We had journeyed north to the frozen wastelands of Newcastle (a city locked in perpetual darkness for six months of the year) to view Tyler – a rescued German Shepherd. The excursion had been long and arduous, the rough, undulating and unmade roads doing little for my comfort and the stares of curious locals still less for my troubled nerves. Would he be the right hound for us? Would he be of sufficient size and ferocity to see off potential intruders? Would we reach home in time to attend our local music hall for that evening’s performance of the remarkable Take Me Out hosted by Mr Patrick McGuinness?
Chris the foster carer showed us into his parlour where an enormous hirsute canine began scenting my spats excitedly, prior to rolling over on to his back and lifting the right foreleg as an invitation to rub his flocculent belly. Removing the ubiquitous Newcastle United football shirt from the animal (the wearing of which is a legal requirement in those parts), we led him to our waiting phaeton. “Come onTyler, up boy!” I coaxed as we stood by the open door (the groom clearly growing impatient to depart for home and my horse stamping his foot expectantly). Tyler looked at me, contemplated the carriage and sat upon the hay-strewn cobbles forcing the driver of an approaching steam-powered omnibus to abruptly adjust his direction of travel.
“He doesn’t know his name yet sir,” Chris ventured “they just called him Tyler when they picked him up.”
“Really,” I replied throwing sixpence to a passing mud-shod street urchin “this is good news indeed!” (for I had no intention of bringing an animal bearing the name of ‘Tyler’ into my precincts). Chris paused for a moment, his hand tenderly touching the polished mahogany of the carriage – there was a tear in his eye as he quickly turned and made for the house. With a jolt we set off for North Yorkshire.
On our way home we pondered how we might address our new animal. The name Tyler conjured images of some talentless youth from an American barber-shop quintet sporting a reversed baseball cap and sagging jeans. A short, monosyllabic name would be preferable – easy to shout when required (and cheaper to inscribe on his collar tag). Settling on ‘Eustace’ we drove home planning how we might spend the rest of the day until I happened, in idle conversation, (as one does) to utter the word ‘Jack’. Our furry companion started upright in the rear of the car – perhaps this was a more appropriate name after all? Yes, Jack it would be.
On reaching the house, we opened the door of the carriage and Jack leaped out onto the drive. He seemed remarkably unperturbed for the journey and busied himself with an exploration of the park, stable, us, the perimeter fence and the house before flopping down upon his bed in the conservatory as if he’d lived there since birth. Other than an extensive session of grooming (during which Cook managed to procure sufficient hair to stuff a double mattress for the Servants’ Hall) we left him to settle in to his new surroundings until time for his meal.
I could never have dreamed that a dog’s dinner would cause so much angst – but I fear that that part of the story must wait – for the maid has just entered announcing the arrival of Mr Coppertykeld who has called requesting a consultation (he has a case of the dropsy, the severity of which has not been seen locally these twenty years past). Thus, dear reader, I fear we must continue this shaggy tale at a later assemblage and for now I must bid you the finest of afternoons, or as is common parlance in Newcastle: “See yas later pet!”
Yours affectionately, etc.