Today was Shrove Tuesday - or Pancake Day, as preferred by gourmands such as myself. My partner and I took supper this evening with her parents. My partner's brother and sister-in-law, along with their children Ewan and Carys, were visiting. Carys has just reached the age where she can pick up food with her hands to feed herself - so, naturally, I dined well this evening, hehehe... Babes in high-chairs are so forthcoming...
Prior to that was the dawning of the Chinese New Year - Happy New Year to our friends from China! This, they say, is the Year of the Tiger. According to Chinese mythology, my partner is coincidentally also a "Tiger". As for me - I am, apparently, a "Rabbit". I am not overly-impressed about this. However, I believe I would rather be a rabbit than a scabby old over-stuffed orange-striped cat. And I DO love carrots... uh-oh...
I scent trouble...
There is not a great deal to bark about my final days at the vets' clinic. The surgeons had done their work well and, once my broken bones had mended, the remainder of my recovery was swift.
On the appointed day, the nurse Claire and her colleagues came in with little 'goodbye' gifts for me, as they had done with Bobby. I was profoundly grateful - for the treats and for their loving care and attention and was careful to thank each and every person.
With some difficulty, a collar was placed around my neck (then - as still now, occasionally - I tend to panic, squeal and try to flatten myself against the wall or ground when anything is about to be affixed (even by my partner) around my neck. This harks back to my first owner's previous "hilarious" game of hanging me up by my collar or throttling me until I passed out. Perhaps I am missing out on something - but I never found this game even remotely funny.) and a lead was clipped to the collar.
For the last time, I was lifted from my cage and trotted happily, alongside Claire, out to the reception area. But there was no kindly-faced owner waiting there for me and no tears of joy for my recovery. There was, however, a genial looking chap with a beard, dressed in slightly shabby jeans and a t-shirt. This was Dave.
He knelt down to greet me. He smelt friendly and I liked the way he patted my head and spoke gently to me, so I decided he was worthy of a few licks and tail-wags.
"What a super little chap." said Dave to Claire. He was clearly an intelligent and perceptive man. "Who on Earth would want to hurt such a lovely dog?" I liked him more and more.
Dave took the end of the lead from Claire and they walked outside with me. It was vaguely recognisable from the day I'd been brought in by the Policeman, though I felt like a vastly different dog to the battered little wretch who had been carried, bleeding, through the doors all those weeks before. I was intrigued to see that Dave had a white van, though much smaller and less tall than the one I had been used to. Claire gave me a big goodbye hug and I bestowed a kiss upon her pretty cheek. Dave opened the back of the van and then the door of a comfortable-looking crate inside. Without much prompting, I jumped into the crate (privately rejoicing that my jumping skills had not been permanently affected by my injuries). Dave told me that I was "a good boy." I certainly was.
And, with that, he said a few words to Claire, got into the front of the van and we were off. I was only a little put out, as I preferred to travel in the passenger seat upfront, but the journey was smooth and not too jerky. The van smelled clean, but with lingering scents of a wide variety of dogs. I wondered what was to come at the end of the journey.
I couldn't reach up to see out of the back window, but eventually the van slowed, turned a sharp corner, and began moving slowly down a somewhat bumpy track. I heard the sound of someone outside closing a large gate. The vehicle came to a gentle halt and Dave got out. I heard snatches of his conversation with the gate-closing person: "Lovely little Staffie Bull Terrier... black and white entire male... very good nature..." The van door opened and, all at once, the air was alive with the scent of dogs. Bitches; bitches on heat; neutered dogs, whole dogs; friendly dogs; just dogs everywhere. When Dave initially got out of the van, there was a volley of barking, but it was all good-natured in tone and soon quieted down.
I jumped out of the van onto some grass and Dave handed my lead to the gate-closing person, who turned out to be a dark-haired young lady wearing a navy-blue fleece jacket with "Stokenchurch Dog Rescue and Welfare Centre" in small writing on one breast. A large sign at the gate proclaimed the same title, as well as displaying a series of telephone numbers and opening times. While Dave was retrieving my veterinary papers from the van, the girl squatted down beside me and talked to me.
"Hello sweetheart." she said, fondling my head. "You're a handsome one, aren't you? My name is Sarah, that man over there" (she pointed at Dave) "is the Centre Manager, David." She led me slightly beyond where the van stood and pointed out the lie of the land. To our right was the office block and reception area. Adjoining the left-hand side of that, and directly in front of us, spread a larger building. "That's the dogs' block." said Sarah. "That's where you're going to live now. Don't worry - we'll take good care of you." Further down the slight hill was another, separate building. "That's the bitches' block. Have to keep handsome young fellows like you away from the ladies!" said Sarah with a grin, and I chuckled politely. Off to our left there was another, smaller building, which was separated from the dogs' and bitches' blocks by a large swathe of daisy-spotted green grass. I looked at it with interest. "That's the isolation block over there," explained Sarah, "That's where you live for a little while if you're ill or you've had an operation. The bitches go in there when they're on heat or about to give birth." I nodded. "And finally," said Sarah, pointing further on down to beyond the bitches' block, to where a nice-looking bungalow stood, "That's where Dave lives. He's the only one who lives on site. But you'll soon get used to all the comings and goings of the rest of us."
After I had relieved myself on the grass, Dave and Sarah took me into the reception area. Another young lady was there, wearing a fleece identical to the one Sarah wore. She greeted me just as pleasantly as Sarah and Dave had. I began to feel more and more relaxed, and more certain that I was not going to be beaten in this new place. Dave put my papers on the desk and the new girl took some forms from a cabinet and started writing on them.
"What's his name?" asked the girl. Dave replied that no-one knew. The man had never referred to me to my Policeman rescuer as anything other than "the dog" or "the little b*st*rd" and neither of these were suitable names for anyone (with the possible exception, of course, of Hitler).
"We'd better think of one for him." said Dave, and all three of them looked down at me.
"Bullseye?" suggested Sarah, and the others laughed.
"Yeah, he does look like that dog from Oliver!, poor thing." grinned Dave, "But we've already got a Bullseye in at the moment. That Jack-Russell-Cross?"
"Oh yes, of course. Silly me."
"I like his black 'eye-patch', it makes him look a bit like a pirate captain." said Sarah. "What about 'Captain'?"
The others readily agreed and the new name was entered on my admission form.
So I now had a new place to live and a brand new name. "Captain".
It could have been worse, I reflected to myself. It could have been "Fluffy".
And then, the Door of Doors was opened. I was about to meet my new kennel-mates...