Harry was a blue roan, and ten weeks old when he arrived. He was one of the few chosen from a breeder as opposed to a rescue centre. He was so endearing and huggable and, well just adorable and spaniely. It was love at first sight. I used to put him in the poacher’s pocket of an old Barbour (just the right size) and take him everywhere. Unfortunately he outgrew the pocket very quickly and was subjected to the dire humiliation of his first collar and lead. All four paws went into brake mode and, for ten days at least, he travelled along in this position with me pulling and someone else pushing in order to make any progress at all. We failed miserably. Harry eventually won the battle, and the lead was forever abandoned. In fact, he won a lot of battles (but he never gloated). Like my present spaniel, Henry, he did naughty things and when told off managed to look unbelievably appealing and contrite – five minutes later he would go and do exactly the same thing again. I guess it’s just a spaniel thing!
The next two years of ‘puppyhood’ saw him gnawing his way through eighteen sweaters, fourteen pairs of shoes, eight chair legs, a doll’s house, every pair of socks in the house he was lucky enough to get hold of, countless homework (yes, it really does happen), a shed load of books, and a large portion of the dining room wall. And yes, I did keep count! To say nothing of the fact he was, without doubt, the noisiest dog on the planet. He spent an enormous amount of time barking at visitors from behind the comfort and safety of an old armchair, and he could keep the noise up for hours. ”He’ll grow out of it soon” was the excuse we all made for him for all his little foibles. ‘For better or for worse’ – we felt we were married to him!
On the plus side, he gave us endless hours of fun and pleasure. He loved all things. He befriended the hamsters, the rabbits, the guinea pigs and most of the chickens. His best friend was the cat. And he got on so well with the other dogs -a huge black Labrador, the sweetest of Staffordshire Bull Terriers and a Jack Russell. All in all, he was to shreds.
Then something quite dreadful and tragic happened – a small band of feral teenagers had started to run amok in what was, until then, our very respectable and quiet English village. I, like others, tolerated their appalling behaviour for a while; spraying obscene graffiti, tearing up gardens, breaking windows, loudly revving their L-plated mopeds and hurling abuse at the residents. The authorities did nothing.
One morning, seeing them hiding behind a nearby wall and throwing objects at the windscreens of passing motorists, I thought it was time to make a stance. I went out to where they were congregating and told them their behaviour was both dangerous and unacceptable, and must stop. I cannot repeat the abuse that flew my way. A neighbour and friend happened to be driving past and stopped and remonstrated with them too. Further abuse was hurled. He, incidentally, was 6’5” and well-built. They were not deterred. Eventually another neighbour called the police and they were moved on, screeching threats as they left.
We awoke two days later to find Harry looking extremely ill. I put him on the back seat of the car and rushed over to the vet. It turned out he had secondary peritonitis and x-rays showed three broken off hypodermic needles inside him. He died later that night. He was only six years old.
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind, including the local police, that these thugs were responsible. It was assumed something had been thrown over the garden fence, possibly bread or meat, with the needles wrapped inside. No-one saw this happen. Despite the police having every confidence in the knowledge that the culprits were the same hooligans we had approached, there was little they could do.
Since losing Harry, I see no abatement in this sort of behaviour – In fact, things seem to have become much worse. But why are we not reacting to the appalling things we learn of every day? Is it because we do hear of such occurrences every day and have become inured to it, or is it because we all have so many problems in our own lives we do not want to become involved. Or perhaps it is the fact that were any of us to intervene we would be the ones breaking the law!
Whatever our own reasons, a general decline in education, all round discipline and respect for others have all played a major part in the deterioration of our society and we find ourselves subjected to insensitive and amoral beings invading our lives. Those who contribute nothing and commit senseless and unnecessary anti-social crimes. Where is the community spirit we used to know? And why have so many of us stopped caring? Or do we only care when something affects us personally?
My real question is: When it does become personal, does one seek revenge, put it all behind oneself, or bear a grudge for eternity! I doubt the latter though would be very helpful to anyone – more verging on soul-destroying – but I have to admit, although Harry died four years ago, I am unable to forgive those badly-parented youths for what they did, and bad parenting undoubtedly begets bad behaviour.
Yet, perhaps I am wrong. There are those who would have us believe the perpetrators are the victims. I for one do not view them as such. And although they may feel abandoned, disenfranchised and forgotten – like the rest of us, they had, and will always continue to have, choices.
Amelia Curzon is an author, blogger, mother, budding environmentalist and lover of all animals.
First posted on nickwastnageblogspot 27 August, 2012
“I’m a crime writer, and write about dastardly deeds, but even crime writers have emotions, and I found Amelia’s post deeply moving and heart wrenching. It carries a message, and begs a serious question.” Nick Wastnage (27 Aug 2012)