Vets Might Fly, page 5
the fugitive zephyr was clearly visible to him and he was determined to
It seemed a year before I got him out of there. Mrs Rumney held the
door wide as I finally managed to steer him towards it but the big dog
wasn't finished: yet. On his way out he cocked a leg swiftly and
directed a powerful jet against!
an immaculate trouser leg.
After that night I threw myself into the struggle on Mrs Rumney's
behalf] I felt she desperately needed my help, and I made frequent
visits and tried innumerable remedies. I consulted my colleague
Siegfried on the problem and he suggested a diet of charcoal biscuits.
Cedric ate them in vast quantities and with evident enjoyment but they,
like everything else, made not the slightest difference to his
condition And all the time I pondered upon the enigma of Mrs Rumney.
She had lived in Darrow by for several years but the townsfolk knew
little about her. It was a matter of debate whether she was a widow or
separated from her husband.
But I was not interested in such things; the biggest mystery to me was
how she ever got involved with a dog like Cedric.
It was difficult to think of any animal less suited to her personality.
Apart from his regrettable affliction he was in every way the opposite
to herself; a great thick-headed rumbustious extrovert totally out of
place in her gracious menage. I never did find out how they came
together but on my visits I found that Cedric had one admirer at
He was Con Fen ton, a retired farm worker who did a bit of jobbing
gardening and spent an average of three days a week at The Laurels. The
Boxer romped down the drive after me as I was leaving and the old man
looked at him with undisguised admiration.
"By gaw," he said.
"He's a fine dog, is that!"
"Yes, he is, Con, he's a good chap really." And I meant it. You
couldn't help liking Cedric when you got to know him. He was utterly
amiable and without vice and he gave off a constant aura not merely of
noxious va pours but of bonhomie. When he tore off people's buttons or
sprinkled their trousers he did it in a spirit of the purest amity.
"Just look at them limbs!" breathed Con, staring rapturously at the
dog's muscular thighs.
"By heck, 'e can jump ower that gate as if it weren't there.
He's what ah call a dog!"
As he spoke it struck me that Cedric would be likely to appeal to him
because he was very like the Boxer himself; not over-burdened with
brains, built like an ox with powerful shoulders and a big
constantly-grinning face they were two of a kind.
"Aye, ah all us likes it when t'missus lets him out in "'garden." Con
He always spoke in a peculiar snuffling manner.
"He's grand company."
I looked at him narrowly. No, he wouldn't be likely to notice Cedric's
complaint since he always saw him out of doors.
On my way back to the surgery I brooded on the fact that I was
achieving absolutely nothing with my treatment. And though it seemed
ridiculous to worry about a case like this, there was no doubt the
thing had begun to prey on my mind. In fact I began to transmit my
anxieties to Siegfried. As I got out of the car he was coming down the
steps of Skeldale House and he put a hand on my arm.
"You've been to The Laurels, James? Tell me," he enquired
solicitously, 'how is your farting Boxer today?"
"Still at it, I'm afraid," I replied, and my colleague shook his head
We were both defeated. Maybe if chlorophyll tablets had been available
in those days they might have helped but as it was I had tried
everything. It seemed certain that nothing would alter the situation.
And it wouldn't have been so bad if the owner had been anybody else but
Mrs Rumney; I found that even discussing the thing with her had become
Siegfried's student brother Tristan didn't help, either. When seeing
practice he was very selective in the cases he wished to observe, but
he was immediately attracted to Cedric's symptoms and insisted on
coming with me on one occasion.
I never took him again because as we went in the big dog bounded from
his mistress' side and produced a particularly sonorous blast as if in
Tristan immediately threw out a hand in a dramatic gesture and
declaimed: "Speak on, sweet lips that never told a lie!" That was his
only visit. I had enough trouble without that.
I didn't know it at the time but a greater blow awaited me. A few days
later Mrs Rumney was on the 'phone again.
"Mr Herriot, a friend of mine has such a sweet little Boxer bitch.
She wants to bring her along to be mated with Cedric."
"She wants to mate her bitch with my dog."
"With Cedric . . . ?" I clutched at the edge of the desk. It
couldn't be true!
"And . . . and are you agreeable?"
