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The Song of Ruskin: The Beginning 3

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Small silver grey spheres speckled his head and back, held complete and separate by an invisible force. Changing into larger drops and globs of a more transparent nature down his sides. Chest and legs were just simply wet from the early morning damp grass. I looked around and saw the tea towel. Scrunching it up in my hand I gently and very quickly flicked it over the spheres and drops before the surface tension could break and wet him more.

“Rub a dub dub, rub a dub dub” I sang drying his chest, legs and belly. He sat dispassionate looking around, small tongue appearing from his mouth. One leg lifted, then the other.

“You’re done”. Throwing the tea cloth back on the top of the fridge. Making a mental note I needed to get him a towel. Not quite stomping or marching he moved in a jerky half agitated way. Turning strangely. Small steps to the side at the front pivoting from an axis at the back, then small steps to the side at the back, pivoting from the front.

“Want some food?”. I had had to start shopping for him as well as me. I found in the supermarket tins of dog food which were for puppies. Then to go with them small bite mixer. I was impressed that there was food especially for a puppy. It was an aisle I had never ventured down before. I wasn’t sure what he had been eating, whether he still ate milky things. So for other meals he had cereal. Mine. A weetabix in the main. I didn’t eat sugary breakfast stuff so thought that wouldn’t hurt him if he still wanted milky stuff. I wanted to make certain he had all the things he needed food wise. I didn’t want to trust just what it said on the can. So other meals were made up of what I ate. Fish or whatever protein I was on. Plus some of the vegetables. We had only had one full day, but if I gave him what I thought was good stuff, he could decide to eat it or not, and that was all I could do to make sure he had a good diet. I gave him the option, he made his choice

“Scrambled eggs?” He looked but was none committal. I took a bowl from the sink and swilled it under the tap. Living alone I hadn’t really bothered with breakfast, just a bowl of something with milk. I didn’t really bother with washing up either. I dried the bowl and broke 3 eggs into it. Two for me, one for him. Splash of milk, he liked chilli, so a hint of pepper. Looked to the cloth and realised what I had done. Another mental note to get him a towel. Still it was only essence of puppy and wet grass. Grill on, 3 slices of wholemeal bread. Whisk the eggs and into a buttered pan. It was nice cooking for someone in the morning. His toast was buttered and cut up into puppy sized squares.

Clatterty clat, clatterty clat went his dish, as I ate mine. He seemed to enjoy keeping a rhythm as he ate. Then out again for a run in the yard.

“Two hours”, holding two fingers up. He looked as I closed the door and left him to do what he did. Hopefully sleep.
“Come on were going somewhere” I picked the puppy up on my return and closed the front door, “Outside”.

Turning left down the side of the pub at the corner and onto the grass behind the the row we lived in. A quick run round. Then up again.

To the small side road. “Kerb, Stop.”

“Cross.” Over the side road and along the main road. Even carrying him I needed to start teaching him the instructions for a future life on the street.

Along the road to the zebra crossing outside the student house we stopped on our first night. “Kerb,Stop.”

The cars halted. “Cross.” Then further down the street for another 50 yards to a small pet shop.

Opposite, at the other side of the road now, was a tool hire place. It looked like the original building may have been a car show room or garage. The building was set back with a concreted forecourt between it and the pavement. A low tubular steel barrier between the pavement and the hire centre forecourt. The building was 5-6 of the small terraced houses, which made up the rest of that part of the street, wide.

It had started years before as a small shop at the other side of town, on Nantwich Road. It had Makita power tools in the window, sanders, hand drills; all of them cost far more than we could ever earn in a week or even two or more. Anyone who has been to Crewe railway station, out the main enterance, that’s Nantwich rd. Turn left go quarter of a mile, between the two sets of traffic lights on the left was where the shop used to be.

Now it was here. Power Electrical Tools. A hire centre. PET Hire. Straight across the front of the building in big letters. PET HIRE. I knew it had cement mixers, lawn mowers, mini diggers, scaffolding and access equipment, all sorts of toys outside. Inside was everything a, a tool fetish paradise. Everything and all the stuff to go with them. Rigger boots, drill bits, grinding discs, fasteners. Even though I had bought things from there. Even though I had hired tools from there. Taken tools in for repair. I still had this unresolved doubt, a secret desire, just to make sure.

