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My Next of Kin

by stevencomyns 

Posted: 04 July 2004
Word Count: 10191

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My Next of Kin
George Comyns

As published in "Dogs Today" Magazine 10/2003-7/2004
Chapter 1
"Doga non Grata"

We came from a very far away country, my next of Kin and I, actually he is called Ken. We left a land that treated us both like dogs. Master promised me a kingdom where all dogs are equal to their fellow men.

In the old country, due to my mischievous behaviour, we were sentenced to endless fines and community work, up until the point that the authorities declared me “Doga Non Grata”, we had to find an alternative habitat to go and live in. I was to become the first canine political asylum seeker in the world.

Due to the fact that my master was born in paisley, I automatically became a subject of her Royal Majesty. “In the UK”, he said, “dogs can ride on buses and trains; they are looked after if they get lost, and people really respect dogs.

Dogs have their own TV programs and even some vets are big celebrities. Best of all, HRH, the head of state, treats her dogs much better than she treats the majority of her subjects” he added.
“It is a true dog loving country, the promised land of pedigree products and real pig’s ears, even the Greatest Briton of them all, Churchill, had a dog named Rufus”.

“But there is a wee catch”, said my two legged friend, “for dogs, [like for many other services in that country] there is a six month waiting list, just to enter the country, now that just goes to show how good a place it must be”.

He enquired how I would feel to live in quarantine with other dogs for half a year, “just to make sure you do not have rabies”. “Do not need to” I told him “Me not got rabies, that’s why I get an injection each year”.

“In any case” I added “Six months away from me, you want stand a chance in hell to survive, you forget that you are half blind and I am the only one willing to show you the way”.

“Also, now that the wife dumped you, who’s going to keep you warm at night. I am not going to no jail, not even for one night, even the thought is distressing”.

A state run prison for six months, just to get in, they do not sound such a dog loving country to me, rather the opposite.

Now I am three years old, they certainly will not let me out sooner on the grounds of good behaviour. He actually wanted me to sit three and one half years of my doggie life in jail, and I did nothing wrong, guilty before proven innocent, that’s not very democratic.

“If you come to this jail with me” I suggested, “and you will bring both my pillows, I may reconsider, other wise we shall talk of it no more”.
So he wrote to ten UK quarantine Kennels asking if they would take a Golden Labrador and a thirty eight year old man for six months, but none did.

He suggested he would work for his keep, but all they wanted was the £ 2500 it would cost to keep me behind bars for six months. Another novelty pay the cost of your time without doing the crime.

I was not to sure of this “dog loving” country, I said to my master, “why not France, I know you do not like the French but they actually adore me, well dogs like me and there is no waiting jail there”.

I suggested that he should do what he usually does, when he needs help, search the web.

After ten minutes he found out that there is a way to enter the UK without going to jail for six months. “All we have to do” he said “is go and live in the EU for six months and then her Majesty will agree to give you a Pet Passport”.

Chapter 2
"One way ticket"

The first thing I did, in order to receive my pet passport, was to get my photo taken, even though it was not required. Ken decided that we will go and work with his uncle that runs a camping site in the south of Italy, I will write and Ken will work in reception. He is good at talking.

Dogs over 8 KG, do not fly in the passenger cabin, but with the luggage. Last time I stood on the scale I was 35 Kg. Under 8 Kg you can fly for free, as hand luggage. I found this out after eating “Yakanuba Light” for a few days.
“It is good for you” my master said, “imagine if you manage to get down to 10 kg, I am sure they will let you fly free”.

The idea was dropped when my master finally understood the magnitude of 25 KG; it is not the same as 25 pounds, as one wise guy told him.

So I needed a canine travel compartment. Ken bought a cheap plastic “mobile jail”; he promised that it is only for the flight to Italy, just a four hour jail flight away.

Naturally I objected. Not even a true mince pie got me near that thing. In any case, it was not large enough for a small poodle, never mind a beautiful Golden Lab.

So we went to the pet shop and bought a larger flying compartment. In the shop I agreed to step in because apparently a bitch in heat just left that cage, but at home no chance.

I stood on all four legs and refused to move in the direction of the medium size jail, a sure way to get DDVT [Doggie Deep Vain Thrombosis].
Well, two fillet steaks and a chunk of cheddar got me inside, but I refused to stay, even sitting my head was hitting the roof, I broke away once I snatched the food.

Ken bought a new updated map of the world, he thought maybe borders have transformed lately, but no matter which direction we took, it was impossible to drive to the EU without being in some kind of jail along the way.

So cheap Ken bought the expensive, deluxe extra large mobile jail, tailor made for Great Danes, the First Class flying cabin for any Lab.

Even when the deluxe jail was not assembled, it did not fit in his friend’s Fiat 127, it was suggested that we should try and fit the car in my new jail.

Ken sold all his possessions for about £97 and had only two suitcases with him. They were on the roof rack of the car. Improvising is Ken’s greatest asset, since he never gets any thing right in the first place.

One of the biggest advantages of the Great Danes deluxe travelling compartment is that it has wheels. So a piece of rope was found, I was placed in my jail, and there and then the compartment was officially converted into the first dog trailer.

“So you get rather a lot for your money after all” my very pleased master shouted to me as we drove along the motorway, at 9 MPH.

It was 5 A.M in the morning when we arrived to the check in. “Tickets please” the ground stewardess said to my master. I wanted to see this kind voice, so I got on my two hind legs and placed the front ones gently on the check in counter.

“Who is the good looking guy” the young beautiful stewardess commented with a great smile on her face. My master, evidently not aware of my position, answered “yes, thanks, you’re not too bad your self, but I am sorry to let you down, you see we are leaving the country never to return, can't you see, we have a one way ticket”.

