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Dog days

25/06/2010

My neighbour, Monsieur Pastorelli, was busy repairing the connecting door in the lobby when I left the building on my way to attend to absent friends’ pets the other day. Not his job – he’s retired in any case – but he was dealing with it just the same. “It’s getting hot, now,” said Monsieur Pastorelli, “makes sense to be able to have the door open, no?” Yes, indeed!

Arena @ Cemelenum, Nice by Eric Coffinet

Monsieur Pastorelli, a niçois charmer, lives au paradis (the top floor) with his equally enchanting and similarly-rooted wife. Always friendly, courteous and helpful, they are precisely the kind of neighbours any of us might wish for – and more, due to the laughs as much as the aid and advice.
Monsieur Pastorelli on the subject of the couple’s recent holiday: “It was very nice for my wife – she was waited upon, hand and foot, all day and every day: what a treat for a woman!” “Well, for you too, I assume,” I demurred. Monsieur Pastorelli shrugged, “well, you know I am a man and of Italian origin – ben … voilà!” He drew himself up to his full height (about the same as mine), aimed his nose upwards and tapped himself on the chest: “I am, of course, completely macho, moi, so I expect to be waited upon at all times anyway!”
Hm.
Off I went to take charge of two soppy hounds, Bosco and Gadi, and a cat caractériel – who shall remain nameless for now since this is not his story. Hardly onerous, the task: minimal responsibility, maximum pleasure you might say – as would I. Only what might have been a dog-walker’s worst nightmare nearly happened.

Griffin and rabbit misericord, Ripon Cathedral by Alethe

One of the dogs, Gadi, newly-adopted, was naturally unfamiliar with the environment and its denizens. One of the latter – a large Scottish-style terrier – having greeted his chum, Bosco, perfectly happily, promptly decided that strangers were not to be tolerated and suddenly launched an unprovoked and savage attack on Gadi. Needless to say, I had both Bosco and Gadi on leads whereas the attacker was unleashed – in every sense.
Gadi screamed; the attack-dog’s owner screamed; I screamed: we all screamed as I tried in vain to haul Gadi away from the other dog, the latter attached to the former by his fangs. Horrible. Frightening. All the more so in a sense when it’s not your animal: that’s when the responsibility so carelessly undertaken shows its more serious face. Potentially very serious, if not even grave.

Wyvern, misericord at Gt Malvern Priory by Kurt Morgan

Finally the vicious particle of Scots spite opened his jaws long enough for me to snatch away his victim. Trembling myself, I led Gadi and Bosco away to a safer distance where I tried to examine Gadi. He shook and panted with panic, refusing to be touched. Bosco sniffed at him carefully, standing guard at his companion’s side, his presence a shield.I returned the animals to their home, and persuaded Gadi to let me handle him. No harm done externally. Of course, there remained the possibility of internal injury which, if present, would only be revealed by time plus close observation. So I resolved  to spend the night in the house. A visit to the vet wouldn’t be necessary – at least, not immediately. I heaved a sigh of relief and stroked the shaking dog gently.  The cat upon his perch on a high chair frowned down upon us intently, curiosity engaged. Bosco strolled over, cocky and cheerful as usual, and sniffed at his house-mate’s face prior to kissing it lavishly and at length, seemingly offering reassurance. Reassured myself, I left Gadi in Bosco’s charge and raced off to have … words with savage-Scottiething owner.Words? I surprised even myself with my vehement fluency.  But fear can do that to you, I’ve noticed, having had to square up to many belligerent persons in my time. But this wasn’t my language, my country, my place even. Indeed, that latter fact had been

Amphisbaena, misericord @ Edlesborough Church, Buckinghamshire

uncouthly underlined by a repeat visit from the bailiffs that week. They were threatening to remove the entire contents of my current temporary abode (including my laptop, which is a necessity in my case rather than a luxury, and the few remaining items of my jewellery) due to its owners’ debts. I’d never had dealings with bailiffs; never left any bills unpaid; never had an overdraft until redundancy bit down hard a few years ago. Eschewed credit cards; saved; paid mortgages, blahdiblahblah. Thus, here was more hideous irony – as if I need any more of that!
An occasion to let my own rage rip – gladly taken and fully exploited, I don’t mind telling you. My principal point, of course, was restricted to: “You will not let that dog off the lead in public.” I let anger fuel me as I continued: “Anywhere. Ever. Again. Understood? UNDERSTOOD?”

Triple-faced Green Man, misericord @ Cartmel Priory

Apparently it was, for other doggie walkers, hearing of the incident through the doggie grapevine and being sympathetic and concerned, hurried over to confirm it when they next spotted me (the following day: a very small world, my quartier).
And a day’s close vigil over Gadi yielded evidence of nothing more serious than a bruised body and mind. During the following day I took him and Bosco back to the scene of the crime several times to ensure that no threat would linger and to restore his confidence.
And the day after that?

Well, ambling through the tunnel at one end of the park leading onto the street beyond with the two dogs I was shaken from my reverie by the sound of muffled barking. “Oh God, not again!” I thought, turning back to look. There was a sight I couldn’t quite credit at first. At the very limit of his lead the hitherto pacific and gentle Gadi stood stiffly to attention, it was Gadi who was barking (something he didn’t do when out and about). On the other side of a clothes rail stood an unsuspecting little Westie, speechless with amazement.
“Woof!” essayed Gadi – it must be said, somewhat unconvincingly. And again, if anything more tentatively: ”woof!” His small body braced with effort, he finally gave it some welly: “WOOF!” He followed up the loud bark with a series of low growls as Bosco strolled over to him, tail wagging in what looked much like

Green Man, misericord @ St Lawrence Church, Ludlow by Simon Garbutt

supportive approval. Could the elder of the two dogs have offered Gadi canine counselling during the previous 36 hours? Who can tell.  All that was clear was anything remotely Scottish and doggy was now recognised by Gadi as The Enemy. Not only that but also Gadi was not going to take anything from any of ‘em. Anywhere. Ever. Again. Hauling him away, I bent to fuss his head: “good boy! Good dog, Gadi!”

Sometimes a touch of machismo is the only answer. After all, it’s good enough for the fab Monsieur Pastorelli, it did the trick for Gadi and, in these days of supposedly equal ops, it worked for me. Plus it does one no harm for other people in general (and bailiffs in particular) to know that ‘Cet animal est très méchant, quand on l’attaque il se défend.’

All pix sourced via Commons Wiki; click to enlarge.

 

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