a writer, or anyone with a vivid imagination. I could see the DevilDog, head stuck down a hole, slowly starving to death; stuck in the thick gloopy mud around the edges of the areas where they've been felling trees, freezing; lying at the side of the road having been hit by a car on his way home; picked up by strangers and taken to god knows where. It's not easy to get to sleep when these images keep bubbling up in your mind.

At crack of sparrow's fart this morning (which is very early indeed), I got up and went down to the kitchen. Still no sign of the DevilDog. So me and the SausageDog went back up to the woods and began our search all over again.

The SausageDog is not much help in these situations. Mostly he follows me around, refusing to track a scent or do anything useful like that. He is also closer to the ground than most, and his long hair gets all tangled up with twigs and other detritus. Still we waded through the woods, shouting and whistling.

And lo, there came from afar the barking of a frustrated DevilDog.

After much echolocation, I found him stuck on the wrong side of a fence. He was damp, but didn't have a scratch on him. Mostly pissed off at having missed his supper. I gave him an extra large breakfast to make up for it, and now he's snoozing at the top of the stairs as if nothing had happened.

Next time he sees a hare, he'll do exactly the same thing.


Blogger Stuart MacBride said...


I think that about says it all

June 02, 2005 10:34 am  
Blogger Trace said...

Aaaaw he's such a cutie. I have a female rottie. I'll have to see if I can find a pic of her and post it sometime :)

June 04, 2005 1:50 pm  

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