A Terrier’s Grail


This post includes decay and decomposition. It is not for the faint hearted.

Will someone please remind me why I decided on homing a terrier?

7am. And I have already been up an hour. I have dashed out to the forest in search of space for a wild-haired mutt with a lopsided moustache.

He’s unhinged this morning. I have no idea why; maybe it’s the smell of Autumnal decay which hangs in the mist.

I am girded with resolve. Resolution is my breastplate. Because when we get to that part of the forest – why then, I shall put the dog on a lead.

To avoid a repeat of yesterday. And the day before.

Every day for seven years, the dog has padded affably along the path which crosses the top of the iron age hill fort where we walk. Until three days ago. When, I now have irrefutable evidence, something popped its clogs, shuffled off this mortal coil, and expired.

And began, as is the Forest way, gently and in an entirely eco-friendly way, to decompose.

No-one knows this but me and mine, because the deceased in question chose a nice spot covered with ferns which shot up in May and are now a diminutive waist-high thicket.

For the last days the dog has made me late for work, disappearing and reappearing gleefully ten or fifteen minutes later having indulged in a good measure of jolly unspeakableness.

Which is why I am standing determined with a lead, waiting to hitch him up and rein him in from the micro bacteriafest.

But as I walk out of my door I see a red-flag event: that neighbour down my road has let her dog soil my garden. Again. And I’m hopping mad; I’m furious. All the way up to the top of the fort I’m composing pieces of my mind to give her alongside the burgeoning poop bag I intend to return. And I am so distracted eulogising that I fail to spot the dog arcing away, his tail like the fin of a shark in the emerald ferny fronds.

It’s happening again. In slow motion. If I shout and curse he will not come back; who would? But if I stay silent he will not come back either, for he is on Planet Dead Deer.

Briefly I consider wading into the green and looking for him. But the thought of coming on a large deer carcass stays my hung-ho vigilantism. No. There is nothing for it but to sit, grim. like a Tolkiensian dwarf on a Misty Mountain, and wait.

I glower. I emit smouldering fury. But the mist swirling round me is oblivious, and all those industrious spiders with their diamond-drop webs could not care less.

Eventually, the dog re-enters, stage right.

But he is not grinning.

He cannot; for his mouth is full of something.

Oh, peerless treasure of the terrier race: he carries what would in any other dog be a stick, or a ball; a treasured plaything, a toy, a bauble. But in a dog of Macaulay’s calibre this can only be one thing.


It is a bit of deer. Red-haired, hoof intact.

There in the middle of the deserted hilltop, the mist takes a startled step backwards to avoid the screeching woman doing a dance of fury, back and forth, up and down, uttering incantations too blue to write here. We are late; and, the prize wrung from the jaws of the family dog, he walks in textbook fashion at heel all the way home in a bid to get on the right side of this incendiary creature who holds the lead.

No matter, he thinks affably.

I can always pop back and get it next time.


67 thoughts on “A Terrier’s Grail

  1. Dogs! They have a mind of their own! πŸ˜‰ Follow him, find the deer and bury it. I thought you were going to a more morbid ending like a dead neighbour…

    1. So sorry you keep having problems! I trawl daily in the spam folder in case my letter from a smitten publisher slips in there by mistake. When I see you, I rescue you. I have notified the Happiness Engineers, suggesting that perhaps they would be better termed the ‘pique engineers’.

      1. Thank you, Kate, but the dog only “answers” to that name DamnDog. He doesn’t answer to the other pseudonyms, just takes them as compliments not meant for publication on the internet.

  2. would love to answer your question on why you home a dog with words of sparkling purity such as for the love they bestow, the comfort and calmness of spirit they endow on their human companions, would love too – however I’m, personally, a cat person (they have bad habits too!) and through a long life of dog responsibility I know the answer is – just because you are mental, delusional and truely a beta member of their pack πŸ™‚ let a dog into your life and there will always be a decaying deer in it’s life – even the guide dog in our home has disgusting habits when she is allowed a day off from being the ‘bless her she’s so good’ companion – I hope you apologised to the mist and the forest dwellers for disturbing their idylic start to the day:)

    as always a great read with my coffee – thanks

    ps never get a terrier if you wish to be boss – they are the ‘officer’ material of the dog world – they set the agenda

      1. I’m still laughing at this post, Kate, 24 hours later. You were so full of horror and outrage and uugh, and all I could do was laugh. My day will come I know…

  3. It is obvious to me that Macaulay just wanted to play “fetch the deer leg”!!! Just be happy he is not rolling in the decaying deer. First thing our Lab/Queensland, Becky, does when she finds an “interesting smell” is to roll in it. Not pleasant when you are unaware and give the mutt a hug…

  4. What a rascal (and he looks the part too, little cutie!)). I had a golden retriever who delighted in rolling in the dead alewives that washed up on our beach every spring. Such a delightfully hideous smell.

    1. Erk. Sorry about the salad. I was unable to breakfast after the experience which is unheard of for me.
      I think dead deer hoof is the terrier equivalent of caviar, or truffles. That’s what the look on his face said, for sure.

  5. “And I’m hopping mad; I’m furious. All the way up to the top of the fort I’m composing pieces of my mind to give her alongside the burgeoning poop bag I intend to return.”

    I am delighted to hear that you plan to return the poop to its rightful owner. Perhaps the poop’s owner might also be interested in a bit of venison? πŸ˜›

  6. This is hilarious.
    By not coming under orders, he should be in orders. He is a Holy Terrier!
    However, there is a bright side. Returning with a chunk of seasoned venison, he has at least proved that the source of his interest is not the first victim of an axe-murderer who is about to wreak havoc in your neighbourhood.
    Aren’t you grateful for that?

  7. Why did you decide on homing a terrier? One look at that adorable face is all it takes. I adore that little dog! (rather like I enjoy cute little children who are someone else’s responsibility … )

  8. Oh, Mac… “He’s unhinged this morning. I have no idea why; maybe it’s the smell of Autumnal decay which hangs in the mist.” Excellent! When I am feeling unhinged over the next few months, I plan to use the smell of Autumnal decay as my excuse.

  9. haha! Dogs! Z and I were jogging a field a couple of months ago, I let her roam- finally call her to get moving, she wont, call, nada, call, finally yelling, so I jog over to her – she is trying to pick up a gnawed up deer leg!

  10. I’m not sure I could survive this experience! Once an animal is dead and begins to decompose I’m completely squeamish. I hadn’t even considered the potential that Zena might come across something dead and disgusting, and then bring all those sloppy kisses indoors! Oh my! And you went through all this before you even went to work? You poor thing!

    1. The whole morning was a chapter of happenings, Debra. Ho hum! You have many years of such pleasures to come, though I’m not sure what the likelihood of dead deer would be in your neck of the woods…

  11. I feel your pain. I use to take my first dog back to my Grandmother’s for a visit every fall and guaranteed he would come trotting out of the woods with a bone from a moose leg. I still gag thinking of the times I had to wrestle it out of its mouth. Oh! And the horrid smell!

  12. Dogs just know how to “take lemons and make lemonade” πŸ™‚ Before my Bob went to doggy heaven he was as averse to the vacuum as you are to the deer … different strokes…

  13. It really isn’t the dogs fault if you’re running later and I think you’re really mean to try placing the blame on such a beautiful innocent little puppy like Macauley.(Written at the request of and as dictated by my dog Coco who found the story quite amusing). Woof!

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