“I was not talking to you” said the young lady, “I was referring to the dog, a beautiful one, what is his name”, “George” my master managed to mumble and jerked me down.

“Ah yes, we were expecting you two, I am sorry to say there is a slight problem, there is a body in the cabin, so George can not board this flight”.

“Not to worry” said Ken, “I am sure that George won’t mind and taking the other parties position into consideration, I do not think he will raise any objection”.

“You do not understand”, said the lady. “It is against regulations to fly a dead body and a live animal in the same cabin”. “No problem” Ken answered, “Just put the body on the next flight, he isn’t going to sue you, but I sure will if you bump us”. “Dead humans have priority over live dogs” she replied in slight anger, “if he does not take this flight, he will be late for his funeral”.

“Leave that to me” Ken pursued “just give me the phone number of his next of Kin in Rome and I will postpone the funeral, I am sure a few hours won’t kill them and …”

By this time the stewardess was dealing with the next passenger, not before she over charged us for over weight.

So we had to wait five hours in the airport for the next flight to Rome. I really did not mind, since I received so much attention.

When the moment arrived, I passed security and managed to see my master with tears in his eyes, while he was looking at me being placed onto a small vehicle on the way to the plane. I thought I would never see him again, he was probably thinking the same.

A lovely black police Bitch had a good sniff at me, explaining that she is only interested in explosives, money or drugs; she had a great scent, one that was to keep me wagging all the way to Rome.

“Wait” I heard my master scream, “You did not give George a label, and how will they know which flight to put him on?” Ken jumped through the security barrier, over the conveyer belt and stumbled towards my slow moving vehicle.

I thought the airport staff were very helpful when I saw three large guys run after my master, but once they brought him to the ground holding guns to his head, my perception slightly changed.

With blood running down his lip, Ken explained that the stewardess forgot to place a sticker of the destination on my crate; apparently they are not use to flying dogs.

This was one of the tips he read on “travelling with dogs”. So instead of getting a free round the world ticket, I received my sticker “Bound for Rome”.

I did not know that I would be travelling in a cabin with luggage. I thought I will be on the “Doggy Deck”, meet a few friends, have a couple of drinks, maybe play a bit of chase, but there was nothing alive in the cabin but myself.

Since I had nothing better to do, I fell asleep, a few dreams later, most of them chasing a police Bitch; I was awakened to the sound of an unfamiliar language.

After a few minutes I heard the hysterical voice of my master shouting "George George", but I couldn’t come, I was in my crate, on the conveyor belt, going round in circles.

My master was trying to get to me, I thought it was one of his silly games, “Stop canine, stop canine” he shouted until the conveyer belt came to a halt. With the assistance of another dog lover, I was relieved from my position. To show my discontent, I peed in the first plastic tree I saw.

Chapter 3
“Do not touch gone to lunch”

Due to the magnitude of our possessions Ken hired a special porter. He was trying to explain to the Italian that we need to pick up the car we reserved. But only after five minutes did the porter understand his intention, as Ken pantomimed hitting a horn and shouting "Bee Beep".

The porter took us for a long walk through each and every one of Leonardo di Vinci’s car parks, since we were trying to find a lift big enough for our exceptional long trolley.

But the Italians did not think of that. So after fifteen minutes Ken managed to convince the porter to look after the luggage while we “pop up for a few minutes” to the fourth floor to collect the station car.

The queue for the rental car was very long, after forty minutes our number came up, only to be told by the clerk that we were in the wrong queue, this was only the pick up point for the car, but first we had to pay for the car in another building.

So we went for a walk on "moving grounds", [Conveyor belts] until we reached the right counter. Master looked very tired and angry; he is not use to sleeping two hours a night. He was in no mood for politeness. “We reserved a car”, he said, “a station wagon”.

“We” said the rental clerk looking around in a friendly gesture. “Yes” Ken replied as I placed my front legs on the counter and introduced my self, “This is George” Ken proudly said.

“I am so sorry” said the representative “but the station car you ordered has not yet arrived, in fact it won’t be in for a few days, it was involved in an accident yesterday, but we have upgraded you to a two seater sport car, I am sure it will suit you and your dog”.

I actually saw trouble. Because master has high blood pressure and I saw his veins getting very small, a well knowing symptom that the pressure is about to shoot up.
“I reserved the station car, because we need a station car, I have lots of luggage, a dog and a large dog jail to carry, and I do not think it will all go in the sports car boot, if it even has one”.

“Yes I see your point of view” said the nice Italian, “why don’t you take a seat; my manager will be back from lunch in five minutes, we see what we can do for you two”.

“I am in no mood to wait” master said reaching full redness, “I got up at three this morning, after two hours sleep, trailed my dog to the airport, got bumped from my flight, paid a fortune for over weight, nearly lost the dog, had three guns pointed at me, as if that wasn’t enough, on the flight I received a vegetarian meal for lunch. Now I want our station car”!

He screamed, and all the people were moving slightly back, he is a big guy my master, sometimes I like to call him King, after King Kong; he also acts like him sometimes.

A pleasant six foot wide man in a plain suite came up to my master and took him to sit. By this time he was looking for his pills to calm himself down.

The boss came back from lunch after an hour or so, by this time Ken was sleeping peacefully in his seat. It was decided that we will receive an upgrade to a BMW “People Carrier” Ken did not want a German car.

“People who pick a fight”, he says, “Do not deserve to be encouraged, they have already had two, who says they won’t go for third time lucky”. But this really was no time to stand by principals. After an hour we got our big car, but just to find out that it was all in vain.