"Yes, of course."
I shook my head to dispel the feeling of unreality. I found it
incomprehensible that anyone should want to reproduce Cedric, and as I
gaped into the receiver a frightening vision floated before me of eight
little Cedrics all with his complaint.
But of course such a thing wasn't hereditary. I took a grip of myself
and cleared my throat.
"Very well, then, Mrs Rumney, you'd better go ahead."
There was a pause.
"But Mr Herriot, I want you to supervise the mating."
"Oh really, I don't think that's necessary." I dug my nails into my
think you'll be all right without me."
"Oh but I would be much happier if you were there. Please come," she
Instead of emitting a long-drawn groan I took a deep breath.
"Right," I said.
"I'll be along in the morning."
All that evening I was obsessed by a feeling of dread. Another acutely
embarrassing session was in store with this exquisite woman. Why was
it I always had to share things like this with her? And I really
feared the worst.
Even the daftest dog, when confronted with a bitch in heat, knows
instinctively how to proceed, but with a really ivory-skulled animal
like Cedric I wondered . . .
And next morning all my fears were realised. The bitch, Trudy, was a
trim little creature and showed every sign of willingness to cooperate.
Cedric, on the other hand, though obviously delighted to meet her, gave
no hint of doing his part. After sniffing her over, he danced around
her a few times, goofy-faced, tongue lolling. Then he had a roll on
the lawn before charging at her and coming to a full stop, big feet out
splayed, head down, ready to play. I sighed. It was as I thought.
The big chump didn't know what to do.
This pantomime went on for some time and, inevitably, the emotional
strain brought on a resurgence of his symptoms. Frequently he paused
to inspect his tail as though he had never heard noises like that
He varied his
the lawn and it was after he had done about ten successive laps that he
seemed to decide he ought to do something about the bitch. I held my
breath as he approached her but unfortunately he chose the wrong end to
Trudy had put up with his nonsense with great patience but when she
found him busily working away in the region of her left ear it was too
With a shrill yelp she nipped him in the hind leg and he shot away in
After that whenever he came near she warned him off with bared teeth.
Clearly she was disenchanted with her bridegroom and I couldn't blame
"I think she's had enough, Mrs Rumney," I said.
I certainly had had enough and so had the poor lady, judging by her
slight breathlessness, flushed cheeks and waving handkerchief.
"Yes . . . yes . . . I suppose you're right," she replied.
So Trudy was taken home and that was the end of Cedric's career as a
This last episode decided me. I had to have a talk with Mrs Rumney and
a few days later I called in at The Laurels.
"Maybe you'll think it's none of my business," I said.
"But I honestly don't think Cedric is the dog for you. In fact he's so
wrong for you that he is upsetting your life."
Mrs Rumney's eyes widened.
"Well . . . he is a problem in some ways . . . but what do you
"I think you should get another dog in his place. Maybe a poodle or a
corgi - something smaller, something you could control."
"But Mr Herriot, I couldn't possibly have Cedric put down." Her eyes
filled quickly with tears.
"I really am fond of him despite his . . . despite everything."
"No, no, of course not!" I said.
"I like him too. He has no malice in him. But I think I have a good
idea. Why not let Con Fen ton have him?"
"Con . . . ?"
"Yes, he admires Cedric tremendously and the big fellow would have a
good life with the old man. He has a couple of fields behind his
cottage and keeps a few beasts. Cedric could run to his heart's
content out there and Con would be able to bring him along when he does
the garden. You'd still see him three times a week."
Mrs Rumney looked at me in silence for a few moments and I saw in her
face the dawning of relief and hope.
"You know, Mr Herriot, I think that could work very well. But are you
sure Con would take him?"
"I'd like to bet on it. An old bachelor like him must be lonely.
There's only one thing worries me. Normally they only meet outside and
I wonder how it would be when they were indoors and Cedric started to .
. . when the old trouble "Oh, I think that would be all right," Mrs
Rumney broke in quickly.
"When I go on holiday Con always takes him for a week or two and he has
never mentioned any . . . any thing unusual . . . in that way."
I got up to go.
"Well, that's fine. I should put it to the old man right away."
