The last straw
Ginny tried very hard to follow Clive's decree that: 'no more money should be spent on that blasted dog.' She has made a sterling effort at DIY dog training. Every book on the subject has been borrowed from the library. Unfortunately I don't seem to have got the hang of things as quickly as Ginny would like. Take the command 'come'. Now I know it means I must rush to her feet and gaze lovingly into her eyes as she rummages in her pocket for a Winalot Reward. But let's face it if there's a choice between getting to know the latest bitch in the village or being deftly attached to my lead the moment I go anywhere near Ginny then it's a 'no-brainer' as Clive says.
When Ginny read The Perfect Puppy (by Gwen Bailey) from cover to cover she seemed depressed.
'Perfect puppy! Huh. I bet she'd never had a dog like Arrow,' Ginny harrumphed.
When Ginny read The Dog Listener (by Jan Fennell) from cover to cover she was inspired. She immediately put her reading into action by ignoring me. As she told her family that evening: 'We have to show Arrow that we're the leaders of the pack and not him. So we must completely ignore him every time we come into a room. And we must eat from his bowl before feeding him to show he's the lowest of the low. Dogs are only happy if they know their place in the pack and if we allow Arrow to think he's top dog he'll never do what we say.'
I just love humans. They're so misguided in so many things canine.
Despite Ginny's best intentions her family let her down. The moment Jake came home from school he pinned me to the floor and rubbed his cheek against mine - it's a little ritual we've got into.
'Jake! Ignore Arrow for five minutes. It's what we've agreed.'
'Oh sorry Mum. But he's so cute and I miss him when I'm at school.'
Ben managed a minute but he was caught out as he sat eating his post-school snack. It's a little ritual that I sit under the table and he slips me a biscuit or two. Today we were caught out.
'Ben! You mustn't feed Arrow from the table, he'll come to expect it and then he'll beg.'
'Oh sorry Mum, but he looks hungry.'
Nick had no trouble ignoring me. He's 14 and tends to ignore most things. That soon changed when I started snuffling at the bottom of his school rucksack (slung on the hall floor as usual). A most interesting smell was emanating from within. I managed a quick chew and then spat it out over the floor. Yuck! What a horrible taste, sort of bitter and musty and sick-making. I vomited my biscuit.
'Arrow, get out of my rucksack.' Nick dive-bombed the floor and rapidly scooped a squashed up packet of Marlboro back in his bag. Too late.
'Nicholas! Is that a packet of cigarettes?'
'Nicholas. Do not lie to me. I saw that it was a packet of cigarettes.'
'Well if you saw it why did you ask?'
'Come in here this instant.'
Oh dear. Nick's going to be in the dog-house.
There followed a free-flowing telling-off on the dangers of smoking, the filthiness of the habit, the expense, the fact that Nick is underage . . . and much more.
While the rest of the household quietly got on with the afternoon - Blue Peter, a play in the garden, homework - Nick and Ginny shouted at each other. Eventually Nick stomped to his room. A moment later the first strains of Nick's electric guitar echoed through the house and we were treated to a full volume run-through of his repertoire. This is limited. To one song. Teen Spirit by Nirvana.
After 30 minutes Ginny had had enough. We went for a walk. And then I really blew it. Ginny's day hadn't been going that well, it got a bit worse.
Now Aston Peverell is in the heart of the Worcestershire countryside. It's a mixed farming area - wheat, barley, apples, plums, asparagus, cows and sheep. We set off on our regular walk behind the church, through a gap in the hedge to the fields. As usual Ginny set me off the lead and I scampered through the hedge with Ginny a little way behind. As I cleared the hedge I saw the most exciting thing - the field had been filled with sheep! So I did what any dog in my position would do - I started chasing. Sheep are really good fun to chase. They tend to stick together and if you're clever you can get the whole flock running around en masse from one end of the field to the other. The trick is then to pick one of the sheep off, separate it from the rest of its mates and corner it. Then when your blood is really up you attack - although I hasten to add that I've never actually managed to do that as I'm still a bit of a beginner.
I had just managed to get the flock thoroughly worn out when Ginny entered the field and let out the most blood curdling shriek. It sent my sheep into a frenzy of running and jumping so I ran after them of course. Up and down the field we went. The sheep, then me, then Ginny.
I don't think the command 'f****** come here you f****** little b******' features in any of the dog training manuals.
After a while I tired, a little. I managed to corner a lamb under the hedgerow. It cowered, bleating pathetically in the ditch. I was so excited. I wasn't really sure what to do next. I suppose I should have just ripped its throat out and I may have got around to demolishing it but I was pounced on by Ginny.
'You little f*****!'
I beg your pardon!
'You'll get us both shot you stupid little puppy.' Rivulets of sweat were coursing down Ginny's brow. She put my lead on and yanked me out of the ditch. We sped home, my feet hardly touching the ground. At home Ginny threw me into the back porch.
'You can stay in there you f****** b****** sheep worrier.'
Ben, Jake, and even Nick, alerted by the commotion, looked shocked.
'That b***** dog. Why did I let you lot talk me into getting a dog?'
'Errr Mum, it was your idea,' Nick volunteered.
'I only got him because I thought it would be good for you lot to have one. Why, I don't know! I'm the only one that walks him, or feeds him, or trains him or does anything . . .'
Ginny ranted for quite a while. Nick took charge. Thankful that the Marlboro incident had been put on the back burner he gently took his mother and sat her at the kitchen table. Then he filled the kettle and boiled some water for a nice cup of strong Yorkshire Tea. Then he found the Yellow Pages and looked up 'Dog Training' and handed his mother the phone. And that is how we come to have Ingrid Smith, dog trainer, standing on our doorstep this morning.