‘Uh, je cherche un chien.’
‘Oui. Va devant, je te suis.’
‘What did she say?’
‘Not sure, so let’s go ahead and she’ll probably follow us.’
We followed the noise and soon were faced with the most heartrending sight. Dozens of small cages, each housing about six dogs of single sex, each dog jumping up and wagging frantically as we passed. It felt that each dog was saying to me: ‘Take me, take me.’ And I wanted to, desperately. But I knew that the practical side would win in the end. We could probably only cope with one. A dog is for life, not just for Xmas.
In the end we chose a handsome gun-dog with similar colouring to Brandy of old. He was a long-legged spaniel with mercifully uncut tail. Madame told us that she thought he was around two years old. The vets gave them all a check-up on arrival, making notes on their condition and deducing their likely age from their teeth. Good job they didn't look at mine then.
We had one or two questions. ‘What is his history? How did you come to get him in the first place?’
How did you come to fall in the water? I didn’t come to fall in, I came to do some fishing…
Madame replied that, as with many of their dogs, his history was unknown. With gun dogs it is sometimes the case that, for one reason or another, a dog fails to obey the master’s commands or fails to do a good enough job in the field. She told us that it is quite common for people to abandon their dogs for a variety of reasons. She said that around one hundred thousand dogs are abandoned by their owners in France every year, many after the hunting season is over or at the start of the long summer holidays. She and her staff were always kept busy rounding up stray dogs, bringing them to the pound and ensuring they get checked over and tattooed in the ear. It is a requirement that all dogs in France must be tattooed with an identity number inside one of their ears (tatouage). This enables owners to quickly find their lost pets and it also prevents a vaccination certificate or similar from being used for more than one dog. She told us that our dog’s identity number would be kept in a central computer, so that if we should subsequently lose our pet, we can contact her.
Looking around Madame’s office we spotted several items that we would need immediately, so purchased from her a sturdy ‘Rambo’ lead – our dog looked pretty strong to me – plus two metal dishes for his food and water. After completing all the formalities, including our personal details which she immediately inputted onto the computer, I paid her the required seventy-five euros and led my companion to the car. The husband followed.
The dog stood on the pavement and despite several ‘Hups’ from us, refused to jump into the back of the car.
‘Maybe he’s bilingual?’
‘Yes. Il n’ecoute ni en anglais ni en français!’
It was true. He didn’t listen to us in either language. In the end we managed to hump him up and over the sill, nearly giving us both hernias into the bargain. The dog stood resolute and dignified in the back as we slammed the rear door down firmly, returned to our seats and accelerated away. Behind us retreated the upsetting whines of the unfortunate dogs we had to leave behind.
Back at home, the dog’s new master took him on a tour of the premises, walking round and round in the hope that he (the dog) would perform. What we didn’t realise, though, was that ever after, the dog would think that this would be his new job: parading round and round the house, like some sort of resident caretaker.
We named him Bruno.
Over the next few months we discovered that Bruno only liked to be outside. He remains intensely nervous of coming indoors, leading us to think that a previous owner might have enticed him inside and then slammed the door on him, imprisoning him for hours or days on end.
Little did we know the sort of adventures that were to follow.......
..........Continued next Sunday