When we arrived back to the point where we left the porter, all we saw was an empty trolley, every thing was gone. No jail, no suitcases, even the porter disappeared.

The police did find the porter who said that according to the porters union’s regulations from 1953, he does not have to stand by the luggage for more than one and a half hour. In his defence he did add that he left a note stating “Not touch gone to lunch”. Apparently it did not help.

I thought we were never going to leave the airport, maybe this is all that one does in Italy, move around the airport. But as the sun began to set, my next of kin and I drove off with our large, but very empty, “Dog & People Carrier".

Chapter 4
“Bleached out”

We arrived at a closed camp site at four in the morning, so we slept in the car until reception opened at seven. It was a lovely campsite overlooking the sea; a large river ran through it.

We received the bungalow near the entrance; Ken’s uncle probably thought it will be a strategic point for me to be able to guard the camp. Little does he know, I am a true pacifist, without one chromosome of violence in my genes.

I am better at being a guide dog, thanks to Ken. He has a rare eye condition, called Keratoconus, or KC as our American friends call it. In simple words he is dependent on special, very big, [sceral] hard contact lenses to be able to see more than a meter away.

Ken says that they are labelled “hard” contact lenses, because it makes life very hard. Always occupied with his eyes, using eye drops, contacts popping out in awkward situations, not once we could be seen crawling on all fours, in the middle of the pavement, franticly trying to find the damn thing, only to hear the familiar noise of a contact being crunched.

They are also very hard on the pocket, especially all the cleaning and conditioning solutions one needs. He did learn a tip from a specialist in the field that was up till then, a true cost saver.

Instead of expensive protein remover tablets, required once a week, one can use a few drops of domestic bleach to remove protein stains from the lens, the unpleasant side effect, the right hand always stinks from bleach.

Since they are very hard to wear all day, he takes them out now and again, to give his eyes a rest. It is then that I have to guide him to safety; at first it took me time to understand why he was walking straight into a tree, falling of the pavement or trying the right set of keys to the wrong car.

He even managed to “find” one of the collars that special guide dogs wear, being a Golden Lab, it suits me fine, and when Ken puts his Blues Brothers sunglasses on, we are a perfect act.
This way I get to go into lots of places that normal dogs have never set paws before, I really do hate to stay in the car by my self. Ken was planning to take me to all the greatest museums in Europe. But it was not to be.

After a few days in Italy we drove to the local town, I needed to see a Vet and Ken wanted some bleach, to clean the stained shower curtain in our cabin, and of course his lenses.

When we drive, I generally place my rear paws on the back seat and my front ones in the space between the two front seats, my nose touching the window, making sure Ken can see where we are going.

He searched all over the local town stores for bleach, trying to explain that in pantomime, is not easy. He thought it would be quicker to teach the Italians English, than trying to pantomime “where can I get plain bleach”.

We were offered products like washing powder, baking soda, toothpaste, floor cleaning material, cream cheese, but none of them simply bleach.

After a few shops, Ken started to open and sniff suspected bottles that may contain pure bleach, sooner than later, he was complaining that he feels sick and has problems breathing, but these are daily complaints.

His last chance for bleach was the big supermarket, just an hour drive away to the north. After getting lost ten times, we found the supermarket, he justifies not stopping to ask for directions by saying “I know where it is, in any case, getting lost is part of getting there”.

I was tied out side, and had a fine view of the supermarket. After half an hour I saw his trolley full with products he will never use, and he was standing opposite the cleaning material section, not far from me.

This super store certainly had a wide choice of brands, but clearly none of them said plain bleach on them.

Ken was sniffing away like mad, opening and closing bottles, at last he found what he was looking for, but that was only after he put his tongue to the liquid. He proudly showed me the bottle, and proceeded to the check out counter.

I saw Ken by the counter, but soon lost sight of him. Ken must have hit the ground. A lot of Italian commotion was going on, and my master seemed to be in the middle of it.
I was not really worried, because I thought Ken was trying one of his tricks to avoid paying, maybe sue the supermarket for having a wet floor, or just looking up some lady’s skirt, all things he is known to have done before.

The next big event was an ambulance that pulled up in front of the supermarket and two men in white coats were pushing a long trolley, just like the one the porter had in the airport.

They placed Ken on it and tried to retrieve the bottle of bleach from his hand, but unconscious Ken was having nothing of it, it seemed as if his hand was cemented to the bottle.

Since they new I was with him, “his next of Kin” I entered the ambulance and sat by the driver. This was to be the best drive of my life, 90 MPH, in the city centre, racing through red lights, siren screeching on top and the window open all the way! Now if that is not the ultimate definition of dog fun, then what is?

After a few hours, Ken’s uncle arrived at the hospital, “He is in a comma”, pronounced the doctor, “we have never seen such a severe attack of ammonia and bleach, two highly dangerous liquids, and frankly he had an overdose, would you know why he would want to do that to himself?”

I did not want to step in and say that it was to save a few Euros on protein remover tablets; they would not believe me anyway. Ken was in a comma for three months, his uncle and I visited him every day, each time I tried licking and barking him up, but nothing helped.

Until, one day a new patient joined the room, a wee boy, with a brand new football on his Inter Milan bed sheets. The boy was no more than seven years old, but extremely strong. I managed to grab the ball from his hands and we started to play.

I was jumping up and down on the beds with the ball in my mouth, when suddenly Ken’s dripper placed it self in front of my tail, It wagged it to the floor, bringing down a few monitors with it, the boy burst out in tears, his grandmother ran in and started to scream in Italian, the nurse scurried in, and started to pray when she saw the mayhem.

