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Monday, February 04, 2008

Nick And Ben's Bogus Adventure

On Saturday afternoon I took Ben The Trailhound down to Mawbray (as previously blogged), one of his and my favourite spots. Usually he romps along the boardwalk and cavorts on the beach. This time he got a scent within seconds of leaving the car, and was off along the seaward fence towards Allonby. I walked down to the beach, expecting his return (trailhounds have a highly developed topological awareness and if you don't know where they are, they almost certainly know exactly where you've got to). No Ben. I set off along the line of fences to Allonby. No Ben. I walked back. No Ben. Reasoning that he would make for the car, I returned to the car-park. No Ben. I waited patiently until the weather had turned, and horizontal rain powered by a Force 6 gale was lashing the windscreen, before walking along the fence once more. No Ben. So I started knocking on doors. After a diverting but fruitless encounter with Cumbria's celebrity chef (who gave the impression I was by no means the first person to have lost a dog at Mawbray) I soon found the trail. Yes, the chef's neighbours assured me: a trailhound had been here an hour ago. Their friend The Active Citizen, who was visiting them, had taken him home and called the Dog Warden.
After calling The Active Citizen, I eventually got through to Allerdale Borough Council's emergency out-of-hours help desk. "Is it about the trailhound?" they asked when they picked up the phone. Clearly Allerdale was having a slow emergencies day. They gave me the number of the kennels to which their Dog Warden had delivered Ben.
I drove the 15 miles to High Harrington to be reunited with a mildly distressed but unharmed trailhound. The kennel-owner had some difficulty with the fact I wasn't the person on Ben's ID-chip, which led to a certain amount of No, I am not the Renaissance Man, nor was meant to be . . confusion, but after signing off Allerdale Council's paperwork, I was allowed to take Ben home three and a half hours after he first disappeared into the dunes.
The phone rang as soon as we walked through the door. It was The Active Citizen, wanting to know was the trailhound safe and well? I reassured her that he was.
"Was the silver Mondeo in Mawbray carpark yours?" she asked.
Yes, it was.
"Only that's where we found him - he was sitting next to it."
Very politely, I thanked The Active Citizen for her help.
I'm curious to understand how a collared and well-kempt dog, sitting next to an empty car in a place where many people walk their dogs, is in any sense lost, strayed or abandoned. However, it is reasuring to know that Allerdale Council's Dog Warding service is so efficient that it can spring into action and transport a dog 15 miles on a Saturday afternoon before his keeper has any sense that the animal may be lost.
There's a moral about the state of our nation in all this, but I'm not sure what.

The Group Areas Act, 2008

The higher gardening in South Africa seems convulsed by a campaign to eradicate 'alien' flora and populate 'native' species in woods and gardens. My land management friends tell me this is a project doomed to failure, but in a country with a history like South Africa's, it's difficult not to see this approach as a metaphor.
Up on the Wild West Coast at Lambert's Bay, next door to 'Potato World' (incredibly, not a starch-related theme park for the couch-bound but a chip factory - it seems that when the Atlantic fishery got all fished out they diversified into the other half of the fish and chip market), a colony of 16,000 gannets sits atop a quarter-mile-square slab of guano. Things turned ugly a while back when a colony of seals arrived in search of food (a result of the same ecological pressure that caused the fishermen to move in on the potatoes), worked out that what fish there were to be found were inside the gannets and promptly started eating the seabirds. We heard all this over a beer with a tanned and grizzled gannet-warden in the bar of the Lambert's Bay Hotel. His solution to the competition-for-resources problem was admirably simple: the gannets were confined to their white guano-stained slab; the seals to their wave-darkened promontory rocks. A wide no-creature's land was decreed between the two groups and patroled by conservationists. Any seal straying into this area was deterred with extreme prejudice and deported back to its rocky homeland. The DMZ was then fumigated to remove the enticing odour of seal and the status quo preserved. The day we were there both communities seemed quite content with their separate developments. Some things don't change.