Every weekday morning, I wake weary children who pad down to our bedroom and tuck under the duvet to watch the 6.00 news.
And every morning, a very large long enquiring black nose appears over the bedclothes to greet Felix and get an early morning cuddle. He is predictable. After just a short spell of head stroking his legs give way and he flups down onto the bedroom floor.
Freddy the dog is a dappily affectionate overgrown teddy bear. A great black sheep in wolf’s clothing. And that moment, when even on the most daunting schooldays the dog comes for a cuddle, that moment has become essential.
How long has man’s best friend been man’s best friend? It is tempting to believe that in olden times dogs were curs, scavengers, reviled and bequeathed only scraps from beneath the medieaval table.
But the evidence says different.
Potter down to Gloucestershire, why don’t you, and call in at Deerhurst Church. There, if you look carefully, you will find a brass from 1400 depicting Alice, wife of Sir John Cassy.
And at her feet is a small dog. He has a collar; and on the collar is engraved his name.
Terri was not the only beloved hound to have been recorded in mediaeval history. Jakke sits next to the the effigy of Sir Brian Stapleton and his wife dating from 1430 at Ingham, Norfolk; and Bo is curled up with the De Reynes Family at Clifton Reynes in Buckinghamshire. And it’s not just a British thing: in Seine-Et-Marne, France, at the little church of Ozouer-Le-Repos, Dyamant the dog keeps his lady company for eternity.
Incredibly, there is a full and frank list of mediaeval dogs’ names.
Edward of Norwich, Second Duke of York, wrote a fabulous book about hunting in his time: The Master Of Game. You can find it here at the Open Library. It is a joy, a window onto another time which tells us how different and how similar lives were then to now.
The edition I reference misses one unmissable element: a list of 1,100 dogs names. It was deemed necessary to name hunting dogs and the best masters should not be at a loss for those all-important names, no matter how many dogs are in his care.
I am still looking for the full list. Meanwhile, Katherine Walker-Meilke wrote an entire book on mediaeval pets which I feel that I simply must own, though it is not available electronically.
She reels off an enticing list of names for a dog in the 1400s. Troy, Blawnche, Nosewise and Swepestake, Smylefest, Trynket; not to mention Amiable, Clenche, Holdfast and Absalom.
And that’s just the beginning.
We have always loved our dogs, and named them accordingly.
I think I might call our next one Terry.