“Scottie, beam me up” I cried out to the Enterprise, but they could not read me. So I gathered I should release the ball and retreat to the safety of Ken’s bed, I landed on his chest; he gave a huge cough and sat up, quite bemused.

“Now what did I do with the bleach?” he said, everyone in the room was amazed, not that he awoke after three months of being in a comma, but for asking such a stupid question. In any case I was delighted to get him back, even though he muttered “where’s my pussycat”.

Ken paid the humongous hospital bill; he calculated that it was equivalent to one hundred and ninety years of protein removal tablets supply, a cost he was determined to return, by continuing to use bleach to clean his lenses for the next two centuries. Ken had to recuperate at his uncle’s camp site for three months, “The fresh air will fix him up” the Doctor said.

Chapter 5
“Sniffing Spree”

All morning I was digging for the bone I nicked from the kitchen, while Ricardo, the chef, was liquidating the whisky bottle, I just couldn’t remember where I buried it.

Ken called my name to tell me were leaving, usually I play deaf; master still thinks I only hear when the fridge light is on. He tried to drag me from my bone site, so I lay flat, that way he can’t budge me an inch.

After shouting, “You are a very very, very bad boy”, he gave up. I had another few minutes for excavations. Only when master starts to drive away, and leaves the back door open, I know it is really time to go.

As we drove off from the camping site, my den for the last six months, I think, Antonio, Ken’s uncle, was slightly happy to see the back of us at least that would explain why he was franticly jumping up and down. The capital was our next destination.

Twenty minutes on the road and we encountered a phenomenon of a different kind, one we have never observed. In the middle of the highway there was a machine that regurgitated a ticket.

Ken’s theory was that this is a new way to enforce the Italian driver to slow down. “The start time is printed on the ticket” he explained “and, if you arrive at the next gate, before the estimated arrival time, that means you were driving to fast, and you get a huge fine”. After a few hours, as usual, his theory collapsed.

The traffic was funnelling in to their finishing points. In a booth, a middle aged man was pointing at some sign, “This is my ticket” Ken said proudly,” I am sure we arrived later than stated”.
“Money” said the man in pigeon English, whilst rubbing his right thumb against the other fingers. “No thank you” replied master “we have 287 Euros in cash”.

“Pay pay” shouted the Italian; we could hardly hear him over all the tooting cars behind. “Imagine, state sponsored beggars” said Ken and gave the man a Euro.

By that time a man in uniform approached, “Park over there; you and canine are doing trouble”.

“59 Euros toll tax” said the man, Ken was outraged “what do you mean I have to pay for the use of a road, is this some kind of joke? Are you from the mafia? I demand to speak to your Don”.

“If you don’t pay we arrest you”. “Ok, ok, we pay, retreated Ken, “but you must give us a discount, they were road works for about 60 miles, and many pot holes …”

The Italian called for back up on his walkie-talkie, Ken handed him Sixty Euros and retreated mumbling “your minister will be hearing from me”.

I fell asleep on my back in the back seat, trying to figure out what happened to the bone, after dreaming I found it, I was abruptly awakened by my partner, “get up cash disposal, we have arrived at the campsite”.

Lovely place, just of Via Aurelia the everlasting road leading to Rome. By our cabin hut, lay a gigantic animal. “Great marketing” Ken commented “they really give you the impression you’re in the nature, just look at the giant stuffed deer”.

I was a bit sleepy, but the “stuff” also spread a scent, so to be on the safe side, I barked and it suddenly arose, ten times my size it was. Ken was absolutely stunned and said,” Welcome to Rome George, where Bamby shares her sleeping quarters with humans”.

In the morning, I licked Ken up, since I wanted to go for a wee, or as we dogs refer to it as “P-Mail”, our broadband grapevine. Master wanted to call the minister of transport.

Soon he was in the telephone booth; he learnt that people come quicker to the phone, if you tell them you’re a reporter for the Times.

I went on a sniffing spree, and a brand new scent was ascending up my nostrils, a bird kind, goodie, maybe I will get to chase it. I looked up, and all I saw was a long thin leg.

I raised my head a further ten degrees, and saw a large, deer size body attached to two hairless legs; at first I thought I was seeing double, but in fact they were two of these creatures.

Naturally, I barked, anticipating that as any other sensible birdie, they will fly away, but this was not to be. Instead, both chased me, a first for any dog I guess.

As fast as I have ever retreated, I ran towards the telephone booth, where Ken was standing facing me, the receiver dropped from his hand, I jumped in and clung to his shoulders, not before I managed to kick the doors closed.
Ken stuttered “Oh my god, look what the dog just brought in” both monster birds gazed master in the eye, which wasn’t hard for any of them since they are all over six feet tall.

“Get off danger magnet”, he shouted “this is unbelievable, I just got through to the minister's secretary”.

I slid down my master, while he called reception, “I am so sorry to bother you with such a wee matter” he said, “but there seems to be two gigantic ostriches that have decided to cage me and my dog in your telephone booth”.

“Now” he added, “Listen carefully, call the Safari and demand to know what the reward is for finding them, before informing them where they are, and tell them to send along their best marksman.

“Don’t worry” laughed the lady over the line, “it’s just Max and Eva, our resident ostriches, a few years ago a young Lab mistook their eggs for a rugby ball, ever since they don’t like Labs, I will send my husband, he will shoo them away”.

We shooed of the safari camping site within twenty seconds of being released. We were heading to the Vatican; Ken said that the Pope will get upset if he heard that we were in Rome and did not visit him.

Chapter 6
“Barking wet sand bag”

Rome, what a fun city it turned out to be. Where else can a dog drink fresh mountain water from a stone wall, dip in giant fountain pools, and scoop up ice cream, all in a dog’s day!

