Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Meat pies

"Andrew" isn't a particularly common name for a dog. In truth, it isn't really a dog's name at all...if there is such a thing. But it's a name that certainly gets peoples' attention. "C'mon Andrew" generates some puzzled stares when it is a lolloping dog that canters out of the bushes rather than an errant child, but he arrived from the rescue center with that name and we weren't going to change it. The explanation, if one was needed, is that the attending veterinary nurse who first looked after him was called "Andrea" and the dog shelter traditionally named dogs after whoever coaxed them back to health...but because he was a male dog it had to be Andrew. However silly the name, it was a perfect match for the dog, and he became Andrew.
Andrew's "prison" photo just before release from the shelter into our custody

Andrew was a thief - a spectacular thief. It didn't seem to matter that we knew he would steal things, he still managed to do so from under our noses. The main target was the kitchen trash. We tried everything - child locks on the trash can lid, hiding it in a cupboard, placing a heavy object on the lid - all to no avail. It was one of the pleasures in life collecting the trash strewn around the kitchen floor after Andrew had dismembered it.

He was particularly expert at feigning stupidity and convincing us that he was actually too dumb to think of the things he ended up doing. He once successfully opened the refrigerator door (we had to put child locks on that too) and stole a whole kilogram tub of margarine. He consumed the whole thing. I found the discarded tub licked spotlessly clean. He was regular as clockwork for the next three days.

Our running routine developed a predictable pattern. Our old home in the UK had a child gate at the top of the staircase and this prevented the dogs from accessing bedrooms (it had nothing to do with the children who, by then, were far too old to need a guard gate). I kept my running gear in the bottom drawer of a wardrobe and it was difficult to open. The metal handles would rattle and the wood would squeak as I pulled it open. The dogs, wherever they were in the house, knew this sound and it meant one thing - going out for a run - and they went crazy. Although Jet joined in, Andrew led the frenzy as he wailed and howled and jumped and danced by the stair gate waiting for me to emerge. He went nuts...every time.

The routine that followed transferred to the bottom of the stairs where I laced up my running shoes. Andrew would lean heavily against my leg licking my knee and sighing gently as he waited patiently for the leash and exit into the open countryside. Andrew knew what he wanted and he was smart enough to associate certain noises with the more pleasurable things in life.

A certain routine developed every Saturday morning. After a long work week I would take both dogs on a 6 mile round trip hike to the local town to pick up a newspaper and a few bits and pieces. Most of this walk was through woods, farmland and alongside the Rochdale Canal. No matter the weather, and it was often windy and raining, we would make the trip. For the section along the canal bank the dogs would be off leash.
Rochdale canal at Todmorden - the stretch we would walk every Saturday
We would quite often pass fishermen happily wasting hours of their time in the fruitless pursuit of fish. The first and most obvious problem was caused by Andrew eating the maggots. For ease of access the fishermen would leave their maggot containers open so that they could reach in and reload their hooks. It was an opportunity Andrew couldn't resist and I lost count of the times when he would come running along with his tongue loaded with the squirming critters.

A more predictable problem was Andrew dawdling by the canal bank getting distracted by interesting smells and me having to call him, quite often with a degree of impatience and irritation. "Andrew" quickly became "ANDREW". On one particular morning there was a fishing contest (I know, it doesn't make sense to me either) and there must have been over 50 fisherman strewn along the canal bank at 10 yard intervals all looking for one fish. I was a little more attentive to Andrew's behavior and didn't let him stray too far. He still managed to drag 50 yards behind. Dispensing with the usual formalities I screamed angrily, "Andrew, you blithering idiot". The fisherman nearest to me turned round and politely asked "What have I done wrong?" That's the problem having a dog called Andrew - some people share his name. "I'm sorry, I wasn't talking to you I was calling the dog" didn't seem to be an adequate enough explanation, after all, who would call a dog "Andrew"?

Todmorden occupies a crowded river confluence with steep hillsides all around and it was always great to walk the dogs into town on a busy early Saturday morning. We would meet a lot of people and the dogs would get lots of attention. After collecting the newspaper, and immediately before the long uphill walk back home, we call at Thomas's Bakers (unfortunately now know as "Oddies"). I used to know the owners and after I tied the dog's leashes to a lampost I would go inside and pick up some bread. Before leaving the owner would hand me a small bag and say "Here are some meat pies for the dogs." It happened every visit and the dogs knew it. Their excitement was palpable as I emerged from the shop with the smell of fresh meat pies everywhere. Andrew never seemed to lag that far behind on the way home and the ritual became complete.

I don't know how it started but there was a particular point on the trail home where we used to stop and the dogs would get their pies. Beyond the point where Kilnhurst Lane became a track the dirt trail would rise to a small crest. Both Jet and Andrew would scurry ahead at this point and sit perfectly still on the crest waiting for me to arrive. It wouldn't have mattered had a group of rabbits walked by...they were in meat pie mode and they knew what was coming. Andrew would be salivating and looked eager in a way that he almost never did at other times. I tossed the pies to each dog in turn. Jet always caught hers and gulped it down in two bites. Andrew, for all his eagerness, was never any good at catching pies. It usually bounced off his nose and rolled into the grass - he always found it and ate it quickly, but he was not a performing dog!

No comments:

Post a Comment