New Year’s Day dawned bright and crispy in the hood.
Having utterly disgraced myself on the 26th December by over- libating in an eight- hour marathon at the Christmas dinner table the night before and thus unable to entertain invited guests (indeed unable to stand, sit or speak), I resolved to drink little on New Year’s Eve, see 2015 in, withdraw to bed at a reasonable o’clock and rise early to walk the boy dog on Chorleywood Common on the first of the first. I walked and greeted other early risers – “Happy New Year”, “Happy New Year”, “Lovely morning”, “Don’t’ worry, my dog jumps up as well”, “Enjoy your walk”. Lyle walked, ran, gambolled with other dogs, ate horse poo, rolled in horse poo, braved the ice on not one but two of the ponds and got lots of cheese and apple treats. We both had a lovely outing.
Such a lovely outing we had and so full of joie de vivre were we, I decided to take my precious pup out for an afternoon amble. He deserved it and I was revelling in, not only my sobriety and steady pins but also my March 2014 decision to get another dog and the wonderful fulfilment he was affording Yours Truly on a daily basis. Hmmmm.
Just like high stakes gambling where the importance of knowing when to leave well alone, to gather your chips and to walk away from the vingt et un table is critical, so too is it imperative to understand that twinkle in your puppy’s eye, that quizzical head tilt and that canine thought bubble woofing ‘Fuck it’. Only Mrs C didn’t realise it at the critical moment so wrapt up in the wonderful was she.
Because the sky was darkening and birds were beginning to roost in the high oaks and elms overhead, I chose Phillipshill Wood over the more benign Chorleywood Common. Proximity to Casa Carmichael was the deciding factor. That, dear readers, was mistake number one.
Mistake number two was opting for the hill trail downward and towards the bottom paddock. The bottom paddock has always provided intense interest for my naughty dogs (that is, two of the three dogs I have owned since Carmichael life began in the hood). If it wasn’t cowpats, it was the occasional ostrich (no word of a lie) and horse, shire or otherwise. Two or three or more. On the afternoon of New Year’s Day it was an equine equivalent to the D Day landings that caught Lyle’s attention. Huge beasts whinnying sweet nothings hurtled to greet him and drew his attention away from me, his mistress, totally and completely. Their siren song of welcome caused him to stop, to pause a moment, to cast a farewell glance at me, head cocked beguilingly. It forced him to canter away from me with nary a backward glance.
“No Lyle. Stay (hand raised as taught in April puppy training classes), stay, STAY, Lyle LYLE, LYLE LYLE!@£$%^&*(”
‘Fuck it,’ he thought as he sloped, eloped and then galloped down the remainder of the hill, under the metal gate and into the midst the advancing flotilla.
The horses must have regretted their invitation immediately. I could have told them and saved us all so much bother but I was too slow, too naive, too utterly out of control.
To this point in the tale my dignity, if not my authority, is still intact. Please stop now if you want it to remain that way. From here on in Mrs Carmichael lets herself down. Big time.
Serendipitously, I have just read an article about what to do when your dog runs away from you and towards danger. Apparently one is supposed to throw body and dignity on the ground flat like a pancake or roll into a ball. Apparently, the dog will see this as unknown and therefore interesting behaviour and return to your now muddy arms with alacrity. To my mind, there is an apparent flaw in the logic. Dogs do not have eyes in the back of their heads. Lyle certainly doesn’t.
My puppy did however come to a stop. Right under the belly of a big, nay huge, brown horse. The horse stood still and peered down and towards the boisterous cockapoo. The boisterous cockapoo ran around between its back legs, chest and whipping tail. Then the boisterous cockapoo tried to smell the horse’s bum. The horse didn’t like this. It snorted and stamped and began to twist around.
‘Great’, thought Lyle ‘it does want to play.’
‘Shit,’ thought I. ‘He’s going to die.’
“Lyle,” I screamed and scrambled, commando-like, across the paddock. “Come here.” Stern voice. “Come here!” Gritted teeth. “Come here you little bugger.” Terrified overtone.
Lyle gambolled around the snorting stamping horse. He gambolled around its friends. He ducked and weaved and dodged me successfully, beatific grin upon his chops. Then his day got even better. Smelling freshly deposited horse poo he traced a double chicane away from the horse and his mistress and hurtled at the steaming mound of dung, Mrs Carmichael in hot pursuit.
‘Numm, numm, numm,’ thought Lyle.
“Stay, stay, stay,” yelled I.
Then I hit him. Twice. Flat palm, big smacks. Mea culpa.
I couldn’t get the lead on and, as the red mist engulfed me, I hit him again. Mea, mea culpa.
He made not a sound but the smile was replaced by a horse poo encrusted look of horror. We turned as one and headed back to the gate.
By the gate stood a woman, Costa coffee cup in hand, a be-coated white dog at her feet. From a hundred yards I shouted something to the effect of, “Did you see that?”
“I saw everything,” she growled. “I saw you hitting your dog for no reason. I saw you screaming and hitting your dog for running in a field. If you can’t control him, keep him on the lead.”
“Oh, please, “ I said.
Sadly, she was only in first gear. “You shouldn’t be allowed to own a dog,” said she.
I was closing the gap between us now and it would be fair to say that Mrs Righteous was not helping the puppy/horse/paddock red mist one bit.
“You obviously didn’t see what happened,” I shouted still thinking I could fix the situation. “The horse or my dog could have been hurt.”
“People like you,” she spat with bulging eye. “People like you need reporting. Your. Poor. Dog. I feel sorry for it.” She retreated to the far side of the gate and slammed it behind her and in my face.
“Nice, “ I said.
She opened it. This is Chorleywood after all. We were now very close to each other.
“At least I’ve given you a supper story.”
“I’m thinking of calling the police, “ said she, face a foot or so from mine. Her breath engulfed me.
Dear reader, you know how much I love my puppy. Mist having morphed from red to midnight magenta I believe I was marginally outa’ control.
“You should stop smoking,” I told her. “It’s bad for your health.”
That stopped her in her tracks. No cigarette in hand the best she could come up with was, “Oh, get off your high horse.”
‘Topically ironic given the circumstances’ thought I.
And as we parted, she choosing my route, I further disgraced myself. “Your breath stinks,” I yelled and marched, dog heeling beautifully, in the utterly wrong but only available direction.
1: I have not hit Lyle before or since.
2: Lyle and I are now in our third week of refresher puppy training.
3: Another time I will take my friend, Gracie’s advice…… “Why didn’t you just ignore her?”
4: I have not, to my knowledge, seen Mrs Costa -Coffee- Cup since. I do not know if she’s taken my advice.
5: I’m thinking of taking up meditation/yoga. Lyle might enjoy it.
6: The horses were the only sane participants in this post.