Originally posted on Y360 4th November 2006
Reposted on Multiply 19th February 2008
Back in the Eighties, when I was still married and lived in Birmingham, I owned three dogs. All of them were rescue cases, having been mistreated in various ways. There were two Afghan hounds plus a cross-breed who was two-thirds Border Collie. Each of them will get their own blog, as for each of them I have memories to share. They are all interwoven, and will make appearances in each other's stories.
I will start with the cross-breed. That's him in the picture. His name was Benjamin. J. Woofer. Known to his friends as Ben. Why the long name? Well, the two Afghans were Kennel-Club registered, being pure-breeds, and had full registered names. Ben, being a mutt, was just Ben. The daughter of a friend thought it wasn't fair that the other two have proper names, and told us that he should have one too. After some thought, it was agreed on Benjamin J Woofer.
I never found out how Ben had been mistreated, but I suspect it was psychologically, rather than physical. There didn't seem to be any signs of beatings or anything. But he was a nervous wreck when he first arrived with us. He'd jump at the slightest noise. He wouldn't let Vicky go near him for a long time (I suspect whatever torment he suffered was at the hands of a woman), he would cower in a corner, snarling and showing a full set of fangs. He hated to be hugged, again that would set him off snarling. It took a long time for him to trust us, but by giving him his own space and time, and with lots of love, finally he came to trust us. In the end became Vicky's dog. He never left her side and was always protective of her.
When he finally came out of his shell and became his 'normal' self, it was clear that he had not necessarily inherited the intelligence of his Collie ancestry. He wasn't the sharpest knife in the box. Any of you remember Odie in the 'Garfield' cartoons? Tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth, always waiting for someone to throw a ball or stick? That was Ben. But the up-side of his ancestry was that he was great when out walking, never needed a lead, always walked glued to heel until told he could run.
Ben had a kind of love/hate relationship with the younger of the two Afghans. She would constantly tease Ben. I'm sure she knew how grumpy he could be, and would goad him. They used to engage in play 'fights', both up on their hind legs, forelegs wrapped around each other, wrestling like a couple of small bears. Ben would try to use his weight advantage, while Saga (more on her in a later blog) would use her speed and agility. Anyone seeing it for the first time thought it was a real fight, because of the manic look they both had. It wasn't, I knew both well enough to know when they were being serious. They would keep up the wrestling for hours, until they were so tired they could hardly stand up, although the appearance of food usually changed that.
I have many funny stories involving Ben, and it's been difficult trying to decide which ones to tell. Here's a couple:
First one was when we were walking the dogs in a large park just to the north of Birmingham, called Sutton Park. It covered a huge area, and had several lakes. It was a bright sunny day. As usual Ben wanted to play fetch-the-ball. I wound up for a pitch and lofted it skywards, Ben giving chase at high speed. He must have lost the ball in the glare of the sun. He ran past the spot where the ball landed, shot through a group of startled walkers and, still staring skywards, flew into one of the lakes. The impact with the water came as a shock. He just stood there, shoulder deep in water, looking round dazedly, wondering who threw a lake at him!!! Cue Mitch falling to the ground laughing.
On another trip to Sutton Park, we had solved an old problem. Afghans are notoriously difficult to train to walk off a lead, and as Ben would never roam far away, we attached Ben and Saga together using a 'link-lead' to their own collars. Great idea. We could now let Saga roam a little freer than before. They were wondering around sniffing everything in sight, like all dogs. Then Ben decided it was time to play fetch. Without thinking (yes, ok, it was my fault), I wound up and launched a long pitch. Off went Ben like a bat out of hell. Saga, nose buried in a clump of grass, suddenly found herself yanked off her feet and dragged backwards at high speed across the ground, squealing like a piglet in shock. When Ben finally caught up with the ball and stopped, Saga got up and gave him a good telling off. It was so comical, almost like watching a married couple. The woman berating the man for doing something particularly stupid. Cue Mitch rolling, literally, on the ground, unable to catch his breath from laughing so much. There are other stories, but that's enough for now.
Ben, along with the Afghans, were a part of the family. I still miss him, miss all of them, very much. The saddest part of having beautiful doggie friends is that we always outlive them.