Friday was haircut day for mister dog, It's funny how certain breeds of dog seem to go through popular phases, you can't move for tripping over Miniature Schnauzers at the moment. They all have long tails, unlike mister dog who will be 13 years old this April, and born before the docking of tails was made illegal in 2007.
As I dropped him off, there were three Wire haired fox terriers waiting to be tidied up and they reminded me of our first dog, a Wire haired fox terrier called Mister Smith. His given name was very long and poncy, but we just called him Mister Smith after the dog of the same name in the 1937 film 'The Awful Truth' a comedy starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant.
The same dog also played the part of Asta in 'The Thin Man' detective films of the 30's starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.
Mister Smith was a very old fashioned 1930's looking dog, and I was often stopped by little old ladies telling me they'd had one just like him when they were a small girl, and asking his name. Upon hearing that it was Mister Smith, one old lady told me that it was the code name they used for Hitler in the war. He loved the attention and would act as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, but he'd been an absolute nightmare when younger. It had sometimes taken me over an hour to get him back on the lead if I'd been foolish enough to let him have a run around. On several occasions having been reduced to tears I'd said 'right that's it I'm going home!' and had stalked off, only for him to follow about ten feet behind all the way to the front door. If I stopped and turned around, he would hide behind the nearest bush or gate, it was like he was trying to win his scouting badge for tracking.
photo - lovedaylemon on Flickr
Throughout his life he had the peculiar trait of going for your ankles if you tried to leave the house. This breed are known for quirks in their personality. Mister Smith's speciality was to let anyone enter the house, but not leave, and also stealing trades men's tools, which meant we were never short of wooden handled hammers or screwdrivers. My sister-in-law's dog, also a fox terrier, wouldn't let anyone answer the phone, and another dog I was told about would sit at the top of the stairs and growl if anyone tried to pass. We learnt to throw a dog biscuit down the hall for him to run after when we or someone else wanted to leave the house, but his finest moment came one evening...
We'd been watching television when suddenly security lights flooded the back garden. Thinking it was probably a fox we took no notice. Sometimes they trotted up to the French windows and peered in, seemingly unperturbed by the humans staring back at them. "Oh there's somebody in the garden!" I shouted, jumping up, as the shadow of a figure passed the windows heading for the side of the house. "Oh there's somebody else in the garden now, its a policeman!". We both ran to the back door just as a man in uniform shot past heading for the side gate. Unlocking the door we emerged in time to see him clambering over the fence that separated back and front gardens.
As we watched open mouthed another policeman suddenly appeared at our side, but being slightly portly, faltered at the fence and began to tug desperately at the locked gate, he obviously wasn't able to climb over so we invited him to go through the house. It was at this moment that Mister Smith awoke, sprang from the sofa where he'd been lying on his back snoring loudly and promptly savaged the policeman's ankles ripping his trousers as the poor man tried in vain to exit the front door.
It seems the police had been chasing a stolen car, and the driver, after crashing into a lamp post had fled down the road and disappeared into the darkness of fields at the back of the houses. We'd heard a helicopter circling earlier but hadn't taken much notice. The police tracked the fugitive with dogs and he'd jumped the fence into our back garden in an attempt to circle back onto the road. He'd hurdled over the side fence, but instead of escaping found he'd dropped straight down into the front garden outside of which the police vans and dog handlers were parked waiting.
Mister Smith had his Andy Warhol '15 minutes of fame' by appearing in two of the American Kool-Aid soft drink adverts in the 80's - 'Wacky Games' (blink and you miss him as he comes out of a door at the very beginning) and 'The Hottest Day' where you see him by a dog kennel as the Kool-Aid figure bursts through the shed door. He was also in a Tate and Lyle crunchy toppings advert which is probably out there somewhere on the internet.
We buried Mister Smith in the garden about 2am in one of the coldest Januaries on record. We wrapped him in a blanket and after a whispered argument about why he had to be buried there and then and not in the morning... (I was worried our son would come down and see him, the idea of explaining to a three year old why Mister Smith was in the front room covered with a blanket and solid with rigor mortis was not something either of us relished) off went mr man to fetch a spade.
We were then faced with the problem of where to bury him, and finally decided on about ten feet away from the side of the house where he'd often enjoyed sitting in the sunshine.
It was so cold the earth was absolutely solid, and I'm ashamed to say I watched from the window while poor mr man tried vainly to dig a hole deep enough so that the foxes wouldn't dig him up.
Two weeks later we were due to move house, and as we left we hoped the new owners never wanted to build onto the side of the house, if they found his bones and those of the two dogs we knew the previous owner had buried somewhere at the bottom of the garden, they'd have had the police digging up the entire plot.