Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Heartbroken at the loss of pie

I've been host to an unexpected house guest these last few days, a little Patterdale Terrier Cross whom I now know as Bruce.

I was driving through Meanwood on Sunday afternoon when I saw a van stopped by the side of the road, hazard lights flashing, and the motorist on the pavement bent down holding a small dog whilst making a call on his mobile. I pulled over to see if the chap needed any help. He explained that he'd stopped because he was worried for the dog which he'd seen straying, fearing it would come to harm crossing the busy roads. He'd called the police who weren't interested, and he'd called the dog warden to be told they don't collect strays at the weekend. The motorist was stuck, he couldn't put a dog in the van as he was on his way to a job, but neither could he just leave the dog to fend for itself, and so the dog came home with me.

He was well behaved and calm in my car, but when we got to my house he was understandably unsettled. I put a water bowl and some dog food down for him which he sampled. He had a bit of a sniff around, then settled by the front door obviously wanting to leave. I made a bit of a fuss of him, showed him round the garden, played a little, but mainly I was hands off to let him take in his surroundings in his own time. By the evening he'd gained a lot of confidence and subjected my house to a thorough sniff, hoovering up odours from every nook and cranny in CSI investigative style.

At dusk I took him out into the garden again, whereupon he discovered some fallen snowberry fruit. This led to a what the dog thought was a brilliant new game, as I chased him up and down the garden trying to get him to spit out the marble sized white berries. Each time I approached he'd drop the berry, only to snatch it just at the last moment and race off to the other end of the garden. I did the only thing I could - stop chasing him, and entice him to chase me. It turned out he liked this new game just fine, and happily chased me back into the house.

From time to time he'd whimper and start this groaning howl, which was quite the most amazing sound I've ever heard from a dog, reminiscent of a special effect soundtrack for a haunted house. He'd be great on Hallowe'en - his groaning would create the perfect spooky atmosphere.

Monday 5:30am came and he joined my dad, his dog Jessie and myself on a Roundhay Park walk. After our walk I put the dog in my car boot and closed it, accidentally locking the dog in and me out. This resulted in a 22 mile tour of Leeds, as my dad drove me in his car back to his to pick up a spare set of keys for my house, and then to mine to get a spare key for the car, then back to Roundhay park to rescue the dog. Poor boy, he was ever so licky and pleased to see me when I got the car open.

Finally back home, the computer systems were down when I called the dog warden, so I was asked to call back in the afternoon. Having noted how much the dog used his sense of smell, and recalling episodes of Lassie, I decided to take the dog back to Meanwood for a walk around the area where he was found. I was optimistic when the little fella started confidently pulling me towards a pedestrian crossing. Three turnings later we were at the start of a muddy path and I realised he was taking me on walkies around Woodhouse Ridge. In the woods we met a dog walker, with two West Highland Terriers, who recognised my mystery dog, and was able to gave me a description of the owner, but not his name.

Ultimately that was as far as the Lassie experiment took us, and it was with some resignation that the little dog got back in my car. Back at home I finally managed to leave a description of the dog for the dog warden. I had a hospital appointment in the afternoon, which meant leaving the dog for a couple of hours. When I returned I was again treated to the hyperactive licks and wiggles of an anxious dog.

As he became more settled and relaxed in the house, I could see his natural confidence emerging, and through the course of the evening he checked out the relative comforts of each of the chairs and sofas, before finally deciding to tuck himself in at my feet.

I had registered the dog on the (most excellent) DogLost website, and during the night I got the best kind of call - the kind that suggests the dog is going to be reunited with his family and have a happy ever after. The lady told me she was sure he was "Bruce" who'd gone awol from Woodhouse chasing after a female in heat. Only one problem - the dog didn't respond to the name.

By the morning I had a plan - perhaps the local vets could get a positive ID if he was microchipped. As soon as the vets were open I popped the dog on the lead and walked him to the vets. En route I learnt that, in the absence of a pooh bag, a discarded fag packet can double as tongs allowing dog mess to be dropped in a drain. Krypton factor challenge successfully completed, we continued on our way. Life is strewn with unexpected obstacles, but they rarely manifest as large pork pies. As bizarre as it may sound, we came across one such obstacle, but I was cunning and managed to scoot the dog by without giving him the opportunity to get close enough to snatch it.

They found the dog's microchip at the vets and confirmed he was Bruce, so I was totally absorbed in texting Bruce's owners to give them the good news as we walked back to my house. While I might have totally forgotten about the abandoned pork pie, Bruce certainly hadn't and he seized his chance, grabbing the pie as I ambled passed in a texting daze. The pie was easily as big as Bruce's head. What a sight. I felt so mean prising the pie away, but I didn't want to risk returning Bruce with food poisoning. Poor thing, he looked so heartbroken at the loss of pie, but I knew I had something much better lined up for Bruce than a ratty old discarded pork pie.

And so it came to pass that Bruce was reunited with his family, and all was well in his doggy world once again.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Go stone age

I’ve been maintaining radio silence for a wee while now, but today I’m free to wax lyrical. Well, I say I’m free, but I suppose I’m only as free insomuch as anyone is truly free, given the behaviours we must forgo in order to participate in a social community. For instance I’m not free to murder, maim or create mayhem. Alas.

On the plus side I get to reap the benefits of participating in civilisation, and this should not be underestimated. Imagine a world where there was no cooperation, where it was each person for themselves. You could take what you want from anyone else, as long as you had the might to take it, and the strength to keep it, but would there be anything worth taking in such a world?  

We cooperate on a massive scale to produce even the most humble of objects. A door is simple thing, but if I had to make a door from first principles with no assistance how would I fair? I’d need to chop down a tree, so first I’d need to make an axe. 

I could go stone age, and track down flint to shape into an axe head. I suspect this would be challenging, but perhaps not as impossible as finding and mining iron ore, building a furnace to smelt it, then converting it to steel to make an axe head. 

Once my tree is chopped down I’d need to cut it into planks, not so easy with the stone-age axe, but if I’ve been able to make steel perhaps I might be able to make a suitable saw. Assuming I’ve gotten as far as producing planks, I reckon I’d be able to manage the rest fairly easily, but frankly I’d be amazed if I got as far as the plank stage.

We are all so blasé about the society we live in, but the simple fact is that without civilisation we’d be in mud huts struggling to feed ourselves and stay warm. So let this be my ode to cooperation, and the willing surrender of a few absolute freedoms in order to sit in a cosy warm home tapping away at my computer.