We went to visit the tenant in the Vatican, but he decided to visit Poland without telling us, so Ken decided to take a walk through history, we headed for the Coliseum.

While strolling round the perimeters we came across some odd Italians. A few young men, wearing a dress, were standing on square podiums, holding a plastic sword. Seemingly they were imposing as macho Gladiators; and demanding ten Euros for a joint photo.

Two dear old American ladies were actually contemplating if it was worth their money; it seemed they needed a little extra incentive. The Gladiator, highly attentive to the demands of his potential clients, raised one hand and pointed at me, with the other, he vigorously waved his plastic sword whilst roaring “beware of the giant lion”.

Show time I assumed! Aren’t they friendly the natives?

As a true lion I jumped on the podium, easily removed the sword from the Gladiator’s hand, and on my way down, unintentionally, knocked the macho off balance.

He was lying flat on his back, skirt up to the belly button, only then did the dear old ladies discharge a whole film on this muscular, but slightly unconscious Gladiator.

As usual, when I do something unintentionally of this magnitude, Ken immediately disassociates from me, and started to walk away from the crime scene.

Before joining him, I slapped a huge lick on the macho, just to make sure he was ok, he smiled and said, “I should have known, lions, they always did win”. Ken thought it was a good time to flee town.

Our destination: a camping site south of Genoa. Surprise, surprise, master couldn’t find the place. It was late evening and Ken was running out of “ET” [“Eye Time” on good days he can wear his contacts for eight hours a day, hence his “ET” is 8, to the rest of the day he refers to as “BT”, “Blind Time”].

In a few minutes he will be forced to remove his contact lenses, without them he can hardly walk straight, never mind drive. Ken was desperate and parked at the first available space.

Once he detached his gigantic contact lenses from his red swollen eyes, he positioned the front seats in a lying position and we both dozed off on our backs. As I fell asleep, he elbowed me to tell me to stop “sleep barking”, and just then a knock was heard on the window.

“Only hotel guest here park” said a man in uniform. Ken put on his semi smile, “But we are guests” he replied. “Number of room” the man asked, “103” snapped back Ken. “No room 103” replied the concierge; “room’s only second floor start, please drive away”.

“I can’t” replied master, “You see I have Keratoconus”. He usually says that when he gets to a dead end. Ken got out of the car and gazed for some time at the lobby of the five star Hotel.

“Right” said master, whilst his left leg trembled, “how much is double room, no breakfast”. “189 euro” responded the man. Ken was silent for a few minutes and finally muttered, “Ok we take it”.
“We” said the man, looking around “are you waiting for wife? “No, she left” replied Ken “it’s just me and him now”.

“No allow canine in hotel”, said the Italian. “You don’t understand” replied Ken, pantomiming mouth to mouth respiration between words “Canine has a rare heart condition, his atomic pacemaker can go any second, I must stand by him at all times, for first aid and that”.

The Italian laughed out loudly, moving his head back and holding his forehead. “How can canine save you” said our Italian Manuel, obviously loosing the plot.

“Sir goes away or I call security”. “Ok” surrendered Ken, “canine sleep in car, I take a single please”. They both walked into the hotel leaving me in the car.

After ten minutes Ken appeared looking much refreshed. We went for a walk and a swim in the sea and after an hour returned to the car.

Master took out my steel plate and poured some granules in to it. He proceeded to open a tin of moist meat and mashed it all up with his right hand.
I ate half and walked away; imagine eating like a dog on the street, not very appetizing. Ken took out my other steel bowl and filled it with mineral water. I took a few sips, the rest; Ken unsuccessfully tried to return to the bottle.

“Good night” he said as he opened the back door, “See ya in the morning” and went up the stairs without looking back. Not much one dog can do in the back seat of a car, so I chew the safety belt away.

After an hour Ken returned and lay on his seat, while nodding off he was mumbling “Imagine paying 100 Quid to sleep in a car with a barking wet sand bag”.

At dawn, since licking didn’t help, I barked him up and we went to do some important business. Back at the hotel we noticed that also in Italy every one is still sleeping at 5 in the morning, so we sneaked up stairs. Ken stuffed me in a bubble bath and dried me off with a medium size bathrobe, soon after we fell asleep in the king size bed.

At 11:59 A.M, we sneaked out through the fire escape, destination the French Alps.

Chapter 7
"French Delight"

Back in the car with all of my newly acquired Italian assets with me, a dozen slightly chewed water bottles, a few “scalped” footballs, a dozen tennis balls, and one 14th century miniature canon ball, that I picked up just outside the old city of Florence.

We took the low way to France, which was actually up through the Alps. The only way we knew we were crossing the Italian-French border, apart from two deserted old wooden cabins and a worn out painted line across the road, was the fact that the signal on our mobile phone, changed from an Italian network to a French one, and it was exactly over the painted line.

We stopped to take a leak. No one but us were there, so Ken forced me to join him in hopping back and forth from Italy to France, each time amazed that the mobile signal interchanged in mid air. “What a great way to define borders”, he said.
We stopped at a divine place called Jausiers, ten miles east of Barcelonnette, in the heart of the French Alps. It was seven in the evening, the sun was declining behind massive mountains, and people were going about their important business, which seemed to be nothing at all.

The first thing we set about to do was find a place to sleep. The idea of camp sites was abandoned since Ken never seemed to be able to find them.

As every day, before seeking accommodation, a source of water would be found. Not only for my free drink, but also to take a daily dip, may it be in a lake, a river or as in today’s case, the village Alpine water fountain.

