Tis true that I have made some random choices and decisions but one of my most impetuous moments was a few years’ ago when walking to the car park after a late night Xmas shopping event I was hailed by a homeless man slightly intoxicated and waving a bottle of cider in my general direction. Like many he would sit on the pavement of the underpass near the railway station with his dog at his side on an old blanket calling out to the commuters as they made their way home.
I’ve never ignored anyone including those annoying canvassers that stop you constantly whilst you are shopping for market research purposes, believing it to be rude as we all have to earn a living and I think a simple “no thank you” is more civil than passing them by as if they’re invisible.
So I bid him a good evening and was about to carry on walking by when he asked me for money which I politely declined to give him so it was then that he started asking me if I wanted his dog which was a huge bedraggled mastiff type. “Good dog” he slurred “worth a tenner at least”. Realising that this poor animal’s fate lay in my hands I duly agreed and returned to my car where I knew that I had one of my niece’s skipping ropes laying on the back seat. I went back and handed the homeless man the money. “likes his food, he does” he mumbled snatching the money out of my hand. Judging by the poor and near skeletal condition of the dog he clearly hadn’t been getting much of anything recently. So attaching the skipping rope to the collar of the forlorn Mastiff, we started to walk towards my car leaving the homeless man running off in the direction of the off-licence without a backward glance in the direction of his faithful friend.
I hadn’t realised just how large the dog actually was until he was walking alongside me and then of course, it was apparent that he was actually the size of a small Shetland pony albeit a malnourished one. I decided to call him Arnie after the actor and realised this poor trusting animal must have been incredibly confused losing the only person familiar to him.
Back at my car, which at that time was a small mini metro I tried to entice Arnie inside. Judging by his reluctance to jump in, I assumed that he’d never travelled in a vehicle before. Eventually, I managed to squeeze him into the passenger seat where he seemed to fill the entire car and then it was all too apparent that Arnie was in dire need of a bath. As soon as, I switched on the ignition he began to wail like a werewolf and on the way home I almost sustained a perforated ear drum and pneumonia from having to drive with the window wide open in what had been the coldest of winters. Serial Shagger and I had bought a do’er upper in a nice neighbourhood but he was currently away serving Queen and country so it was just going to be me and Arnie until such time that I could find him a suitable home.
Once home we made a beeline for the bathroom where Arnie received his first shower and by default, so did I. After a tin of Marks & Spencer steak for tea followed by a quick drink from the toilet, clearly his table manners were going to need some work, Arnie crashed out on the sofa.
We spent a challenging few weeks together as the howling had increased my popularity with the neighbours tenfold to the point that I’m sure a couple of them considered moving. Walking an exuberant mastiff with no basic training had improved my own agility no end; particularly as Arnie wasn’t receptive in the recall department as it was so much more fun to run around the park having me charging after him until we were both fit to drop with exhaustion. My upper body strength was also on a par with Arnie’s namesake as he dragged me along the pavement every morning on our way to the park. Whilst incredibly friendly Arnie had the strength of ten thousand men and I had no doubt that we were a constant source of amusement in the village as this exuberant Hound of the Baskervilles bounded along with me in hot pursuit.
The vet whom I had taken him to for a check up confirmed that he was a dogue de bordeaux and an exceptionally large specimen. Apart from poor nutrition he was given a clean bill of health and I set about finding him a new home.
As luck would have it, one of my neighbour’s a kindly elderly gentleman used to pass me each morning on his was to collect his newspaper and as we sprinted past he always remarked to my rapidly retreating back what a lovely dog Arnie was. On one morning when Arnie wasn’t in such a rush to get to the park, we stopped and chatted for a while when he told me that he had so been looking forward to travelling the world together with his beloved wife but sadly cancer had taken her only a few months into their retirement so now he was all alone. It was inevitable that he eventually gave Arnie the home he deserved.
I see them fairly often when I pass the old gentleman’s garden where he always tips his Panama hat to me before handing me one of his homegrown roses and telling me that they’re a present from my two admirers. As I watch dog and master walking alongside each in other in companionable silence, I am reminded that dogs really do have a way of finding those that need them the most.
And if you’re thinking of getting a new friend to join your family please consider adopting because you may just save a life!