As an only child, Russ was an itinerant, a bolter. We have far too many feral temptations on the farm: The hedgehog in the paddock, the muntjac in the woods, deer that will run for miles when there’s a dog (and me) chasing them. And the postman’s red van, although our postman isn’t feral. He carries dog biscuits.
We hoped that having a friend would encourage him to stay home. Oh, the sweet naivety of that idea. We were about to encounter the full force of Border terrier itinerancy.
What had been solo, forty-minute forays became twenty-four hours of canine sortie when they were hunting as a pack. And Meg was fast. No point in me running now (phew), all I could see was two brindle specks on the far, distant horizon.
They never learnt recall. The best you might get was a contemptuous stare, and that was only if you were lucky enough to be within staring distance.
I’ve spent many hours on torchlight hunts, untangled leads wrapped around branches, apologised to too many neighbours (and to the security men at the nearby science park, who caught them on CCTV. They were chasing the swans).
I’ve retrieved those dogs from three different counties, but they usually turned up on the doormat after I’d spent the night sleepless with worry. Knackered, bloodied and bruised (that was them, I was just knackered), wearing mud-heavy clogs, their coats matted with our very own super-bonding clay, and frequently infested.
Have you met seed ticks? The veterinary nurse at our practice hadn’t, she thought I was being hysterical. ‘Bring them in, we can sort that out.’ And she came at them armed with tweezers.
Now seed ticks are not just your common or garden tick (I’ve tweezered off plenty of those little buggers. I recall that my best [or should that be worst] count was thirty-six ticks. Removed from a single dog, In one session).
She can’t say I didn’t warn her, that nurse. Her face was a treat, and I can’t deny the thrill of satisfaction that gave me. We were, at last, united in hysteria. Hundreds, nay thousands, of miniscule black ticks. Like poppy seeds, but evil.
The nurse put her tweezers away and sent me home with some Napalm.
Tune in next time for episode three (My Dog’s Got no Nose).