It was far too high for me to enter by my self, so big Ken picked me up and dipped me three times in and out of the freezing water, while mumbling some ancient Gallic blessing he just made up.
As he was drying me off, he was begging me to behave my self when we meet our night umpire, “he who will decide”, if we sleep in the cold car or a nice cosy bed. The only thing I was allowed to do was sit when instructed.

We knocked on a huge door, the entrance to once some ancient mansion, which now was a “Bed and Breakfast”. “Bonjour”, my master said to the middle aged woman, wearing an apron who greeted us at the door.

She naturally replied in French, which we did not understand. Ken smiled but did not want to be rude and interrupt the flow of the Frenchwoman.

“English?” my master said after he plucked the courage to say something. “No”, said the woman and left the entrance never to return. A younger woman arrived, “You must excuse my mother, she does not speak English, I am Delphine how may I help?”

“We are looking for a room for the night; my dog here suffers from a poor heart condition, he has an atomic pace maker, so I can’t leave him to sleep in the car…”

“Really no need for that” Delphine replied smiling, and immediately said, “Kindly put the dog on the scale behind me”.

“36 Kg, for dogs we charge 1 Euro per 5K, per night, room only. Dinner is 7 euro; today we have a choice of rabbit or frog stew”. “Put both of us down for the rabbit stew” Ken requested.

She showed us to our room, the Alps could be viewed from my bed, which was big enough for Ken.

“This is our doggy bar” proclaimed the young lady, pointing out at a lovely basket, full of "organic, ethically selected, free range dog treats", it is 18 euro per basket”. “Well have two” said Ken.

“Oh yes, we also have a beauty parlour”. “Don’t really think it can help me” answered Ken, “oh no, it’s not for you, it’s for the dog, 30 Euros per treatment, includes a bath, grooming and nails”. “Some soap will do him good” said Ken.

My quarters also included a shelf with tooth paste and a disposable tooth brush that I still use. Samples of toilet water were displayed, not the kind I occasionally drink, but apparently the kind one French dog puts on his body.

At dawn, I licked master up; I seemed to have eaten too much. Ken left a huge tip, something he rarely does, and promised to return in the summer. Lyon was our next stop before Paris; soon I will be able to smell the English Channel!

Chapter 8
"All thanks to a Great Dane!"

“A room for one man and his dog”, said my master to the reception clerk as we stopped for the night at a motel somewhere between Lyon and Paris.

“No charge for the dog” the clerk said, “do have a good night”. We were amazed at how Pet friendly the French were. No questions asked, no stories required, no sneaking necessitated.

As if living in the EU for six months did not satisfy her majesties “splendid isolation” animal policy, the were another three ridiculous conditions before I could enter the “promised land”.

The first was to see a vet and receive treatment for a couple of things I will never have. Then, wait 24 hours before crossing the channel, and last, once the 24 hours elapsed, we were obliged to cross it within 48 hours. My heart was out for all the British dogs that never joined their families on holidays abroad and had to spend them behind bars.

Another obstacle, hired cares are not allowed to cross the channel [I presume fear of car Rabies?] so we had to cross as foot passengers.

An extremely kind British official checked my “Pet Passport” before I was allowed to purchase a ticket. Then I was led to my travelling compartment, a steel cage that I refused to enter, and I still would be on the French side of the channel, if it wasn’t for four French guys who “kindly” placed me in it.

The steel cage was placed in a bigger wooden cage. This was eventually placed in a small room size metal container. Ken was supposed to go and sit with the other two legged passengers, but somehow he managed to get himself forgotten in the container.

As we were settling down, a group of five men and four women joined us in the container. They seemed as frightened as I. “We pay sir now?” said the biggest of the gang to my master, while offering him a large amount of banknotes.

By now the container was on its way to the heart of the Hovercraft. “No no” replied Ken politely, “you were supposed to buy your tickets before, any way, how did you get down here?”

“We paid half to your partner at camp Sangattes, they rest he said we give you”. “Sangattes camp site, never been there, we weren’t camping in France, only used hotels, any way, I am just here with my dog, don’t worry about the tickets now it’s ok”.

Even though there was so much money around, the penny did not drop for my “genetically challenged” master. The leader thanked Ken very much and conveyed his group for consultations.

Ken tried unsuccessfully to chat up a nice young female, but all he got was that her name was Yasmin, and that she was from Albania. He deducted that she did not speak English and he gave her his telephone number "if you ever master the English language please give me a call" he said.

After about half an hour the doors of our container opened, apparently we landed at Dover. Ken, with the help of his new friends, relieved me out of my cages, our ways then parted.

We soon got an idea of how “pet friendly” the UK was. We landed at Dover east dock; our hired car was waiting for us at Dover west docks. In vain Ken tried to persuade a Taxi to take us to Dover west.

So he managed to balance all our possessions on two trolleys, to which one of them my lead was attached, and slowly we made our way by foot to Dover west. While walking along the beautiful coast, we saw our nine container friends arising from the sea, running towards the shores, Ken waved them on, they too seemed very happy to reach Dover.
Once we got the car, the first thing Ken did was to call Colin, from QUAFF [Quarantine Abolition Fighting Fund] an organization dedicated to changing the UK rabies quarantine laws for domestic pets.
It was thanks to him that I was saved from spending six months in quarantine jail. It was Colin that guided us through all the bureaucratic procedures from a far away land, to the promised one.
In fact all British dogs that now go on holiday abroad with their family, [if they can afford the 300 pound or so Pet Passports cost that the kind UK vets charge] have to thank him, well his Danish wife.
Since it’s not in the nature of a Brit to challenge authority, it took a Great Dane, living in England, to do so. The wife took the British Government to the EU court of Human Rights in 1999.
She litigated, that during the summer holiday, she had the fundamental right to take her beloved dog, and husband, to Denmark with her, without having to imprison the dog for six months on return.
She won, which forced the UK Government [and its kennel associates] to introduce the Pet Passport scheme.

