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The Dog That Would Be a Prince
by Lewis Grant
It was breakfast time on a Sunday morning, and the weather was horrendous with a howling wind rattling the window frames in the old house and rain lashing against the glass.
“Just the sort of day I’m bound to be called out,” Steve thought as he helped himself to another cup of coffee.
At that very moment the phone rang.
“Henderson and Prendergast Veterinary Surgery,” announced Jill, Steve’s wife. She took the message and turned to her husband. “It’s Big Dave,” she told him. “He thinks there’s an animal trapped at the Brook’s place but he can’t reach it.”
Big Dave was the village policeman and Steve knew he would only phone if it was important, so, with a last gulp of coffee, he grabbed his keys and headed out.
“What’s the problem?” he called out as he joined Dave at the Brook’s house.
The house had just been bought by newcomers to the village and was undergoing extensive repairs. The garden was a sea of mud with masonry and building paraphernalia everywhere.
“Hello Steve,” replied a miserably drenched Dave. “I was doing my usual Sunday morning patrol and when I got here I could hear a whining noise. There seems to be something wriggling around in a sack in the space behind the garden wall and that pile of bricks. Being my size I can’t reach it, but I reckoned whatever it is it will probably need a vet at some point.”
“It’s down there,” he said, pointing. Steve could hear the whimpering and peering into the gap made out of a sack twitching in the pool of water that had accumulated in the rain.
With great difficulty, Steve squeezed into the narrow space and retrieved the sack. It was absolutely sodden with water running from it as he lifted it up to inspect it. Something was still moving inside.
With Dave’s help Steve placed the sack on top of a convenient plank and cut the baler string holding it closed. A black head popped out at once. It was a dog!
As they freed it they could see that it was some sort of whippet. All its legs were tied together with baler string and it was extremely thin, shivering with cold and fear as well as being absolutely sopping wet.
“Who would do such a thing?” puzzled Dave. “It’s no one from this village that’s for sure.”
“I’ll take him down to the surgery and see what I can do with him,” Steve said.
“I’ll begin asking about in case anyone saw anything but I don’t hold out much hope,” said Dave with a sigh.
Steve picked up the shivering bundle and wrapping it in the car blanket placed it carefully on the back seat of the car.
“He looks like a young dog who’s had a hard life, so I think I can patch him up OK,” he called out to Dave.
“Thanks for coming so quickly, it’s handy having a vet in the village.”
“Look in at the surgery tomorrow and see how he is getting on.”
Back at the surgery, Steve carried the dog into the treatment room, dried him down and talking to him gently gave him a quick examination. He was covered in cuts and would have many bruises but had no serious injuries.
“A little food and a warm kennel is what you need just now,” said Steve as he put a handful of dried dog food in a bowl.
With a slight wag of the tail the food was wolfed.
“Steady lad, you’ll be sick if you eat like that!” laughed Steve as he put his patient into a recovery kennel with a heat lamp and soft bedding.
He picked up the phone and called his animal nurse Sandra and explained the situation. She was very shocked but promised to come in – even though it was Sunday – to give the little dog small portions of food and short walks outside to exercise. By now Steve had other cases to attend to.
On Monday morning, Steve and Sandra assessed the animal in front of them. He was indeed a peculiar looking creature – a bit like a whippet, but somewhat larger and very thin. His body looked far too big for his head but his eyes were bright and he wagged his tail as they observed him.
“He’s a real poppet!” exclaimed Sandra, and that is what he was called whilst he was looked after at the surgery.
As the days went past, Poppet gained in strength and weight and he became everyone’s favourite in the surgery. But, of course, the problem was: what to do with him?
He had to be rehomed but his looks were against him. Steve and Jill could not take him on as they already had a terrier that hated other dogs, Sandra had a household with three cats, and none of the rest of the staff were able to give him a much-needed home.
The practice tried and tried to find someone to take him but poor Poppet was rejected by all who came to see him.
“He looks very odd and doesn’t even bark.”
“His head is too small for his body and he is too big to be a real whippet.”
And most unkind of all:
“He’s a bit too ugly.”
So, poor Poppet had no takers.
Reluctantly, after two weeks plus a few extra days hoping for a new local owner, the vet’s practice was faced with the prospect of contacting a rehoming charity.
“Poor Poppet,” sighed Sandra. “I know they will be kind to him but it’s not the same as having a loving home is it?” She reached for the phone, “let’s face it he could spend the rest of his life there. He will never win a beauty contest and he is such a quiet, gentle beast that he’s bound to be passed over for dogs with more personality.”
The next day the van arrived from the charity to collect Poppet and Sandra sadly brought him out of the kennels and gave him a final hug. Poppet did not make a sound as he looked up trustingly at Sandra, who had tears in her eyes.
Just as he was about to be put in the van, the receptionist came running out.
“Dr Steve, your wife says she may have a home for Poppet!”
Everything stopped as Steve rushed to the phone and Sandra dried her eyes, hugging Poppet hopefully.
“You haven’t sent him away yet have you?” Jill asked anxiously. ”I’ve been speaking to Linda Arbuthnot and she says she would like to see Poppet, but makes no promises, so please can you hold onto him in the meantime?”
With a sense of great relief, Sandra put him back in the kennel and gave him a treat. The Charity van departed.
By luck, Jill had met Linda in the local shop that morning and as they chatted Jill mentioned Poppet’s sad story and what was about to happen to him.
Linda and her husband Henry Arbuthnot lived in a former gamekeeper’s cottage on the nearby estate and already had two dogs that they adored. But Linda promised to discuss the matter with Henry over lunch.
Henry and Linda came down to the surgery that very afternoon and everyone held their breath. Sandra paraded Poppet in front of Linda as she assessed him.
“He’s too big for a whippet and too small for a greyhound and his head is out of proportion to his body.” She had summed him up perfectly and all the staff braced themselves for another rejection.
“What did you say his name was? Poppet? That’s a silly name if ever I heard one,” exclaimed Henry.
Poppet looked at them and, gently wagging his tail, reached out and licked Henry’s hand.
A bond was instantly established between the two gentlemen and Poppet left the surgery – regally ensconced in the back seat of the car as he left for his new life.
A month later, Steve and Jill were invited down to the cottage to see how Poppet was settling in. It was early evening and still light when they arrived. Poppet was lying stretched out in front of the fire in between their other two dogs, Archie the Labrador and Jake the Jack Russell.
“They are all friends now,” said Linda, “big, medium and small - but medium has definitely become the boss!
They all went for a walk in the parkland around the big house and the dogs ran on in front with Archie in the lead, Poppet not far behind, and Jake with his little legs furiously trying to keep up.
“It looks as if Poppet is enjoying his new life,“ Steve remarked.
“Poppet be dashed,” replied Henry. “His name is Prince now.”
It was obvious that Prince was enjoying his new Kingdom, a far cry from being trapped in a wretched wet sack in a front garden in the village.
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