‘It was not until the following evening that the call came telling us we could pick up Jackson from Hyde Park Police Station. He had been arrested at the Round Pond trying to mount a Canada goose’
Jackson was arrested for trying to mount a goose in Hyde Park
In the eighties, in that extravagant decade of BMWS and braces, my late wife and bought a pedigree dog. It was a Wheaten Terrier and we called it Jackson. It was, it has to be said, a sweet flaxen bundle – or rather it was until it reached puberty. And then it went bonkers. No amount of shouting, whistling, treats or torture could curtail its raging testosterone. If for a second its lead was loosened the randy mongrel sped off faster than Billy Whizz. We got used to sitting by the phone waiting for a call from a kind finder.
The answer, we thought, was for the beast to be trained. Two months later Jackson was returned to us with a bill for several hundred pounds, a numbered plastic gundog whistle and an assurance that the mutt was now a well-oiled machine. The following morning we took him to Kensington Gardens for a test run. We unleashed him and then, because he was now biddable, blew the whistle. However the cur did not as expected return obediently to his master and mistress but instead took the piercing sound as a signal to take off for the bright lights of the big city. It was not until the following evening that the call came telling us we could pick up Jackson from Hyde Park Police Station. He had been arrested at the Round Pond trying to mount a Canada goose.
In the end the final solution to his lechery was to get him castrated, and this we did at considerable cost. Sadly Jackson was never the same dog after the loss of his manhood. He became a shadow of his strutting former self. However, as a consolation a wealthy London friend brought us an £85 Hermes deerhorn dog whistle with a green leather lanyard. Jackson, he explained, had become a fey eunuch and so would probably now only answer to the camp tooting of a designer toy.
I mention the above because the other day I found the Hermes bauble in the attic and remembered thinking what a good joke at Jackson and our expense it had been (although my wife didn’t think it terribly funny at the time). At first I thought I might resurrect the trinket, despite being dog-less, and wear it to display my rural credentials. But of course it would have done the opposite. Dog accessories are different in the Cotswolds.
The rope slip lead (the one that strangles the dog if the animal pulls too hard) for example, is obligatory for all serious rustic dog owners. It says “My dog is so well trained it doesn’t need a collar and will only move on my say so”. Country dog baskets are torn and frayed and usually contain a smelly tartan blanket, dog bowls are practical, dog food is cheap, dried and bought in bulk and dog whistles, in particular, are plastic, made by ACME and cost a fiver.
And so I decided that as I cannot wear my dog whistle I would sell it. I Googled Hermes to discover, to my surprise, that the whistles are objects of considerable desire. An American site called the Vintage Contessa, for example, is offering an identical second hand whistle to mine with the caveat “Great condition with some visible signs of use. Leather has scuffs with red spots. Hardware has dark colour”. It was being sold for $250.
Another Hermes number with a yellow string, “an ultra luxurious silver tone whistle” came with the claim that it would “Train your pup in style. A musthave for any dog owner!” and was on offer for £300. Bizarrely, a couple of links down the page was just such a whistle for sale for £5, only it was made by Ancol.
My eyes have been opened to the value of the dog whistle. I shall hang on to my valuable family heirloom. After all, if those who parade their rural dog credentials can still put embroidered cushions in pride of place in their drawing room with witless platitudes such as “A very spoiled Labrador lives in this house” or “This house is operated for the sole comfort and convenience of a cocker spaniel” or “If you want the best seat in the house just ask the dog to move”, then I too can parade my cheap sentimentality. On the mantelpiece in my sitting room I shall display my Hermes dog whistle. It will be mounted on an oak tablet with a brass plaque beneath it that reads ‘In Memory of the eunuch Jackson’.
Jackson’s £85 Hermes deer-horn dog-whistle