I wanted to go in and ask if they had a rate for a parrot for the weekend. Just go in get a parrot and take it home. Just to see if we got on. Find out about it. I wondered if you could train a parrot to do a window cleaning round. It could fly about following you. When you were lonely doing another upstairs window, it could land on the roof just above the gutter, and you could say hello.

If you had a parrot for the weekend, and you got on well, perhaps you could then see if they would sell you it. I never did go in and ask if they did parrots or any other sort of animal. So I went into the small pet shop.

“Inside”.
The bell brough the lady owner from the back room and to behind the counter.

“What have you got there”. The usual hands went out and he was handed over.

“He’s beautiful.”

Again he was on another counter being looked at, while I told the story of him following me. Then we had a discuusion of his age, she thought about 10 weeks as well.

“Do you know what his is?” she inquired thoughtfully, in reality asking herself the question.
“No”.
“He’s definately furry, looks like a long haired dog”.
“I thought he looked a bit fluffy”.
“Border collie”.
“I don’t know, my dad’s got one, she didn’t look quite the same at 10 weeks”. The border collie thing had crossed my mind but it didn’t last.
“He has very distinctive eyebrows”. One of his features was his eyebrows, they were lighter then the dark of the rest of the top of his face.
“Yes”.
“Like a Rottweiler”.
I thought about her suggestion. I liked the little puppy, we just seemed exist together, without drama, but I didn’t think I would have any affinity with a Rotty, they just didn’t seem my kind of dog.
“Um”.
“He’s got fawny beige legs”. She added, saying what I was already figuring. “And a strange tail”.
His tail though it took many positions was, in the main perfectly upright and vertical, but also nearly always in movement.

I’d never seen a Rotty puppy, but he did slightly look like a furry Rotty puppy could look like. In my imagination. My intuition though, based on nothing couldn’t accept it. I was in a difficult area.

If some Disney artist wanted to make an impish teddy bear look like a puppy, this was the result. But that was as far as it went, Just visual. He had a willful, I don’t care about you independent streak. If someone had got him for their children, there would be tears and ructions. Yes you could stroke him, hold him, cuddle him. But there was always a detachment to him, only on his terms. There would be upsets in the house as he declared he did not want to be a rag doll.

“It’s a possibility”.
It was a possibility, there were so many unknowns. How accurate had we got his age to make a judgement on size?
“Perhaps he is just a mix, whatever he is he’s lovely”. The lady finished her inspection.
“Whatever he is I’ll soon find out”.
It didn’t really matter what he was, he was just he. And we were friends.

“I’d like a collar and lead for him”.
Examination and discussion over he did a little dance on the counter.

I wanted a very soft leather collar. Soft and light. but nice-and plain. We found a small black leather collar with a cream lining/ thin padding for next to his skin. A sort of velvety flock. It had a small siver chrome buckle. All so small my fingers didn’t want anything less.

The lead had to be similar. Long because he was small and I was tall. It had to be light in weight, gossamar light, so light that he wouldn’t even notice it. I didn’t even really know why I was getting him one. We had done fine so far, but getting him used to one now would be useful. But in the future whatever we did he wouldn’t be able to have or even need a lead.

We found a thin nylon corded lead not much thicker than the draw used in an anorak. Again it was black, so difficult to see, to further give the illusion nothing was there.

His shopping done, but his enigma still unresolved, we left. “Outside”.
Carrying the puppy now wearing his new collar, the routine continued. “Kerb, Stop, Stay, Cross”.

Sitting on the living room floor he scratched with his back leg.

“Just give it a minute or two and I’ll take it off”.
After he ignored it for a couple of minutes, I took it off, I didn’t like a shirt and tie round my neck, so didn’t expect the puppy to suffer the same. He fell asleep on the settee.

With darkness falling it was time for food. Time to put his collar on, the lady had done it the first time. Now the puppy waited while I did it. The lead clipped on we left through the front door.
“Outside”.
Down the street, turn left by the pub and on to the backs. The little factories and units were all empty as others had gone home for tea, quiet and deserted. I placed the puppy down on the unused pavement which ran round the grassy area where homes once stood.

