PHILIP NOLAN

THE WAY I SEE IT

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - Fiona Looney re­turns next week

Ilove dogs. I had two West High­land ter­ri­ers for years and when they both died just a fort­night apart, I was bereft. Hon­estly, I howled. In fact, about a year later on a plane, and much to the con­ster­na­tion of the man next to me who may well have as­sumed I was fondly remembering friends and fam­ily be­fore em­bark­ing on a per­sonal ji­had, I howled again be­cause Mar­ley & Me was the in­flight movie.

This may be the least nec­es­sary spoiler alert in his­tory but Mar­ley died and, well, the cabin crew could have mopped me up with two sheets of Bounty. I was a wreck.

We got an­other dog from the pound, a very lovable but com­pletely free- spir­ited Jack Rus­sell mix who clearly paid more at­ten­tion to The Shaw­shank Re­demp­tion than we no­ticed when we watched the DVD. She has es­caped at least four times now; such are her skills at cov­er­ing dis­tance at great speed, I oc­ca­sion­ally half- ex­pect to get a phone call from Rio say­ing she’s sip­ping a cock­tail in a deckchair on the beach.

I’m so aware of the ter­ror that strikes you when a pet goes miss­ing that I pay se­ri­ous at­ten­tion when it hap­pens to some­one else. On Face­book a few weeks ago, I saw ap­peals to peo­ple to keep an eye out for a miss­ing dog (I don’t want to cause any hurt for the own­ers, so let’s say it was a Labrador called Fido).

Last week, I took my mother to the lo­cal vil­lage for an ap­point­ment and, in the win­dow of the post of­fice, there was a flyer with a pic­ture of Fido, again ask­ing for help in find­ing it.

Two cru­cial omis­sions on my part hap­pened there and then. I say ‘it’ be­cause I paid no heed to Fido’s sex. Nor, in­deed, did I reg­is­ter Fido’s name, merely what it looked like. Ten min­utes later, driv­ing home, I saw a dog match­ing the de­scrip­tion wan­der­ing the street.

My heart leapt. I slammed on the brakes, hopped out and ran over to the dog. It had a col­lar en­graved with its name and the owner’s phone num­ber but there was no an­swer when I rang. And while its name was Bouncer (changed again to pro­tect the poor an­i­mal’s pri­vacy), I gen­uinely couldn’t re­mem­ber if that was the name of the miss­ing dog. It was very friendly, so I opened the back door and

‘Ef­fec­tively, I had just be­come a

dog­nap­per. From po­ten­tial hero, I was now tech­ni­cally a thief’

whis­tled. In the dog hopped, be­fore curl­ing up in the footwell and go­ing asleep. I drove back to the post of­fice, raced to the win­dow and, heart-stop­pingly, re­alised that I had a Bouncer and not a Fido. In fact, a cur­sory look also showed that Bouncer was a boy, and Fido was a bitch.

Ef­fec­tively, I had just be­come a dog­nap­per; from po­ten­tial hero, I now tech­ni­cally was a thief. I still couldn’t raise the dog’s owner on the phone but nor could I just aban­don him where I found him. So I Googled the un­usual spell­ing of the fam­ily sur­name on the phone and no sooner had a pos­si­ble ad­dress popped up on screen than my phone bat­tery died.

So I drove to a friend’s house to use her com­puter and ex­plained what I needed to do. ‘I know them!’ she said. ‘They live just down the road.’

‘Where?’ I asked. When she told me, it turned out I had ba­si­cally stolen Bouncer out­side his front door.

So I drove back and parked and whis­tled again, but Bouncer wasn’t go­ing any­where. When I dragged him out, he nuz­zled up against me, then rolled over and de­manded I tickle his tummy. When I stopped, he growled in a faintly alarming fash­ion that sig­ni­fied more tummy rub­bing was re­quired.

Even­tu­ally, I tip­toed away and when I started to drive off, he turned his head away at a half an­gle and stuck his nose in the air in a chastis­ing fash­ion that made me feel even worse.

Later, I got a text from the owner say­ing how grate­ful she was I had re­turned him safely, and I hadn’t the heart to text back and tell her that the only real threat to his safety in the first place was be­ing kid­napped by me.

The whole episode took over an hour and it has rather put me off be­ing the Good Sa­mar­i­tan — and yet I’d do it all over again.

Ob­vi­ously, the first thing you really need to do is re­mem­ber the dog’s name, but you also need to re­mem­ber that, short of child, a pet go­ing walk­a­bout is one of the most dis­tress­ing ex­pe­ri­ences you’ll ever go through.

And if you can help some­one else out of that aw­ful sit­u­a­tion, then you just have to. At least, that’s the way I see it.

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