As some of you may know, in between trundling up and down the M6 to go to dog shows, I own and run a small boarding kennels. One of the questions that my regular customers seem to be posing more and more frequently seems to be ‘Wouldn’t you like to lead a NORMAL life?’.
One of the times that this question was posed that immediately springs to mind was when it came from one of our Police Dog Handlers who, on collecting his three working dogs late on a Sunday evening, innocently asked if I’d had a good day - the response had gone something like this:
Well, no, not really. I didn’t arrive home from a show until 4 o’clock this morning, had less than two hours in bed before getting up to see to my own dogs before starting kennels at 7.30am.
As I was expecting a bitch to arrive to be mated at about 10am and then a succession of people to collect pups from lunchtime onwards, it was going to be a particularly busy day so I had to get all the boarders seen to as speedily as possible. I was steadily working my way through them and while I had his three police dogs (two German Shepherds and a collie), out in the exercise area, I went back into the corridor behind the kennels to do water bowls etc. I was aware that as I went up and down the corridor I could hear Tyson, one of the GSD’s, following what I was doing but never really gave it that much thought. I then came out of the kennel kitchen/store door into the exercise area to put the Police dogs into their runs before letting out the next dogs.
Unfortunately, Tyson had decided to go into work mode and evidently I was the ‘criminal’ that had been going up and down inside the building! I can assure you that to say my legs turned to jelly and I felt physically sick was not an understatement. I had this GSD which was trained to ensure that suspects did not move until the handler appeared convinced that I was up to no good and not a handler within miles. The teeth marks in my jacket attest to the fact that he meant business! Give him his due, as long as I didn’t move, he just stood his ground and when I did attempt any movement it was just the sleeve on my jacket that he made for which says a tremendous amount for the training that these dogs undergo. I was also becoming conscious that Jules, the other GSD, was beginning to also take an interest in what was going on.
What on earth was I going to do? I can remember thinking ‘I haven’t got time to be taken to Casualty today!’ Isn’t it amazing the type of thing that goes through your mind in moments of stress! I knew that if I could just manage to move a few feet and get a run gate open that he would probably go into it.
It took one hell of a long time and another couple of holes in my jacket sleeve but I did eventually manage to sidle along to a run and get him in to it.
Curiously, once I finished the rest of the boarders and with a great deal of trepidation went to move Tyson back into his own kennel and run, he had obviously decided that I was no longer a criminal and returned to his normal in his holiday home ambience! I can assure you that it took most of the day for me to stop shaking. The Senior Handler in the Unit has since explained to me the best method to use if I am ever in that type of situation with their dogs again but I can’t tell you what it is so if you are ever chased or cornered by a Police GSD the best advice to readers is – Stay very still and wait for the Handler to appear!
I must hasten to add that Tyson has never again caused any problems when in to board and to be honest the working Police dogs are really good dogs to have in, very obedient and actually very much ‘fun dogs’! I had also succeeded in making the Handler feel so guilty that he returned the next evening with a bottle of wine and some chocolate doughnuts!
On another occasion at the height of our boarding season, I wasn’t away at a dog show so it must have been mid week, we were awakened at two o’clock in the morning by all our dogs who live in the house starting to bark. We then realised that the boarders also seemed to be making a racket and thought that there also seemed to be voices outside. Luckily, I cautiously peered through one of the front windows before dialling 999 and requesting police attendance, as it would have been quite difficult to explain why I needed assistance when it was a police car that was parked in our lay-by! The two officers were obviously having a great debate of some kind between them.
Donning a jacket over my short nightie and sliding my feet into the first footwear that came to hand I went outside to enquire what was going on.
It transpired that a member of the public had handed a dog into the Police station, which they had intended to keep in the cells overnight. They had then received a number of telephone calls from residents living close to the Station complaining about the noise that the dog was kicking up. You may think along the same lines as me that the dog probably couldn’t create much more noise than I would imagine some of their normal lodgers do but anyway someone had very cleverly decided that as they had a key to the kennels, they could just pop the dog in without disturbing us!
They had made their way into the kennel block, switching all the lights on the way and worked out which kennel they would put the dog in – their main problem and the reason for their debate was that they then realised that they didn’t have a lead to get the dog from the car and into the kennels.
I don’t think that I can ever forgive the young constable for very kindly feeling the need to light my journey through to the kennels by shining his flashlight on me whilst I was dressed in a short nightie, jacket and a pair of oversized wellies – nor for having the notion that they could sneak a dog into a kennels in the middle of the night without disturbing anyone! And yes, the dog did continue to make as much racket in the kennels throughout the night as he had done in the Police cells! A few days later I happened to be chatting to the wife of one of the local inspectors and when she had stopped laughing after I told her the tale she said ‘Wait until I tell Mike this one!!’ This resulted in an extremely apologetic phone call from one of the Sergeants who had obviously been given a roasting which was also no doubt in turn conveyed to the young PC’s!
It is also considered part of a ‘normal’ day for our lay-by, which is adjacent to the main road, to be occupied by a cruelty inspectors van, an animal control officers van (that’s the fancy title they give Dog Wardens in our area), a police car or even today’s equivalent of a ‘Black Maria’ - although they seem to be white rather than black nowadays! I have often requested that they could at least put a sticker on explaining they are just in for their tea but to no avail. It is rather surprising that they all seem to need to congregate here on the odd sunny day that we have up here and I do wonder if it might have something to do with the fact that we have a lovely sheltered south facing patio!
On very rare occasions, I am entrusted with the task of being the ‘doting Granny’ and asked to look after our grandsons. One such day, I was feeling particularly fraught so my husband took the eldest of the two boys out for a while just leaving me with Adam, aged 5, to contend with. Becoming ever more wound up by the seemingly endless stream of mundane questions and any reply I gave being greeted by ‘But, Granny, why………..?’ I eventually had enough and locked him in a dog cage - unfortunately after an hour (or so!) he managed to work out how to unlock it from the inside! Before you all rush off to report me to the RSPCC or associated bodies, perhaps I should hasten to add that he enjoyed it so much he then insisted that he be locked in another cage with a different opening mechanism so that he could work that one out as well - naturally I duly obliged and was rewarded with another hour of almost peace and quiet! Well, that is my story and I am sticking to it!
These are just a few brief glimpses of some of the sort of ‘normal’ days that I seem to have!