I hear him, like a steam train chugging its way, uphill, as he lies, panting rapidly in the heat of the stove. He loves the heat, I’d go as far as saying he lives for the heat. His coat of fine black hair affords him little protection against the biting winter weather. I see him, like a newly purchased flat-pack, stretched across our coffee, cream and deep pink striped rug; once vibrant and opulent but many years on, now faded and ordinary thanks to the full-on rays of the sun through our sunroom patio door.
Hooch loves hugs and attention and makes it his business to snuggle up to you. The only off-putting thing being his often offensive bad breath but this can be accounted for by the fact that he has stomach ulcers. Yes, he was on the verge of death when he wandered into my mother-in-laws home. He was wafer thin, ribs as visible as the sheets of rusting corrugated roofing on our garden shed. Now being a lurcher or stunted greyhound it’s in his nature to be slim but there is slim and slim in it so much so that even 12 months after rescuing him, a parcel courier was so shocked; when he delivered the fruits of some online shopping to us, that he almost accused us of neglect and was poised to report us to the powers that be!
The one possession Hooch brought with him, from his previous unhappy home, was a thick black boot-lace, wrapped tightly round his neck as a make-shift collar. Sadly the previous owner didn’t allow for growing room, so this boot-lace collar was embedded in his skin and when cut and removed left a deep trench-like track in his neck. A few days more and his misery would surely have ended; happy release I’d imagine.
But we were to scupper all that and two years and six months on he’s a whole different dog. His coat is not a dull, lacklustre black now but a shiny, healthy blue-black. It might even remind you of the over-zealous blue-black home-dyed hair styles, occasionally still seen. I should add, his previous poor diet has resulted in him becoming vegan; not by choice mind you like our teenage son John, but his ulcerated stomach needs a special diet which has allowed his starved innards to recover well enough to rejuvenate his black coat. He has however, a very distinguished grey muzzle; this is very premature taking his age into account. But thankfully he has ample energy now to take numerous, as they’ve come to be known, ‘zoom-zooms’ or sprints around our house – outdoors I might add! This is of course in keeping with his nature. Funny that, when you give it some thought, he didn’t have a role model to learn from but his genes ensure he lives true to his lurcher nature. His ribs are still visible to the eye and to the touch and stroking him brings dandruff to the surface. But, inspite of this he feels soft and warm in the heat of the stove. Thanks to velcro straps he dons a red ‘lagging-jacket-like’ padded coat when he’s outdoors. It’s cute looking, rich red against his sleek and handsome blue-black coat. He also acquired a dusty pink striped polo-neck jumper, which really suits him but probably doesn’t do much for his macho image! I have a treasured photo of him wearing it and he and our daughter Emma are cuddled up together on our two-seater settee and he looks blissfully content… as does she!