Chapter 9
"Pet friendly UK?"

“A room for one man and his dog” my tired master said to the reception clerk somewhere between Dover and London, as I placed my front two paws on the counter.

“Are you taking the mickey out of me? What kind of establishment do you think we are,” the middle aged man replied in slight anger, and added “may I suggest you both seek a Kennel for the night”.

“I am so sorry” Ken replied, as we retreated, being in France for the last few nights, we were accustomed to being frank about our intentions for the night.

We got lucky at Gravesend. We checked in for the night as one “partially blind” man and his “partially guide dog”. On route to Glasgow, we spent the night at a “Pet Friendly” B&B in the Lake District.

“I gather the dog will sleep in the car” the landlady of the B&B asked Ken as we were disembarking from the car. “I must of made a mistake” Ken said “I thought this was a pet friendly B&B?”, “we are, we are, that’s why we allow them on the premises, it was really my husbands idea, he said it will bring in more customers, it just brings in more work, getting rid of all the hairs”. In the end she gave in, I was to sleep in a cosy bed.

After a speedy breakfast we were on our way to Bonny Scotland, “The Scots are much friendlier to people and dogs” master promised.
Just as we crossed the border it started to rain.

Although Ken was born in paisley, he was brought up in Glasgow, where we wanted to settle down. While seeking an apartment, we found temporary accommodation with a true pet friendly B&B at Loch Winnoch.

We soon found out that most of the flats for rent are for people only; flats and dogs don’t seem to go together in this pet loving kingdom.

After a few days searching, a proprietor was willing to meet us both. His flat was situated in a large cul-de-sac, with many three story flat buildings.

To approach the complex one had to cross a stream and all around were endless acres of grass. Behind the large compound of flats lay a giant golf course, a paradise habitat for any dog.
Each block of flats had a carpeted lobby, two apartments on each floor; our flat was on the first.

“Are dogs allowed here?” master asked. “I think so” replied the landlord “Just to be sure I will ask the gentlemen on the housing committee, he lives in the adjoining building”.

As he left to ask, through the broad windows, we saw a couple of dogs and their masters walking the grounds. Within a few minutes he returned, “no problem about the dog, when do you want to move in? “Tonight” master replied.

That was not a problem; Ken made sure that in the contract I would be mentioned by name, so that I too became an official tenant of the flat.

It took ten minutes to unpack our worldly possessions. Ken fell asleep on the carpet; I lay on my back on my new couch.
In the morning, Ken took a little white sticker, wrote on it “K&G Comyns” and carefully placed it on the letter flap on the door, at last a place we could call home.

While we were eating the remains of last night’s dinner, the doorbell rang. Since I have an instinctive urge to jump up on every person that knocks at my door, Ken opened the door and closed it behind him, he greeted the visitor in the lobby.

“I am Mrs N. Parker, your next door neighbour”. “How nice to meet you” said Ken remembering his British upbringing, an added the inevitable “terrible weather isn’t it”.

“Yes, well” the lady continued without the formalities “It is my responsibility, as this buildings representative, to inform you of our rules and regulations, and although you are here only one day, you have already breached a couple of them.”

“First, I must insist that you remove you’re fairy liquid soap and that bottle of bleach from your kitchen windowsill, not everyone has to see them, it’s not a council flat you know”.

Untypical of Ken, he was extremely polite; “Yes of course, what was I thinking” he replied, “We will remove them right away”.

“Also”, the lady added “Kindly remove that white sticker from the door, unprofessional signs like that diminish the price of the property”. Without objection the sticker was removed.

I scratched the door; I wanted to meet this new neighbour who had so much power over my master, she did not sound like a lovely young looking girl. “What was that noise” Mrs Parker inquired. “Ah, that’s just my next of kin, George”, Ken replied.

“Ah, for a minute I thought that was a dog, I suppose you know it is strictly forbidden to keep any kind of pets in this building”.

Chapter 10
An encounter with the County Sheriff

“George, we have a problem”, master said whiter than usual, while closing the front door. “Mrs, N. Parker, your neighbour, just informed me that no dogs are allowed in this building. She is quite an elderly lady, probably from before the time that dogs were domesticated".

I was fast asleep, on my back, it was pitch dark outside, “Come on you lazy dog” master said, “we are going for our morning walk, I don’t think any one will notice us at 05:00 in the morning”.

So for a few days we managed, with our midnight, and first dawn walks, to go without notice. We were hoping that Mrs Parker, being as old as she is, will forget all about pets not being allowed in the building.

As I was chewing on one of my 13 golf balls I picked up on the course that day, the door bell rang, it was Mrs Parker.

“I see paw marks leading to your door, do you by any chance posses a dog? “Not a very big one”, Ken replied and added. “He is allowed by contract to dwell here, it is all very legal you see”.

“As the representative of the tenants of this building, it is my duty to inform you that you have to get rid of the dog or else we will get a court order to evict him”.

Ken thought of another approach, he let me out from behind the door, “here take a look at this lovely dog, he does not have one chromosome of violence in his genes”.
I sat waging my tail, I new I had to be at my best, I even did my special trick and rolled over. “Tell that beast of yours to stop spreading his hairs all over the carpet; now I know why the cleaning woman was complaining”.

Ken showed the lady his contract explicitly stating that “George, a 3 year old Labrador is an official legal tenant of the flat!”

