Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Music Column 1999 – Literary Agents, Sam and his babies and David goes to Madrid .


It is 1999 and we settled into life in Ireland, with David commuting into Dublin every day, whilst I built up my business in Drogheda. Every morning Sam and I would get in the car and drive a few miles to Bettystown beach and walk in the dunes and along the sand… Sam by this time had made some friends and so had we. There were some lovely people living in the lane and they made us most welcome.

I had also spent the last few months editing my book Size Matters and was ready to try and get it published. I contacted a well known Dublin agent in early 1999 and he kindly said he would represent me. He read the book and made some suggested changes which I was grateful for. By the end of the year he began to send out manuscripts out to the top publishers in Ireland and the UK.

David joined the mountain running club and at weekends we would head out across the country for a race and stay in rented cottages that allowed dogs. Sam and I would wait in the car, usually in wet, freezing weather and then head to the finish line at the bottom of that weekend’s particular mountain and cheer the runners on as they hurtled downwards, often leaping from rock to rock. They all benefited for an excited collie’s barked encouragement that usually drove any other dogs into a frenzy too.

He was also a great father…. to some kittens that I brought home as company for him. He was a year old and he already loved Henry the feral cat. However, Henry did not want to come in the house and I thought these two kittens would be the answer. I was a bit tentative when I introduced them but I needn’t have worried. He was every bit the attentive and protective father and even allowed them to eat his dinner.

Everything was great and we felt very happy and settled. Then a bombshell… The company that David worked for decided to sell the division that he ran and instead of growing the business, he was now put in charge of selling it. This was unsettling although the parent company promised to find him a position with them. However, once word got out, he began to receive calls from recruitment consultants and one job was too good to refuse.

However, it was in Madrid and was for initially a two year contract. We looked at our current situation and my business was just breaking even after buying it, we would have lost money on the house if we sold it, and I was reluctant to sell up and move to Spain until David was settled and likely to be there for more than a couple of years.

We agreed that I would stay in Ireland and David would go ahead and for the first year anyway we would see each other every three weeks for a long weekend. His company agreed to pay for our flights and this meant that I would travel to Madrid every six weeks.

With all the driving back and forth to the beach and to the mountain running events, we listened to a lot of music in the car.

There were some forgettable hits in the charts in 1999, but there were also some classics including I Want It That Way by The Backstreet Boys, Fly Away by Lennie Kravitz, That Don’t Impress Me Much Shania Twain, When You Believe by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, When The Going Gets Tough by Boyzone and the solo from Ronan Keating with When You Say Nothing At All from the soundtrack from Notting Hill. But the song that I have chosen sums up our year… and since the title is also Spanish…...Livin’ la Vida Loca by Ricky Martin.  Courtesy Ricky Martin

Buy Music by Ricky Martin Amazon

Next time… finding Sam a family to look after him the weekends I was in Madrid…a new home, the publishers respond and family reunions.

 

Smorgasbord – Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story – Chapter Twelve and Thirteen – Car Rides and move to Spain


51uI0kWA+ML._UY250_Last time Sam described his favourite walks in Ireland and now more about his driving experiences, including the very long trip to Spain.

Chapter Twelve and Thirteen – Car Rides and move to Spain

At first I was a bit apprehensive about the car rides because the first three times I was in one I had ended up at the vets getting a large needle stuck in me. Every time I was put in the back seat I would start to salivate and felt sick. However, once we got into the morning habit of going to the beach, I decided that if there was going to be so much fun at the end of the trip, it was worth overcoming my original apprehension.

It is at this point that I must say a little something about Sally and cars. She is a bit of a petrol head and rather likes them fast and sporty. When I first arrived she was driving a BMW convertible which she had brought back from Belgium where she and David had been living for two years. It was a left hand drive which made getting into and out of car parks a little awkward, as you have to get in and out of the car to put the ticket into the machine at the barrier. However, I loved that car because when the roof was off I could sit in the back seat in my harness with my head back against the headrests and let the wind whip through my long coat. I can tell you that I was the envy of all the dogs that we passed on our way back and forth to the beach.

After about a year the BMW was changed in for a red Toyota Celica and I rather missed the soft top but there was a great central storage box between the two front seats where I could put my paws and watch all the action as we flashed down the country lanes. Because we spent so much time on the sand, the back seat was covered with old towels, and since of course it rains a lot in Ireland they soon became pretty damp. The car developed a wonderful, warm, soggy, doggy smell to it that Sally was always trying to eradicate with some form of magical spray or other. Personally, I found it rather interesting.

David belonged to the Mountain Runners Club and we used to travel around Ireland to their meets. I loved going to new places and sometimes we stayed overnight, which was also quite interesting as some places have very funny smells. I must admit to doing quite a bit of sleeping stretched out on the back seat, but I always woke up in time to make sure we stopped regularly for sniffs and tea for Sally and David. I also had to mark every few miles or so to make sure we could find our way home again later.

