by Gill James
The vet scratched his
head and frowned. "There's definitely no chip."
most dogs chipped these days?" said Phil.
It's the law. It's a real puzzle. He's not that old so he ought to have
old do you think he is?" I asked.
years tops, I would say." He ruffled the dog's head. "He's in a good
condition. He's been well looked after. Owners who care this much for their
pets generally get them chipped and registered. He's not a pedigree, though.
The breeders usually get it done as a matter of course."
do you think he's made up of then?" I asked.
vet nodded. "Straight mix of Labrador and German Shepherd, I'd say."
made sense. He was the colour of a golden Labrador but had those deep eyes that
make German Shepherds look so sad all of the time. And yes, he was more or less
the shape of a German Shepherd.
literally knocked at the door just over an hour before. I'd gone to answer it
and there he was, sitting on our door mat, politely wagging his tail.
I'd said. "What do you want?"
must have understood "Do come in." He barged straight past me and
into the lounge where he'd immediately curled up on the hearthrug and fallen
never been dog owners - we're cat people really. But we did realise that the
best course of action was to take him to a local vet and see if he had a chip
that would help us locate the owner.
had been quite a job to get him into the car. He hadn't wanted to move from the
fire and he'd snarled a bit. But he'd walked into the vet's happily enough. He
had a collar, but of course we had no lead. We'd improvised with a bit of
what should we do now?" I asked the vet.
you could take him straight to the shelter. Or you could keep him at home and
let the police know, maybe put an ad in a local shop if his owner doesn't turn
up quickly. We'll put a notice up here as well." He patted the dog again.
"I don't think you'll be missing for long, will you, old chap?"
dog licked him.
vet looked up at us. "The shelter is open 24/7 but Pet World shuts in
thirty minutes. If you decide to keep him, even if it's only for a few hours or
a day or so, you'll need a few supplies." He nodded towards the string.
"Including a decent lead."
"Do you know where
this Pet World is?" asked Phil as we drove out of the vet's car park.
I did. So, it was a
given then. We were hanging on to him. We'd talked for a long time about
getting a dog. We'd always talked ourselves out of it: we'd have to walk it three times a day, what about vets' bills, wouldn't going
on holiday be awkward, it wasn't fair on the animal if we were both out at
work. I couldn't believe Phil had capitulated so quickly.
"I think we should
call him Perkins," said Phil when I got back to the car from my trip
around Pet World. "He looks just like him, don't you think?"
did? I wasn't so sure. Alf Perkins was Phil's former boss. He'd retired six
months ago. He was a quiet and gentle soul. Was this dog going to be quiet and
a boy, Perkins," said Phil.
Perkins it was to be. I shrugged and started loading the shopping into the car.
all this then?" Phil's eyebrows were raised.
Food bowl. Water bowl. Doggy treats. Dog food, dried and tinned. Doggy duvet.
Basket. Toys. Chews. Poo bags."
That first night
Perkins slept on the landing outside our room. We tried to make him comfortable
in the kitchen with his bed but he himself started to drag it up the stairs.
shouldn't let him sleep in our room," I said.
had shrugged. "I think they usually make up their own minds about
fact, though, he didn't want to sleep in our room. He stayed just beyond the
door. Once we'd made his bed up there he settled down nicely.
who have dogs have reported that they often whine a lot the first night. Not so
Perkins. Well he wasn't a puppy. But he might have been missing his owner. He
wasn't any trouble at all. He woke up at the same time as us the next morning.
you want your breakfast?" I heard Phil say on his way back from the
answered with a soft bark.
had his breakfast and then we let him out in the back garden while we had ours.
He had a good sniff around, cocked his leg up at a few of the bushes, then came
back in and had a drink of water.
suppose we'd better take you for a walk," Phil said to him after we'd
looked at his lead that was now hanging off a hook on the kitchen door.
He walked beautifully.
vet was right," said Phil. "This dog has been well brought up."
taken a ball with us. I was nervous about letting him off his lead.
"Suppose he runs off and doesn't come back?" I said.
shrugged. "Then probably somebody else would have to look after him. Or he
might find his way back to his owner. That would be a good thing, right?"
nodded. But it was clear that we were both getting attached to Perkins and he
hadn't even been with us a whole day yet.
didn't run off and he enjoyed chasing the ball.
the next few days we jumped every time the phone rang. But the calls were never
anything to do with Perkins.
was ours for the time being.
established a routine. We were both able to work flexitime and could often work
from home. So, with some careful planning, we were able to arrange that there
was always someone around to take Perkins for a reasonable walk after breakfast
and again at lunch time. Most evenings we'd take him for a longer walk, the two
of us together.
two of our earlier arguments didn't hold water. We actually enjoyed the
exercise Perkins was giving us. And there was no problem about us being out at
work. There was always one of us, or sometimes both of us, in the house with
for vets' bills - there were none. Perkins seemed to be super fit.
were different from what they'd ever been before. They were all centred on
finding somewhere we could take Perkins and let him off the lead. And where
there was a dog-friendly pub we could visit afterwards. We got even fitter. The
fresh air and the exercise were wonderful. We found out a lot about the area we
lived in that we'd not known before. And we made a lot of new friends who were
had been with us three months when we decided to go on holiday. We found a
lovely cottage that allowed dogs. There were more wonderful walks. And cosy
evenings curled up with a good book, a nice bottle of wine and a tired dog.
began to think of ourselves as dog owners.
