Ours has one more spirit in it now. A very large (beside Macaulay) Guinness-coloured flop-eared aesthete from Tipperary with four legs. There is a gigantic dog bed in the sitting room, a small comfortable empire from which the doe-eyed charmer from the emerald isle monitors the comings and goings in the Shrewsday household. Actually, mostly he monitors the comings and goings of anything remotely edible.
Freddie has his great gorgeous velvet Aslan-paws under the table. as I type, a terrier sits close to me on the sofa on which he is not allowed, back close in, perfecting his wounded air. How could you, he emanates. How could you being a great Irish oaf into my carefully scented world. As if, he sighs noisily, the cat wasn’t enough.
We are being most careful to accord Macaulay top-dog status; to elevate his moustache and give him the respect his nine years deserve. He goes through every door or gate first. He is fed first and handsomely. He has access to our bedroom 24-7. He is attended to first at all times.
He’s still not thrilled. But Freddie likes him and in the forest they run like a glorious helter-skelter pack. Of two.
But Freddie is a veritable pool-eyed WB Yeats, a poet-dog, a creature of art and beauty and grace and deep, throaty barks. And admittedly a slightly highly string tummy.
He brought terrible manners with him but learns so fast and is so eager to to please that his etiquette becomes more princely every day, and the way he cocks his Irish ears and stares into your soul, the way he runs at full pelt through the forest with all the grace of the wild and then comes back to his name like a Crufts Champion; it’s all rather captivating.
He does arise and go now, and go to Innisfree. Or at least, the forest. But for a dog who seems perfect, he does have the odd minor criminal tendency.
At least it’s not a tendency to disappear down the pub, I suppose. But from the moment he arrived, he began to collect things.
First it was the Hallowe’en spider which laughs maniacally. It was lifted and lovingly transported to the palatial doggie bed and it’s still there now. Occasionally Freddie sits on it and it wails chillingly once again.
Then he took two gardening gloves. Floppy, soft, his babies. next, a duck from some young person’s bedroom; after that, Bumpy the Elephant, who was subsequently airlifted out of there and a look-alike, Lumpy the elephant, substituted.
I looked for my watch this morning. Nowhere. I combed the house, turned it upside down, dug into the sides of the sofa. Not a sausage.
This evening I apprehended the watch in Freddie’s bed.
He is the Artful Dodger.
Freddie has not been in a nice place. They starved him and kept him outside. He hates cars and is afraid of the dark. For a retriever cross, he has only 22 pounds to his name. Thus, he tries to eat everything, all the time. We have him on three plain meals a day, but he’s always on the lookout to augment his intake.
Yesterday I heard a crackling just outside my bedroom. Further investigation revealed a large black dog with a crisp packet stuck on his nose.
Irish, charming, glossy and black and with the instincts of a magpie, it seems Freddie has been here forever. His beginnings here have been auspicious, and he and Macaulay have many, many stories ahead of them.