The Song of Ruskin: The Beginning

 
Ruskin by Juliet Barber 2003

Ruskin by Juliet Barber 2003

Not realising my life was to change forever I walked down a back street in Crewe at 10.00 am Tuesday 22nd October 1991 on my way to do some window cleaning, My ankle was caught, I turned and nothing was there to be the cause, so carried on walking, pushing back the thought that my imagination was telling me something was real. Again it happened, something had broke my stride. Again turning and looking down, a small dog was sitting on the pavement. Old, grey, wobbly and unsteady a small tail sweeping side to side cross the pavement. Annoyed at being nipped and tripped, “Go away” I said, believing some ancient Jack Russell or similar had snagged my ankle. The dog caught sight of a lady at the other side of the road with a push chair and a toddler. He ran straight across and started dancing round them. There was something about the unsteady run, the complete lack if regard for the road, and the size now I had a better perspective, rather than just a glimpse looking down.

“Bloody hell”. I ran and grabbed it, then recrossed back. He sat on the palm of my hand waving a tiny paw at my nose. It was a puppy! Up and down the road I carried him knocking at houses, calling in shops. I tried to find a lady who took in dogs but she wasn’t in. The rest of the day we worked in stages, calling at people we knew for food and water. He was content to sit in a window cleaning pouch attached to my belt while we worked, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the big world. In closed back gardens he was happy to run around waiting for me.

Evening came and on the way home we called at the police station to reported him as found. The puppy walked on the desk watching the paperwork being filled out, doing with a skip and little bucking bronco dance, then tried to shuffle up the Sergeants papers. It just seemed sensible that if a report was being made and his description taken down the puppy occupied the desk top. He bounced from front paws to his back ones completing a circle in segments, then did the same in the opposite direction. Stopped and shock himself. Sat and scratched his neck with a back leg, jumped to his feet, shock again and stopped still. Performance over. Too young to stay in their kennels, he needed feeding and company so I took him home. 

Between the police station and home were a row of terraced houses. The middle ones were owned by Mr Jones, an old and proper character of the street. Rented out to students from the local college, they had been the scene of fun and sadness. Now a new household had taken over. It wouldn’t hurt to call in for a few minutes on the way to show them today’s little find. The street was in darkness as I knocked. Light appeared in the pane above the front door. It opened framing Roz back lit by the bulb in the hall. Roz was an angel on the eyes. Tiny short skirt over ripped and multi coloured tights, on her feet always heavy, huge Doc Martin commando like boots. Long dark hair, half hanging loose, the rest falling down from the source of a high pony tail from the crown of her head. Dark eyes, almost Spanish looking face. Sharper but with a poise.  Solid and firm with beautiful curves. For all the art school look and affectation, she was someone you could also imagine hiking across a Welsh mountain in cold, thin drizzle and laugh every minute with. She was perfect. The boyfriend she lived with was also a very nice lad as well.

“Roger!”. Her eyes then recognising. “What have you got”.

“He followed me”. Her arms were already coming out involuntary, I, in return just handed him over.

“Come in, come in, I’ve got to show him to the boys”. Excited and glowing she turned back down the hall.

I shut the door and followed. Heat from the gas fire in the warm room hit me. 

“Look what Roger’s got, a puppy”. Puppy fever followed, hands reaching for the attentive parcel. Roz’s boyfriend Ian and his friend David who shared the house turned into wide eyed children. A cup of tea was made as I had the puppy again.  

“You can put him down someone said”. Relieved I lowered him to the floor, he was small but I had been carrying him all day. Not the weight but the concentration of care. Again I explained our first meeting.

Roz screamed, “Oh my God”, I jumped up not knowing, “he’s eating my dinner”.

I moved to where she was looking between the arm chair and the small gap to the wall. The puppy was well getting into a large plate of food.

“I am so sorry”.

“No no” Roz putting her words in order, “Its not the food, it’s chilli con carne, we made it with fresh beef and real  chillis, it was far too hot and spicy for me to eat so I put it down, but the puppy’s eating it I don’t want him ill”.

“You don’t mind”.

