We have a patterned glass front door. It blurs visitors; but you can see exactly who they are.
Through this door, every day, a minimum of twice a day, the dog steps for his forest romp.
He stands in the porch, with the wellies and the bicycles, and the ex-tv cabinet which now doubles up as a shoe rack because it seemed a shame to throw it away, and he whines noisily and insistently. When you want to put a lead on him he spins round and round and round, not to be obstructive, but rather because he simply can’t sit still.
And then you open the porch door and you’re off, along the path and through the gate, and out into the great outdoors.
Yesterday morning, I let the dog off the lead almost immediately. Yet he did not do his customary bullet-out-of-a-gun impression. Instead he performed a strange slinky sideways silverfish move which took him into neighbouring invasive rhododendron bushes.
I happen to know it’s the haunt of the local deer.
Deer are experts at reverse psychology. One day at a deer council meeting someone from the forward planning committee must have pointed out that the place humans would be least likely to look for deer would be right next to the main road. And ever since, that is where they have made their home.
So I strode on off the path, ready to break into a run, when no dog appeared.
This happened quite a lot for the next five minutes.
I started calling for him peremptorily, like those sheepdog handlers, and progressed to wheedling. By the end of the five minutes I was hollering furiously and turning beetroot.
After ten minutes the dog put in a brief appearance. And he was delighted, for he had found his favourite thing in the world: something furry and long dead.
And then he saw my dismayed face and he thought: quick, scarper. And he ran back where he had come from.
Some 15 minutes later I was so hoarse, the dog thought that meant I had forgiven him. Miraculously, the furry long dead thing had gone. He trotted happily round with me on my short run, and we repaired to the house, the dog stopping only to pick up his prize on the way.
So there I was, horrified, with a lead attached to a dog attached to a long dead piece of what I estimate may have been deer.
Have you ever tried to prize dead deer out a terrier’s jaws? Don’t. It’s unspeakable.
So horrified was I, that I left it where I managed to get him to drop it. I couldn’t go near it. It sat there on the drive, and every time Macaulay returned from walking he would re-clamp his jaws around it and we would play horror-tug-of-war and I would run inside and wash my hands obsessively and if possible shower.
That was yesterday. This evening, Phil came home from work.
The dog stared pointedly and unremittingly at him. Long after my husband had finished the chicken pie he was eating.
“Has the dog been walked this evening?” he ventured.
No, I admitted sheepishly, he hadn’t.
Phil took him out, and they came back. And through the patterned glass was the impressionistic figure of my husband and a dog, stolidly clenching his precious. Phil hadn’t noticed.
“You’re not coming back in,” I said stubbornly. “Not until that dog has jettisoned the dead thing in his mouth.”
I watched Phil, indistinct,come to the same aghast realisation that I had. It was like watching Marcel Marceau.His whole body cringed at the dog’s find. The dog just stood there. I’m not putting it down, his whole being emanated.
Exclamations and bad words later, the thing had been prized from the dog. My husband shot past me shuddering, bound for the cloakroom and the soap. And the dog was all silent reproach.
We had taken his precious.