“Come on”. I started off at a trot calling him. He ran after me as he had done across carparks and up and down the grass in the mornings and afternoons. This time he had a collar and lead. I held the lead with my arm outstretched above his head, taking what little weight it had, He trotted alongside. Job done. He had learnt to walk on a lead and he hadn’t even noticed.

Picked up. “Kerb, Stop, Stay, Cross”. We headed for the Chip Shop. “Inside”.
In luck.
“What have you got there?” John walked from the back preparation room to behind the counter, smiling, drying his hands on a cloth on the way.

This was the puppy’s first time in a Chip Shop. The light, the sounds of extractor fans, food cooking and the smells. So he did his attentive interested act. Not lying in my arms but sitting head turning and taking in another new experience.

Again I told his story. John still smiling as the puppy took him in as well.

“What can I do you for?”
“Have you got any liver?”
“Just done it”.
Yes in luck. John did fantastic liver and gravy. Sometimes it had all gone. But I had got the timing right. He had just cooked a batch for the weekend. It would be put in trays, frozen and microwaved as and when. Good as it was, it always seemed proper to get it fresh from the pan.

The puppy again took his position on the settee, me on the chair. Chips, liver and mushy peas tipped out on my plate. He waited, but somehow apprehensive, for another life defining talk. Hey dog, puppy or a clicking of fingers would no longer do. If he was staying with me he needed a name.

The puppy sat attentive but again never looked directly at me prefering to watch from the corner of his eyes. So how do you choose a name for a dog you never intended to have. It was a Tuesday when he followed me, but he didn’t look like a Tuesday, he was a little boy and Tuesday seemed a girls name. Tuesday Weld, the actress, had made that her own. It was on Ruskin Road he followed me down. It was on Ruskin Road we first met.

“Ruskin”. As a proper commanding noun.

He wiggled to attention, looked directly at me, head to one side, ears up. The first time he had ever met my eyes full on, with a deep and fixed stare, not a glance, not a sideways look, not a quick and a turn away. I had his attention, for the first time, eye to eye and it stayed. It was a sudden shock.

That was that decided then. Simple.

“Here you are Ruskin”. Placing my plate on the floor, I lifted him off the settee so he could finish what I had left for him.

“Come on”. It was time for the visit to the corner shop. The routine. Pick him up, open door.

“Outside”.

Carried there and back, we got to the Chip Shop and our own stretch, our own community, between the two railway bridges. Most of the houses here I cleaned, talked to people passing, chatted in the shops. Knew most who passed.

“Have a walk”. I put the puppy on the pavement for the last 50 yards. This was a busy main road during the day, now the traffic was quietening down but still cars passed. Ruskin could walk on a lead on a empty pavement with no distractions, now to do it on a main road. The street was so busy I had never seen a stray dog here. The only dogs were always on leads, I think I knew most. No one had ever said anything about ill dogs, someone would have told me.

Ruskin trotted along perfectly, this time on my right side away from the road. He gave me little sideways glances just to check if he was doing OK. I just watched him, proud in his efforts to do things perfectly.

He stopped sudden, half running behind me, half me overshooting from the sudden jolt, spinning round to my right as I followed his rush, trying to control without janking the lead, Ruskin was standing on his back legs, front paws on the front passenger door of a large dark estate car, it’s true colour and identity disguised by the the orange streetlamps. Ruskin gave out one short excited yelp.

The passenger door cracked open about an inch. I touched the lead with the middle finger of my left hand, just enough tension to tell Ruskin to get down. He walked to the edge of the door waiting for it to open. A young lady got out, Ruskin was again on his back legs, pawing her leg frantically. As she picked him up I let go of his lead. Ruskin had never shown me any affection, he’d never been pleased to see me.

“Ah great you found him” a man my age emerged from the drivers side, “we’ve just put a note through your door”.

“Oh” guilt washed through me, I was waiting to be asked why I was walking their puppy down a main road.

“We’ve just got your address from the police, they must have misplaced it yesterday and the receipt to say you found him.”

Ruskin was squirming in her arms licking her face.

“Tell you what, I’ll park the car up and call we’ll call round it’s a bit busy here”. He broke my gaze.

“Yes, yes, you will bring him to see me”.

“Oh yes, only be a couple of minutes”.

