How do you cure a pooch ad­dicted to fudge, pate, tri­ifle – and brandy? IT DID HAP­PEN TO A VET!

EAR­LIER this month, the ac­tor Robert Hardy — who played Siegfried Farnon in TV’s much-loved All Crea­tures Great and Small — died aged 91. And in trib­ute, all this week we are re­vis­it­ing the mag­nif­i­cent mem­oirs by James Her­riot that pro­vided the ba­sis for

Daily Mail - - Life - By James Her­riot

THE PAST five years had been lead­ing up to this one mo­ment. I was about to do my first solo visit as a qual­i­fied vet. I won­dered idly what it would be …. Prob­a­bly a real anti- cli­max: a cough­ing calf or a pig with an up­set stom­ach.

In the mid­dle of my mus­ings, the phone rang. ‘Is that Mr Farnon?’ It was a deep voice with a harsh edge to it. ‘No, I’m sorry, he’s out. This is his as­sis­tant. Can I do any­thing for you?’

‘I am Mr Soames, Lord Hul­ton’s farm man­ager,’ said the voice. ‘I have a valu­able hunt­ing horse with colic. Do you know any­thing about colic?’

‘I am a vet­eri­nary sur­geon, so I think I should know some­thing about it,’ I said, my hack­les ris­ing slightly.

The voice took on a hec­tor­ing tone. ‘I know the in­jec­tion the horse wants. Bring some areco­l­ine with you. And for God’s sake, don’t be all night get­ting here.’

I drove into a spot­less, grav­elled yard sur­rounded by loose boxes. A broad- shoul­dered, thick- set man was stand­ing there, trim in check cap and jacket and well- cut breeches.

‘Mr Soames? I un­der­stand you have a horse with colic.’ I wished my voice didn’t sound so high and un­steady.

‘In there,’ he said, jerk­ing his head to­wards one of the boxes.

In­side, a bay horse was stag­ger­ing round and round the perime­ter. It was lath­ered in sweat from nose to tail, its nos­trils were di­lated and its eyes stared blankly ahead. Through its clenched teeth, gob­bets of foam dripped to the floor. Steam rose from its body as though it had been gal­lop­ing.

My mouth had gone dry. ‘ How long has he been like this?’ I whis­pered.

‘ Oh, he started with a bit of belly­ache this morn­ing. I’ve been giv­ing him black draughts [used his­tor­i­cally as a lax­a­tive] all day — or at least this fel­low has. I wouldn’t be sur­prised if he’s made a bloody mess of it, like he does ev­ery­thing.’

I saw that there was some­body stand­ing in the shad­ows in the cor­ner: a large man with a head col­lar in his hand.

‘Oh, I got the draughts down him, right enough, Mr Soames, but they haven’t done ’ im no good.’ The big man looked scared.

‘You call your­self a horse­man,’ Soames said, ‘ but I should have done the damn job my­self. I reckon he’d have been bet­ter by now.’

It didn’t take me long to ex­am­ine the an­i­mal and reach my ver­dict.

I took a deep breath and told him: ‘I’m con­vinced this horse has a tor­sion — a twisted bowel. There’s noth­ing any­body can do. There is no cure. The im­por­tant thing is to put him out of his pain as quickly as pos­si­ble.’

Soames screwed up his face. ‘No cure? Put him out of his pain?

‘What are you get­ting at? He’s got a bit of belly­ache, that’s all.’ I took an­other deep breath. ‘I sug­gest you let me put him down im­me­di­ately.’

‘Are you stark rav­ing mad? Do you know how much that horse is worth?’

‘It makes no dif­fer­ence what he’s worth, Mr Soames. He has been go­ing through hell all day and he’s dy­ing now. He might live a few hours more, but the end would be the same.’

ASwe talked, the horse had recom­menced his blind cir­cling of the box, stum­bling round in a de­spair­ing at­tempt to leave his agony be­hind.

I strode quickly out and got the hu­mane killer from the car.

‘Steady his head,’ I said to the big man and placed the muz­zle be­tween the an­i­mal’s glaz­ing eyes. There was a sharp crack and the horse thud­ded to the floor.

I turned to Soames, who was star­ing at the body in dis­be­lief.

‘Mr Farnon will come round in the morn­ing and carry out a post mortem,’ I said. ‘ I’d like my di­ag­no­sis con­firmed.’

As I started the car, Soames pushed his head in. ‘I’m go­ing to in­form his lord­ship about this night’s work,’ he snarled. ‘And Mr Farnon, too. You’ll be proved wrong at the post mortem and then I’m go­ing to sue you.’

As I drove away, I had the feel­ing my ca­reer might have ended be­fore it had even started.

Later that evening, Siegfried poured me a whisky and said: ‘Well, you cer­tainly got chucked in at the deep end tonight, my boy. Your first case! And it had to be Soames.’ ‘Do you know him?’ ‘Oh, I know all about him; a nasty piece of work. Ru­mour has it that he’s a bit of a crook, feath­er­ing his nest at his lord­ship’s ex­pense. He’ll slip up one day, I ex­pect. Here — have some more whisky.’

