Harry lives in the rolling Downs of far north Wiltshire, a little know county of Southern England. He is a Welsh Terrier and looks like a Teddy Bear, but with the colouring of a Duracell Battery. He lives with his Master and Mistress (M&M) in a modern house in a small village nestling in a depression in the downs, although he never gets depressed about that. In fact, Harry is always happy and his water bowl is always half-full.
Harry’s favourite pastime is returning old tennis balls to M&M, who both have the frustrating habit of continually throwing them away. He does this with good grace because it makes them happy. This is important as they supply his food. Anyway he prefers to see the activity as good exercise rather than a complete waste of his valuable time. When not engaged in this charitable pursuit, he likes to “hootle”. Hootling is a unique occupation to Welsh Terriers, although there is surprisingly no translation in the Welsh Language. To hootle is to let one’s hooter (nose) lead one wherever it may – at full speed and with no care for the passage of time or the potential danger. Hootling can be misconstrued by Humans as pointless, but this is to misunderstand the benefits of a good hootle. The most interesting of smells can be investigated, categorised and mapped. During hootling the most wonderful treats can be discovered, such as the dried droppings of the Ancient Cat that lives with Harry. The less said about this the better but this is a treat equivalent, in human female terms, of an unexpected packet of chocolate truffles presented during a film starring either Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom (or preferably both). Ancient Cat is oblivious to this situation and misses a great opportunity as a result.
The Four Barrows are thought to be ancient burial mounds and they are not far from where Harry lives, up on the nearest Down (aah, the wonders of the English Language!). It is worth considering for a moment that a place which might once have been a location of great religious or social significance has now become simply a turnaround point for one of the most popular one hour dog walks out of Harry’s village. Such is the degree to which modern life has become mundane when compared with ancient times. This poignancy is of course lost on Harry, who knows nothing of burial mounds and ancient times (or poignancy for that matter). To him, each visit to the Four Barrows is an adventure during which other Dog’s private parts can be sniffed, other M&M’s seduced into treat-offering, silly sheep spooked, cyclists chased, horsey types irritated and hootling enjoyed. The opportunities are endless, depending on how relaxed M&M are and therefore how much time he gets “off-lead”. Hootling on-lead is possible but the limitations are of course considerable.
It was on one early morning walk to the Barrows that Harry had an unusual adventure. He was with his Master and so was not expecting many laughs (or much off-lead time). His Master is prone to plodding and muttering to himself. He is most definitely a water-bowl half-empty type as far as Harry is concerned. In fact Harry isn’t sure whether his Master has a water bowl. Harry likes to be with his Master though, on the principle that however bad Harry’s life gets it will never get as bad as his Masters.
On that fateful day, the weather was cold and damp, and the skies where grey and heavy – at least that is how Master would have viewed the conditions. To Harry the temperature and humidity where irrelevant. There was enough light to see and the wind was gentle and did not impact a good hootle. He had had a comprehensive and extremely satisfying couple of bowel movements and had also managed to anoint the pre-existing urinations of those other village dogs with which he was most familiar. In short, he was ready for action – tail wagging and nose locked into Hootling Pre-Load Position (HPP). Pre-Load is hooter two inches off the ground. Once hootling began in earnest he would move to Hooter Locked-And-Loaded (HLL), which is Hooter half an inch off the ground, but not yet.
He and Master had reached the top of the first Barrows climb, which had meant a walk thru an avenue of trees. This was known as the Poo Reach, on account of the multitudinous heaps of Dog Dirt that Master (but not Harry) had to be careful not to tread in. Harry had lost his puppy taste for Dog Dirt many months ago but not for his second most favourite treat – fresh Horse Dung. He had learnt, however, not to make a grab for a Horse Dung (hootling wasn’t needed) whilst still attached to his lead. He knew that his squeamish Master would yank the lead to prevent this and it just wasn’t worth the tug-of-war that would result. Whilst Harry enjoyed these little tussles he understood that his Master would become first angry and then distraught at treating Harry so brutally. He was beginning to tire of the cheap thrill to be gained by the manipulation of his Master’s emotions.
At the top of Poo Reach the trees vanish and the downlandscape opens up. To the left are close-cropped fields full of dopey sheep. To the right, a sea of rapeseed sways in the gentle breeze waiting for the inevitable downpour. Harry used to like eating the rapeseed plants when he was a puppy.
