I had only popped into the pet shop for a bag of bird food and four suet balls ( yes, also for the birds, what were you thinking?) I hadn't expected to find myself embroiled in a conversation about food, four legged friends
and life expectancy.
The woman before me in the queue of two (which made me second, do keep up, won't you?) was bewailing the fact that an (unspecified) Doggy Rescue organisation had so far only been able
to offer her a 13 year old dog. "I couldn't take the risk," she told me and the shop-keeper, sadly, "Not after Charlie..."
I made sympathetic noises so she obviously realised I was A Listener. "Charlie was
13," she mourned, "I couldn't go through that again. First there was Albert, three years ago, then two more dogs, then poor Charlie. My heart can't take anymore." She thumped on her chest by way of emphasis. She was lonely, I realised, and I wasn't in any
hurry. How old was Albert? I queried.
"He was 78," she responded, sadly. From which I deduced that Albert was not a dog.
Apparently what she would love was a spaniel.
Didn't I love spaniels? she asked me. It seemed best to avow affection for spaniels. What else would I say? If she had had the money, she declared, she would have bought one of the spaniel puppies she met at WADARS. It was fortunate, I reflected, that Captain,
Our Captain at the Bowls Club had chosen WADARS (Worthing and District Animal Rescue Service) as his charity of the year a couple of years ago. At least I knew that WADARS wasn't a fishy business.
I said I
really hoped she would be offered a younger dog soon to fill the space in her heart left by Charlie and the other two, unnamed, dogs. And Albert, of course. Did I have a dog? she asked me, hopefully, presumably seeing in me a Kindred Spirit. I confessed that
we were dog-less, Mr B and I. I almost said that I was lucky enough to have Mr B for company - he may not display dog-like devotion but he still makes me laugh - fortunately I stopped myself just in time, remembering her Albert. We go away a lot, I substituted
hastily, it wouldn't be fair to a dog...
This made perfect sense to my new friend who vigorously nodded her agreement. She looked like one of those nodding dogs you see in the rear windows of cars. I expect
you pick up mannerisms from your pet? I contemplated on the fact that we don't go away anywhere near as much as we used to do - could we give a dog a home? Then I thought about Mr B's face should I suggest that we introduce a Charlie of our own into our life.
It didn't bear thinking about.
Grand-daughters Katie and Eleanor have always wanted me to adopt a dog. Dog-lovers the pair of them, their favourite outing when they came to stay in the school holidays was
to visit my friend Clarissa. They were both very fond of Clarissa who always made us welcome and fed us delicious food - but even Clarissa would agree that walking her dogs was the Main Attraction. Why couldn't I have a dog? the girls wanted to know so I trotted
out my excuse about going away such a lot - to which Clarissa offered to look after my dog whenever I went away. Two pairs of hopeful eyes searched my face, like puppies wanting a walk in the woods and being disappointed.
My doggy friend prepared to leave the pet shop. She didn't appear to have bought anything; perhaps she just came in to chat to like- minded people. As in the Pet Shop Owner. I was a kind of add-on Sympathetic Ear. Despite being dog-less.
"You won't even remember me after I've left the shop," she accused the chap behind the counter, "you'll forget me as soon as I walk out that door!" She turned to me: "He'll have forgotten you, too," she warned
me. I laughed and said I didn't labour under any delusions that I was memorable.
I rather hope I see her again on one of my extremely regular visits to the Pet Shop - the birds in our garden are Always Thinking
About Their Stomachs. If I see her, then wouldn't it be good if she is accompanied by a spaniel puppy, all frisky and loveable? What name will she have given him? It can't be Albert, or Charlie - but something similar.
I bet you two suet balls that she calls him Henry.