Mrs Rumney rang within a few days. Con had jumped at the chance of
taking on Cedric and the pair had apparently settled in happily
together. She had also taken my advice and acquired a poodle puppy.
I didn't see the new dog till it was nearly six months old and its
mistress asked me to call to treat it for a slight attack of eczema. As
I sat in the graceful room loo king at Mrs Rumney, cool, poised,
tranquil, with the little white creature resting on her knee I wouldn't
help feeling how right and fitting the whole scene was. The lush
carpet, the trailing velvet curtains, the fragile tables with their
load of expensive china and framed miniatures. It was no place for
Con Fen ton's cottage was less than half a mile away and on my way back
to the surgery, on an impulse I pulled up at the door. The old man
answered my knock and his big face split into a delighted grin when he
"Come in, young man!" he cried in his strange snuffly voice.
"I'm right glad to see the!"
I had hardly stepped into the tiny living room when a hairy form hurled
itself upon me. Cedric hadn't changed a bit and I had to battle my way
to the broken armchair by the fireside. Con settled down opposite and
when the Boxer leaped i to lick his face he clumped him com panionably
on the head with his fist.
"Sid down, ye great daft bugger," he murmured with affection. Cedric
sank happily on to the tattered hearth rug at his feet and gazed up
adoringly at his new master.
"Well, Mr Herriot," Con went on as he cut up some villainous-loo king
plug tobacco and began to stuff it into his pipe.
"I'm right grateful to ye for get tin' me this grand dog. By yaw, he's
a topper and ah wouldn't sell 'im for any money. No man could ask for
a better friend."
"Well that's great, Con," I said.
"And I can see that the big chap is really happy here."
The old man ignited his pipe and a cloud of acrid smoke rose to the
low, blackened beams.
"Aye, he's 'ardly ever inside. A gurt strong dog like 'im wants to
work 'is energy off, like."
But just at that moment Cedric was obviously working something else off
because the familiar pungency rose from him even above the billowings
from the pipe. Con seemed oblivious of it but in the enclosed space I
found it overpowering "Ah well," I gasped.
"I just looked in for a moment to see how you were get ting on
together. I must be on my way." I rose hurriedly and stumbled towards
the door but the redolence followed me in a wave. As I passed the
table with the remains of the old man's meal I saw what seemed to be
the only form of ornament in the cottage, a cracked vase holding a
magnificent bouquet of carnations. It was a way of escape and I buried
my nose in their fragrance.
Con watched me approvingly.
"Aye, they're lovely flowers aren't they?
T'missus at Laurels lets me bring tome what I want and I reckon them
carnations is me favourite."
"Yes, they're a credit to you." I still kept my nose among the
"There's only one thing," the old man said pensively.
"Ah don't get t'full benefit of 'em."
how's that, Con?"
he pulled at his pipe a couple of times,
"Well, you can hear ah speak a bit funny, like?"
"No . . . no . . . not really."
"Oh aye, ye know ah do. I've been like it since I were a lad. I 'ad a
operation for adenoids and sum mat went wrong."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," I said.
"Well, it's nowt serious, but it's left me lackin'in one way."
"You mean . . .?" A light was beginning to dawn in my mind, an
elucidation of how man and dog had found each other, of why their
relationship was so perfect, of the certainty of their happy future
together. It seemed like fate.
"Aye," the old man went on sadly.
"I 'ave no sense of smell."
Chapter Five I think it was when I saw the London policeman wagging a
finger at a scowling urchin that I
time he put the firework through the surgery letter box.
It was what they used to call a 'banger' and it exploded at my feet as
I;< hurried along the dark passage in answer to the door bell's ring,
making me leap into the air in terror.
I threw open the front door and looked into the street. It was empty,
but at the corner where the lamplight was reflected in Rob son's shop
window I had a brief impression of a fleeing form and a faint echo of
laughter. I couldn't do any thing about it but I knew Wes was out
Wearily I trailed back into the house. Why did this lad persecute me?
What could a ten-year-old boy possibly have against me? I had never
done him any harm, yet I seemed to be the object of a deliberate
Or maybe it wasn't personal. It could be that he felt I represented
authority or the establishment in some way, or perhaps I was just
I was certainly the ideal subject for his little tricks of ringing the