Meon Valley Man Chris van Schaick pays tribute to the family cocker spaniel

Our Meon Valley Man is in a sentimental mood this month as he pays tribute to the family’s beloved cocker spaniel, Scrumpy

Meon Valley Man’s gone soft. You may have noticed that the slight tang of grump is never far from my musings. I may not be a fully paid up member of the World’s Gone Mad tendency, but I’m certainly moving in a Meldrew-ish direction. I can harrumph with the best of them.

But I’m a sentimental mood just now, because we recently put to sleep the elderly family pet – cocker spaniel Scrumpy. Aged 14, it’s certainly made me reflect on the relationship between Meon Valley Man and Meon Valley Man’s best friend.

It’s no coincidence that our hound’s last hurrah happened within weeks of MVM’s young brood passing out of university. There’s a bit of a Toy Story III rhythm here. Up and down the Valley, as the local representative’s Generation Y move out of student life into the big, scary world, the Black Labs and Springers who have been their childhood companions are being Called to Higher Service.

Soft-heartedness alert: bringing Scrumpy into our home was the best thing we ever did. The little‘uns were seven and nine at the time, and apart from getting small people to learn about looking after something smaller and more helpless than themselves, there was another benefit. A dog’s moral support is unconditional. When an infant leans back on their chair and falls over, the parent’s comfort always carries a Health-and-Safety tinged message that you shouldn’t have been doing that in the first place. The post-tumble cuddle with the dog carries no such retrospective risk assessment.

But ahem, enough of the misty-eyed stuff, bring on the stories.

The first is how Scrumpy subverted the normal dog training routine of “go out for a wee at the end of Newsnight and you can have a biscuit”. That was the theory, but Scrumpy managed to turn the training model on its head. A quick shimmy outside the door, no wee involved, and then in for the biscuit - or several. She’d spotted the logical flaw. It was the trip outside, not the wee that was being rewarded by the biscuit. It was what the corporate strategists I’ve worked with over the years would call a paradigm shift - and they say dogs have small brains.

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Scrumpy loved chocolate and was ruthless in the run up to Christmas. She had a track record in seeking out inadequately concealed treats and pawing the edible bits of out advent calendars. But there was never any ill effect. Given the oft reported warnings of how dangerous it can be for dogs to eat chocolate, perhaps there may be a little less coca solid and a little more milk and sugar in some ‘chocolate’ than we want to admit.

Usually mild-mannered Scrumpy only bared her fangs once – to the piano teacher who’d come to a neighbour’s house. As the teacher was a good-natured, cherubic-faced type, I can only imagine that the source of the dog’s angst was that the practice piece had been played adagio instead of allegro. But of course we’ll never know. Our beloved cocker is now barking at postmen and nipping at piano teachers in the sky. In the words of Anchorman’s Veronica Corningstone “thanks for stopping by”.


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