The nightmare one always dreads happened yesterday. I was in the kitchen and my son ran into the house in hysterical tears: "There's a man at the gate, one of the dogs has been hit by a car…" My daughter burst into tears, my wife was screaming from the shower – it was full-on chaos. I hit the button to open the gate and feared the worst as a van drove up to the house. The driver told me that the dog had been hit with a glancing blow and that he was in shock. "You must take him to a vet immediately," he said as though talking to some urban thicko.
I bit my tongue and held my breath as he opened the van's back door. Inside was a distraught-looking woman whom I recognised as a regular dog walker in the village. She was holding Oscar, our flat-coat retriever, who did look very distressed. I wanted to get him into my car and off to the vet as soon as possible but first I was to be given a lecture. "It's incredibly irresponsible letting a dog roam around like this," said the woman, as though I'd personally sent him off to note passing number plates. "He's always roaming around the village…" continued the plummy virago. This was totally incorrect but my concern was more with the dog than with what this woman thought of my animal-care skills. "It's just not right…" she continued and I lost it.
"This is a farm, not a prison camp, what do you expect me to do, put up huge fences around the entire place?" I didn't say it, but I knew that were I to do this she would probably be the first banging on the gate grumbling about how I was "changing" the village.
"Aren't you going to thank her for bringing your dog back?" asked the van driver. I wasn't sure at this stage whether he was the one who had hit Oscar. I said I was very grateful but was not going to stand about getting a lecture from someone I didn't know while my dog was waiting to go to the vets.
I indicated the conversation was at an end and they headed off down the drive no doubt mumbling to themselves about "townies, dog abusers, I don't have a television so I don't know who he is anyway…". I took Oscar to our lovely vets in Cheltenham where he was thoroughly inspected and found only to have mild bruising. This was a huge relief to us all but I'm sure that this is not the last I'll hear of this incident. Rumours will soon circulate that I have puppy farms in my barns. "I hear he's selling 100 puppies a week to Korea where they get put into salads," one will whisper to the other. "He ties up 10 dogs to the fence at the side of the road and then him and Jeremy Clarkson place bets on which one will be run over first."
Stories spread fast down here. I will only be a matter of days before the Gloucestershire Echo puts its top investigative team on to me. Maybe I need a few lions?