“No, I can’t eat it”

The puppy wasn’t just eating, he was devouring, in his biggest mouthfuls. The little thing was totally enjoying himself, the heat and spice bothered him not in the slightest. I had to make the call.

“Well if you don’t mind, it will teach him a lesson not to take food next time”.

Early evening socialising over, I left with a heavier, fatter, barrel bellied puppy. At least he had solved my first problem. What to give him for his tea?

And so the routine began, A walk and play at midnight to tire him out. Up at 6.00am for another walk play and feed. Another at 8. Then me to work. Back at mid morning, then dinner time, then mid afternoon. Finally home.

As I left for work the puppy looked at me. I raised my hand with 2 fingers extended. “2 hours”. I said and closed the door. I had decided he would need me in about 2 hours, to be let out have a play and be fed. This was the initial rhythm. It was only right I told the puppy how long I would be.  In the evening we had done our sorting. I needed to go the garage for something. About to pick the up the puppy, I thought, and left him as he watched me go I raised my hand with all digits extended. “5 minutes”. What I wanted to achieve was him understanding how long I would be away. If I said 5 minutes I wanted him to understand I would not be long and we would carry on from where we left off. If I was to be away for longer I didn’t want him to wait for me expecting me back, get anxious pining away, worried and expecting . I wanted him to amuse himself, fall asleep or do whatever he chose without worrying when I would return. If we were going to be a partnership I had to be honest and true to him. Only by example could I expect him to be honest and true to me.

On the second night I had to have a talk with him. Explained that if he was going to stay with me, he would have to fit in with what I did as I lived on my own and otherwise life would be difficult. The tiny teddy bear sat on the centre cushion of a settee as I lectured him from the chair. I told him I would look after him, give him a home, that if he wanted to be with me he could stay with me, but it would be hard. In everything I said he didn’t disagree, so took it that he agreed to abide by the terms. Fawn/beige socks, a white bid going up to his lower jaw. And a strange fluffy coat of black with the occasional white hairs in it. A skinny furry tail with just the hint of white at the tip.

He wouldn’t look straight at me, but faced away.  Side on. His eyes came to the corner and looked to me, then rolled away concerned with everything but me. Then return to  me intently, checking and questioning. Only briefly, off again scanning around the room as I spoke, then return to me. I was a datum a fixed point on which he would dwell, for a while, in between assessing his surroundings. Perhaps I hadn’t decorated well enough, perhaps it was too untidy for him.  His head hardly moved, only those eyes.

I was over 6ft and 200lb of  muscle, had 32 years experience of life and 9 inches of cuddly toy who didn’t even exist 10 weeks ago was considering what I was saying, with a detached indifference. He wasn’t really bothered. He was never going to be my dog. He had his own agenda, he wouldn’t tell me what it was, but he had one. So that’s how it had to be, me and him, just mates.

Vaccinations and inoculations can be  terrible things  for the socialisation and training of dogs.

Don’t take your dog out until he has had his vaccinations is the warning. In the puppy’s case it didn’t apply, he was wandering the streets when he followed me anyway.

A puppy will have some residual protection from it’s mother. As long as it it not put down were it can pick up disease or where other infected dogs have been have been fine. The time from 6 weeks to 14 weeks is one of the most important in it’s life. So worth making the most of.

If left with parents and brothers and sisters it would be learning its life skills. Stalking, hunting, pack order. Taken away from that environment it still wants, and needs to learn.`

So the carrying began. That second night after our talk I had already arranged to meet friends at a pub and see a band. The puppy either stayed in on his own or came with me.

The puppy was carried there. Once inside entertained us by playing fetch, returning flicked beer mats. Everyone laughing and trying to guess if he would do it. How many in a row he would successfully return. How much further could they be flicked and what degree of difficulty to their position before he failed. Totally reliable, every beer mat returned. The puppy made himself the centre of attention. He was cute and passed around and stroked and cuddled. But it was his complete determination and obsession with the job. Beer mats had to be returned and given to the person who threw them. If the person did not immediately throw the mat or give it to someone else they would be admonished by the puppy. The puppy would permit slight variations on the basic rules. People would be allowed to hide the beer mats for a short while, people would be allowed to pretend to throw them in an act of deception. But ultimately people had to flick the beermats for a sufficient distance for the puppy to run and retrieve them. 5 people were eventually organised and trained to do this in the correct manner that the puppy considered acceptable.

