I remember way back, well before allowing dogs into our lives (which changed absolutely everything), thinking that if ever I had a dog I'd name it 'Rabies'. However, when the time came, Georgie thought it was entirely wrong to name a cuddly little pup after a killer disease so the little white ball of fluff was nameless when we went to register him with the local vet. The vet, quite rightly, was reluctant to put a question mark in the 'name of dog' box so we had to quickly come up with a name while his fingers hovered impatiently over the computer keyboard.
After a couple of seconds of hushed silence I blurted out "Jock" - not exactly an original name for a Westie but it somehow felt right to name him after my old Scottish 'Uncle Jock' (not really my uncle but an extremely kind-hearted soul and a leading light in Gibraltar's Toc-H during the post-war period). It was he who kindly bought me my first kilt as a present for my fifth birthday, thus making sure he wasn't the only male wandering around Gibraltar in a skirt. I remember Mum (also a Scot) and he beaming with pride as I took off my lederhosen (spent infancy in Austria - army y'know) and donned this strange item of clothing, much to my English father's amusement. Wore it the next day to school. Got into a scrap with some cheeky little sod who had the audacity to take a peek at my knickers. Got dragged off him by Miss Pizzarella who made me stand in the classroom corner. Entered that damned corner as an Englishman (Mum spent her entire adult life apologising for 'dropping' me and ma wee sister south o'the border) but re-emerged five minutes later as a fully-fledged, fighting Scotsman. Been one ever since.
Soon after Jock arrived, a little brown ball of fluff joined our gang. So we had to have another name-thinking session. Finally opted for the name of a mechanical item that turns the drivechain on a motorcycle. Thus 'Sprocket' entered our daily vocabulary. It was a close run thing though due to my suggesting 'Rabies' again, as well as the equally amusing 'Pavlov'. With the benefit of hindsight, Georgie reckons we should have gone for 'Fluffy' ('cos it's entirely inappropriate) or 'Bonkers' ('cos it's entirely appropriate). However, after what happened yesterday, I reckon 'Radar' or 'Sniffer' would have hit the nail on the head...
There we were, Jock, Sprock and I, slowly ambling up the back lane that leads to the old granite cross, with birds twittering and tall grasses gently swaying in the warm evening sun. We'd just passed the entrance to Christian's newly-seeded field on the right and were well out of sight of neighbour Colette's Labrador dog so I unclipped Sprocket from his lead. For a moment he trotted alongside and all seemed well. But then he stopped, pointed his nose in the air, swept a wide arc over the field on the left followed by a narrower arc. Something was up so I tried to get him back on his lead. Too late. Quick as a flash he ducked under the barbed wire fence and sprinted across the field, coming to an eventual halt about fifty yards away. All I could see was his bald tail circling in the tall grass but his growls and whimpers told me what he'd found. Hedgehog. Soon to be a dead hedgehog unless I acted quickly. Sprinted back down the lane, through the field entrance, through the tall grass, arrived at the spot, gave Sprock a smack (yes, I know you shouldn't but...), shouted "no!", put him back on his lead, checked the curled up hedgehog was okay and dragged Sprock back up the lane with Jock following. Let him off his lead again a few minutes later and kicked him forward. Luckily he didn't turn back.
The thing I find amazing is how, even when surrounded by all the aromae of a delicious spring soiree, a hunting dog such as a Patterdale can recognise the scent of a relatively small animal hiding in long grass about fifty yards away. Or more. Really quite staggering.
A Winters's Harvest
1 week ago