Of Wolfhounds and Warriors
It was one of those childhood summers that seems to go on for ever. I was eight years old and staying with a friend on a smallholding in Ceredigion. They had sheep and donkeys and chickens and puppies - a basket of squirming Yorkshire terrier puppies under the kitchen table. But they had something else too. A dachshund, kept in a pigsty and never let out. A prisoner.
He was on death row. They just hadn’t got round to taking him to the vet to get him destroyed yet. He was a nasty dog, they said, had killed one of their Yorkshire terrier bitches after she’d come back from being mated and he’d smelt the male on her. But his main crime was that they couldn’t breed from him. He was all wrong. He was too big for a miniature dachshund and he’d been born with only one eye. The blind one was blue, like a jewel.
He got fed porridge once a day, and I started taking it to him. It was the only interaction he got and he was shy at first but then started to get excited when he saw me, his whole long body wagging. I asked the family if I could take him out. They were bemused, but found me a chain lead and let me take him for walks.
Then he came to the seaside with us. I was so proud, walking down the road with him, imagining everyone saying, look at that girl with her lovely dog walking so nicely beside her. I threw balls for him on the beach and he looked at me blankly, with no idea of what to do. We went to bingo and he sat on my lap while we played.
At the end of the summer my mother came to pick me up and I told her I was keeping him. This only worked sometimes. It had worked with a guinea pig a boy at school had given me, but not with the kitten I kept under my bed, or the one-eyed chicken I brought home from a fete. But she looked at me with my companion, now called Max, and must have known that this time resistance was futile.
He is there in most of my childhood memories, in summers that were always hot. I had a book called Boudicca Warrior Queen. Boudicca had red hair like fingers of fire and she drove a chariot drawn by wild, flare-nosed horses. I imagined I was her, and I also imagined that back home in her castle she had a wolfhound, which I was going to have when I was grown-up and had my own castle. My hair was not red, and Max wasn’t a wolfhound, but imagination is a wonderful thing. We roamed the countryside building dens and guarding them from ferocious enemies, wandering home at dusk, hungry, smelling of dust and earth.
He was my best friend, my most fun companion, and a wonderful family dog. He died about ten years later. My little wolfhound, your warrior queen has never forgotten you.