SERIES Tales From Prospect House
Discipline is the key when it comes to dogs...
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.