I returned to an empty house for the first time in two days. I had done as much as I could. I had knocked on doors and called in shops with him, reported him as found at the police station. Wednesday I had made some posters and put them up in the shops near where he followed me. That evening before we went to see the band I had phoned the police again to see if anyone had reported him lost.

The truth was he was a happy little soul. Clean, well fed and confident. He was someones dog.

I had left the door on the latch and sat in my chair. My legs no longer had the will or desire to hold me. I hadn’t wanted him to be worried about anything. I wanted him to know he was secure and no problem and that I would look after him. For two days he had been the sole purpose and focus of my life. I had had to keep things simple because he was a puppy. I couldn’t go into abstarct about someone turning up, I just had to promise him I would look after him whatever happened. Simple and uncomplicated.

I had had to reassure him with a promise. For life. Just so he could get on with being an untroubled puppy. When no one came Tuesday, then no one Wednesday, despite all I had done, I had just accepted slowly and unconsciously we were together. I had had to give him the best start I could. balance risks and benefits. Most of all I had to start teaching him how things would have to be if we were to stay together and he was to be happy. It wasn’t the two days we had had, it was the rest of our lives we were to lead that had gone. The future had ended.

Tears ran down my face.

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The Song of Ruskin: The Beginning 2

Part 1

Supermarket and store car parks are an ultimate exploration and learning arena for a puppy. Busy and full of cars during the day, at night their floodlit expanse is too open for a roaming stray dog, preferring the shadows, secrecy and scavenging opportunities of the edge.

As we crossed the area, the puppy was put down. Running in circles in that funny puppy way, every leaf had to be pounced on. All that energy being burnt off in carefree play. Unknown, learning his crucial life skills.

At 10 weeks the world is very big and very new to a puppy. Uncertainty mixed with the quest for greater knowledge combine in an emotional tug-of-war in life. Fear or conquest. A dynamic equilibrium point between closeness of safe security and the distance of new adventure. The puppy will always seek the security and safety of it’s leader, protector and friend. Put a puppy down and walk, no matter how far it wants to run or explore in the wide open space it will check where safety is.

Here, come, or just a click of the fingers bring it back. The basic stop, stay and sit can soon follow.

On returning home, after a drink or food depending on his needs, I again put the woozy pup on the bean bag I had placed in the corner of the kitchen. Exhausted he fell into contented sleep, adventures of the day settling in his mind. No pining for it’s mother or lost brothers and sisters. Just dreams of the full and busy day. Assimilation of the lessons in life.

I turned off the light and shut the door. For the second night I lay on the settee for sleep. I wanted him to be used to being on his own, to be comfortable with his own company. But at the same time I didn’t want him to wake up alone, frightened or disorientated in darkness. So making him sleep in the kitchen on his own in the dark, but unknown to him with me just at the other side of the door, incase, seemed the best compromise. I didn’t know what he wanted. He never said, all I could do was make sure he was happy.

Half light or my, his, our, whoever’s bodyclock I now ran to awoke me. Found my clothes, dressed and opened the kitchen door.

“Eyes”. I said as a warning. Not wanting to shock him with the sudden turning on of light, not effective really but at least I had made an effort.

“Ya Ya Ya”. He replied in a high squeaky yawn, bottom jaw up and down, while shaking his head and pushing himself up on his front legs. I picked him up.

“Good morning”. While giving him a kiss, then placed him down by the back door, unlocked and open it, he looked up at me.

“Outside”. He puppilly trotted out, still not full awake.

So if you take a dog to a railway station or other big building, how do they know not to go there. How do they know where and where not to go? A house is easy, but a big building? How would they know whether that was inside or outside. My mind asking questions I didn’t have answers to. He did what he wanted to do in the small overgrown yard. Then I went to the back gate and opened it. This was something new for him.

Outside was a grassy wasteland. Many years before the row of terraced houses behind had been demolished. The land levelled and now grass had taken over and growing in it’s own soil made. I ran through the grass calling. The puppy ran and followed me through his own personal jungle. Up and down. Backwards and forwards. I no longer need to call, he just chased after me, all in the game. At the end of each run, for a stop or change direction, “Good boy”, just for encouragement or reward. But he just did it for the fun, the enjoyment of life. A flash in my mind from the past. Konrad Lorentz and his geese came to me.