Before the two adventurers stretched the open byway to the Four Barrows, still invisible behind a summit at the half-way point. This summit is where Master’s mumbling often becomes most intense. Harry likes to have a quiet chuckle at this performance but he usually hangs back to do this, whilst pretending to hootle in some long grass. If Master looks like he was losing control completely Harry starts rolling about in the long grass. He would not dream of behaving like this in the company of other Dogs but he knows it will snap Master out of his mood. Harry is a bit of a psychologist.
Anyway, as the two approached the half-way summit Harry noticed a movement in the long grass some distance behind him. It was a Hare.
It is very hard to explain the impact of a Hare sighting on a Welsh Terrier but I suppose it’s not that different to many other dog breeds. Perhaps the difference is that, whilst a Hare is built for speed, a Welsh Terrier is not and so there can only be one outcome (unless the Hare trips and injures itself severely). Having said this, one of the greatest stories in Welsh Terrier mythology is the legend of Owen The Magnificent. Owen was a Welshie who lived in Golden Valley on the Welsh English Border in the sixth century AD and is believed to have caught and killed a Hare in a straight race. The feat has never been repeated and has since slipped into folklore. Since then, all male Welsh Terriers have dreamed, since puppyhood, of repeating Owen’s great feat. Harry heard this story at his Mother’s knee (in Reading, where he was born) and as soon as he realised he would spend his life on downlands he knew he was fated to match Owen. On that fateful day, at the Four Barrows mid-point, his time had come.
The Hare, as Hare’s do, raised itself up “meerkat-style” to take a good look at Harry (Master was a tedious irrelevance). Having confirmed that Harry was merely a Welshie, the Hare sat back on his haunches and chewed an imaginary tid-bit. The Hare had that wide-eyed insane stare that all Hares have. It’s due the fact that they are the potential victims in a whole host of daft legends I suppose. Anyway, this Hare took one look at Harry and knew that he could never be caught. He sat down again.
The Hare continue to sit while Harry started to move slowly towards him, tail erect and head held high (about fifteen inches off the ground). The sun suddenly broke thru the clouds as though floodlights had been switched on. Master had by this time emerged from his reverie and also noticed the Hare. Panic set in and there was much fumbling for treats. Master realised that there was no hope of getting Harry’s attention now and but he still began to make pathetic wittering noises in the vain hope that it might not be too late. It was.
Still the Hare took no notice, moving only to flick an ear and scratch behind said ear with a hind paw. This was the ultimate insult in Harespeak – equivalent to "mooning" in Human terms. There was no equivalent in Welshiespeak as Welsh Terriers are one of the politest creatures on the planet. Harry did however sense that the Hare was not impressed and so he started to speed up, moving towards that dressage-style gait that some terriers are famous for. At this point the Hare chuckled as he knew the dog was incapable of pushing him beyond second gear in a footrace. The Hare mooned Harry again and the little dog began to become a little annoyed, which is a very rarely felt emotion for him. At the point Master had began to mewl and whimper and to fumble for his mobile phone. Maybe Mistress could be summoned to help avoid a disaster, although it is not clear what that disaster might be.
The Hare was getting bored with this farce and decided to end it. He unwound his powerful hind legs and prepared to launch himself across the grass field. There was no sport to be had in mocking these pathetic creatures further. He sniffed the air, hoping to detect some interesting scent that would help him to select a direction.
Simultaneously, the Terrier’s “red visor” began to lower. Once this happened, no sound or smell would penetrate his consciousness as launched himself towards his target, reaching his maximum speed in a second or two. He would sprint towards the Hare with ears bouncing off his shoulders and tail lowered horizontally. He could maintain this speed for a long time but there was no chance of him catching the Hare unless he could get there before the Hare engaged warp drive.
Harry was just about to close down all external interfaces when a totally unexpected smell hit his hooter like a cream pie in a human face. A smell never before detected up on the Four Barrows walk. His hooter took control and he was in locked-and-loaded position before he could say “woof”. He could not maintain launch speed in this configuration and his head hit the ground. He tumbled head first into the long grass and came to rest with a large lump of dried cat poo resting against his frantically twitching nose. Oh well, he thought, Owen’s legend will last another day at least.
By this time, the Hare had warped to the other side of the grass field and was sitting, chewing and staring manically has usual.
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