SE­RIES Tales From Prospect House

Dis­ci­pline is the key when it comes to dogs...

The People's Friend - - This Week - by Mal­colm Welsh­man

THEY say that own­ers of­ten look like their pets. I’m not sure it ap­plies to me. I’ve al­ways been fond of Jack Rus­sells. Short legs, wiry bod­ies and sharp snouts, ready to rat. Well, per­haps there is a cer­tain like­ness.

One of the prac­tice’s clients cer­tainly looked like his tor­toise, and moved in a sim­i­lar man­ner. Harry Conville owned a Her­mann tor­toise, Tony. Bred in the UK, his cara­pace was yel­low-green with black borders to the scutes on the shell.

When Harry ap­peared, it was as if Tony were emerg­ing from his hi­ber­na­tion box, thanks to the cagoule Harry was wear­ing. Strik­ingly sim­i­lar to Tony’s shell, its yel­low front echoed Tony’s un­der­belly – his plas­tron.

“Tony’s come out of hi­ber­na­tion too early. I need you to check him over.” Harry’s scrawny neck arched out of the col­lar of the cagoule shell.

Cou­pled with the beaky nose and scaly patches of skin un­der his chin, it gave Harry a star­tling re­sem­blance to his friend.

With Tony given a clean bill of health, it was just a ques­tion of en­sur­ing he was kept warm and in­doors, with the use of a heat lamp. Tony and Harry lum­bered out slowly but hap­pily.

Not the case when I was con­fronted by Ma­jor Mar­shall and his bull­dog, Ben­jamin – another pair of looka­likes. The ma­jor was short and bar­rel-chested, and his arms and legs stuck out like those on a “Mr Men” char­ac­ter. A grumpy one at that.

He had a wrin­kled brow, sag­ging jowls and a griz­zled up­per lip. Just like his bull­dog.

Ma­jor Mar­shall would an­nounce his ar­rival in the wait­ing room with a loud com­mand to his bull­dog. “Sit, Ben-ja-min!” Cats cow­ered in the back of their bas­kets; dogs sank on their haunches im­me­di­ately. But Ben­jamin, el­bows out, ig­nored his mas­ter’s or­der and barked.

This par­tic­u­lar af­ter­noon was no ex­cep­tion. When it was their turn to be seen, Ma­jor Mar­shall roared, “Heel, Ben-ja-min!” be­fore be­ing forced to drag the bull­dog through to the con­sult­ing room.

Both were foam­ing at each end of the lead, both send­ing spit­tle fly­ing in all di­rec­tions.

“Al­ways a good thing to let a dog know who’s boss,” Ma­jor Mar­shall de­clared as Ben­jamin pulled him across the room. “Some peo­ple have no idea of dis­ci­pline. Can’t con­trol their dogs.”

Ben­jamin had by now wrapped his lead three times round the near­est legs, which in­cluded two of the con­sult­ing ta­ble’s four and one of mine.

A vig­or­ous jet of urine was di­rected up each.

“Con­trol’s the name of the game,” the ma­jor stated.

I smiled wanly. Con­trol of Ben­jamin’s blad­der would cer­tainly have been help­ful. My warm, soggy trouser leg was proof of that.

Ma­jor Mar­shall fired a “Sit, Ben-ja-min!” and the dog promptly shot over to sniff at the waste bin, while the con­sult­ing ta­ble, still en­tan­gled in his lead, screeched across the tiled floor be­hind him.

Lucy rushed in. Ben­jamin bounded over, a “Down, Ben-ja-min!” ig­nored as he leapt at her.

A “Stay, Ben-ja-min” also fell on deaf ears when he tried to fol­low Lucy as she backed out of the room.

“Al­ways one for the ladies,” the ma­jor barked. “So let’s get crack­ing, lad­die. Get Ben­jamin’s vac­ci­na­tion done and dusted be­fore he makes a nui­sance of him­self.

“Now do as you’re told, Ben-ja-min. Be­have.”

The dog crashed into the con­sult­ing room chair. It flew across the room to hit the in­stru­ment trol­ley and scis­sors and swabs fell off to scat­ter across the floor.

I grabbed a sy­ringe to make up the booster and drew up the shot from a vial of vac­cine.

The ma­jor squared his shoul­ders. His pon­der­ous jowls quiv­ered.

“Ben-ja-min, this won’t hurt. Be a good boy and stand still. That’s an or­der.”

Fat chance of it be­ing obeyed, I thought as I ad­vanced on the dog. The ma­jor looked at me. “Had many a jab dur­ing my time in the Forces. Took them like a man. Back­side, arm, you name it.” The ma­jor shuf­fled his feet, Ben­jamin’s lead wrapped round his wrist. “We’ll not move. You’ll see.”

I pat­ted Ben­jamin’s neck and eased up a pinch of skin as I knelt be­side him.

“Steady, boy,” I mur­mured, slip­ping in the nee­dle and in­ject­ing the vac­cine.

There was not a sound. Not a mus­cle moved.

“There. All done,” I said, get­ting to my feet, while the ma­jor, hav­ing fainted, crashed to the floor.

More next week.

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