East End Memories

THE LAST DOG

When I was a child, anything and everything was for sale in a pub! It was the place where ill-gotten gains could easily be disposed of. Mind you, I am sure that this is still the case today. What do the French say about the more things change? The more things change, the more they stay the same? In those days, dogs were included in goods for barter. Unfortunately, most of these dogs were unruly creatures, with no collar and no leash, but with a string tied about their necks to keep them close to their sellers. The sale of these dogs was brought about for various reasons. Initially, many of these dogs were found to be cute and adorable puppies, the poor creatures had dared to grow. And grow they did and many became irritating, annoying and unruly animals. Sadly, these poor dogs were indeed all of these things since they were never given any training. Their owners either had no idea how to go about socializing them or else could not be bothered to spend time to do so. On other and somewhat rarer occasions, the poor dog might be below average intelligence, and incapable of learning even the simplest command. However, in the majority of cases, the poor dogs were blameless, but like indentured servers and slaves, being considered as mere fodder, they were put up for sale since the owner could not put up with the poor creature in his home any longer. And so the four-footed nuisance, or perhaps the once-treasured companion, was exchanged for a few shillings.

I am sorry to say that getting a dog from someone in a pub never worked out well for my father. To be honest, it never worked out well for my mother and me either! I remember the last time that my father got a dog in a pub. This was a true disaster in every sense of the word. We had just moved out of the East End and were living in a house on the outskirts of London. Since our move, my father had been itching to get a dog. He was now working for British Railways and had apparently met a postman who wanted to sell his dog. The postman told my father that this dog, which was about a year old, had a gentle and loving personality and would be greatly missed by his family. When my mother heard this, she asked why the postman was selling the dog if everyone was going to miss her so. My father pretended not to hear what she said, as he wanted this dog, sight unseen, and obviously did not care about the reasons behind the sale.

As it turned out, this poor creature was no Lassie or Rin-Tin-Tin. To put it bluntly, this dog was severely lacking in charm, grace and, above all, intelligence. Perhaps her behaviour was not entirely her fault, since she had obviously received no training and I doubt if any attempt had been made by the postman and family to socialize her. From the very second that my father took hold of her leash and was dragged along the street with me running to keep up, until the day she escaped, this dog did nothing but create chaos in our home. This dog held us as virtual prisoners, since she could not be left alone. Whether kept outside or in, she required constant supervision. The dog wreaked havoc wherever she was. Her movement lacked all semblance of elegance. She ran everywhere with great speed. She jumped up at anyone and everything and managed to collide with any object that was within yards of her. To put it mildly, she was a klutz. When taken outside, pots were turned over, plants were torn up and holes were dug in a matter of minutes. It was worse when she was brought inside. Literally, within seconds, the dog was able to drag a large kitchen mat out into the hall and up the stairs and into any room where the door had been left open. A run across the kitchen would leave chairs overturned. Delivered letters were snatched out of the fingers of postmen trying to deliver letters and would be ripped to pieces and turned into confetti before ever reaching the floor. Any available pot or ornament within lopping distance would be jumped at and smashed to pieces. If this was not bad enough, she was never quiet and rarely still. Either she barked or she whined and did so from the very second she arrived and continued to do so twenty-four hours a day, non-stop. Finally, and to make things even worse, she was not house trained. The poor dog seemed incapable of telling you of her needs since she was constantly either barking or whining. She would just go whenever the spirit moved her.

LASSIE. RIN TIN TIN & TOTO

 

What can I say in favour of this poor dog? Surely, you are saying, she must have had some good qualities. Sadly, I cannot think of any. And what happened to this dog? Did she settle down? Was my father able to train her and socialize her? Unfortunately, we will never know if this would have been possible. One day, not long after the dog joined us, I came home from school to hear silence. I must confess this proved pleasing. My parents were sitting in the kitchen obviously enjoying the new found quietness. I was to learn that the dog had escaped through an open door and had taken off. My father said that he tried to catch it. He said that the dog obviously saw his chasing after her as a game for she would ran ahead and then stop and wait for him to come within reach of her. This, she apparently saw as a signal for her to bound off again. Eventually, the chase brought them to a main road. Oblivious of the danger, the dog ran across the road. Naturally, this caused cars and lorries to jam on brakes and shriek to a halt. Unfortunately, my father was not able to get across the road after her any further and he said that the last he saw of the dog was her running full pelt along the other side of the road. Soon, he said, she was out of sight. Great efforts were made to retrieve the dog. I put up notices of our missing dog on lamp posts and we explored the neighbourhood many times. My father asked the postman if the dog had returned home to him. Apparently, the postman almost choked with laughter at this idea. Sadly for her, we did not grieve her loss, but we did sincerely hope that she had a happy life wherever she ended up.

Sadly, following this catastrophe, my mother would not allow another dog in the house. As a result, this marked the end of my father’s relationship with dogs. He knew that she was right. He no longer worked for himself and could not have a dog with him at all times. He still worked long hours, but now he did so away from home. Reluctantly, he had to admit that he could no longer develop the same kind of relationship that he once had with his dog. Over the years, I would see him look at a dog in a yearning manner, but my mother would look at him and this would remind him of the last crazy dog that he brought home. He would sigh and say nothing. After that last debacle, we had only cats. Life can certainly be cruel at times.

 

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