By that time another occupant appeared, seeing me he at once said “Get that dog out of the building, dogs are not allowed here”. He too was shown the contract. “We will see about this” said the distinguished middle aged man and went up to his flat.

Mrs Parker, with a big smile on her face, said “you’ve had it now; you see he is a County Sheriff”. “Yes my dear, but this is not the Wild West”, Ken replied, not exactly knowing what a County Sheriff was, “Please talk to my landlord” Ken added and pulled me in.

After a few weeks we received a recorded delivery. “This letter contains a citation from the Paisley Sheriff Court”.

Ken found it odd how swift the wheels of justice operate, he was still on the waiting list to see a GP, “quicker to see a judge in this land than a doctor”, he commented, “I wonder if the County Sheriff from upstairs had any thing to do with it?”

I had to leave the flat or the authorities will evict me by force! Apparently the conditions for a pet free building were set a few decades ago, by the Factor, the governing body of the estate, some neighbours don’t mind having dogs, mine took me to court.

On the day of our court appearance our landlord drove us to Paisley; he was extremely anxious because the legal fees were to come out of his pocket.

“Who did that lovely boy do?” asked the court clerk as we entered her majesty’s hall of justice. “No one” Ken replied, “he has not done anything yet”.
The prosecution wanted the court to evict me immediately; Ken was not willing to see me leave without him, so they had to get both of us out. Six weeks was the minimum time Ken estimated that we will need to arrange alternative accommodation.

It was down to the judge to decide, a young female, something we did not expect.

“Could you approach the bench” the judge said to Ken as the hearing opened, naturally I followed him, “what is the dog doing here?” as usual I placed my front paws on the bench to see her ladyship from close up.

“I just brought him along to show how adorable he is, and that he can not hurt a fly”.

I barked for some attention, at first she gave me a serious look, then soon after she held my head with both of her hands and said smiling, “Yes, you are a lovely boy!”

“Objection” shouted the barrister of the pursuer, “Over ruled” snapped back the judge as she patted me on my head. At last justice, a dog loving judge, she gave us two months to organize ourselves before evicting us by force, we were happy, the landlord a bit less, since he had to pay the legal fees of £1500, and he doesn’t even like dogs.

Chapter 11
"The beginning of a beautiful friendship?"

We travelled thousands of miles by plane, boat and car to reach the "Promised Land of Dogs", and for what? To be evicted from our home by her majesties court, it was not a very promising start. We did not know if we would stay in Glasgow, since Ken was looking for a job all over the UK.

If alternative accommodation was not found by eviction day, it had been decided that I would be sent to a Kennel, All the ones we visited resembled Guantanamo Bay, just without the orange outfits.
Ten days before the deadline we went to the Vet to get a cough vaccination, an obligation most Kennels required. As we returned, Ken received a telephone call, "We are going to London", Ken said, he was to start a new job in two weeks.

For a week Ken, and our dear aunt Helen, phoned all of the estate agents in London trying to find a flat that was willing to take one man and his dog.

We soon found out that what you can get for one pound in Glasgow cost two in London. Kens future employer was by Victoria station, so he checked all along the rail route into Victoria for a flat, but none was willing to take us.

Master did find a flat that was ready to accommodate us; he did contemplate upon it, even though it was on one of the Channel Islands, regretfully the ferry services to the mainland were very unreliable.

At last we found a semi detached house, just thirty minutes by train from Victoria station, without seeing it, Ken put down a deposit to rent it.

After acquainting ourselves for four months with Glasgow, It was heartbreaking to leave such a city full of beautiful parks and endless walking opportunities. My favourite place was Barrhead Dams, which should really be re-named the "Barrhead Lake District"; where you can walk, swim and unsuccessfully, chase the ducks all day long.

We were to take the "Flying Scot" to London; I was relieved to find out that it was not a plane; it was to be my first train journey.
Travelling by train is the best way for a dog, ["And it is free!" as Ken kept stating], lots of paw room and even allows for "walkies", not to mention all the people you meet.

The best part of the journey was the guy behind the Buffet counter. Ken was eating sausages and chips, but refused to give me a bite, on the grounds that it was "far too expensive to spend on a dog"; so I went back to the counter and placed my paws on it.

No one seemed to be in sight; therefore I gave a wee bark. "Now what would you like?" said the guy that smelt so good, "maybe a few sausages?" he suggested and went into the kitchen to return with a packet. He was happy to feed me and I was delighted to gulp them down, I had nine in total, until master came to pull me away.

"Maybe I can also get an extra helping" Ken requested with a smile, while holding out his empty plate, but all he got was a pitiful look.

As we landed at Euston, we needed two trolleys to carry all our possessions, and as usual, Ken took one and then connected my lead to the other and made me pull it all the way to the taxi rank.
It was a long and expensive journey to our new home. A nice cul-de-sac, with patches of grass all around.

As we were unpacking, the door bell rang, "Quick hide in the closet under the stairs" master shouted as he pulled me in "maybe it’s a neighbour claiming that large dogs are not allowed here".

"Hi" I heard a nice young kind voice "My name is Yasmin, I live next door, did I not see a young Labrador arrive with you?" "It might have been, that depends, why are you asking?" Ken replied with suspicion in his voice, and added "I do have a legal contract stating that dogs are allowed".

"All I wanted was to suggest that we take our dogs to the river, Molly, my dog, would love a new friend". "I am so sorry" Ken stuttered, and after a long pause added "we would love to take a walk to the river".

I recognised her at once; it was the girl from Albania, the one that crossed the channel with us. They did not recognize each other, which was not surprising for master, since he did not have his contacts on, but what was her excuse?
As we strolled by the river banks, Master, Yasmin, Molly and I, It seemed like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Or was it?

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