"My name is 'Buster' and I am a very content pet who has learned never to make a mess on his own doorstep. I am probably the happiest dog I know today, but it wasn't always the case. My owner got me from a Refuge Centre three years ago. It was Boxing Day when my owner visited the Refuge Centre and first saw me. I was cowed down in the farthest corner feeling sorry for myself and very much unloved. For some quirky sense of logic, my owner, who was a 30-year-old woman of single status, decided that if one was to get a dog from a Refuge Centre on 'Boxing Day', then there was only one breed to select for a companion; a Boxer!'
For my part, I was naturally pleased with my owner's choice, as she could easily have chosen the Irish Setter in the next cage who was smiling at her and drooling with affectionate glances as she walked by. I heard my owner ask the Refuge Warden about some history pertaining to me. The Warden told her that I'd been found inside a dustbin where I and my six siblings had been dumped in a sack. All my brothers and sisters had smothered in the sack and when the sack was open to reveal me whining to get out, I was surrounded by the smell of death which still haunts me on occasion. Had I not struggled and strove to survive, I would never have attracted the attention of the bin man. After opening the sack to discover the source of the noise, he was extremely shocked and surprised with what he found. Thinking the noise to have come from a rat which had been trapped inside the bin, the kind man started to cry when he opened the sack and found me gasping for air as I lay surrounded by the corpses of my brothers and sisters. He kindly took me to the local Refuge Centre, where I stayed for six weeks before I was homed on Boxing Day.
Although the Refuge Centre Warden didn't know any further background details pertaining to my parents, I recently met an Old English Sheepdog at the park whilst out on a Saturday morning walk. The Old English Sheepdog, who was approaching his 16th birthday, had always lived in the same neighbourhood and there wasn't a piece of doggy news or gossip that had ever failed to pass his ears. The second time I met the Old English Sheepdog, he told me that he'd made some enquiries and had eventually learned from a Cocker Spaniel called Charles that my mother had initially been purchased for a spoiled child as a Christmas present by her overindulgent parents. It would seem that they kept my mother for six months before deciding that looking after a pet dog was far less attractive and was definitely more demanding than they'd originally thought. So, one summer's night in June, the spoiled brat's father placed the Boxer Bitch in his car and abandoned her on the moors, some five miles out of town.
For the next month, my mother walked the moors during the day and entered the nearby village of Howarth every evening where she would search and scavenge for whatever left-overs she might find. She would often sleep close to the wall of Maughn's Bakery, to keep warmer during the early morning hours when the temperature fell.
One month after mum had been abandoned on the moors, she happened to meet another stray in the doorway of 'Gascoign's Cafe'. Her new friend was a mongrel who was three-fifths Boxer and two-fifths Bulldog. Almost immediately, mum could sense that the two of them had lots in common. They not only looked alike, but they thought alike and also liked the same places and activities. Most importantly, they had always dreamed of that special day when they would meet their ideal partner, shack up together and start their own family. The upshot was that they soon grew as close as any two dogs could ever become, and nature being nature, one night as they shacked up in an old shed in some nearby allotments off West Lane, they cuddled and kissed. One thing led to another, as it invariably does, and myself and five sisters were born nine weeks later at the back of the allotment shed, off the Bronte Museum car park.
My parents were reportedly over the moon with their family litter whom they planned to proudly show off to the other dogs in Haworth just as soon as they grew old enough to walk out with mum and dad. Within four days of our births, tragedy struck our family unit a bitter blow. My father was hit and killed by a large bread van in the Main Street as he was out searching for food to feed his enlarged family.
As dad lay dying on the cobbled street, up at the allotments, mum and her six puppies were discovered by a cruel allotment holder who couldn't stand cats and dogs. Mum was chased away from her young; all of whom were bound and then bagged up by the cruel allotment holder in one of her old potato sacks, before being dumped in a nearby dustbin close to the Bronte Museum car park entrance. When mum thought it safe to return to the allotment shed where she'd given birth to her six pups, she found us all gone. Not having seen my father since he'd gone searching for food earlier that day, she felt so alone in her concern. She frantically searched high and low throughout Haworth for both her partner and their pups in despair, and it was only at 10.00 pm that she discovered from a stray whippet that my dad had been knocked down and killed in Main Street earlier that day by a bread van.
Stricken by grief, once mum discovered the next day that her six pups had been bound and bagged in an old potato sack before being dumped in the public dustbin where they suffocated, she lost it and had a full emotional breakdown. That night, while being of unbalanced mind, my dear mum walked two miles to Sladen Reservoir and drowned herself, never knowing that one of her pups still lived; me!
After my new owner selected me at the Refuge Centre and took me to her house on Boxing Day, she did everything possible to make me happy. By the end of January, five weeks later, I was starting to feel 'at home' for the first time in my life. However, after the Christmas holidays, when my owner had to return to her part-time work each weekday morning, it felt very strange and frightening to be left alone. However many pats and cuddles she gave me as she went out the front door saying cheerfully, 'I'll be back at 1.00pm, fella. Be good. Love you!' I never felt reassured that she would return.
