Thursday, 5 February 2009


ANOTHER DACHSHUND SPOTTED in Amble by the Sea this morning. Not a spotted dachshund, though they come in that flavour now (Aleks was dappled). This was an older, long-haired, black and tan, miniature dachshund, a bit smaller than Cailean.

I grinned a knowing grin at the older lady walking her dog. They were both wearing well-padded overcoats. Dachshund people don't need secret handshakes. We are known by our silly grins.

Alas! I did not have Cailean with me as I was going to get some food at the minimart and dogs must be tied to the rail outside (where water is provided). I couldn't bring myself to tie Cailean out on the street, he's too darn cute. And he'd go off with anyone quite happily, I believe.

Cailean has met young Marcus and Humphrey, both black and tans, smooth-haired, like Cailean, though both a wee bit smaller so far. Cailean is eleven months old, Marcus is not quite six months, Humphrey is just a month or so younger than my boy. Fortunately, no secret paw-shakes are required when Cailean meets another dachshund. A not-so-secret tail-shake suffices, and all the sniffing.

The only other dogs that have it in for Cailean seem to be really small and fluffy, though one pit-bull-like creature lunged at him once, scaring poor Cailean and me, and amusing the young hoodlum holding the pit-bull's lead so carelessly. Cailean does insist on barking a greeting when a dog is approached. Just a simple: "Hail, fellow! Well met!" Most of the recipients of this short message do not reply, perhaps finding the whole business of a lowly sausage dog making any sound at all a bit too improbable.

There's one fellow, crippled with something that requires two mismatched crutches, who walks two dogs that he had adopted, both of whom are as crippled and raggedy as he is. Because this fellow takes such a long while to do the River Coquet walk each day, we tend to pass him at some stage. His dogs are lovely, old characters; Cailean ignores them and frets at their person's sticks. The fellow has tried holding both crutches in one hand and leaning over to pat Cailean's head, and Cailean moves in cautiously, but it is such a risky balancing act I think we could all end up in a heap on the frozen ground.

Amble might be renamed Scooterville. You've never seen so many mobility scooters and electric wheelchairs. Of course, part of this is the nature of the town: it's a retirement community in large part, and any younger people avoid the few shops and go off to ASDA (that's what Wal-Mart trades as in the UK) a dozen or so miles away.

One of my favourite episodes of Seinfeld had George on a mobility scooter being pursued by someone else on one, at slow speed, made more ridiculous because the plot involved George pretending to be crippled in some way and being found out. He could easily have jumped off his scooter and made a run for it. Here in Amble the scooters seem to be a newer model than George's clunker, these purr along at real speed.

One or two people will take their scooters onto the street, and can make fair time there. However, most use the pavement. This would be fine, except the need for speed has not been diminished. One lady with a bad wig flies about, the wig usually coming somewhat detached and hanging off one ear. Anyone on the pavement must leap for safety. [If you are counting, I may have offended the crippled, ladies, the old and the bald, and that clique that insists on believing a bad wig is not so bad, in other words, I've rubbed Elton John the wrong way. Now, ├ža va sans dire, I've insulted gays too.]

I have never ridden a mobility scooter, and I've not even sat in a wheelchair. I have piloted a dodgem at the funfair a half-dozen times (hardly good practice) and once drove a go-cart as a boy, other than that I've been on foot or on roller skates. I'm a designated passenger.

Okay, I have Cailean on the street, greeter of man and dog, and I have a morning in Scooterville. Can I bring them together?

Happened just yesterday, it was bitterly cold, but the snow was to the south of us and inland, so Cailean and I dressed up in our winter clothes (the boy in his tartan wrap) and walked to the Town Square. There we sat, huddled together for warmth while I caught my breath. I've not had a cigarette in 28 years and I still gasp and wheeze, let that be a lesson to you smart-arses who think you'll live for ever. (Another subject, but I will mention that I am far more sensitive to cigarette smoke now than I was when I smoked two packs a day. I'm a canary in a coalmine, it seems.)

After our huddle, we headed up Queen Street towards home. And along comes one of the smaller-model electric scooters, with a very petite, elderly lady on it. In front of her handlebars was a basket with a few groceries in it, and a little teddy-bear wired to the outside.

I stepped aside and said: "Good morning!" and the lady said: "Hello there! And is that a dash-hound?" In his tartan overcoat, Cailean could pass as a piece of Scottish furniture. "Yes, this is Cailean," I replied. "Boy or girl?" "Neutered boy, eleven months." "He's lovely…"

Now, Cailean is as wary of mobility scooters as I am, but he put his front legs on the platform at the lady's feet, then lifted, very awkwardly in his coat, one paw, and cocked his head on the side.

"I could take you home! I really could!" This is why I don't lash him up to the hitching post outside the minimart. "He'd go with you, apparently," I offered, though not offering.

So we talked dogs. The lady had had one when she lived in her own home. Now she was crippled, had a small flat. I'd adopted my posh accent persona, which can be hard work, but I managed to keep from sounding Canadian and spoiling the mood. I was the English gentleman of an age walking his little German dog with the old Gaelic name. I'm white-bearded at the moment and might even look distinguished in a King George V sort of way.

Cailean did the waggy-tail, adorable and butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth act, and I chatted till we were all feeling rather chilled. Then I said: "Awfully sorry I can't let Cailean go home with you, but he has work to do at mine." And we smiled and the lady whirred away at some speed.

At home, Cailean curled up on a blanket on the sofa and almost closed his eyes. I told you he had work to do.


suz said...

i hate blogger. it refused to post and then deleted my response.

sarah corbett morgan said...

Very funny, Ross. I love these Cailean tales (tails?).

I've been absent lately and will have to go back and read your other posts.

Oh, and I see you've published some of these with the Camroc Press. I feel honored to be in your company there.