The puppy disappeared. We searched the entire pub, the car parks, nearby streets. Asked if anyone had seen a puppy or someone with a puppy. All to no avail. The puppy had gone. We were early. The band had already set up and had left for a short while. There were just two old regulars supping at a table. All the doors were shut. No one had been in or out. The puppy had vanished from inside a building, no a room, with doors that had been shut. No one in or out.

Less than 32 hours after he appeared in my life he had gone without a trace or clue. No distress, no good bye, just gone. Vanished as mysteriously as he had appeared the day before. No one could find him. Everyone was dejected, sad and concerned. But most of all no one had any answer to the mystery of the disappearing puppy.

The band started. A shocked puppy leapt out of the bass drum where he had fallen asleep, on the cushion, the drummer used to dampen the sound for small pub venues. Taking revenge for his sudden awakening, he chose the first target for his anger, he saw the singer.

Yapping he circled him. The singer trying to maintain cool as befits a rock band front man ignored the situation, apart from the occasional glimpse downwards checking is ankles were not in danger.

The small audience’s reaction ranged from dumbfounded to hysterical. What a stage show. Hiding a puppy in a drum kit which on cue leaps out and attacks the singer. Rock n Roll.

I retrieved the offending puppy from the stage.

The Beginning Part 2

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  1. #1 by ecolizzy on January 14, 2009 - 11:25 pm

    Ha, so that makes you 49 at my reckoning Celtic Lion, am I right? You seem to have deserted JJ and barrie! ; )

  2. #2 by celticlion on January 15, 2009 - 1:31 pm

    Welcome Ecolizzy to my humble abode on the net. I put the gallery up so you could check the weather at Balmoral. Yes I am 49, which tells me you read the story in detail. I haven’t deserted JJ and Barrie, I will go back. The Newsnight set up seemed so depressing same old stories going round and round without addressing the underlying issues.

    I wrote the above, but it made me cry so much I couldn’t proof read it but I have had so many emails I am going to carry on writing it. But take it somewhere darker more adult orientated, more relevant etc. There will still be a puppy at the centre of it though! It will of course address themes we discussed before but in a slightly different way.

    I should put the next part up on Sunday evening. So good to hear from you.

  3. #3 by ecolizzy on January 15, 2009 - 2:39 pm

    Thanks CL after you pointed your blog out to me, I’ve kept an eye on it, I find it fascinating, although sometimes I can’t seem to follow it very well! : (

    Yes I find the Newsnight blog a bit tedious, it always seems to be rather ranting, (JJ) although I love barries sense of humour.

    I’m sorry about your dog, I didn’t dare write that over there! ; ) One of my cats died last year age 17, although I know a dog is usually a much closer companion. I’ve seen your photos of him, and even one of you and your partner, I presume.

    I also read your piece on the Trump scandal, I signed several (oops) petitions against it, but money won out as usual. I can’t see it offering many jobs to local people, which is why the government gave it the go ahead. I think as a nation we are going to live to regret our pillaging of our countryside.

    I’ll look forward to the next episode. : )

  4. #4 by celticlion on January 18, 2009 - 6:25 pm

    Hi Lizzie, you have been busy (sorry). The picture of my girlfriend was on another site my friend did before I found blogs. She is now an ex. But I treated her like a dog, but its in the story further down the line, so no need to comment here further. It was her drawing of Ruskin above. very gifted lady.

    Not just a nation and our countryside but the world pillaging the planet. But that’s also in Ruskins story, so need need for comment here.

  5. #5 by earwicga on June 16, 2009 - 11:50 pm

    I look forward to reading the next part.

  1. Magic Boxes, Horns, Thieves and Warriors « Celtic Lion
  2. The Song of Ruskin: The Beginning 2 « Celtic Lion

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