Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The dogs on mainstreet howl...

...'cause they understand...

Well, back to Starbucks, doin' that wi-fi thing, and this could become addictive. Anyway, it's undoubtedly boring to have me going on about the joys of sitting here with a tall Americano, so to speak, so here's the new Nippy Sweetie, pre-publication, for those who don't get the glorious and wonderful Shetland Times...


MONGRELS of the world, there is hope! No longer need you feel diminished and downtrodden because of your mixed parentage. From now on, you can stare so-called pedigree pooches right in the snout with pride, knowing that you are their equal not only in style, character and courage, but in breeding.
Unless, of course, you are some sort of Dachshund – Basset Hound cross, in which case staring a Doberman, German Shepherd or, God love us, a St Bernard in the snout is likely to present certain difficulties. Still, knowing that you have some sort of official status should take the sting out of such encounters.
It’s all thanks to a lovely man called Duncan Gillespie, one of the great Scottish journalists, former editor of the Scottish Farmer, winemaker, author and much more. He has taken pity on canines without family trees stretching back into the mists of history, and come up with a way of providing mongrels -or at least, Scottish-born ones - with a sense of true identity. As, well, Haggishounds. Caledonian Haggishounds.
Log onto the website and all will become clear. The deal is you (probably best coming from the owner rather than the dug itself) register your 57-variety pet online, pay a modest sum, and by return of post receive a proud certificate stating that Towser (or Petra, Kylie, Killer or Demon Dog) is no longer a wandering, rootless soul in dogworld, but a pedigree Haggishound, with all the consequent rights and privileges.
Now, my life was littered with mongrel dogs, until the arrival of Quoyle the Labrador, as good-natured a pedigree mutt as you could hope for. Unfortunately, despite his breeding, he is the worst gun dog in the world, yelping for home with his tail between his legs whenever a shotgun goes off. Before him, way back in the mists of boyhood, there was Brownie the, ah, mixture and her psychotic son Dougal, even more of a mixture. Guinness, rescued from the Glasgow Cat and Dog Home, was an idiotic combination of rat and collie, while Kojak the sort-of Staffordshire Bull Terrier went, predictably, bald.
As well as Quoyle, poor long suffering Quoyle, there are the St Bernards, Thick and Thicker. They are undoubtedly pedigree things, with certificates of thickness to prove it. The bairns love them, and I can just about put up with the constant dribble. They are quite preposterously stupid, though. Like frisky cows. Only don’t try to milk them.
We have our garden gated, cattle-gridded (mainly to stop wandering sheep destroying expensive plants, and the consequent, embarrassing insurance claims against their owners) and fenced, and for the most part, the two St Bernards can be contained, even at their friskiest. A frisky St Bernard is a sight to behold. They are the size of small Shetland ponies, but they can jump, rear and turn on a sixpence should they feel like it. And they can move very quickly indeed. Should one hit you, and normally its intentions are nothing but warmly idiotic, you may, like me, break several ribs. So you don’t want them to get out if tourists are about. Apart from anything else, there is the risk of drowning some hapless German in dogspit. And that’s not good.
People walking their (inevitably much smaller) dogs in the immediate vicinity of the garden can be shocked to find two very large, bouncy animals approaching at thunderous speed, intent on heavy duty licking. But this happens only rarely, and one recent incident, much apologised for, was a result of the gate being left open and the amazing capacity of Thick and Thicker to get over the cattle grid, friendly and joyful cuddling in mind. Somebody complained to the police. Imagine what they said: “Officer: I wish to register a complaint. I have been slavered on by giant, strangely tactile beasts who came upon me out of the whirling occult Hillswick darkness! The Hound of the Baskervilles was the merest miniature poodle compared to this menacing miasma of canine malevolence! Officer, I love all animals in the world, but not these two hateful creatures of the swirling pit! I hate these big bastards with their floppy jowls, their bloodshot eyes, their terrifyingly wet, warm, strangely tactile tongues! Officer, please help me! Please send an armed response unit, cordon off Northmavine lest they escape your long (and strangely tactile) arms. Let the net of justice tangle their hideous feet in its righteous mesh!”
OK, I’m just having a laugh. The truth is, Myself, I don’t even love these dogs. But I’ll stick up for them in the face of unjust accusations. Thick and Thicker live here too. They have rights. They have the right to be thick. And to dribble, and gambol in a large and energetic way. I will say, that Thick and especially Thicker have certain events etched on their memories, and one incident when they were mere puppies, which saw them hammered with handy rocks by someone disguised, presumably for an Up Helly A’ squad, as the pre-revolutionary Russian monk Rasputin, has never been forgotten. An angry St Bernard is an interesting sight, especially approaching at an average 30 mph. And they are apparently descended from Hannibal’s war-mastiffs.
Notices are obviously required. I’m not sure what to put on them, though: BEWARE CANTERING WAR MASTIFFS is one possibility. So is DRIBBLE ALERT. VERY LARGE FRISKY MUTTS sounds quite good. Or maybe just NO HAGGISHOUNDS. Though that seems terribly discriminatory.
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Anyway, can I also point you in the direction of the various events being organised this weekend to raise cash for the victims of the tragic Indian Ocean tidal wave? There’s a disco in Mossbank on Friday, and I’m involved in the First Great Northern Desert Island Disco at the Pierhead Bar in Voe tomorrow night. Come and have a bop (or a progressive rock nod, or a soul shimmy, or a line-dance) to the sounds provided by Joe “Crimson King” Rocks, Jim “Groovin’ Quinn”, Brian and Lynne “Nashville” Nicholson, as well as Tom “Mr Pitiful” Morton. And that’s ‘Pitiful’ as in the Otis Redding song. In case you were wondering. Minimum contribution of a fiver, starts 8.30pm Saturday.


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