|"McKenzie, sit! Stay! Roll over! A--a--and have a biscuit! Good dog. |
Who comes here through the snow?
Lucy in a bikini and Jim with a bleeding nose. "
There is a towpath near my house that runs for four miles to our main town; on one side, the creek and the other woods and fields. When my dog was a puppy, I took her to the fields and completely failed to train her. Watching her dopey pink grin bounce joyously through long grass, in the complete opposite direction to the ball, is a highlight of every day.
I had long been aware of the unlikely friendships that grow between dog owners. Also of the horrible rivalries, jealousies and feuds. But that's a story better told by this talented tale weaver. Anyway, I was welcomed by this new family and Lucia and I expanded our little group of friends.
Joan walks McKenzie, an immaculately clipped Westie. She carries treats for all the dogs, makes them sit to attention and put up paws and generally elicits the sort of command-and-control that has ever eluded me. She walks briskly, and is aways appropriately dressed. Sometimes, I stand in my flip-flops in dripping rain beside her watching my dog, who will do absolutely anything for food and a tickle (it is beneath you to comment on this), sit ramrod straight and feel a little uncharitable. She is also convinced my name is Lucy and says, between titchy biscuits and one-word commands, "Lucy and Lucia, what a funny pair." After three years, I have lost the will to correct her.
Jim's scowl is etched through to his soul. I like him enormously, he is a proper old curmudgeon Not a twinkly-underneath-Bill-Nighy-via-Richard-Curtis crosspatch. No, he really is the proper thing. He refers to everyone, men and women alike, as 'bastards.' Last Christmas he told me that he loathes his sponging family and planned to get blind drunk for three days to blot them out. He swears like a trooper and his half-blind Collie hates all the other dogs. Lucia's hackles go up and she slinks warily by. He has trained his dog to run in the bushes rather than on the path to stop her attacking them, and he shouts 'You mad bitch, bugger off into the bushes, NOW.' I amuse myself hugely by shouting "Oops, sorry" and leaping sideways when I hear him. After two years, I was rewarded by a solitary barking laugh. It made my day.
Bill, the Labrador walker, is stocky and bow-legged and has spent his life sailing. His dog is grey-muzzled and stays close to the sweet old sou'wester'd man. We amble along, our dogs carrying stupidly long branches and he tells great tales of the sea and races lost and won. It is another language to me and I frequently say "fabulous, what fun" as he's describing a maritime fiasco.
When Lucia and I dashed down between showers this morning, the three of them were gathered on the path. There was clearly trouble. The farmer has blocked the entrances to all the fields with brush, barbed wire and great signs in red paint warning us to stay off his property. He has apparently had enough of the local kids having fires and drinking cider and riding motorbikes round at top speed.
Joan reasonably pointed out it is his land after all. Bill suggested we get up a petition, which he will deliver. He wondered if there should be a committee. Jim said he was going to come back this afternoon with wire cutters and set fire to the piles of brushwood. He said if the farmer stops him, he'll chin the bastard. I might go and help him.