Of Herbie and other dogs...

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ALL things must pass away, or such is the sad inevitability of this mortal existence.

And while it’s always distressing when a close relative or friend ascends to the great beyond, as equally upsetting can be the void left when a family pet succumbs to its allotted span.

In fact this was the recent case of our aged dog, and so after a decent interval it was time to seek a replacement at HULA, Aspley Guise. As an independent charity they have a long tradition of caring for unwanted animals but new owners are carefully vetted, for the last thing a prospective pet needs is to be thrust back into its previous trauma.

Indeed, it was because of an irresponsible owner that the charity began, when a local vet refused to put down a young puppy because the woman was ‘going on holiday and couldn’t afford kennel fees.’

The first sanctuary was in a back garden in Luton but in 1978 a move to Aspley Guise took place, where the finance is now solely provided by such means as donations, fetes, and a shop in Woburn Sands.

All the monies are invested into the welfare of the animals, and all the prospective pets are micro chipped and vaccinated. In the case of dogs, to ensure that enquirers are genuine, two ‘bonding’ visits are necessary and with the family circumstances taken into account a home check is also made.

So began my acquaintance with Herbie, who while all the other dogs seemed to bark ‘Pick me, Pick me,’ merely awoke from a snooze to briefly cast an eye over the cause of this annoying intrusion, ending his assessment with a look of ‘Um, I suppose you might do.’

So Herbie it had to be, and after the required formalities he has now become firmly established into family life. Our previous dog had been a border collie, and that these are quite an intelligent breed is perhaps borne out by the past talents of ‘Beppo,’ a large sable and white collie dog who was possessed of such talents as ‘playing’ the piano.

Unfortunately Beppo slipped its collar at Bletchley station one Saturday in July 1914, and the ensuing concern was such that the story in the local press far eclipsed that of the assassination in Bosnia of some Archduke or other; just another of those pointless Balkan squabbles.

As for Beppo, his plight soon gripped the local imagination and offering a £1 reward the dog’s owner, Miss Kerr, of Coventry, even travelled to Victoria Docks to investigate a sighting.

With the reward increased to £5, hundreds of illustrated notices were printed for distribution to nearly every town in the country, but sadly on the last Sunday in July came the tragic news that Beppo had been found dead, in the fields between Whaddon and Calverton.

At least he had been well cared for during life, unlike the two unfortunate creatures in the previous century that the constable of Great Brickhill witnessed on the road near Broughton.

Harnessed to a dog cart they were approaching ‘at a most random pace’ and the constable immediately apprehended the driver who had been beating them with a dog chain. When brought to court he was fined the substantial sum of £5, or a spell of hard labour in the House of Correction.

Dog carts are now a thing of the past, and it was in the present motoring age that during the 1930s a dog in a car caused an alarming crash at Mursley. It was chained in the back of the vehicle but suddenly jumped over the shoulders of the chauffeur onto the steering wheel.

The nearly new Morris then crashed into the railings of Spring Cottage, ironically the home of a well known breeder of pedigree bulldogs, Fred North.

The dog was uninjured but a cut nose was sustained by the chauffeur (Interestingly, Fred’s daughter had been among the first women chauffeurs in this country.)

In the modern age it’s perhaps thought that dog grooming parlours are a recent phenomena. However, in the 1950s there was ‘a beauty parlour for dogs’ at the now demolished The Cleve, and not far from the site there is now an excellent equivalent in Fenny Stratford.

In fact Herbie is soon to make its acquaintance, although if Herbie doesn’t approve it will be interesting to see who wins the ensuing battle of wills.