On a walk, if there are no hares to chase, Scooter amuses himself by provoking bulls and then stands behind me for protection when things turn nasty. I’ve saved him from drowning; stopped him from trying to eat an Adder, twice; and carried him in my arms back down from the upper branches of a tree, where he felt certain a squirrel lived …and what thanks do I get? He tip-toes upstairs at 3am, pulls me from my bed to the floor, asleep, then hops up into the warmth of the new vacancy.
A couple of months ago he got me banned from Falmouth, in Cornwall.
Walking with him down the High Street, I was hoping to get him back to our friends’ garden – with whom we were staying – before he could defecate. Linda’s better prepared than I am and always carries a pocketful of plastic bags so that she can poop and scoop. Well – so that she can scoop, - I think even she would draw the line at performing both jobs.
Anyway Scooter suddenly did that little dance with his back legs which lets you know you’ve got less than a second to drag him to a gutter. I must have dragged him pretty fast because I noticed little puffs of smoke coming from the pads of his feet as our wills battled it out. Whilst he performed I stood there patting my pockets pretending to look for a bag I knew I didn’t have; and on finding that I didn’t have it, feigned confusion and wonder about what I would do next. Suddenly something caught my eye.
In an alleyway leading off the High Street there was one of those newspaper-round canvas bags which paper-boys dump when they can’t be arsed to deliver their papers – but this one (ideally for my purpose) was mounted on a frame and wheels (leading me to conclude that the paper-boy was in his eighties, and probably lying nearby having died of exhaustion). Scooter was smiling and kicking up dust with his hind feet in that curious way that dogs do when they’ve just performed, as if to say: …now deal with that! - when I dragged him to the sack, hooked the wheel end of the frame over his head, and took the other end by it’s handle.
Ping! Instantly he looked like a guide-dog whose training had been sponsored by the Western Morning News. In this guise I saw the glowering looks of shop owners and customers alike melt to sympathy; and completed the ensemble by slipping a pair of dark glasses over my eyes, and began tapping the pavement, side to side, with a length of dowel I’d just bought. The dowel was the master-stroke. I think I would have been willing to pay double for it had I known what service it would be to me …way beyond any use I could give it as a craftsman. In that manner we floated buoyantly along on the swelling pity of passers-by.
The only downside to the scheme was that I now had to go where Scooter wanted to go: First he visited a pillar supporting an awning outside WH Smith, then another which he peed on; then he called at each of the remaining three to see if they had been visited by anyone he knew. Some chance, 500 miles from home. After that he spotted another guide-dog – a real one this time – across the road and ran over to it straight into the path of a taxi which screeched to a halt, nearly killing both of us. The taxi driver wanted to say something about it all until he saw my glasses and dowel; then he climbed reluctantly back into his cab, mute with pity. For more than a minute me and the grey-haired blind woman who owned the other dog – which in spite of its honeyed-looks could fight as savagely as any Pit-Bull – pointed our visages toward the sky, and thrashed our sticks wildly, demanding to know what was going on. During the chaos I stole a glance at Scooter, took aim, and separated he and the other dog by giving him a winding kick to his back side. There was such heartfelt power in that kick, such purpose, that he travelled through the air and a moment later I, still holding the frame, followed him.
Out of that tangle, we weaved back and forth across the street like a pair of drunks trying to remember which pubs had, and which pubs hadn’t banned us; then we fell through a bush and landed in a car park where a delightful-looking young woman came up to me, politely announcing her presence by clearing her throat, got me to my feet and asked if there was anything she could do to help. Her innocent smile, and the twinkling sincerity in her eyes conquered me. I would have given worlds to spend longer in her company and began casting about for something to say:
‘I’m trying to find my car.’ I told her.
‘What colour is it?’
Cars are very dull-looking these days – ten or fifteen years ago they were painted in primary colours with different patterns of polka dots to distinguish them one from another – pretty soon manufacturers realized in their droves that if they painted their cars dull-grey they would stick out like sore thumbs, with the result that these days they are all painted dull-grey …the exception to this rule was a yellow mini I noticed in my periphery vision:
‘It’s a yellow mini.’ I said. She looked around the car park;
‘Is it that one over there?’ She asked, pointing.
‘What – just in front of the BMW?’
‘Yes.’ she said.
‘That’s the one …would you mind taking my hand and leading me over to it?’
We arrived at it all too quickly; I wasn’t ready to lose her attention:
‘Now then, I’m very keen – eager even – not to put you to any further trouble …but would you happen to have a key for it?’
‘No.’ she said, blinking; ‘I haven’t.’
‘Have you lost it?
‘No,’ she said, ‘you didn’t give it to me.’
‘In that case I must ask you’, said I, ’…if you have ever broken into a vehicle and hot-wired it?’
‘Well then, would you like to see how it’s done?’
She looked nervous, and backed away a step – but I only asked because I’d noticed that Scooter had somehow managed to get into the vehicle, and was rummaging around under the steering column with some wires in his hand.
It was just then that I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a uniformed officer. He asked me if this was my vehicle; to save confusion I told him it was. He asked me if I was blind; and again, to save a long story I told him I was. Then he arrested me for failing to park in a disabled bay.
You’ll be relieved to hear that I’m out of prison now, and working on the sequel to Phoenix from the Ashes.