Friday, November 04, 2005


Eight years ago I had a phone call from "him indoors", whilst I was away visiting family.

A friend of ours who rescues birds of prey and has dealings with the RSPCA had contacted "him" and asked if we could give a dog a home which happened to be a young St. Bernard.

So the result of the phone call was Bruno pictured above, in his favourite environment and the colder, the better as far as he is concerned.

His nickname, given by Him Indoors, is the "Dozy Bastard"

He had been kept in a very small back yard by the family who had apparently paid £800 for him, but could no longer afford to feed him. He was too weak to get into the back of the car and had to be lifted in - a hoist would have done a quicker and easier job of it.

So, I returned home to find an animal the size of a small shetland pony in my kitchen.

When dogs are upset or nervous they drool. St. Bernards drool anyway, so the sticky strings of saliva took on a life of their own, and seemed to multiply, and lengthen at will. When it all got too much for him there would be a shake of his massive head accompanied by the sound of jowls flapping like a flock of birds taking flight, and up the walls the saliva would go, and God help you if you happened to be within spitting distance. Bruno's saliva has the consistency of wall paper paste and dries like concrete. I am now doomed to a life, I thought, of chipping someone else's spit off the walls.

So began his road to recovery, which consisted of cod liver oil, vitamin powder and forced frog marching up hill and down dale, plus lashings of love and affection. He had never seen grass, running water, or trees and for a while, was totally bemused by these alien things, and sometimes still is.

One day a requiem sung by monks came on the radio, his ears perked up and away he went, howling and singing in a mournful fashion. St.Bernards were bred by monks for mountain rescue. This is the only type of music that has any effect on him -weird.

He was inspected by the Vet and we were advised that the kindest thing to do was keep him outside. I sighed with relief and put my wall chisel away. Bruno took up residence in the garden shed. We fenced off the back garden, and he has about a quarter of an acre to himself. If it snows or there is a hard frost he sleeps out in it by choice. Birds go in to roost with him in the winter and share his food. He lies head on paws gazing at chaffinches perched on the edge of his food bowl. He now shares his shed with a hedgehog which steals his food in the evening, literally from under his nose while he lies less than a foot away and watches it.

One night, in the forest he walked, nose to ground, as they do, and smacked forehead first into a tree with a loud clunk. He just stayed there, head pressed against the bark and waited for rescue.

He is terrified of thunder and gets over the fence and runs away. We live in the middle of nowhere with very few neighbours and he never goes far and is well known for his cowardice and odd behavior. Last time we had a phone call to say that he had been staring at a satellite dish on the ground for 10 minutes. The lady that phoned was hysterical with laughter.

One day he waded into a Loch and sank to his knees in mud. When called he just stood there and cried like a baby, because he didn't understand that he wasn't stuck. It took a great deal of arm waving and shouted encouragement to get him to walk out again.

If a branch is in the road he will stop, and refuse point blank to walk round it. His head will go down, all the skin on his face moves forward and produces a wrinkled frown of frustration and perplexity.

He's nearly 10 now which is a great age for his breed, 8 years is about the average. His back legs are weak ( a result of his early malnutrition) and he just plods along these days, and we don't think he will see the new year.

He fainted in the middle of the single track road that runs past the house. He is so huge and heavy (yes, he grew some more) all Him Indoors could do was stand guard and hope that he wouldn't be forced to direct traffic around him till he regained consciousness.

We are hoping that if he dies, he will keel over in the forest, so that we can just dig a hole and roll him into it.
I will miss him though, the big, dozy bastard.



Blogger Ron Bury said...

Who's calling who stupid?

I can still scent a herd of deer a good mile off and there's no way I was giving in to that tree!


3:22 PM  
Blogger colcam said...

What a lovely chap and a real character.

I feel for you. We lost two collies, one 12, one 18, just before last Christmas. Still miss them desperately despite another one coming into our lives.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Naomi said...

What a great description (found you through Kim by the way). The description of him walking into the tree had me laughing out loud and my office mates gave me very funny looks.

My dad & step mum inherited a lassie type dog some years ago. For some reason the theme tune to "Blot on The Landscape" (remember that TV show?) would always get him howling. He'd also jump and and nip you if you sneezed anywhere near him.

I really hope that he gets his hole in the forest when the time comes.

11:43 PM  

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