After the Celica came the big Subaru Forester. Sally appeared back from one of her trips to Spain with this in preparation for the long drive to our new home. I thought it was most comfortable, but did need to establish early on that I did not travel in the back piece that was for luggage only, and that I would only consider riding directly behind the driving position in the back seat.

The added bonus to travelling in all of the cars was the singing. Sally had always enjoyed a good tune and would sing along as we drove to the beach. After a few trips I decided to join in either humming or barking in time to the melody. We still do this today when we go out in the mornings to do our mountain walk here in Spain; my repertoire is quite extensive. My favourite is ‘How much is that doggie in the window’ and ‘Amazing Grace’. David made a recording once of our duet but unfortunately it never made the top ten.

Anyway the longest car journey that I ever made was from our home in Ireland to our new one in Madrid.

I have now lived in Spain for five years and it certainly could not be more different to Ireland.

Getting here was an adventure in itself. Sally had to make sure that I had all the necessary vaccinations and I had to endure a rather unpleasant trip to the vet to have a tracker inserted into my neck. I am afraid I have to admit that I find vets fair game, and Sally always puts a muzzle on me when I am going to have a needle job. I am also extremely resistant to having my temperature taken, as unlike you humans we have ours taken the other end. It is neither dignified nor pleasant and I have found that sitting down firmly and glaring over the top of the muzzle is quite a deterrent; many vets have simply estimated my temperature by feeling my forehead!

Another inconvenience was the stipulation that my clean bill of health had to be signed at the Ministry of Agriculture in Dublin, where Sally duly waited for two hours the morning before we left.

It was a hectic week as a large van with rough voiced men arrived and spent two days packing up the whole house to be taken to Spain.

We stayed the last night in a hotel on the main road and then headed out in Sally’s new Spanish registered Subaru for the over 2,000 kilometre drive to Madrid.

I had been on the ferry to Holyhead before and slept in the car without problem. Once the ship docked we drove across England, staying in a bed and breakfast for the night halfway across. I loved driving in the car and slept most of the time and I had the added bonus of marking different territories every time we stopped for a break or the night.

On the second night we stayed in a very posh hotel in Kent; because I was with Sally we were given a suite in the gatehouse which was very up market and swish. Later that night Sally put me in the car and we drove to a railway station. I saw a man walking towards us across the car park and leapt around with excitement when I realised that it was David who was joining us for the drive through France and Spain.

The next day we arrived at the Euro tunnel terminal and queued up with other cars going across to France. The French police are stationed on the English side of the Channel and Sally and David handed over their passports and my papers which we had been told we absolutely needed for me to get into France and Spain.

Sally wound my window down in the back so that they could get a good look at my face too and after a cursory glance at their passports the two policemen started to interrogate me after calling for two more colleagues to join them.

“Eh, Henri, Philippe, come quickly, it is Lassie!”

Sally corrected them politely.

“His name is Sam.”

“Oh, you are a beauty, what a bien doggie, you have a lovely ’oliday.”

Even with my extraordinary language skills I found it rather difficult to follow the ensuing conversation but I found their appreciation of my handsomeness very satisfying.

Sally decided that the people in the queue behind us were perhaps not quite as tolerant of the delay as we were.

“Say goodbye Sam.” With that a chorus of “au revoir Sam” issued from the control booth and I barked back much to the delight of the gendarmes.

The trip through France was uneventful although I have to say I spent most of it napping in the back.

Sally had tried to find a dog friendly hotel for our night in France and had managed to find a beautiful and palatial chateau for us to stay in. I have a very good nose but you can’t beat Sally’s when it comes to sniffing out luxurious surroundings to stay in. David knows more about that than I do but he says he has a flexible friend thankfully.

Again because of my status we were awarded a delightful room in what had been the stable block. This was unfortunately my first taste of marble floors and it took some coaxing to get me into the room in the first place, where I scuttled across to a very expensive looking rug in the middle of the room. I have to say that marble floors are the one drawback of living on the continent as they are definitely not Collie friendly.

Anyway, the staff were very “Sam friendly” and the two liveried bell boys who had greeted us had mentioned that perhaps I might like steak for dinner. Unfortunately Sally declined what I thought was a very reasonable offer and told them that she had brought my food with her!

David and Sally went off to the main chateau for dinner leaving me with dried biscuits and a tin of meat and I have to admit to being just a tad disgruntled.

However, my moods are never long lived and I was just as excited to see them come back as I always am. I slept in palatial splendour at the end of their four poster bed on my blanket stretched across an antique silk rug.

We arrived at the border with Spain the next day and again Sally removed my important papers that I had to have to get into the country from her bag to show to the border guard. Passports at the ready we approached at the requisite snail pace only to find that there was nobody there.

