SE­RIES Tales From Prospect House

Beryl cer­tainly had some­thing in com­mon with man’s best friend . . .

The People's Friend - - 8 - by Mal­colm Welsh­man

LUCY and I were ly­ing on the sofa at Wil­low Wren watch­ing a TV pro­gramme about dogs. Win­nie and Bert, our res­cue dogs, were curled up be­tween us, fast asleep, while we lis­tened to the dul­cet tones of Martin Clunes telling us how a dog’s sense of smell is so sen­si­tive.

“We might be able to smell that there’s a tea­spoon­ful of sugar in our mug of cof­fee,” he was say­ing, “but a dog can sense that tea­spoon­ful in two Olympic-sized swim­ming pools.”

I wrin­kled my nose, aware that a strong smell had drifted up be­tween Lucy and me that was de­cid­edly un­sugar-like.

We both looked down at the two pooches.

Clunes con­tin­ued to ed­u­cate us.

“A dog’s sense of smell can be up to ten mil­lion times more sen­si­tive than a hu­man’s. And our ca­nine chums have up to three hun­dred mil­lion scent glands, com­pared with our mis­er­able five mil­lion.”

Clearly our dogs were not util­is­ing any of their 300 mil­lion as they con­tin­ued to snooze on, obliv­i­ous to the odours they were emit­ting.

Though we haven’t the sense of smell that dogs have, our five mil­lion scent glands are suf­fi­cient to pick up a broad range of smells.

It’s par for the course when deal­ing with dogs and other pets. Prospect House was proof of that, es­pe­cially on rainy days.

I’m not a huge fan of that wet, steam­ing dog odour. Nor what can re­sult from a dog hav­ing eaten rab­bit re­mains on the Downs.

Last Christ­mas Eve, Beryl had booked a Jack Rus­sell in to see me.

“He’s gob­bled a pile of tur­key giblets,” she warned. “Ap­par­ently it’s now all sys­tems go.”

She was right. I heard and smelled the lad be­fore I set eyes on him.

His owner hoisted him on to the con­sult­ing ta­ble by tuck­ing his arm un­der the dog’s belly. The squeeze on his guts pre­cip­i­tated an­other loud blast. I could have lit a match at his tail end and he would have rock­eted into space.

Some char­coal gran­ules and a bland chicken and rice diet was the key to turn­ing off the gas.

Clunes gave us some more in­for­ma­tion in that TV doc­u­men­tary. When your pooch sniffs a lamp­post, or noses your trouser leg against which an­other dog has rubbed, it’s more than a smell he’s get­ting. It’s a com­plete story.

From these smells, a dog can tell a great deal about an­other dog. Whether they’re male or fe­male; what they’ve eaten; where they’ve been; what they’ve touched.

They can tell if they’re ready to mate, if they’ve given birth re­cently and what mood they’re in.

Beryl’s a bit like that. She has an un­canny knack of sniff­ing out what’s go­ing on. Maybe she has more than her quota of sensory glands, since she does seem to have a nose for any out-of-the-or­di­nary odours.

Sev­eral times, Eric’s fallen foul of her ex­tra-sensory abil­ity. Usu­ally af­ter a beer or two over lunch down at the lo­cal pub.

There was one time when I joined him.

We en­joyed a plough­man’s with pickle and a pint of brew each. It gave us the chance to dis­cuss how I was find­ing things these days. I was no longer the new boy, hav­ing been in the prac­tice nearly two years now.

Re­turn­ing, Eric paused on the steps of the hos­pi­tal and rum­maged in his pocket.

“Mint, Paul?” He of­fered me one from a packet. “Fore­warned is fore­armed.”

He popped three in his mouth, then took a deep breath.

“Let bat­tle com­mence.” We strode up the steps and into re­cep­tion.

But Beryl wasn’t fooled. Ev­ery one of her five mil­lion ol­fac­tory sensors was on high alert.

No sooner had we stepped into re­cep­tion, than she waved her scar­let talons in front of her face.

“You smell like a brew­ery.” From be­hind her hand, for good mea­sure, she added, “You could anaes­thetise a poo­dle with one breath.”

As Eric told me later, the breed of dog was pro­por­tional to the num­ber of units of al­co­hol Beryl sus­pected had been con­sumed. Three pints or more and the dog be­came a Great Dane.

“I swear she’s got a breathal­yser em­bed­ded in her cra­nium,” Eric would mut­ter when sub­jected to an­other with­er­ing com­ment and a squirt from Beryl’s can of Sum­mer Bou­quet.

The lat­ter was her an­swer to all things smelly. Its cloy­ing per­fume would waft through from re­cep­tion when­ever mal­odor­ous forces were at work.

That it­self was enough to get up my nose.

More next week.

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