A Policeman's Best Friend?
An extract from the book - just a taster!
“I have never known why some of us walk on four legs and others walk on just two. It seems strange to me. I’ve always used four. I have a tail, of course, Sometimes those with four legs have no tail. But I do. You can be sure though that the dogs with two legs never have a tail. Oh yes, they will sometime go round and round in circles but it’s not because they’re chasing their tail. I used to like chasing my tail but I’ve grown out of that now. I used to like chasing cats but now I prefer chasing other dogs, especially the two-legs.”
“I was partnering Saunders that day. He was, as usual, dressed immaculately. I had polished my shoes over the weekend and was a match for him in the shoe department, on that occasion at least. We arrived at the address we had been given. It was an anonymous road in West Acton, much like the others in the vicinity. We parked round the corner and briefly rehearsed our piece. As we approached No. 80 Clanford Crescent we were greeted by a large Alsatian dog. It turned and scratched at the front door; it seemed to be asking to be let it in. We rang the doorbell.”
‘Marge, can you get that please,’ cried Henry from the attic where, it transpired, he was working on the new track layout for his model railway. It was based on the junction between the mainline and the disused section that extended as far as Norton Junction.
‘It’s the police, Henry, they want to come in.’
‘Okay, I’ll be down in just a minute.’ Henry assumed they must have come in response to the report he had made about some tools that had gone missing from the garden shed, including an electric hedge-trimmer.
Mrs Reardon invited the officers in and as she unchained the door a large dog brushed past her into the house almost before she had time to utter an exclamation of surprise. The two officers followed immediately, dutifully wiping their feet on the doormat as they entered. She ushered them into the front parlour.
‘Henry will be down in just a moment. Can I offer you a cup of tea?’ Mrs Reardon enquired.
“That would be nice,” I said, “White with two sugars. And the same for my colleague, please.” Saunders never drank tea but together they had established this standard response to avoid complication.
“I explored all around the living-room, especially behind the sofa. I found an old dry biscuit and two sweet wrappers. I felt sure I could smell something more interesting but I couldn’t quite place it. Perhaps it was a faint trace of rabbit? I wasn’t sure but it seemed vaguely familiar.”
Henry appeared at the door to the living room.
‘Good Afternoon Gentlemen. Good news is it?’ He saw that the police had brought reinforcements with them. An Alsatian was sitting with its back to the fireplace, facing him as he stepped into the room. It wagged its tail and looked from him to the two officers, who had stood up.
‘Do please sit down. No standing on ceremony. As I was saying – do you have any news?’
“I let Saunders take the lead on this as it had been his collar. Mrs Reardon reappeared at the doorway carrying a tray laden with crockery and cakes. I got up straightaway and offered to assist, clearing a space on the occasional table in the corner of the room, nearly tripping over the dog in the process.
“I decided to sit down on the rather fine goatskin rug placed invitingly in front of the open fireplace. It was a good spot, even on a warm day like today when the fire remained unlit. I watched and listened carefully as tea was served. One of the policemen, the shorter one I think, tripped over my tail. Almost stood on it in fact! No respecters of tails these two-leggers, I tell you.”
“Saunders seemed to be wrapping things up and I had finished my tea. Mr and Mrs Reardon seemed pleased with the conclusion to matters.”
‘Another cake?’ Mrs Reardon offered temptingly.
‘Now come on Marg, we mustn’t keep these officers any longer. I’m sure they’ve got work to do!’
“As a matter of fact we had, but it was only paperwork and neither of us were thrilled at the prospect.”
“As no-one had offered me a piece of cake I decided I should go and see what might be hidden behind the armchair in the corner of the room, just under the three plaster ducks hanging on the wall and next to the fern plant on a wooden stand. I carefully avoided the plant and began to search for anything interesting I could find.”
“We had completed our enquiries and were getting ready to leave. Then the Alsatian appeared from behind an armchair, turned two circles, and deposited a large dog poo on Mrs Reardon’s carpet.
I looked at Saunders who grimaced. We got up to leave but Mrs Reardon did not look at all pleased. She nudged her husband with her elbow saying: ‘You need to say something to them!’ Then Mr Reardon said:
‘What are you going to do about that?’ pointing to the offending and aforementioned evidence.
‘Why do you want us to do something about it, Mr Reardon?’ I asked.
‘Well it’s your bloomin’ dog, isn’t it?’ replied Mr Reardon.
I looked at Mr Reardon. Mr Reardon looked at me. I looked at Saunders and Saunders looked at Mr Reardon. The dog looked at the floor.
‘No, it’s your dog,’ I said.
‘Oh no it isn’t!’ said Mr Reardon. ‘It came in with you and your colleague.’
‘It just followed us in, it’s not ours’ replied Saunders.
‘Oh yes it is!’
“It was at this point that I realised my police career was now hanging in the balance. Still, it was good to be a police dog, even if it was only for a short while. At last the front-door was opened and I dashed out of the room and past the two policemen as fast as I could.”
“As we reached the front gate we saw the Alsatian bound up to a man; he was barking and wagging his tail in greeting -the dog that is, not the man.
‘So there you are! Now where’ve you been? What’ve you been up to?’ asked the man as he reciprocated the dog’s delighted greeting.
And now I watch, without saying a word, as Saunders approaches the pair and commences what must be a tactful interview, undertaken by himself as a uniformed representative of the Law:
‘Good afternoon, Sir. Is this dog yours, by any chance?’
‘Well, yes, he is. This is Rover.’
‘Yes, we’re already well acquainted, Sir. I am obliged to inform you that your dog is required to wear a collar at all times and to be kept on a lead in public.’
‘Why yes, of course. I’m afraid he was in the garden and must have got loose somehow. I’ll put him on the lead straightaway.’
‘Oh and just one other thing, Sir,’ said Saunders, without missing a beat and keeping a perfectly straight face.
‘Certainly, what’s that?’
‘I believe this belongs to you, Sir?’ and so saying he handed the man a doggie-poo bag.
A couple of weeks later I was queuing for lunch in the police canteen and bumped into Noakes, the police-dog handler:
‘I hear we are now using plain clothes police-dogs!’ he said.
‘That’s right’, I answered, ‘Saunders idea, of course!’