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Our dog Thistle makes a brief appearance in The Herring Seller’s Apprentice being walked by our daughter.  (It is only in works of fiction that this happens.)

Thistle is a Border Terrier.  Border Terriers are, on the whole, serious little dogs, who worry a great deal.  She regards herself as being responsible for the well-being of the family.  If she doesn’t catch (or at least chase) rabbits, we may die of hunger.  That will be her fault.  Similarly it will be her fault if the garden becomes over-run with cats.  If she didn’t ensure that the garden was cat-free who else would?  She’s right – none of the rest of the family chases cats.  She has good reason to worry.

She does however have one recreation – that is to say playing “Stick”.  If you didn’t know terriers you might assume this game involved our throwing a stick and Thistle running and fetching it.  Thistle does not run and fetch.  The rules of Stick are as follows.

Stick is a game for all the family – both human and dog members.  The game starts by one member of the family finding a stick – a stick so desirable that the other members of the family would give anything to possess it.  (In practice, most sticks are like this.)  The member of the family who finds the stick may run around with it in her mouth, wagging her tail and barking, until the other members of the family chase her.  The stick-owner must hang onto the stick and not give it up under any circumstances.  The game lasts until all of the members of the family except one have had enough.  The winner is the family member who has the stick at the end of the game.  The winner is allowed to flop down in the nearest muddy puddle or roll in fox poo, as they wish.  It’s a good game.

Thistle eats most things.  Some prove to be a bit too much of a good thing, and she sicks them up on the mat for us to check.  St Peter refers to dogs returning to their own vomit.  Thistle leaves hers for us to clear away.  St Peter would approve.

Thistle does not know she is a literary dog.  Strangely, however, if she comes across a piece of printed paper while we are out for a walk, she sniffs it and then wees on it.  She’d make a good critic.  






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