By the time Grandma happened into our lives we were living in a large house in the country with plenty of land. Dixon (you remember the earlier tales about Dixon?) was in his element as he could roam free as air and return home to the comfort of regular meals and the warmth of the Aga in the kitchen as and when needed. Not that he declined to sit in front of the fire in the sitting room or curl up on the sofa – whether or not we wanted to sit there as well. I don`t recall him sneaking upstairs as I think he had plenty to occupy him downstairs so the beds were our own.
The five cats all settled into a sort of pecking order and Brigadier Pontoon (the guinea pig) snoozed happily in his bed of straw in the back porch erstwhile larder – mostly accompanied by a cat or two curled up for company.
All was well in our world. A pheasant came to the kitchen window every morning for breakfast and would frequently stalk in front of the car as we drove down the private road – he would not hurry nor would he condescend to move to one side to let us pass. We were `his` servants and had to know our place.
One day whilst I was standing at the kitchen sink I noticed a Rough or Lassie collie go by the window – she was filthy dirty and several other dogs trailed behind her. I was busy and didn`t take too much notice. In those days most dogs roamed free. A little while later back she came and was obviously distressed at the unwelcome attention of the following dogs. I went outside, called and she came to me willingly. I shooed the other dogs away and led her into the kitchen. It was then I realised what a state she was in. Her long coat was caked with mud and very matted but could not disguise her thinness. I fed her and found she was very friendly. She let me fuss her for a while and then made no protest as I began to cut off the matted fur. She then submitted willingly to a bath – I had picked up a hip bath in an antique shop a few months previously – and it made a very good dog-bath.
I had already phoned the police and the vet to report finding her. She was or rather had been a very fine specimen of her kind. I took her to our vet who gave her a vitamin injection and told me she was about 10 years old and he thought she had been on the road for some time. As no-one ever claimed her, we all moved up one and she became part of the household.
We called her Lassie at first but her name soon changed to `Grandma` – from her habit (I understand this is quite commen with collies of her type) of groaning as she settled herself down. She loved me with a passion and usually managed to curl up where my feet were supposed to be! She had obviously come from a home with no children – and we had two noisy little boys. She was very good with them but was terrified if they used cap guns anywhere near her – loud bangs really freaked her out. I don`t think she had had much to do with cats either but our five soon taught her to keep her aristocratic nose out of their business.
Dixon loved her and they became great pals. Dinner time was in the porch – they had a bowl each – Dixon would gulp our shake his down (he was a former street-urchin and although he kept telling us his pedigree was in the post, he was obviously lying!). Grandma, on the other hand would eat her food delicately – almost with a lace napkin tucked under her chin. Dixon cast covetuous eyes over her unfinished dinner and she would turn up her nose, bare her teeth and growl at him to leave her dinner alone. He thought about that for a week or so but soon came up with an idea to play on her weakness – loud bangs. So he would gulp down his dinner – keeping an eye on Grandma`s progress the while and then lift his empty plate up with his nose and crash it down on the stone floor. Bang! Oooops – Grandma would put her tail between her legs and bolt and wheeeeeeeeeee Dixon would finish her dinner. I soon caught onto this trick and fed them separately much to Dixon`s chagrin.
Grandm`s fear of loud noises came to a head at the first thunderstorm. She had been shut in the kitchen at night (with the Aga for company) – we had had a thunderstorm during the night and when I came down in the morning she was very distressed and I found that she had torn her nails by clawing grooves in the huge wooden farmhouse back door in an effort to escape. Thereafter we tried to make sure we were with her when a storm was about. She did run off once – she had been outside when the storm came and we lost her. I then knew how she had come to be a stray in the first place. Extensive enquiries – police, vet, friends, posters etc and she was found! We were very gratefu yo have her back but I think the feeling was mutual.
On this occasion I won`t tell you about the move to the flat from the big house with most of the animals … wait for next time.