All that trouble to get me legal and able to travel and not once did anyone look at my papers!

Although that was the longest trip we made in the car I regularly travelled between Madrid and the Costa Del Sol which is about 650 kilometres. I have my favourite stopping places en route and in all over the years I must have travelled in excess of 50,000 miles in my life so far which is not bad for a rough collie from Duleek.

©sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story 2009

Thank you for travelling to Spain with us and tomorrow I will be telling you about my new casa and amigos…

If you would like to browse through my books here they are.

You can find all my books at these links:

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

As always I look forward to your comments.. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord – Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story – Chapter Nine and Ten – Other Pack Members and Respect your Elders


51uI0kWA+ML._UY250_In the last chapter Sam demonstrated his language abilities and they seem to be centered around the acquisition of his favourite foods.  This time he introduces us to other pack members.

Chapter Nine and Ten – Other Pack Members and Respect Your Elders.

I considered Henry to be part of our pack despite being a cat. I also included the dog next door Danny despite Sally trying to keep us apart.

Danny came to his new home and was allowed a level of freedom that is common in rural areas. He did not go for organised walks but was allowed to roam his two acres and the lane from a very early age.

These made him far more street wise than I was and also gave him access to the other gardens in the lane which did not necessarily make him very popular with the neighbours.
He would sneak in under the fence into our garden despite Sally spending vast sums of money “Danny proofing” our territory. She was afraid he would lead me astray and take me on one of his road trips. Whereas Danny was streetwise I was not and being a sheep dog, Sally worried that I might get too interested in the flock at the end of the lane and get shot by the farmer. One night I did actually crawl under the fence at his invitation and found myself in the dark, on the wrong side of the hedge.

I think Danny was having a laugh at my expense and was trying to teach me a lesson for my previous cowardice in not following him on one of his escapades. He disappeared into the darkness and through the back door of his house leaving me stranded.

Sally who had only turned her back for a minute while she fetched a flashlight was frantically calling for me on our side of the hedge and I barked to let her know where I was and that I was scared.

She came up our long drive and marched down the neighbour’s waving her torch and calling me. I had never experienced any form of mistreatment at her hands but I knew when she was not happy and that this was one of those occasions. I hid behind the dustbins and heard her ring the doorbell.

When it was answered by the next door neighbour I heard a number of words that I did not understand only catching a few.

“Your damn dog has been over into our garden again and this time he has brought Sam back with him and now I can’t find him. Put your outside lights on so that I can find Sam and in future keep that dog of yours under control.”

It was more the tone that alerted me to the fact that Sally was angry and that I needed to please her immediately. I slunk out of cover and up to her where she attached me to my lead and walked firmly and quickly up the neighbour’s drive and into our own garden.

As we walked she only said two words repeatedly. “Bad Boy.” And although I could not see it I knew that she was wagging her finger at me. Tail between my legs I walked beside her and into our own house. I was upset that she was upset and sat down and offered my paw in penance. With that she leant down and hugged me tight.

“Sam don’t ever do that again, I was frantic with worry. I love you so much and couldn’t bear to lose you.”

Of course I did not understand all the words but I did appreciate the feelings that poured from her.

To this day I have never done anything like that again. I always know where both she and David are, and even though I may not be on a lead, I stay close enough at all times so that I can see them. Luckily my lead is 26 feet in length which means that I get the best of both worlds, room to roam on our walks but still in touch with them both. We were very lucky to have such a beautiful sandy beach and dunes on our doorstep in Ireland that provided plenty of safe walking and playing adventures.

I have to say though that Danny still used to come through the fence and we would play together in the long grass of the meadow behind our house and I reckoned as long as I stayed on my side of the fence within sight of the house I could still enjoy the friendship of this freedom loving dog. He told me of his adventures but after a while I realised that the lane and his garden was his entire world where as I travelled many miles in the car with my pack and visited many different places.

Eventually he got bored and frustrated hearing my tales of the world beyond the lane and stopped coming to play.

David and Sally had broken away from their own packs to form their own many years ago. However, unlike in my case, older former pack members retain a high status in their offspring’s circle and often visit. Siblings are also welcomed although I have to say that when all the packs come together for an annual reunion some of the younger members appear not to have learnt as much about pack protocol as I have.

Sorry, just an old dog talking and when I was younger I did enjoy the additional attention that I was given by small humans but I am afraid I have grown rather intolerant lately and tend to find one of my favourite sleeping places hidden around the house when we have younger visitors.

Apart from immediate pack members there were also visitors from other packs that became very important in my life during the time David was in Madrid.

Sally’s mother was called Grand Mollie and I first met her when I was about six months old. At that time I was really only interested in my immediate needs but I stored away her smell and knew that she was part of Sally’s pack and therefore part of mine.