Beyond the grass was a small road, which the front of the back to back terraces would have faced on to. At the other side of the road an Ice Cream Van factory. A real did you know. “Did you know most of the ice cream vans in the world are made in Crewe?”

Behind the ice cream van works, was the Speedway Stadium or rather not. In the 70’s this was the home of Crewe Kings, Second Division Champions and Knockout Cup winners. This was where I went on a Monday night when I was 12, But the Speedway team disappeared. Something I didn’t understand. They could have been First Division, winning everything. But it wasn’t the team. It was to do with the licence. They had got the First division licence. Having obtained the licence, the owner took it somewhere else and set up another team. Crewe Kings were no more. Or something like that.

Cars took over from the motorbikes. The place became the Banger Track. Well not just Bangers. Stock Cars, all formulas, sometimes the big boys in the Formula 1s would turn up. Mainly though Formula 2, plus Rods of different classes, specific make racing, Demolition Derbys. Other times all the shops would have posters for Stunt or Monster Truck Shows and even I think at times a circus on the infield.

This was why we had grass at the back of the house. Every couple of weeks our little part of town would be transformed. Processions of trucks, and vans and trailers would arrive, all bringing the cars. The class act would be converted coaches, accommodation and living area, workshop and the space for the all important car. Just an endless stream all vying to get into the stadium. Then the spectators, pavements full of people walking. And every square of space chocked with parked cars. Our grassy area covered.

The pubs and chips shops packed. The roaring snarl of unsilenced or tuned motors hurling round the stadium track. Those who knew about these things told me Crewe was one of the longest tracks in the country, so the cars had chance to get up to speed and therefore one of the quickest, not being all corners.

Most grassland in the UK is artificial, not the grass but why it is there. Once land was cleared of trees, grassland is maintained by grazing animals- sheep and cattle in the main. Without them the land would evolve back through a succession to woodland and forest. Passing through the stages of scrub and shrub to get there. In England this would, in the main, be deciduous Oak forest. Wales would have variations as the land increased in altitude. Within this, special cases and variations due to soil type, water table or exposure. In Scotland the Great Caledonian Forest would return. What an area ends up as and stays as is called the climatic climax.

Sheep and hill farming is a lovely case. The grass is dependent on the number of sheep which eat it. This is a Grazing Ecosystem. Grass can only exist because it is eaten. Sheep like grass. They will selectively graze for it, in preference to, and leaving, other plants. If there isn’t enough sheep in a given area, they may avoid shoots of other plants, because there is enough grass to satisfy them. These plants grow into mature plants which the sheep do not want for various reasons. The plants can then take over the pasture. This reduces the productivity of the land. The land is growing plants the sheep do not want to eat.

The trick is to have enough density of sheep so they eat the grass and young shoots of all plants. The woody stemmed or other plants do not grow into mature unpalatable plants. Too few sheep and unwanted plants take over, the sheep simply eat the the grass and ignore them. But too many sheep and sheep numbers decrease. Productivity falls. Too many sheep in a given area could reduces the amount of food available to each. The ewes do not put on sufficient body weight. The incidence of ewes producing twins is directly related to their body weight at conception. Too many sheep, not enough grass, reduced weight of ewes. Decrease in twins born. Less lambs for farmer to sell. Grazing pressure is central to hill and sheep farming.

This maintains something called a deflected sere or plagio-climax, depending.

Sheep didn’t maintain the grass the puppy ran through. Not grazing pressure, but, parking pressure. Just enough cars parked at just enough of a regular interval to break and stop the development of shrubby and woody stemmed plants. That and the thin soil covering where homes had once been. So the puppy had rough tussocky grass to play in.

“Come on, come on”. Back to our yard, close the gate and to the backdoor. Placing my hand on the handle to open. “Inside”.

Below me the puppy was facing the door, waiting for it to open. Just as it was opening an upwards and sidewards glance met me.

“Simple, obvious, you understand now”. Was the lesson from the look.

Inside, outside. Outside, inside. It didn’t matter what or how big the building was, it was, at the most simple, just inside or outside. I had made the mistake of worrying about future problems or situations, on my own. Believing I needed to think, on my own, for two. That wasn’t the case, the puppy was a living, thinking, sentient being. If I didn’t have an answer, he might or we would solve it together.

With a hippity hoppity rabbity jump the puppy went up the low step and into the kitchen.

Part 3

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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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