Oh, it started well, to be sure. I managed to avoid falling for japes and pranks of all types (it being April Fools Day), and even participated in a thrilling weasel-chase on arrival at my partner's work-place (belying my advancing years to vault clean over three piled-up coils of barbed wiring - to the chagrin of my partner - in my pursuit of the fellow. The ne'er-do-well escaped through the woodpile, curse him. I still managed to jump back over the barbed wire though, hehehe... Jasper's still got it... oh yes...).
We settled into our usual work places, my partner at her desk, whilst I undertook my rounds of the premises, greeting our colleagues and inspecting the status of the security arrangements. One of my partner's colleagues had not yet arrived, although an inoffensive-looking cardboard box was placed on his desk.
After some fifteen minutes of peaceable industry, I became aware of a scuffling sound; seemingly emanating from the afore-mentioned box. I crept cautiously closer to investigate. Suddenly - without a warning of any kind - there was a loud and sharp hallooing, which caused me to start violently and leap a clear three feet backwards (which caused much inappropriate amusement to my partner and her colleagues). Here is what was contained within the carton on the desk:
Yes. A cockerel.
The colleague holding the fowl was giving it to another colleague, who keeps a number of chickens and whose own two cockerels were recently deceased.
I was decidedly unimpressed, and sought refuge 'neath my partner's desk, occasionally venturing out to exchange some scathing badinage with the feathery chap who, in my opinion, had FAR too much testosterone in him than was natural.
Dubious (and handsome) dog meets recalcitrant cockerel.
I did not trust the fellow sufficiently to take my eyes off him for even a second.
Fortunately, the fowl was taken to his new abode and harem of hens at lunchtime, so I was able to relax somewhat. I am just saddened that virtually the entire morning was taken up with disrespectful mirth concerning the comparative manliness of myself as compared to the cockerel. My partner's boss even recalled the bad old days of dog/cock-fighting and (in jest) proposed a re-enactment in the work-yard. My partner said that she would put £1 on the cockerel.
There will be an answer for such appalling cheek; you can be certain of that.
Having introduced young Pebble, I move on to the other afore-mentioned name - heroine of Stokenchurch dogs and bitches; Miss Dorothy Smart. Miss Smart lived in nearby High Wycombe with two of her unmarried sisters. The three ladies adopted a number of dogs over the years from the home - usually those that were spurned by others or those that had particularly tragic histories or disabilities. They were also extremely active and prolific fundraisers for the shelter.
Miss Smart was a brave sort - having distinguished herself admirably during the humans' Second World War. She was tireless in her efforts for troubled dogs and even appeared on television to defend the rights of retired racing greyhounds. She - sometimes alone and sometimes with one or the other of her sisters - would come along to the shelter most weekends, helping with various tasks, chatting with Dave and the kennel-maids, taking "inmates" like me for a walk, etc. She was also a "visitor" and, at this point, I should pause to explain the adoption procedure for canine foundlings of the shelter.
Several days of the week, and at weekends, the shelter was open to the public - specifically to people who wished to adopt a dog. Dave or one of his colleagues would conduct the guests around the pens and then, all being well, the favoured dog would be chosen. The guests would then be allowed to take the chosen one for a walk, to get to know him or her and find out how they all got along together. An interview of sorts would then be carried out, for shelter staff to satisfy themselves as to whether the prospective new owners understood the full commitment and responsibilities conferred with dog-ownership and, once all parties were happy, forms were signed and the lucky dog had a new home. Sometimes, the dog (and any accompanying toys, as in Plum's case, bedding, etc.) would be taken by his new owners there and then. Mostly, however, the dog remained in the home for another week or so for "neutering" (b*llock removal), and the much-coveted "red card" would be affixed to the pen-door of the chosen one until such time as he left us and was escorted on his final walk down the corridor to the Door of Doors to the sounds of our 'Song of Triumph', to begin his happy new life.
The red card was actually a white card. But it had the word "RESERVED" written on it in large red letters, thus indicating to future guests that there was no point in choosing to adopt that particular dog, as he had been pre-selected by others.
It was generally possible for us 'old-timers' to guess which dogs would be favourites with the public - usually the scrappy, tousle-furred, large-eyed mutts did very well. But there are all sorts of people to match all sorts of dogs. However, the methods adopted by most of the dogs to attract the guests' attentions (and let it not be forgotten that the vast majority of canines in the shelter were desperate for love and affection and homes of their own) did not appeal whatsoever to me. At visiting times, most dogs would rush to the doors of their pens, adopting the most adorable looks they could muster, wagging their tails, dancing, singing - anything to endear themselves to humans in the hope of winning the red card for their own pen door. I'll admit that I did try it myself in the earlier days - but my heart wasn't really in it. I felt that it was a base and shallow act, and dispiriting when one was not selected. It was not long before I gave up even looking at the guests, preferring to retire to my bed for a nap at visiting times. Dave and the kennel-maids could not understand why I was never picked as, after Kipper, I was the general favourite amongst them, with my open, chatty nature and neat friendly manners.
After a time, I grew certain. No-one wanted me. No-one would EVER want me.