Friday, 12 October 2012
For the Love of Dog...
I love my two dogs and they love me. I get the same excited waggy tailed welcome every single morning as I get up and let them out of the study, which is where they sleep. It’s a repeat performance when I get in from work, or when I have just popped down to the shops. The mention of ‘walkies’ sends them into an impressive dash around the kitchen, bouncing and barking. Special words such as ‘treats’ and ‘cheese’ (yes, yes I know I shouldn’t...), makes them sit instantaneously and sends the tail wagging into hyper drive. They are just content ‘to be’. I marvel at them. Archer and Poppy are supposed to be Miniature Schnauzers, but there is nothing miniature about Archer, and Poppy is, I think, a cross between a Westie and a Schnauzer, so we call her a Wowzer. She was born on 11th November, Remembrance, (Poppy) Day, hence her name.
My dogs are a source of consistency and happiness in my life, regardless of what else is going on. So when my youngest son went out to Afghanistan with 7th Armoured Brigade last year, (known as the Desert Rats), I relied heavily on my dogs to keep everything the same in my world; and probably more importantly to help keep me sane. As the rest of my world started to fray at the seams my two dogs were there, sitting by me, giving their support to me in an uncomplicated way.
When Ash called me from Afghanistan I used to tell him about the walks I went on with our dogs, trying to take him away from the sun and the dust and the bullets. Away from everything that symbolised the hellhole he was in. I talked about my walks in the woods and the way the dogs splashed in the small stream. I described the flowers which were in bud, the colour of the leaves on the trees and the smell of the cow parsley. I wanted to paint a picture, a memory he could store in his mind’s eye, for when he needed it. A breath from home. It could serve as a reminder of all that is peaceful and calm and lovely, a scene of happy dogs splashing in cool waters, without a care in the world.
And when one day Ash told me that the Danish soldiers he was serving with had rescued a puppy dog from certain death and had brought her back to the camp, I was happy. I laughed as he said that they had named her Rommel, commonly known as The Desert Fox back in the Second World War. This tiny puppy had lifted their spirits, even though she had chewed their shoes, and had stolen their rations and hadn’t quite got to grips with toilet training!
Every time he called he had a story about what she had been up to. He recounted how one day the Danes had taken her out on patrol with them, and she had got left behind as they crossed a river, and how some Afghani children had found her and had brought her back to the soldiers at their Control Point. She was a constant source of entertainment and amusement during what was a very bleak time Out There, and for that I will always be grateful.
And Rommel is not the only dog in Afghanistan I should be grateful to. I read this week about a black Labrador called Treo and her handler Sergeant Dave Heyhoe. This dog had been trained to sniff out IEDs, bombs and weapons that had been hidden by the Taliban in Afghanistan. He was part of the 104 Military Working Dog Support Unit, Royal Army Veterinary Corps.
It transpires that this dog was awarded the canine equivalent of the Victoria Cross for his efforts and was responsible for saving the lives of many British soldiers during his many tours. Now retired he is enjoying a well earned rest with Sergeant Heyhoe, who has written a book called “It’s All About Treo: Life and War with the World’s Bravest Dog.”