 

The next time she came to visit was when I was a year old at Christmas and this time I took my new job as head of security very seriously and guarded her at all times. I slept on the landing outside Sally and David’s room but during Grand Mollie’s visit I camped outside her door and escorted her to the bathroom during the night and always preceded her down the stairs etc.

Sally had given me strict instructions that I was to look after her and as her feet used to get very cold sometimes I took it upon myself to lie over them whenever she sat down.

She was very appreciative and of course whilst it had no bearing on my devotion to her the odd sneaked snippet of cheese and sausage that she slipped me only confirmed that she was a worthy member of the pack.

David’s father lived in Dublin and he would visit us out in the country. I went to his house once when I was still very young but unfortunately his head of security “Tuffy” was not going to allow some ‘wet behind the ears’ new pack member have the run of her territory inside the house or outside in the garden. She very quickly showed me who was the boss.

She backed me into a corner, sat and glared at me, daring me to move. Even though I was only a few months old, I was considerably bigger than she was, but I felt little inclination to cross teeth with her and I never visited again. I know that she was just doing her job and in her way she taught me that you have to respect other peoples territory and that you must be prepared to drop the ‘nice doggy’ persona for a slightly more resolute stance from time to time.

I have never bitten anyone although I have to say I have been tempted from time to time particularly at the vets. As I have got older I have become slightly less tolerant but have discovered that turning away and going and weeing as high up in a bush as possible is quite affective particularly if confronted with one of the smaller breeds on a lead. If it is a larger dog and he is off the lead then I have determined that a dignified retreat to live and fight another day is by far the best approach.

When David went to Madrid to work, Sally set about finding someone who would love and care for me every six weeks when she went to Spain to visit him.

She had never put me in boarding kennels, knowing that I love company and would find it very lonely stuck in a box on my own for most of the day. I have to say that apart from a couple of special dogs I have never really been bothered about my own breed as I much prefer the interaction I have with humans.

There are two other humans who joined our pack and I came to love them very much. One was the wife of someone who worked with David and her name was Aunty Kay.

She was a soft spoken Irish woman who had a very gentle touch. At one of the final work parties that Sally and David attended before he moved to Spain, they had got into conversation with Kay and mentioned that Sally was going to try and go over to Spain to see David every six weeks but that they were trying to find someone to look after me in her absence.

I think that I have already conveyed how very important I was within the pack and how much I was loved. As I mentioned, Sally had never felt comfortable with the notion of putting me behind bars for twenty two hours of the day so that she could go off and have fun and so she wanted to find someone who had a garden and loved dogs as much as she did.

Aunty Kay immediately said that she would love to look after me and delightedly Sally arranged for Kay to come out to the house for lunch and to meet me.

The first time I smelled Kay I knew that she was kind and gentle and would love me very much. I sat by her all through lunch and when she seemed to understand that cheese was my favourite and gave me some, I also knew that we would get along just fine.

For the next two years I spent long weekends at Kay’s home in Ballinteer and enjoyed expanding my territory to include large park lands and tree lined streets which as you know is every dog’s kind of heaven. I met Kay’s cats who after a little induction training left the house to me and retreated to the garden shed where they glared balefully at me whenever I was in the small back garden.

I also met Kay’s pack members during my visits including her sister and family who lived abroad and came to visit.

On one of her sister’s visits she went out one morning and did not return until the next day. When she did she had a very young and smelly human with her. I knew instinctively that it was a new puppy and that when it was being fed both it and its mother needed to be protected. I would lie across the mother’s feet while she nursed the baby and would allow no one else near her at all. When the baby was asleep in its carrier I also guarded it to ensure that it was safe. That was my job in my pack, head of security and even in young adulthood I was very aware of my responsibilities.

Kay also had a pack member who smelt of old age and warm musky smells. She wore a very long black dress and a black cloth on her head. When she first came I was a little scared as all I could see was a face peering out from under the black cloth. However, her voice was gentle and fragile and with any old pack member you must be gentle as they do not like to play games as we youngsters do.

As part of my duties to my own pack elders such as Grand Mollie, it was important to keep them warm and safe when they move around the house and gardens. I extended this courtesy to Aunty Kay’s pack members as well and at 96 years old, her aunt who had been a nun since she was twelve years old, certainly qualified. I rarely left her side and sat with my head on her lap as her hand gently stroked my fur.

They were happy days but Sally felt that Kay who refused any kind of payment for looking after me should not be put upon all the time and that perhaps we needed to find me another loving and caring foster mum to join the pack. We advertised in the local paper.

We were inundated with offers to look after me and after Sally had checked through them all she decided that we should both go to people’s homes and meet the applicants for an interview.

We conducted two and after smelling the inside of the living room of the first one we both decided that perhaps being only a young dog I might be a little too frisky for the elderly couple. Also I have to admit there were one or two strange smells that I found rather overpowering including one came from a rather full ashtray and one from a basket containing clothes in the kitchen.

