The woman pulled up in her flashy 4x4 which was meandering along the farm track in that way people have when they have ‘questions’.
People in Surrey often have questions as they drive past a farm. For example, I had a gentleman query why the horses were wearing ‘blindfolds’ recently, and I had to explain that owners often put their horses in fly masks during the summer, if that was all right by him? And he said it wasn’t. Because people who know diddly squat about rural matters have the strongest opinions, especially about horses.
This lady was meandering and looking out of the window into the stable yard as the cobs were munching their hay so I wearily walked up to her and introduced myself. ‘Hello, and how may I address your concerns about livestock management today?’ is what I ought to say.
But she wasn’t actually interested in the horses, and poking a leaflet out of the window she explained that she was looking for two cavapoos. I looked down at the leaflet which showed two of the daftest-looking mutts I have ever seen.
‘Oh dear, where did you lose them?’ I asked.
‘They were in the garden. They’re not mine,’ she added hastily. ‘I mean, the owner is on holiday. They ran off. Have you seen them?’ she asked. ‘No, I haven’t seen them,’ I said. ‘I think I would know if I had seen two passing… cavapoos.’
‘Yes,’ she said, forcefully, ‘I was thinking, they would probably make for safety. Look for shelter, you know, because they’d be frightened. So…’. And she looked long and hard into the stable yard. And she stared particularly hard at the guard dog warning sign above the stable block, ‘Big Dogs About!’, which only, in reality, refers to Poppy and Cydney, but they think they’re big.
‘Oh no,’ she said, shaking her head. ‘They wouldn’t have come here, then, not with that sign. I mean, they would be frightened of meeting the big dogs, wouldn’t they?’
And I looked at this woman and notwithstanding feeling sorry for her because she was looking for her neighbour’s lost dogs, I could not remove the sarcasm from my voice as I said: ‘They wouldn’t be able to read that sign.’
She drove off eventually, and over the course of the next week dozens of lost cavapoo pictures appeared all over Surrey as this woman covered mile upon mile nailing up reward posters.
And these posters mingle with other lost dogs posters. Every other lamppost, it seems, is covered by a home-made flyer showing some lost dog or other.
Because now that record numbers of people who should maybe not own dogs are owning dogs, record numbers of people are losing dogs.
They’re outside my window on the village green all day long, these strange new dog owners, so I can only too easily see where they make their bloomers.
It would be hilarious to watch if it weren’t for the fact that you just know the poor dogs’ long-term chances are suboptimal.
Number one, they do not want to put their dog on a proper lead. One gets the impression they regard the idea of a collar around a dog’s neck as something they would not stoop to. They would not want someone pulling on their neck so they’re not going to pull on a dog’s neck. I really do think that’s as far as their brain goes with it.
So they put their dog on a lead that is about 100ft long, and they attach this lead to the dog via a massive harness around its body that teaches the dog to pull, like a husky attached to a sled.
Some of these harnesses are dazzling in their complexity, exerting pressure just about everywhere on the dog’s body, to no avail.
The owner is thus catapulted 100ft behind the dog, swinging from side to side as though water-skiing while crying out: ‘Oscar! Oh dear… Oscar! Stop that now! A ha ha ha! Oscaaaaar!’
When they tire of this, they let Oscar off the lead, whereupon the dog makes for the road. The desperate owner can then be seen taking packet upon packet of dog treats from their little poo bag-holding bum bag, and as they offer these treats to the dog, the dog greedily accepts and demands more, and is given more, in a process that efficiently teaches the dog to mug people for food.
This farce continues apace until the owner has run out of treats and got all tangled up in the lead. While trying to untangle themselves, they then lose the dog entirely, at which point, thankfully, the owner has to go home and leave me in peace so they can print off flyers bearing pictures of ‘Missing Oscar!’ for a Facebook campaign.