- Vol. 03
- Chapter 11
DRY DOBBINSheba, the Labrador, was golden and more likely to lick a body to death than bite them or otherwise harm them, and she enjoyed a good walk out the back roads as much as her owner. Her gentle nature and unfailing obedience allowed her a modicum of freedom away from urban traffic which might startle her into a panic.
Living in the suburbs so close the rural idyll, Jim delighted in seeking out new routes, or simply mixing up the well-trodden ones for variety. The boy was a loner and treasured what he called the “country” more than most of his friends or family.
It was a Thursday approaching autumn when he turned off Upper Bligh’s Lane to follow the Glassagh Road down to the Crevagh. Corralled in a loosely strung wire enclosure around the concrete bas of an old British Army checkpoint were four ponies and a foal; a taller than average black stallion keeping imperious watch.
Before Jim could fathom her moving from heel, she had bounded across the road and under the wires.
“Get back here!” Jim ordered more harshly than he’d intended. He was annoyed at the farmer’s negligence with regard to the ludicrous ‘fence’ and that irritation had slipped into his command.
Sheba stopped dead, staring adoringly at her master and then head-swivelling to pant excitedly up at her first ponies.
“Here!” Jim slapped his right thigh, and moderated his tone.
He was only worried that the labby might be trampled. He knew this mode: COME ON AND PLAY.
Sheba did the tongue loll and quick panting Jim had always taken for excited laughter, and weaved in and out of the ponies’ legs. She seemed to understand that a certain line should not be crossed, for she carefully avoided approaching the foal.
The ponies, for their part, deliberately avoided either stomping on her or accidentally kicking her as they performed a surreal ballet around the dog, but Jim got the feeling they were tiring of the game.
As he moved closer to grab the labby, the stallion gave Jim a look which suggested a stern arm-folding.
Sheba bowed her head sheepishly and slunk towards him.
“Ya dafty, do you not know–”
The stallion rattled a rapid tattoo with its shod hooves on the concrete directly behind the dog.
Startled by the noise, she nearly jumped into the boy’s arms.
“That’ll teach you,” he laughed at her while nodding approvingly at the stallion.
The animal half nickered, half snorted. Seemed it had a sense of humour too.