There’s a lady in the café/my office who goes there as often as I do, ie. a lot. She’s in her 60’s, talks to everyone and is going through a bit of a rough time at the moment. We got talking today, as you do, about my writing, her sister, my kids, my cold, her grandson and her dog.
As soon as she began talking about her dog Rory, however, her face lit up and all her problems were momentarily forgotten. As she did an impression of Rory’s sad face if strangers don’t talk to him, you could see just how much of a true dog lover she was.
She reminded me of my Dad. He trained greyhounds throughout our childhood and therefore, by default, greyhound racing was a big part of our childhood. The dogs were originally kept at a kennels called Dinky Luckhursts (brilliant name right?!) before Dad built a kennel in the back garden and we kept them there.
The training facility he took them to in Westerham, Kent, consisted of a straight track in a field. Suffice to say, a little on the basic side.
To set the scene for those whose childhood didn’t consist of going dog racing every week, six dogs are put into the traps (imagine a smaller, dog sized version of the start of a horse race,) and an artificial hare is whizzed around on a motorised track.
At our dogs’ training ground, however, the track had no motor and was therefore powered by a man on a bike. Seriously. Picture a man on a bicycle frantically peddling to keep the hare ahead of the dogs. I swear I’m not making this up!
Our dogs were brother and sister – the dog was brilliant, the bitch was terrible – but she would always run her little heart out so Dad carried on racing her in the vain hope that one day, she would surprise us all. And one day, she did. Never won again mind you.
They had very exotic names. The dog was called Big Boy because he was, erm, big, and his sister was called Patch, because, well, you can guess why. Their racing names, however, were a little higher brow. Big Boy was Monalee Champion and Patch was Abdey Lady but to us kids they were always Big Boy and Patch. Their special treat if they had run well? A saveloy from the chip shop on the way home which, bearing in mind there was me, my brother and two dogs in the bag of a small van, wasn’t always a good idea. The smell after their continuous farting was suffocating and by the time we got home to Mum, our eyes were bloodshot and watering.
The dogs were a huge part of my Dad’s life and when they passed away at the age of 12, it was like losing a member of the family, for him especially. It was the first time I remember ever seeing him visibly upset – a shock for a 13 year old girl. He went on to try training another two dogs but it was never the same – they were rubbish for a start. Whenever the traps opened, instead of chasing the hare, they would do a U-turn and chase after Dad.
Duke and Daisy had big paws to fill.
I’m too busy to get a dog now. It would be like having a baby again – all that crap to clear up, but there is a greyhound that lives next door and he is so whiny it just reminds me I really don’t have the patience.
Growing up with dogs was brilliant fun for us kids and I have great memories of Maidstone dog track, until some bugger burnt it down, so I can totally understand the look on the lady’s face in the cafe today.