Written by Emma Mitchell

Lifestyle

“The canine Judi Dench”

Our celebration of National Pet Month continues with scenes from the life of Emma Mitchell’s Minnie, an elderly lurcher who’s been there, chased that, and has the cotton wool wig to prove it.

Minnie in a cotton wool wig

Minnie channels the ‘disco barrister’ look.

Minnie was born in a stable in Norfolk in August 2000. Her parents were a failed racing greyhound called Mac and a sheepdog called Gin. They adored each other, so much so that when their owner was away for a few days they picked the locks on a gate with their teeth so that they could nuzzle up and make puppies. Minnie was part of an accidental litter; a lovechild subsequently advertised in a free local rag. She cost £90, a fair bit for Mr M and I back then. It turns out she was an absolute bargain.

In our first months as dog parents we learned that Minnie was fond of:
1) Sleeping curled up like a little fox in my lap
2) Dog craft: collecting leaves and shredding them on the carpet
3) Not pooing unless she was let off her lead
4) Not returning after being let off the lead. Ever.

Emma holiding Minnie as a puppy.

Emma with a 10 week-old Minnie.

Miracle on the A14

Number 4 resulted in her first misdemeanour. When Minnie was nine months old I took her for a walk before work. I let her off the lead and she scarpered. Some minutes later I spotted a leggy brown blur gambolling in a stagnant ditch just below a bank. On the other side of the bank was the A14. I ran after her. She turned right and disappeared over the top of the bank.

I found her an hour later and carried her to the vets nearby, both of us whimpering and covered in mud and blood. She’d been hit by a car and dragged for some way underneath it. Her left hind leg was smashed to bits, her tendons entirely worn away by tarmac. But after two weeks she grew back new tendons from scratch and began to hobble around on her peg leg. The vet marvelled. He’d never known a dog grow new tendons before.

 

Drugs shame

Shortly after the tendon regeneration incident, I returned from the weekly shop to find a small pile of straw near the door and Minnie careering around the house as though being chased by 10 lions. She had eaten my wicker handbag and all its contents. One of which was a packet of Pro Plus caffeine tablets. The vet gave her some canine downers. Her eyes were rimmed with red for two days and one minute she was legging it round and round the living room; the next she was hiding at the top of the stairs with one of her paws over her head (I’m not making this up).

Psychic triumph

Minnie wearing a colourful woolly hat

“Yo.”

Lurchers are rather angular and leggy so if there’s a cushion within a mile’s radius they will detect it with a sort of soft furnishing Spidey sense, turn around three times and curl up on it. Minnie’s bed is a huge pillow in front of the fireplace. In early 2005 we were surprised one morning to find Minnie sleeping outside our bedroom on the exposed floorboards. She continued to sleep there every night, so we brought her bed upstairs. One morning Mr M was making toast. He asked what I would like on it. I’m a jam fan. Without thinking I answered, “Marmite and peanut butter, please,” then did a double take at what I’d just said. I nipped down to the chemist for a stick to wee on. I was pregnant and Minnie had known before we did. She continued to sleep outside the bedroom door until I gave birth to my first daughter.

The dog with two backs

At the end of last summer Minnie had a spot of bother with her dog plumbing but was put on HRT which worked brilliantly and seemed to give her an extra gleam in her eye. So we took her on holiday with us to Old Hunstanton. On a trip to the beach the small Mitchells had been busy working on a fancy, Frozen-style sandcastle for an hour. It had turrets, castellations and cladding made of cockles.

Presently a burly male Labrador approached. The hair along Minnie’s spine stood on end making her look like a hairy stegosaurus. Something was afoot. The lab attempted to make the dog with two backs with Minnie but she snarled at him loudly and snapped at the air near his nether portions. Embarrassed and rejected, the Labrador climbed onto the sandcastle, cocked his leg and ran off. Wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued. We had to appease the children with ice creams. Minnie, 14 and a half, a wiggle in her walk from HRT and most definitely her own dog, ate a 99 cornet with satisfaction.

Arise, Dame Minnie

Minnie turns 15 in August. That’s 105 in dog years. She still legs it after cats, steals cake, startles pheasants, barks loudly at Countryfile and flirts with a dog called Des who lives up the road. She’s lived through car crashes and drug crime, rebuilt her own leg, has a sixth sense for buns in ovens and has rolled on far more fox poos than I’ve had fancy dinners.

The day she stops aiming those chocolate button eyes and expressive ears intently towards the kitchen whenever she hears a cupboard being opened seems far off but we know it’s coming.

For now, though, she is a sprightly dog dowager – a sort of Dame Judi Dench of the canine world, and the best £90 I’ve ever spent.

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Written by Emma Mitchell

I make things, mostly out of silver, sometimes out of wool. I’m never too far from a bottle of PVA glue.