The second house was close by at a place called Bettystown and was the home of Aunty Katie. Like Kay she immediately realised how important I was and as I sat with my head on her lap she got the message straight away that a drink and a treat was required.

Sally liked her and her husband too and they lived very close to the beach where I walked twice a day. Katie not only loved dogs but was passionate about owls and the house was dedicated to them in all shapes and sizes.

I was truly pampered at Aunty Katy’s house and was offered both the bedroom and a comfortable sofa to sleep on. I quickly communicated with my body and linguistic skills my needs and these were met with pleasing rapidity.

I loved both my foster mistresses and looked forward to my visits to them, leaping in the car and rushing into their homes to be greeted exuberantly which is the only way for a pack to greet each other.

I went to Katie’s every other trip and so I had two wonderful foster homes where I was pampered and spoilt.

David came home to Ireland every six weeks and we had wonderful games in the garden while he was home. Sally and I lived on our own in the meantime and this is why I have such an ability to understand the spoken word. Some people may have thought her quite mad to hold conversations with a dog but I am a very good listener and she managed to avoid talking to me in public so it was our little secret.

®sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story  2009

If you would like to browse through my books here they are.

You can find all my books at these links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

As always I look forward to your comments.. thanks Sally

Sam, A Shaggy #Dog Story – Chapter Six – My Babies by Sally Cronin


Yesterday we met Henry’s family and found out more about his life in the garden. Today more cats!

Chapter Six – My Babies.

I was not the only one who was sad at the loss of not only my old friend Henry but also his elusive and stand offish mate. Sally decided that perhaps since I got on so well with cats that it might be an idea to have some house cats as a substitute. There was a cat sanctuary in the town and one afternoon, Sally duly arrived with a box and from inside came the unmistakable sounds of baby cats.

There were two “babies” as I came to know them, one mainly black with a white front and one mainly white with large black splotches. Sally refrained from naming them as she was more concerned that I would get on with them. Also being so little she did wonder how I would react to having cats actually in the house rather than in the garden.

I don’t know if it was because I had loved my old friend Henry so much but it was love at first sight. I was only just over two years old myself and still a puppy at heart and the antics of these two newcomers gave me much joy. Sally was a little concerned at first as every time she picked up a kitten it was damp, however she soon appreciated that it was simply my responsibility as a good dad kicking in. Cleanliness is very important as is making sure babies eat the right food.

Sally had brought back some specific high nutrient kitten food to build them up but like me the babies were picky and decided that my dinner was much more preferable. I was eating off a large plate at the time as I enjoyed pushing the bits I did not like off the edge and onto the floor. The second day my babies arrived they would join me on one side of the plate and gently help themselves whilst I ate from the other.

Sally had another concern and that was how I would react when my place on the sofa, next to her when we watched television was invaded by the lively newcomers. No problem as we would all curl up together with Sally stroking us all in turn and we spent those first few evenings in dog and cat heaven.

This next part will break your heart as it broke mine.

On the fifth day one of the kittens started to be very ill and Sally was very concerned. I was left with one of the kittens whilst Sally dashed off in the car to the vets in the town to see what the problem might be. She was gone a very long time and I and my sole charge lay quietly by the front door ears pricked for the sound of her returning down the long drive.

Eventually I could hear the sound of the engine in the lane and then the noise the wheels made on the gravel. I stood up with tail wagging as the kitten sat between my front legs. The door opened and I could sense Sally’s sadness immediately. She had water on her face and she did not ask me to go onto the “greeting mat” as we always did. She just knelt down and put her arms around my neck and whispered into my fur.

“I am so sorry Sam, the baby has gone, he was very sick”. I did not understand all the words but I had seen my mistress in the same distressed state when Henry had died and I knew that I would not see the baby again.

We had a subdued evening and we huddled together on the sofa with the remaining kitten receiving loving licks and strokes. Over the next two days I took particular care of my baby but on the third day she started exhibiting the same symptoms as the first one. We were both devastated and I knew when Sally left with her in a box that this too was another goodbye.

I did not understand of course that my two new friends had contracted the disease in the sanctuary where they had been housed side by side with adult cats. The reasons were not important as I had been dealt a heavy blow and I wandered around the house with their small blanket in my mouth and kept whining at Sally as she tried to comfort me, often with water on her face.

She never tried to replace them. I think she realised that both of us could not stand losing any more friends.

Over the years we did however continue to make friends with feral cats, particularly at our home in the south of Spain where they were plentiful and despite the language barrier my “cat” vocabulary came in very useful.

©Sallycronin – Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story 2009

I know that these last two chapters in my life have been very sad but I did have some wonderful things in my life that I will share with you next time.

