What could be nicer on a sunny afternoon in Spain, than going for a walk with your neighbour, and her dog? Well, as it turned out, I can think of a few things that would have been preferable.
I was missing Buddy, as we’d been apart for nearly two weeks, while he waited for his coach trip to Spain to join me, so this seemed like a good way for me to get back into the dog walking spirit of things.
My friends dog is called Paddy, and he is more than a 10p mix up of Collie, Staffy, Labrador and I reckon a Great Dane is lurking in his gene pool somewhere too as he’s nearly bigger than his owner, but then to be honest that’s not difficult either.
Paddy is a lovely, very lively boy, and we’ve reached an understanding whereby I completely ignore him, till he stops jumping up and trying to kiss my nose every time I walk in the door. It’s a battle of wills, but I’m winning.
After Paddy had done his usual pre ‘walkies’ dance, where he jumps all over the sofa so hard that the sofa has no choice but to move, followed by a bit of boisterous leaping around on just two of his very long legs, accompanied by some hysterical squeaking, we were finally on our way.
In front of Sandra’s house there is a large expanse of scrubland, full of ‘interesting’ nooks, crannies and rabbit holes. From the top of a hill it drops down to a quarry like area, which is quite deep.
Now apparently, Paddy runs around this area more than a few times a week, so he’s very familiar with it, and Sandra assures me that when he’s let off the lead, although he runs and runs, he always comes back.
NOT THIS TIME SANDRA!
After a short ‘on lead’ walk round the road, we arrive on the scrubland and Paddy is let loose. Sandra and I carry on walking and for a short time we can see Paddy chasing around enjoying his freedom. But then he disappears. Like, into thin air. No sign, Nada.
At first, Sandra begins to call him in quite a relaxed tone, but it reaches quite a crescendo after about 20 minutes, as it’s now pretty obvious the boy’s done a runner, and when Sandra gets slightly more frantic, the F word echoed around the quarry.
My long range eye sight is pretty good, and as I scanned the area where Paddy had disappeared, there was absolutely no sign of him. No movement in the bushes, no wagging tail, no hint of a dog.
We could, however, hear dogs barking in the distance, and one of them did indeed sound very deep and intimidating, just like Paddy in fact.
So as it was clear his recall button was not working that day, and he wouldn’t be coming back to his owner any time soon, she set off back down the very steep hill to get into her car to follow the bark.
I watched all this unfold from my vantage point at the top of the hill where I was waiting, just in case Paddy should decide that he was tired with all this tomfuckery and wanted to go home.
Now we all have defining moments don’t we and I had several during the next 40 minutes or so, which as any dog owner will tell you, is a VERY long time when a dog has disappeared.
My first ‘moment’ came whilst standing on my own, in the middle of bloody nowhere in complete silence, waiting for a dog to return to me that wasn’t even mine.
I had a WHAT THE FUCK am I doing thought and marched back down the hill to where Sandra had now returned in her car. Still minus her dog.
There was, at this point a slight domestic going on, when Sandra had to impart the news to her husband Tony, that the dog had run off.
With the questionable wisdom of an octogenarian, he sagely commented, ‘Well if he doesn’t come back, he’ll probably get run over’, which I didn’t feel was particularly helpful given the circumstances, and I told him so.
We were about 50 minutes into the pursuit of Paddy when I happened to glance up to the top of the hill and there he was standing in the sunshine, like some majestic statue of a Spanish Bull.
Mr and Mrs Paddy went into overdrive. Sandra was calling him like he was her long lost son, whilst Paddy’s Daddy had adopted a tone of voice which would have said to the daftest of dogs, ‘You are in the deepest shit when you get home’.
Talk about mixed messages!
Meanwhile Paddy refused to budge, and stayed put on the hilltop, with something of a ‘you’ve got to be joking’ stance.
I marched purposefully indoors and got a box of dog biscuits, and put some distance between me and the confusing doggy parents.
Gradually as I shook the box of bikkies, Paddy took some tentative steps and began making his way back to me.
Then all of a sudden, just when you think things cannot get any worse, Tony gets over confident with his dog whistle and is manically blowing it like he’s at West Ham on Cup Final day.
Meanwhile, Sandra has adopted Tony’s previous Mr Angry Tone and is telling him to stick the bloody whistle where the sun don’t shine.
Finally, Paddy is within grabbing distance and I slip the lead over his head and ‘encourage’ him fairly firmly that it would be in his own best interests to get his arse back inside the house, as I’m now really pissed off with his ‘I’ll come back when I’m ready’ attitude.
It’s clear he’s had a bit of an argument with a thorn bush, or something extremely prickly, and looks a bit bruised and battered. His nose and paws are streaked with blood and he’s acting very sorry for himself whilst having a minor panic attack.
Sandra puts on her best vet’s uniform and sits down on the floor with Paddy trying to calm him down.
I decide too many dog lovers in one room will spoil the dog, and after all this I’m in desperate need of alcohol, so I decide to leave the building.
But not before Tony appears minus his friggin whistle and delivers his most memorable line of the day……
‘Oh Sandra, that dog will be the death of you’