From complications arising from complications arising from things that could have, should have… whatever. Jasper the dog died this morning, of old age in dog years. This was a dog who was once scared of a toy sheep that was walking towards him, who learnt that lakes weren’t as solid as they looked by attempting to go look at a duck, who repeatedly forgot that it is difficult to see sudden hills when running too fast, who fell into the swimming pool an hour before we picked him up as a puppy, who…
A shaggy dog story:
About five years ago, maybe six, I was living at home with my parents. It would have been between Uni and moving to Cambridge. It was summer, the time of the Annual Fictional Town Of Paddock Wood Carnival, which traditionally is held every year and involves scouts on lorries dressed as cavemen. Or the french. Or other such things. Anyway, the carnival lead up to the field on the road where we lived, where there was a traditional travelling fair, with big wheels and ghost trains and throwing darts to win diseased goldfish and constant rumours that the travellers running the fair were going to kill us in our sleep. One particularly pernicious rumour was of “Big Carl” who was arrested five years ago for slitting the throat of a local, but had gotten out of jail and was back for his revenge. I heard this rumour every year from ages eight through to eighteen, “Big Carl”’s name changing every time.
On the Sunday of the carnival, as the fair were packing up to go home, I was asked to walk the dog, which I did. Because it was a weekend, and I couldn’t walk him around the local field because of the fair, I decided to take him on a long walk. Across the local field, over the main road, around the footpaths around the corn fields, and so I put him on his lead and we wander around for a bit. Like this:
Note, for reference, that Church Road on that map is fairly busy, and the bit of it near us tend towards blind corners.
Also notice how the line ends and doesn’t return. Along that hedge I let Jasper off his lead to run around a bit, which he proceeded to do. When we got to that point of the line, however, another dog came out with its owner, it wasn’t on a lead either.
It was a greyhound.
Jasper and the Greyhound had a staring contest for a bit, but the greyhound gave in first, and bolted for the hedge, so, of course, Jasper followed, chasing after the greyhound like a militarised bunny-rabbit.
At this point the world was awfully quiet. Birds twittered quietly in the trees, until they ran out of batteries in their mobiles. All was calm. All was piece. A beautiful day in the Garden of England.
The owner of the greyhound, at this point, got as far as me.
“What has your fucking mutt done with my Greyhound?” it asked. The greyhound was sleek, tall, slim, apparently intelligent and could run a long way. Also, it was proof positive that dogs do not take after their owners. The owner – whose name I never caught, it may have been buried in the stream of invective poured at me over the next ten minutes – demonstrated his annoyance that my “fucking mutt” had kidnapped his pure-bred greyhound, and demanded to know where it (the mutt) had taken it (the greyhound).
I stood around and shouted Jasper’s name for a while, ignored the owner (Who ensured me he would sue for damages. He hadn’t asked for my name, or the dogs, or any identifying information) and worried about the – to me – more pressing issue of (a) Where my pet mobile mop had run off too and (b) Exactly how was I going to explain this to my parents? Eventually the owner stalked off in the direction the dogs had gone, and I made the decision that I was going to have to face the music.
On the way back I considered the benefits of running away myself, what we could possibly do next (Zoom out on that map above, they could run though fields for hours and we’d never find them) and wishing we’d got some kind of homing pigeon instead. I crossed the (now fairly busy) main road, and went home. By this time the fair had packed up and left, and I went diagonally across the local field.
In the middle of the field, standing by my oldest little brother, looking for all the world like he’d wondered exactly where I’d gone for the past hour… was, obviously the dog. Who had finished chasing the greyhound, crossed the main road and gone back home.