©Sally Cronin 2009

If you would like to browse through my books here they are.

You can find all my books at these links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Smashwords for Epub: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SallyGCronin

More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7979187.Sally_Cronin

Thank you for dropping in and as always I value your feedback. Sally.

Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story – Chapter Four – Henry’s Story


51uI0kWA+ML._UY250_

Last time we left Sam at 14 weeks old given more freedom in the garden which led to him meeting his first real friend.. Henry now settles down in Costa del Sam to tell him his challenging story.

Chapter Four – Henry’s Story.

“Okay young’un,” Henry grinned toothlessly. “Time for the next instalment.”

With that he fell rather than leapt arthritically down onto the grass and sauntered over to a sun bed that had just caught the first of the morning sun peeping over the house.

He lay down and stretched and I moved over closer for a good sniff.

4.1_henry_does_a_spot_of_sunbathing

Henry lay still whilst I examined nearly every inch of him. There was definitely a lifetime of smells on that cat and I could tell that grooming had not been his main focus recently if ever.

Finally satisfied that I would now know him anywhere I settled down and looked at him expectantly.

“Happy now?” He sighed theatrically. “Did you want to hear my story or not?”

I nodded my head and rested it on my paws as I waited to hear this strange creature’s tales.

The telling of this story took many days and what I didn’t realise at the time, was that our friendship did not go unnoticed. The kitchen window overlooked my play pen and neither of us saw the smiling face that looked down at us through the glass.

It would take too long to relate all the adventures that Henry experienced but I will try to give you an idea of how he became this bedraggled and toothless creature and one of my best friends.

Henry was about ten years old which is getting on for a feral cat. He had not begun life in the wild having been born, one of ten kittens, to a farm cat called Maisie. She was a great mouser by all accounts and this last litter was a surprise as she had not had one for over four years and the farmer thought she was too old.

Anyway, one by one his litter mates were either given away or sadly in one case taken by a fox. At last it was just him and his youngest sister that were left and the farmer felt that they would be a useful addition to the three other adult cats who patrolled the farmyard in search of mice and rats. There were two dogs that had been puppies when Henry was born and they had become friends over the years, hence his ability to speak Dog. Most young animals if brought up together will live happily side by side and apart from an instinctive and unspoken method of communication they will learn each other’s language too.

Henry gave great service at the farm until he was about nine years old when the farmer died and the buildings and stock were sold off. The new owners were not going to farm and they knocked down the old barn and outbuildings and laid down concrete.

The other two cats drifted away as the mouse population decreased. The dogs had gone to the farmer’s son miles away and the new owners brought in two large and mean looking Dobermans that could not speak Cat and only wanted to chase and eat him.

Henry soon realised that there was no job for him with the new people and reluctantly decided to leave the only home he had ever known.

With a last look over his shoulder he walked through the hedges, across fields and tried to find somewhere he could find food and shelter.

By the time he ended up in my large garden, Henry had travelled miles across the county, stopping at what working farms were left, catching a few mice here and there but usually forced to move on by younger and stronger cats on the premises.

He had to fight to eat on most occasions and eventually after several months he was tired, sick and hungry and decided to find himself a bush to go to sleep under. His intention was to let nature take its course which is often the way for animals if allowed. He had endured enough and not ever having really bonded with humans he knew no other life. He had never sat on a warm lap and felt a kind hand or been given food instead of catching it himself.

The large garden with its hundreds of bushes and trees seemed a peaceful and unpopulated place in which to end his days and apart from the hunger that grabbed at his belly he lay down his head and closed his eyes.

My mistress, Sally had been in the garden walking with a man that she hoped would come with his ride on mower and cut the acre and a half of grass a couple of times a month. She knew that with her new business she would also be unable to keep up with the weeding and was willing to pay someone else to do this onerous task.

She and the man were moving between some of the bushes to inspect the large privet hedge that separated them from the neighbours when she stopped and motioned the man to move back.

She knelt down and gently lifted a branch out of the way and was about to tell the man that she thought the cat was dead when she saw its chest moving up and down.

“He’s come here to die.” The old man from down the lane leant over her shoulder and shook his head.

“He won’t last the night, better leave be and I will take him away when I come down tomorrow to mow the grass.”

She looked sadly down at the dirty bundle of skin and bones and tears welled up in her eyes.

She could not bear any animals to suffer and she could see that this cat had been through the wars and had probably had a very hard life.

After the man had gone with a promise to return first thing in the morning, She went back inside the house and filled a shallow bowl with warm milk and crumbled a little bread into it. Returning to the cat under the bush she moved the dish as close as possible and carefully stretched out her hand to stroke the top of its head.

She felt a little movement beneath her fingers and continued to carefully stroke the dirty fur down to the tail. She saw the little black nostrils twitch and decided to leave the cat for a little while to see if it might be enticed by the milk.

