So a couple of weeks back, they give me my food and I think to myself: “OK, presentation’s good, I like what you’ve done with the arrangement of the biscuits even if your choice of the stainless steel serving dish is a bit de rigueur. It’s seasonal, the garnish of the glucosamine tablet is a bit sloppy, but on the whole – not a bad effort”. I’m sitting there just enjoying the moment, ready to tuck in when I hear the fat one say:
“He’s not eating his food again, come on lad, get it!” – can’t a shepherd take it slowly and savour his breakfast? I mean come on, I’m not a labrador. Eventually, I start. Hmm, it’s crunchy, well-seasoned, tastes fresh – maybe a little too heavy on the beef flavouring in the glucosamine, but otherwise – I like it, it’s not quite fine dining, but it shows promise. I wash it down with a bowl of springwater and everyone’s happy.
Everyone except the thin one that is who comes home at lunchtime and offers me a treat – one of those dry biscuit things that’s supposed to contain vitamins. I’m not fussy, but I put it down in the hope that he’ll offer me something else instead – maybe a little of the skin from his smoked mackerel fillet? Next thing I know he’s got the camera out, I’m on my side on the lawn and he’s prodding around in my mouth like a cross between a mad dentist and a paparazzo.
Now I know I’ve got this little thing on my top gum, but it doesn’t hurt, it’s never bled and frankly, who cares? The next thing I know it’s Saturday morning and I’m in the vet’s – just chatting with a retriever who reckons she’s pregnant (at her age?) and then I hear the vet’ say: “No, I’m afraid it’s a tumour, it needs to come out. Well yes, it could be malignant, we can send it off and see what comes back. Bring him on Wednesday, about 8.30, no breakfast.”
What? Hope he’s not talking about me – I’d promised to bark at those lambs in the next door field on Wednesday, I haven’t got the time to be having surgery. Anyway, the fat one’s looking worried and I see him speaking to the thin one in hushed tones back at home. Then there’s the usual cuddles, but accompanied by worried looks – and promises to ‘look after me no matter what’ and all that dross. I walk into the kitchen and they stop talking – “It’s OK I know you’re on about me again, we need a chat, now just what is all this abou… oh, you’re trimming some bacon? Don’t mind if I do, cheers.”
Wednesday. Where’s my breakfast? Never mind, looks like we’re going somewhere in the car. FANTASTIC. Oh, it’s the vet’s – yes, I’d forgotten. NOT fantastic. Still, this young nurse is OK, yep, smells friendly, I’m very happy to follow you love, after I’ve just put this boxer in his place: “growl, bark, BARK, GROWL.” Oh, they’re trimming the fur on my leg – “no, I’ve no holidays planned and I’m not sure if the family are coming for Easter yet” – gosh, I’m sleepy. Hang on, what’s this, the fat one’s stroking my head and coaxing me out of the back of the car. Oops, back legs not working very well, hang on. Gosh, I’m hungry. Oh, I’m back at the den, that’s nice. And… wait for it, yes, I’m asleep again.
Thursday and Friday are spent with lots of cuddles and lengthening walks – the weather’s fantastic and I’m loving the way these lambs bolt out of the way when they see the big hairy beast coming down the lane – accompanied by me of course. Let me tell you, after very little to eat on Wednesday, Royal Canin’s never tasted so good.
Saturday – I’m minding my own business just dozing on my bed in the conservatory and watching Carol Kirkwood talking about the weather on that big bright box thing in the corner when the ‘phone rings. The thin one picks it up and I see his face crack into a smile: “That’s fantastic,” he says, “so it’s definitely benign then?” Lots of fuss and affection later and they’re opening a big green bottle and pouring fizzing stuff into tall thin glasses.
They’re all over me so I roll onto my side and lift my foreleg up (they seem to like stroking my chest so I indulge them). “Yeah, yeah, get off,” I say, “I’m sure you are delighted, but I never had any doubts. Don’t mind if I do have a celebratory biscuit, but if you’re in the mood and it’s not too much trouble, I’d much rather have a bit of that smoked mackerel if there’s any left.”
Jack Shepherd is a freelance canine journalist and best-selling author of : “It’s a dog’s life: getting the best out of your soft, ridiculous owners who love you like a child.”