The fol­low­ing day my boss gave me the news I needed to hear.

‘Well, you’ve noth­ing to worry about,’ he said. ‘The post mortem showed a clas­sic tor­sion. I’m glad you put the poor beg­gar down straight away.’ ‘Did you see my friend Soames?’ ‘Oh, he tried to get in a few digs about you, but I pointed out he had de­layed far too long in send­ing for us and that Lord Hul­ton wasn’t go­ing to be pleased when he heard how his horse had suf­fered. ‘I left him chew­ing over that.’ I wasn’t ex­pect­ing to see Mr Soames ever again, but a few months later I was sur­prised to spot him in the wait­ing room be­tween an elderly woman with a cat in a box and two small boys try­ing to keep hold of a rab­bit.

This was a vastly dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter from the one I’d met. He wore an in­gra­ti­at­ing smile and ra­di­ated anx­i­ety to please. But the most in­ter­est­ing thing was that his right eye was puffed and closed and sur­rounded by an ex­ten­sive area of bluish-black flesh.

‘I hope you don’t mind my com­ing to see you, Mr Her­riot,’ he said. ‘The fact is I have re­signed my po­si­tion and am look­ing for an­other post. I was won­der­ing if you and Mr Farnon would put in a word for me if you heard of any­thing.’

I was too as­ton­ished to say much. I replied that we would do what we could, and Soames thanked me ef­fu­sively and bowed him­self out.

‘Well, what do you make of that?’ I said to Siegfried later.

‘Re­mem­ber I told you he was work­ing one or two shady side­lines up at Lord Hul­ton’s?’ he replied. ‘Even­tu­ally he got a bit care­less and he was out on his ear be­fore he knew what had hap­pened.’ ‘And how about the black eye?’ ‘Oh, he got that from Tommy, the horse­man.’

My mind went back to that un­com­fort­able night and to the quiet man hold­ing the horse’s head. ‘I re­mem­ber him. Big chap.’

‘Yes, he’s a big lad and I’d hate to have him punch me in the eye. Soames gave him a hell of a life, and as soon as Tommy heard about the sack­ing he paid a visit … just to set­tle the score, you un­der­stand.’ AS au­tumn wore into win­ter and the high tops were streaked with the first snows, the dis­com­forts of prac­tice in the Dales be­gan to make them­selves felt.

This was when some small an­i­mal work came as a blessed re­lief: to walk into a warm draw­ing room and tackle some­thing less for­mi­da­ble than a horse or a bull.

And among those com­fort­able draw­ing rooms, there was none so be­guil­ing as Mrs Pumphrey’s.

Her late hus­band, a beer baron whose brew­eries were scat­tered across York­shire, had left her a vast for­tune and a beau­ti­ful house on the out­skirts of Dar­rowby. Here she lived with a large staff of ser­vants and Tricki Woo.

Tricki Woo was a Pekingese and the ap­ple of his mis­tress’s eye.

It could only be the hi­lar­i­ously lav­ish diet of Tricki Woo, the posh Pekingese made fa­mous by James Her­riot. And as our sum­mer read­ing re­vival con­tin­ues, the an­swer was de­li­ciously sim­ple . . .

To­mor­row: A bull with sun­stroke – and love over the kitchen sink

Stand­ing in the door­way, I could al­most see the deep arm­chair drawn close to the leap­ing flames, the tray of cock­tail bis­cuits, the bot­tle of ex­cel­lent sherry.

Be­cause of the sherry, I was care­ful to time my visits for half an hour be­fore lunch. Mrs Pumphrey greeted me with a cry of de­light.

‘Tricki! Tricki! Here is your Un­cle Her­riot.’ I had been made an un­cle very early and, sens­ing the ad­van­tages, had made no ob­jec­tion.

Tricki bounded from his cush­ion, leaped onto the back of a sofa and licked my face thor­oughly be­fore re­tir­ing, ex­hausted. He was quickly ex­hausted be­cause he was given roughly twice the amount of food he needed. And it was the wrong kind of food: fudge, pate, tri­fle. Tricki loved it all.

‘Oh, Mr Her­riot,’ Mrs Pumphrey said, look­ing at her pet anx­iously. ‘I’m so glad you’ve come. Tricki has gone flop-bott again.’

This ail­ment, not to be found in any text­book, was her way of de­scrib­ing the symp­toms of Tricki’s im­pacted anal glands — a com­mon prob­lem in dogs, al­though not nor­mally the stuff of draw­ingroom con­ver­sa­tion.

It baf­fled me that the Peke was al­ways so pleased to see me. Any dog who could still like a man who squeezed his bot­tom hard every time they met had to have an in­cred­i­bly for­giv­ing na­ture.