An hour later she came back and found herself staring into two brown mottled eyes that were red rimmed as if the cat had been crying. As she leant forward to pick up the empty dish the animal moved backwards slightly in fear but gently she moved her hand around its side as it watched her carefully with its eyes.

Slowly she stroked the trembling animals matted fur until its head dropped onto its paws and she felt a slight vibration beneath her fingers. Satisfied that it would now accept her help, she placed another bowl with some newly acquired tinned kitten food in front of the cat. It would need very high nutrient packed food quickly if it was to recover enough to survive the night and despite being just skin and bones she had seen the glint of survival in its weary eyes.

Henry seemed lost for a minute or two as he stared into space as if reliving the dark days again when he was lost and so hungry. He turned his head and looked at me and then surprised me with some very interesting information about my mistress.

“You know young’un she can talk cat.” He nodded his head a couple of times.

” At first I thought there was another cat nearby but the sound was definitely coming from her. The language was strange and a bit mixed up but I understood that she meant me no harm and I sensed she was trying to tell me I was safe.”

Henry went on to tell me how he believed that Sally must have had a cat before and learnt to communicate when very young which is the best time to learn Cat and Dog language. She was a bit rusty but over the time he had lived in the garden they had often enjoyed conversations although he said it was a bit like a couple of foreigners trying to make themselves understood in a strange country.

Anyway on with Henry’s story of their original meeting.

Although the Irish summers are not known for either their consistency of sunshine or warm weather, that particular week of Henry’s arrival, was dry and the earth retained the heat of the day. She had put down a bowl of water and some more food in the early evening and felt that the weather would not be a problem. She was however concerned about predators as she had seen fox tracks and knew that there were rats and other cats that prowled the lanes and gardens.

She was also well aware that sometimes nature had to be allowed to take its course and felt that at least she had given the cat a fighting chance. Fingers crossed she went back into the house and waited for the morning.

The next day the cat was still in the same position but it was looking much brighter and somewhat expectant as it looked steadily at the bowls that she carried in her hands. She placed them on the ground in front of it and stretched out her fingers to touch the dirty coat. This time the cat did not move and she spent several minutes talking Cat softly to it and gently massaging its fur. Happy that he seemed more alert and was purring at her touch she left him to eat breakfast and rest in his sunny spot.

At this point I swear that Henry had tears in his eyes. He sniffed and tossed his head and glared at me.

“Don’t say a word, do you hear?” He growled into my face and I shook my head vigorously.

After a moment he collected himself.

“That was a year ago, and I don’t have to tell you that I recovered and have been living here ever since.” He raised a paw delicately to his whiskers and then rubbed up behind his ear and down to his mouth.

“She feeds me every day and I let her stroke me from time to time as it obviously gives her pleasure, and of course I earn my keep because I can still give the odd mouse and rat a run for their money.”

I was impressed and had a whole new opinion of my mistress. Instinctively I had adopted both Sally and David as my pack when I came into their den and she was making it quite clear that they were the leaders of the pack and I was number three. I wondered where that put Henry but I suspected that he was probably a lone wolf.

Henry stretched out on the sun bed and I popped into my paddling pool for a cool off as the day had now got quite warm. I could see that Henry was dropping off to sleep and it was not long before I got out of the pool and joined him beneath the bed in the cool shade.

Both of us were unaware that Sally had come into the play pen until I felt the bed move above my head and saw two legs over the edge.

“Hi Henry, how are you doing you old moth eaten love.” She then made some rather strange noises that Henry responded to in kind.

This I had to see and I squirmed out from under the bed to see Mr. Indifference rolling around on his back and purring so loudly that the bed vibrated.

I knew that Henry was not allowed into the house and when I saw how dirty he was I could understand why. As I watched this playful interaction between my mistress and my new friend I saw her hand go to the back of his neck with something between her fingers. A few drops of liquid fell onto his fur and I saw that she was wearing something that covered her hand. She gently massaged Henry’s neck while he wriggled in delight and then she looked at me as I sat with my head cocked to one side.

“That should keep the fleas off him for another few weeks and you too my darling.”

I was not sure what fleas were at that point but I jumped up and put my paws on her lap and laughed up into her face.

“Sometimes Sam I think young as you are, you understand every word that I say.”

She removed the covering on her hand and stroked the soft inside of the top of my ear which I loved. My eyes closed in ecstasy as I surrendered to her touch. For me this was perfect, the leader of my pack paying me so much attention and a new best friend.

©sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story 2009

Thank you for calling in and please join Sally, David, Henry and me next time.

Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story – Chapter Three – My First Real Friend.


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Last time Sam arrived at his new home and began to get used to managing his mistress and master to ensure that he had the approriate food and attention due to him……

Chapter Three – My First Real Friend.