When my owner left me on my own that first time, I feared that she had abandoned me, and was never coming back. I started to feel rejected, alone, uncertain and unloved all over again. I worried myself sick and in my concern, I chewed up the carpet, messed up the settee and had a 'little accident' on the kitchen floor.
Then, when my owner came back in the door and I heard her cheerful voice and saw her smiling face again, my heart lit up in immense relief. Then, her face changed for the worse as she noticed all the mess I'd made in her absence, and I feared rejection for the second time in one day.
It took two months before I learned to call my owner 'you' instead of 'her'. It took a further month before I stopped pissing in your shoes or stopped jumping up on your bed each night after you'd changed into your pyjamas and slipped beneath the sheets. I like your smell in your bed and I only wish that you liked mine enough to let me in, even if its on top of the sheets and bed blanket.
When I was six months old I had never been so happy. You and I held eyes for no other and the loving presence of each other daily was all we seemed to desire to remain completely content. Then, when I was at my happiest, you saddened and frightened me when you brought that strange man into our lives; first into our house and then, into your bed.
He wasn't expected to sleep on a rug near the bedroom door or even above the sheets and bed blankets uncovered! No! You let him kiss and cuddle you and play tents beneath the sheets as you both rolled over in excitement expressing shrieks of pleasure, saying 'No! Oh, no! Dear God, no!' when you obviously meant 'Yes! Oh, yes! Dear God. yes!' I subtle changes starting to take place. On the second occasion you let him share your bed, he brought his toothbrush with him, and before the week was out, he'd started leaving some spare clothes in your wardrobe. Within two months he'd moved in completely and started to treat our home and everything in it as much his as it was ours!
Then, when the occasional full bed and breakfast became a daily feature, it started to look like he'd never move back out. In the brief time I've been alive; still less than one year, I've learned from a West Highland Collie in the park the pointlessness of pushing against a closed door, or swimming against the tide or even trying to push a jelly up a steep hill! So, when I saw the unmistakable look of love in your eyes as you stared at each other in fawning admiration, I knew that this was becoming too serious to continue to ignore, and if I wanted to remain your lifelong pet, I'd better get used to the idea of you also having a lifelong human partner and bedtime companion who didn't have to sleep on the bedroom rug like me. So, I quickly decided not to bite the hand that fed me and that I'd better get to like him or else I'd soon lose your affection. After all, I loved you more than anyone else in the whole wide world and if you liked him as much as you obviously do, then I reckoned that he must surely be 'lovable'.
Now, I am pleased to report that I am happy and content once more. My days are filled with food, fun, daily walks and regular cuddles. I still won't pretend to like it when you both go out to work on a morning and leave me, but I don't feel frightened or rejected any more, or doubt that you will come back home to me. Hurry home you two; I miss you both. I love you both, even the smelly one....and I'm getting hungry!" William Forde: August 26th, 2018.
PS. Any dog lover who enjoyed this post would undoubtedly enjoy my book 'Tales of Bernard' which tells the story of a stray St. Bernard who roams the streets and gets bullied by Boxer and his pack of stray pedigree hounds who terrorise the town and its residents. This book is suitable for all dog lovers, be they nine or ninety. It took two years to research, during which time I read over thirty books on pedigree dogs and was assisted by one of the country's leading show judges and dog experts when describing both looks and behaviour of each breed of character in the book. The story is told through the eyes of the dogs and was a firm favourite in Yorkshire homes and schools between 1990 and 2005. It was praised by the late Alf Wight, the acclaimed author of the James Herriot books that spawned the tv series and film, 'All Creatures Great and Small', along with Christoper Timothy (the actor who played James Herriot in the film and television series. Indeed, Christopher Timothy liked the story so much that he read from this book to assemblies of Yorkshire school children on six occasions during the 1990s and promised to be the reader were it ever professionally recorded for the purpose of radio transmission.
During the early 90's, I was going to sign a contract with a Leeds publishing company to produce a number of stories for national school radio transmission. Bridge Forsyth, the Thelma character in 'The Likely Lads' actually recorded one dozen 'Action Annie' stories and Paul Daniels recorded two stories, plus other famous people like Tom Conti the film star, and Christopher Timothy was also on the verge of being signed to record some of my stories. Before all the contracts could be signed and the deals struck, I withdrew, as my charitable contacts were viewed as being obstructive to the potential profits and earning capacity of the publishing company. I was asked to cease my charitable work for four years, but this was a commitment I was not prepared to make, having promised my Maker at the age of eleven years as I lay in a hospital bed in Batley dying that if He spared me I would do good things for the rest of my life. He kept his part of the bargain, and no book recording deal was ever going to deter me from keeping mine, although I must confess, being human, I did'thinking about it' for a brief period.
'Tales of Bernard' is available in e-book format as well as hard copy from www.smashwords.com or www.lulu.com or amazon and amazon kindle. As with all my published books since 1989, all profits from their book sales are given to charitable causes in perpetuity. I am pleased to say that all the profits from book sales between 1990 and 2002 raised over £200,000." William Forde: August 26th,2018.