Friday, 20 February 2009


Leaving the house together this morning, Andy and I are assailed on the driveway by an exuberant boxer dog. He is the size of a small horse and is galloping up the middle of the road until he spies us emerging from our front door. There is a lady in hot pursuit so I hang onto the boxer's collar which is no mean feat given his size and strength and keeness to play 'thrashing about like a fish on a line until I choke.'

'Oooh, thank goodness!' the lady puffs. 'I was afraid he'd run out into the main road. Is it okay if I leave him with you?' It transpires the running lady is not the owner of the boxer. And without really waiting for a response she turns and disappears in a puff of relief at no longer being responsible for this runaway creature. This is the second time in four months we've suddenly found ourselves reluctant guardians of lost dogs. The previous one was a tiny border terrier puppy. We are starting to feel like dog magnets.

'This is very inconvenient,' I think. The dog is wearing a collar and we try to read the attached tag. The dog seems capable of producing much saliva and, excited at being with new people, he immediately covers Andy's coat and shoes with a thick layer of foam. The dog translates our attempts to read his collar as a willingness to get up close and personal in a friendly, 'let's have a doggy romp' kind of way.

'He's called Alfie,' I say. 'ALFIE...SIT!' I command. Hearing his name, Alfie sits on my foot for all of two seconds before leaping up again, almost wrenching my arm from its socket. Andy manages, through a mass of doggy licks and kisses, to get the telephone number from the reverse side of the tag. Whilst he goes inside to call the number, I stand outside on the path with Alfie. 'ALFIE...SIT!' I say, again. And again. And again. To give him his due, he responds to the command but sustains the behaviour for an average of 6.7 seconds each time. It's a bit like teaching a teenage boy Shakespeare.
'So who does Macbeth meet on the Heath?'
'A flasher?'
'No, three witches. And they make three predictions for him. Can you remember what they were?'
'Wossa prediction?'
'Telling someone's fortune.'
'Oh right.'
'So what did the witches tell him?'
'Tell who?'
'Who's Macbeth?'

It's a weary process...

Andy returns. There is no reply from the telephone number. Tybalt and Phoebe are building a barrier against the front door using the kitchen chairs and broomstick. We can't put Alfie in the house.
'And don't you even think of bringing him back here,' shouts Mrs Miggins from the back garden. She is standing on a pyramid created by the other hens and some obliging collared doves from next door and peering over the back gate. 'I'm allergic to dogs. They make me sneeze.'
'I had a Shi-tzu once,' says Mrs Pumphrey from the bottom of the pyramid.
'I don't think we need to hear about your toilet habits, thank you,' says Miggins.

Andy decides the only course of action is to take Alfie to work with him, leaving me to try an d contact the owner during the day. Luckily, we have a people carrier with a spacious open boot. As soon as Andy opens the tailgate, Alfie drags me across the drive. Clearly he knows about cars. In fact, I'm willing to bet his third favourite occupation after running wildly down the centre of a road and slobbering, is travelling in cars. He's in the back like a shot and sits obediently and expectantly as if to say 'Where are we going? Seaside? Paris? Abseiling? Let's go to the seaside.I love the seaside, I do.'

Somehow, we manage to undo Alfie's collar, slip it through a seat belt, and refasten it in an attempt to restrain him during the journey because he looks like the kind of creature who would be quite keen to sit up front and play with the CD controls and gearstick as Andy is driving. And off they go, Andy and Alfie, man and dog, Thelma and Louise.

On returning from my swim I set about the task of contacting Alfie's owner. But there is already a message from Andy. They've found her. She is very grateful and Andy is bringing Alfie back this evening to reunite them as he lives just along the road from us. Apparently, he was very good in the car on the way over to the surgery. Didn't change the radio channel once.

Just a quick extra to tell you about - I spent a very informative hour or two yesterday researching bees and bee-keeping and whilst doing so I found the website of the bumblebee conservation society. It's an excellent site and well worth the visit. You can find it at Have a look. It'll make you go 'aaahhhhh!'

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