My spaniel has been pronounced ‘too thin’ by a lady who rescues dogs from Greece. I had stopped to chat with her in the park, as I often do, because I like the lady who rescues dogs from Greece. I’m not one of those people who say, ‘Well, how disgraceful. Fancy spending all that money rescuing dogs when the people are starving.’
No. I say that if a soft south Londoner wants to spend thousands of pounds importing waifs and strays from the collapsing Eurozone, rename them Bunty, feed them up until they are fit to pop and take them for a waddle around Tooting Common, good on her. There is enough misery in the world that can’t be solved. It makes a nice change for a mongrel who was begging outside a supermarket in Faliraki to have a happy ending.
So I always stop to talk to this lady who usually has several of her adopted Greek orphans by her side, including the odd newbie with a bemused expression on its face, as if wondering: ‘I’m sure I was sleeping outside the Carrefour Marinopoulos in Halkidiki this morning. I feel like I’ve lost a day somewhere. What’s this thing round my neck? Aagh! Why is there a woman attached to the end of it? Oh, my god! Look at my stomach! Why am I so fat?’
On this occasion, for some reason, as she has seen her many times and never made a comment before, the lady looked disapprovingly down at Cydney and said: ‘My goodness!’ And then bending down to her, and speaking in that slow, deliberate voice some humans seem to think makes them intelligible to dogs, said: ‘Hello, sweetheart, you’re very thin, aren’t you?’
Cydney, who was panting from a 20-minute sprint through the undergrowth chasing rabbits, looked back up at the Greek dog lady and then went entirely berserk. This is because you cannot just look at Cydney, much less talk to her, without eliciting a drastic response. Cydney is a gun dog, and will interpret any human interaction as a matter of extreme urgency.
If you so much as raise an eyebrow at her, she will wag not just her tail, or her bottom. Her entire body will writhe and wriggle in an action which looks something like the dance craze known as body-popping.
At the same time, she will open her mouth really wide, as if shouting: ‘What? Is something happening? Does it involve a pheasant? Do you know where there’s a pheasant? You DO know where there’s a pheasant, don’t you? Have you got a pheasant in your bag? Oi! Lady! I’m talking to you! Gis a pheasant!’
I should explain. Cydney talks with a gruff male estuary accent, a bit like Arthur Daley. I know this because the builder boyfriend does Cydney’s voice for her sometimes, much in the way your parents might have sat a doll on their knee and pretended to make it speak to amuse you when you were a child.
The builder sits like a ventriloquist with Cydney on his knee and channels her as effectively as Ray Alan did Lord Charles.
The Greek dog lady, however, does not speak spaniel. Despite her ability to communicate with the perishing pooches of the Peloponnese, she draws a blank entirely when faced with a gun dog born and bred in Surrey.
She interpreted Cydney’s panting as a cry for help. ‘My goodness. Look at how her stomach curves upwards to her haunches,’ she said. ‘And why has she got that strange sheen on her coat? Have you been putting something on her fur?’
‘No, that sheen is because she’s incredibly healthy. Her stomach slants like that because she is fit. That’s what a fit, healthy working dog looks like.’
‘Hmmm,’ she said doubtfully. ‘I would like to see a bit more weight on her.’
I wanted to say: ‘Oh, you would, would you? Well, maybe you would like to take her home and see if you can fatten her up while she runs around like a maniac 24 hours a day.’
But I didn’t because I realised she really would like to take the mad spaniel home, rename her Popsicle, put her in a Burberry jacket, feed her lightly poached chicken mince and make her sit on an ergonomic dog cushion. Cydney would resort to amusing herself by chasing a pug from Paros around the sofa until its heart gave out.
‘What do you think, Cyd?’ said the builder to the spaniel, when I told him what had happened to us later.
‘I think those Greek rescue dogs have got a @*%$ing cheek. Coming over here and chasing our squirrels. They should go back where they…’
‘Cydney, please!’ said the builder, putting his hand over her mouth. ‘You mustn’t say those things.’
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10