But Tricki was an out­stand­ingly equable lit­tle an­i­mal of whom I was gen­uinely fond. Driv­ing home, I mused on the many ad­van­tages of be­ing Tricki’s ‘un­cle’. When he went to the sea­side, he sent me boxes of oak- smoked kip­pers; when the to­ma­toes ripened in the green­house, he sent me a pound or two each week. But it was when the Christ­mas ham­per ar­rived from Fort­num & Ma­son’s that I re­alised I was on to a re­ally good thing. I WAS re­ally wor­ried about Tricki this time. I had pulled up my car when I saw him in the street with his mis­tress and I was shocked at his ap­pear­ance. He had be­come hugely fat, like a bloated sausage with a leg at each cor­ner. His eyes were blood­shot and his tongue lolled from his jaws.

Mrs Pumphrey has­tened to ex­plain. ‘He was so list­less, Mr Her­riot. I thought he must be suf­fer­ing from mal­nu­tri­tion, so I have been giv­ing him some lit­tle ex­tras to build him up.’

‘And did you cut down on the sweet things, like I told you?’

‘Oh, I did for a bit, but he seemed to be so weak. He does love cream cakes and choco­lates so. I can’t bear to refuse him.’

The ex­pected call came within a few days. Mrs Pumphrey was dis­traught. Tricki would eat noth­ing. He spent all his time ly­ing on a rug, pant­ing and vom­it­ing. Didn’t want to do any­thing.

I had made my plans in ad­vance. The only way was to get Tricki out of the house. I sug­gested that he be hos­pi­talised for a fort­night to be kept un­der ob­ser­va­tion.

The poor lady al­most swooned. She had never been sep­a­rated from her dar­ling be­fore; she was sure he would pine and die.

BUTI took a firm line. Tricki was very ill and this was the only way to save him. Fol­lowed by Mrs Pumphrey’s wail­ings, I marched out to the car car­ry­ing the lit­tle dog wrapped in a blan­ket.

Out on the road, I glanced down at the pa­thetic lit­tle an­i­mal gasp­ing on the seat by my side. I pat­ted his head and Tricki made a brave ef­fort to wag his tail.

‘Poor old lad,’ I said. ‘But I think I know a cure for you.’

For two days I gave him no food but plenty of wa­ter. At the end of the sec­ond day he started to show some in­ter­est, and on the third he be­gan to whim­per when he heard Siegfried’s dogs in the garden.

From then on, Tricki’s progress was rapid. All day he ran about with the other dogs, join­ing in their friendly scrim­mages and be­com­ing an ac­cepted mem­ber of the gang — an un­likely, silky lit­tle ob­ject among the shaggy crew, fight­ing for his share at meal­times and hunt­ing rats at night. He had never had such a time in his life.

All the while, Mrs Pumphrey hov­ered anx­iously, ring­ing a dozen times a day for the lat­est bul­letins. I dodged ques­tions about whether his cush­ions were be­ing turned reg­u­larly, but I was able to tell her that the lit­tle fel­low was out of dan­ger and con­va­lesc­ing rapidly.

The word ‘con­va­lesc­ing’ seemed to do some­thing to Mrs Pumphrey. She started to send round fresh eggs, two dozen at a time, to build up Tricki’s strength. When the bot­tles of vin­tage sherry and Cor­don Bleu brandy be­gan to ar­rive — to en­rich Tricki’s blood — the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the sit­u­a­tion be­gan to dawn on the house­hold.

Lunch be­came a cer­e­mo­nial oc­ca­sion, with Siegfried and his stu­dent brother Tris­tan tak­ing it in turns to pro­pose Tricki’s health with the sherry. The stan­dard of speech-mak­ing im­proved daily.

As his spon­sor, I was al­ways called upon to re­ply. And our days ended lux­u­ri­at­ing by the fire with the glo­ri­ous brandy.

It was a temp­ta­tion to keep Tricki on as a per­ma­nent guest, but I knew Mrs Pumphrey was suf­fer­ing and af­ter a fort­night felt com­pelled to phone and tell her that the lit­tle dog was bet­ter and await­ing col­lec­tion.

Within min­utes, about 30 feet of gleam­ing black metal drew up out­side the surgery. I could just make out the fig­ure of Mrs Pumphrey in­side.

‘Oh, Mr Her­riot, do tell me the truth. Is he re­ally bet­ter?’

‘Yes, he’s fine. There’s no need for you to get out of the car — I’ll fetch him.’

Out in the garden, a mass of dogs was hurtling round and round the lawn. In their midst, ears flap­ping, tail wav­ing, was the lit­tle golden fig­ure of Tricki. In two weeks, he had been trans­formed into a lithe, hard-mus­cled an­i­mal.

I car­ried him back to the car. The chauf­feur was hold­ing the door open, and when Tricki saw his mis­tress, he took off from my arms in a tremen­dous leap and sailed into her lap. She gave a star­tled ‘Ooh!’ as he swarmed over her, lick­ing her face and bark­ing.

As the car moved away, Mrs Pumphrey leaned out of the win­dow. Tears shone in her eyes.

‘Oh, Mr Her­riot,’ she cried, ‘how can I ever thank you? This is a tri­umph of surgery!’

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