"So, his owners
never came forward then?" It was the same vet we'd seen when Perkins had
first turned up six months before.
looked as if he was our dog now. So we'd decided to get him chipped. The weeks
had flown by. We'd seen them turn into months and now here we were.
a good boy." The vet patted Perkins.
dog had hardly flinched as the vet had inserted the tag.
he doing?" asked Phil.
really is a fine specimen. You've done well with him."
was pretty fit when we first brought him here, wasn't he?" I asked.
he'd definitely been well cared for."
was a bit of a puzzle and perhaps a warning.
It was the same when we
took him to dog training.
dog," said the woman who ran it. "And so well-behaved that I don't
think we can do much for him. Aren't you a darling?" She ruffled Perkins'
head. "Though it's a pleasure to have him here and your good selves, of
course. I hope you'll carry on coming but I had to say something. I didn't want
you to feel that you were wasting your money."
we did carry on, because Perkins enjoyed it too. We made some more new friends
and we were so very proud of him.
daughter befriended him too. Or maybe he befriended her. Jenny was a lonely
child. A severe disability kept her mainly housebound and she had little
contact with other children. She called occasionally and asked if she could
play with Perkins. He was so gentle with her. She would sit on the rug and talk
to him or very occasionally she would throw a ball for him in the back garden.
He was a real gentleman. He somehow knew he shouldn't be too boisterous.
He was here to stay, or
so it seemed. But we were wrong.
I'd woken early that
day because Perkins was downstairs and was scratching at the back door. I
guessed he had an upset tummy. I hoped he wasn't really ill. We'd been very
lucky with him up to this point.
hardly looked at me as I let him out of the back door. He bounded into the
garden then ran to the back. He then sprinted towards the gate and in seconds
he was over it and galloping up the street.
talked about getting a taller gate but had never bothered because Perkins was
so well behaved.
back," I shouted. "Where are you going? What's the matter?"
this time Phil was up and about. We both got dressed quickly and then started
looking round the neighbourhood for Perkins. There was no sign of him.
let the police know. We told all of our dog-owner friends. We put it on all of
our social media channels. Our beloved Perkins was gone.
mourned him, just as if he'd been a family member that had died.
from next door was inconsolable. She looked so pale and more poorly than ever.
really set her back," said her mother.
colour had gone out of our lives as well.
The days and weeks and
even the months started slipping by again. Once more we jumped every time the
phone rang. But it was never anybody saying they’d found Perkins. They were
just the usual junk calls: had we been involved in an accident recently, did we
want to change energy provider, did we know our names were associated with a
tax fraud? We wanted to ignore them but we kept on answering just in case.
we were out and about we kept on looking at dogs. We saw some German Shepherds
and some Labradors and even some that were a mixture of both. But they were
never the right mixture and of course they were never Perkins.
thought about getting another dog. We visited some dogs' homes. We looked at
ads in reputable dog magazines. We even kept our ears open for news from our
dog-owner friends about litters of pups. The old arguments came back: all of
that exercise, the possibility of vets' bills and how unfair it was on a dog if
were both working. The overriding argument was that there could never be
another dog like Perkins.
Then one day we went to
the local farmers' market and while we were looking at some interesting
free-range meat we heard a familiar bark. A sloppy big German Shepherd /
Labrador cross came bounding up to us.
Come here," a man's voice called.
later a straight-backed well-built young man, probably in his mid-thirties was
clipping a lead on to Perkins' collar.
continued to make a fuss.
are you?" I hissed. "What are you doing with our dog and how did you
know his mane was Perkins?"
young man frowned and bit his lip. "Let's go and have coffee, shall
was quite a story. Des had been mugged and had been unconscious for several
weeks. When he came to he had completely lost his memory. It gradually came
back but many things remained hazy. He'd had to go through weeks of
rehabilitation as well. Then just a day after they'd released him from
hospital, Perkins had turned up on his doorstep. Then a lot more of his memory
came back. He had had Perkins for three years before the mugging. One of Des's mates had a bitch that had pups
and Des had been given the pick of the bunch. He'd always been a fabulous dog.
Of course, he'd had no idea how come the dog had been so well looked after
whilst he'd been in hospital. He'd never had him chipped. He knew nothing about
dogs when he'd first got Perkins and then he'd never got round to it.
did his name come from?" Phil asked.
looked like one of my teachers. Perkins, who taught Latin."
was all decidedly uncanny.
we agreed to keep in touch with Des and Perkins. Sometimes we would go for
walks with them at weekends. We'd end up having a good meal in a dog-friendly
pub. Once or twice when Des had to go away for the weekend we would dog-sit.
Perkins was as compliant and friendly as ever, and Jenny next-door was
delighted, but it was very clear that Des was his real owner.
one day the doorbell rang and there were Des and Perkins. Des was holding a
wriggling puppy. "I thought you might like to meet Perkins mark two, son
of this old chap. Mum is also a German Shepherd / Labrador cross but she has
the shape of a Labrador and the colourings of a German Shepherd. He's yours if
you want him."
course we had him. We've called him Perky. He is already chipped and tomorrow
we're having the chip registered and letting the vet give him the once over. So
far so good. He's not quite as well-behaved as Perkins yet but he will be soon.
We're starting dog-training next week. And when he's a bit more settled we'll
introduce him to Jenny.
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