I have been banned. It is a Dog ASBO. I am no longer allowed in the nature reserve by the pond.
It’s not just you, Hergest, says the Owner. They have banned all dogs from the Nature Reserve.
I say, I know it is me.
It isn’t you, she says patiently. It does not just ban Moral Dogs, it bans All Dogs. Almost certainly an Amoral Dog has been chasing squirrels and the Park Warden has failed to appreciate the difference between Amoral and Moral on the Dog Front.
Certainly I have seen amoral dogs chase squirrels, I say, although not with the skill that Houdini and Bercow employed when we attempted to herd several of them through that Tai Chi class. Although I vaguely remember remember some misunderstanding when we tried to join in.
It isn’t you, she says. All dogs are banned from the reserve. It is nothing to do with the time when you knocked over nine Small Humans in a row whilst they were eating their cheese.
They did seem to enjoy it, I said. They screamed most thrillingly and they shared their cheese. I remember the screaming. And, vaguely, some hysteria from their Owners.
I am quite sure it is unrelated to your excavation of the bark chippings, she says.
It would not be that, I say, why else would bark chippings even be there? I suppress a memory of the Owner attempting to put them all back whilst the Park Keeper waved his arms like a windmill.
I am absolutely certain nobody could have objected to your shaking yourself dry and thus soaking that Charming Elderly Lady after that particularly frustrating taunting by ducks, she says. She was not very wet. And pond smell comes out eventually.
I look at the sign which says ‘no dogs, please.’ I remember the delightful scent the Charming Elderly Lady had acquired yet her inexplicable use of a not-entirely-charming word about the Moral Dog.
I say, you know it is me too.
No I don’t, she says. I think the Park Warden has an unnatural sympathy for the squirrels.
I look through the fence at the vast emptiness of the Reserve, uncontaminated by Dogs, Moral or Otherwise. It is full of squirrels, looking excessively smug, and bark chippings, looking horribly tidy.
The squirrels look back. I say, they know it is me too.
They are just Squirrels, said the owner, they think only of nuts and of Other Squirrels. They do not know anything. The Moral Dog takes such squirrels in his stride.
She is right. The Moral Dog would not be banned from the reserve for knocking over small children (that was Caspar) or excavating park chippings (there were better chippings underneath) or attempting to better his inner self through Tai Chi (he was almost certainly bettered), or wetting elderly ladies (water is good for the health). The opinion of squirrels is irrelevant. There must be a misunderstanding.
I hug the fence of the reserve, walking right round the edge, looking for a sign that says ‘Moral Dogs This Way.’ No such sign is apparent. Instead I meet Caspar, airing his fluff as he gazes at the ‘No dogs this way either, truly none at all,’ sign on the other side.
Look, I say to him. They have banned dogs from the reserve. The Owner says it’s because of squirrels.
Caspar gazes at the sign, at the place where the Tai Chi people fell over and the spot where the Small Humans toppled into their cheese, at the area where the Park Keeper is re-laying the bark chippings and the new sign warning Elderly Ladies that the smell of pond water does not always come out. Seriously, he says, you really think it’s because of squirrels?
I knew it.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.