« Foundations | Main | 7 - Pilot »

Backwords: Four-Legged Friends

…Even when my cocker spaniel put his teeth through my ear it was entirely my own fault for sitting beside him on the hearthrug and provoking him with a childish and what I foolishly considered to be a totally unrealistic canine impersonation…

Despite a series of unfortunate events Mike Shaw still likes dogs and horses.

Dogs and horses have always been among my favourite animals.

But it’s an affection that has been painfully tested more than once.

It must be some 60 years ago since I learned the hard way that horsepower has more than one meaning.

As a small boy I was fetching milk with an older brother from a hilltop farm when we stopped to offer a friendly greeting to what seemed to be an equally friendly carthorse.

Our four-legged friend clearly appreciated my brother’s affectionate rub on the nose.

But Dobbin left me in no doubt that he didn’t care much for my gentle stroking of his hindquarters.

Holding an empty milk can in one hand as I patted away with the other, I was suddenly bowled over like a ninepin when Dobbin lashed out angrily with his back leg.

I remember rolling backwards head over heels down the steeply sloping field before coming to rest in the soft, sweet-smelling grass.

I can almost feel the agony now as I lay there with my shoulder hurting more than anything had ever hurt before…and the milk can rolled merrily away to the bottom of the hill.

The resulting broken collarbone taught me a devastatingly swift and excruciatingly painful lesson, which I pass on today to all unsuspecting youngsters. Never stand behind and within striking distance of a horse. However friendly it may be.

Looking back, it’s amazing that I continued to put my trust in horses after another childhood incident, even though I was not personally involved.

It was a grisly, real-life horror story fit to chill the blood as my uncle -- a noted trainer of show horses -- fell victim to an equine fit of temper.

I never did get to know the full tale. But it had a violent ending when the horse turned on its master and savaged his arm so badly that it had to be amputated above the elbow.

The gory happening haunted me for years to come every time I met the uncle who had been left with only one arm.

Nothing remotely so unpleasant has marred my lifelong liking for dogs.

Even when my cocker spaniel put his teeth through my ear it was entirely my own fault for sitting beside him on the hearthrug and provoking him with a childish and what I foolishly considered to be a totally unrealistic canine impersonation.

Later in life the same spaniel cost me a small fine when, despite his age, he set off in search of pastures new and was found wandering in Manchester Road near the dead centre of Slaithwaite -- outside the cemetery.

Even though he was in police custody only a couple of hours, the local bobbies said they had no option but to charge me for a full day’s board and lodging. And the magistrates smiled but still slapped on a fine when I wrote to assure them I had instructed the offender not to run away again.

When I was a boy we had a bizarre succession of fox terriers. One would insist on chasing his own tail -- a feat which caused us great hilarity until we found it almost impossible to stop him.

Another was dubbed Goebbels, not because he bore any resemblance to the hated Nazi but because he insisted on gobbling down his dinner in about 10 seconds flat.

A third frequently went missing for days on end. On one memorable occasion he was absent for almost a week during thick snow. When he did turn up his stomach was absolutely enormous, which created all sorts of speculation.

All was soon revealed, however, when the local farmer turned up with the skeletons of three hens found in an upturned barrel which our inventive pet had turned into a doghouse of his own.

Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.