It may surprise you to know that I learnt to speak Cat before I fully understood human talk. When I was twelve weeks old Sally took me to the place with the strong smells again and I remembered the sharp pain that I had experienced last time and was ready this time.

I did not understand the word that the man who gave me the sharp pain said when I sank my teeth into the soft part of his hand but it was very loud.

By this time I had learnt quite a few words as Sally and David talked to me all the time. At first I only got the basics like ‘sit’ and ‘good boy’ which always seemed to be accompanied by a small piece of chicken and because this treat was my favourite at the time I made a point of remembering these words as it obviously pleased her.

What I did not understand at the time was the conversation that Sally had with the man with the sharp object. He apparently told her that I would end up with a vocabulary of about fourteen to twenty words. How wrong can a man be.

However, on our return from this visit, to what I now know to be the vet, I was allowed a little more freedom and was introduced to the front garden of the house.

The previous owners had built the house in the middle of a two acre plot with nearly an acre of garden to the front, half that again at the back as garden then the remaining left as wild meadow.

The cultivated part of the property was laid out with hundreds of bushes and trees as the previous owners both belonged to families with garden centres who had obviously been very generous. The one drawback was the size of the lawns which required the hire of a local odd jobber with a wonderful smelly monster that he rode up and down on and which belched regularly. One of my favourite games was slipping out of the front door unnoticed and barking encouragement to monster and driver as they drove slightly crookedly across the lawn.

It was a wonderful playground for a young dog but the reason I had not been allowed to play out there until now was because another dog was also using it as his territory. He would crawl under the flimsy fence whenever he felt like it and for months I thought his name was “That Bloody Danny” since that is what my mistress called him each time she saw him peeing on her begonias in front of the house. His name was actually just Danny and he was a rather daft Spaniel who was also rather lacking in manners but more about him later.

There were also other creatures that used the gardens and meadow at the back of the house, such as foxes, feral cats and rabbits all of whom might have been infected with disease. Hence my fenced off area by the kitchen door with my kennel, sun beds and pool, affectionately known as Costa del Sam and one of my favourite summer hangouts. Funny that I would end up living on the Costa del Sol when I was five years old.

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Back to my new found freedom. I was due to have a final vaccination at about fourteen weeks but the vet said that I should be safe enough in the rest of the garden.

Sally and David had been living in the house for about a year when I arrived and I did not know that I was not the first four legged person on the premises.

One morning Sally left me outside the front door for a couple of minutes whilst she went back inside for one of my new balls to play with. The moment that she stepped through the doorway I heard a strange sound coming from around the side of the garage that was joined to the front of the house.

“Pzzt.” It was a sound that I was unfamiliar with and being young and foolish I immediately tottered towards the side of the house.

I poked my head around the corner and found myself nose to nose with a rather mucky, aromatic, white and ginger creature with one eye that seemed to move independently of the other.

I leapt in the air and shot backwards convinced that this very smelly individual was going to attack me.

“Calm down for goodness sake otherwise she will be out here.”

I got every other word of this because despite this creature’s efforts to talk Dog he was disadvantaged by only having two or three teeth and he lisped rather badly.

“I’ve been waiting for you to be let out here, you’ve got it cushy haven’t you in your little pad out the back?”

I was beginning to understand a little more of this garbled delivery and wondered how this strange creature had managed to learn to speak my language.

It was almost as if it read my mind because it turned around and waving a rather bedraggled ginger tail in the air he looked over his shoulder.

“I grew up around sheep dogs and learnt how to talk to them very early on.” The creature strode off around the back of the house with me in tow, totally mesmerised.

As soon as it got to the back garden it turned and sat motioning with its head for me to do the same.

“She gave me the name of Henry, don’t ask me why but as she saved my life it was the least I could allow her to do.”

I was fascinated but at that moment Sally began calling from the front of the house and she sounded rather panicky.

“Sam, Sam where are you?”

Henry cocked his head in her direction and winked at me.

“Don’t worry I will carry on with the story next time you are in your play pen, off you go now before she gets hysterical.”

I turned tail and raced around the side of the house and wagged my tail beseechingly at her.

“There you are, good boy, I was worried something had happened to you.”

I desperately wanted to please her and when she picked my up I licked her face noting that she had just eaten something sweet and tasty.

After we had played ‘roll around on your back and get your tummy rubbed’ and ‘chase the ball’ Sally put me in my play area behind the house whilst she walked around the house with a large animal that made sucking noises. I had already demonstrated that I found the long cord attached to this monster rather biteable so she put me outside whilst she played with it herself.

I had only just settled my self down with one of my rubber toys that I enjoyed impaling with my small teeth when a ginger and white blur leapt up onto one of the wooden posts of my enclosure and from there to the top of my kennel.

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Thank you for coming to read my story.. next time Henry spills the beans on his dramatic life so far.

©Sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story 2009