I have adopted the stance (stances can change) that there will not be one, not even a slim, melancholic volume about Lemon’s short and injury-prone time with us. However, this hardly precludes others from writing up their experiences. This morning I found myself actively encouraging Jeff, owner of Milla (or perhaps – and this was the prompt – in reality it is the other way round) to put pen to paper. Milla, a ruffian Dobermann rescued from the streets of London was one of Ollie’s early mates. He has his own short chapter in Walking Ollie and once featured in a column that trash daytime TV host Trisha Goddard used to write for the Eastern Daily Press.
Dylan, Milla, Ollie
Even by the standards of its category, Trisha’s column was particularly odious, consisting mainly of a sequence of boasts about the greatness of herself, her husband, her children (Little Missy 1 & Little Missy 2) and her fabulous lifestyle with its frequent flights to their little place in Cannes (quite a lot of complaints against baggage handlers in these passages). We see Trisha about the UEA sometimes, lyrcra-clad and power-walking her own small dog (she has the ipod headphones clamped on at all times to keep the public at bay). Milla turned up in her column because he took against her dog, and by extension took against her and apparently bit her on the backside (which I rather doubt). Trisha’s piece (as I recall it, it was some time ago) came dressed as a cry to other dog owners to keep their animals under control (even though her own pet goes loose and does do a bit of wandering off when the power walking becomes too tedious). In response to the column, and under one of my loonie-letter-writing pseudonyms, I wrote to the EDP suggesting that the animal in question (ie Milla, who, of course, I knew it to be) might be awarded a medal on behalf of all the women of Norfolk who had rather let themselves go and were not too bright either. This latter referred to a remark Trisha had been dim and conceited enough to make to Lynn Barber for a national newspaper interview (in the Observer) some while before. In Barber’s piece – which subsequently received huge local publicity – Trisha declared herself to be the only well-turned out and super-intelligent piece of crumpet to be found at the school gates come three o’clock, but, hey, wasn’t that was just one burden of living out in the sticks with the hicks (I hope you’re all keeping up at the back). Anyway, as you might imagine, as a consequence of this background, Trisha is not so popular in Norwich, and even though she was a columnist in the paper my letter still found its way into print under the headline ‘Ouch!’ and with an accompanying picture of Trisha looking pained beside it! This was a happy day for S Foster aka ‘Yours Sincerely, Sidney Bonkers.’
But back to Milla. The prompt for the book idea (My Adventures With Milla) came when Jeff said that owning the animal had rather curtailed his life. Though I knew something of what he meant by this, I asked him to expand. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘For instance, I used to love walking by the sea but we cannot do that anymore as Milla drinks it and then has projectile diarrhoea in the back of the car on the way home.’
‘Ah yes,’ I said, ‘That’s a good one. What else?’
‘Well, we can’t really go anywhere on holiday with him like we did with our other dogs.’
‘Why not?’ I asked.
Jeff looked at me as if to say, Do I really need to explain? This is rather obvious isn’t it: it’s because of his ‘general behaviour.’ (True enough, I had a few [big] paw marks about my midriff from where Milla, in his most traditional way, had made several efforts to mug me for biscuits. There is always some forensic evidence of a meeting with him.)
Milla is about seven now, Ollie would be the same age. Jeff and I picked them up at about the same time – when they were each somewhere between six and twelve months. Jeff went on to say that Milla’s real problem is that he is completely insecure, that it is only his routine that anchors him, that if things don’t happen in exactly the same way at the same time every day then he is easily freaked out. Ollie was a lot like that; maybe it is a common neurosis in a rescued animal.
After a short pause, and perhaps thinking about another good passage for his forthcoming bestseller, Jeff said that Milla was also the greediest animal he’d ever come across. Many dogs are principally motivated by food: Dylan is very greedy, and indeed Leo, an elderly golden Retriever (who makes a guest appearance in Along Came Dylan, and who is usually out walking alongside Milla) had been admonished by his owner, John, during this morning’s walk for scoffing something repulsive (possibly a tie-up from a sock) that he had found on a rugby pitch.
I asked Jeff for a specific. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘Take last night. Milla was asleep in his basket, by the radiator, snoring away…’ (here Jeff mimed the upside-down stance with the legs stretched akimbo towards the ceiling). Next thing, he said, Pam (Jeff’s wife) opens the fridge door, which is two room’s away and, ‘Milla flies out of his basket into the air as if the sniper’s bullet has just whistled past his ear…’