Friends for Life
Shaggy dog stories are usually soppy, so if you don't do soppy, don't read this post.
When Boris first came to live in Valley's End,
Bhuna was already here. Boris was 4 years old
and Bhuna just eighteen months.
Bhuna and Boris had had very different lives.
Bhuna had always been a pet, he was untrained,
spoilt and obedience was not something he had ever come across. His name is the Ethiopian name for coffee, his coat was coffee coloured.
Boris was a foundling, picked up by a dog warden in the Essex countryside;
he was sick, starving; he had a leg injury and was totally cowed. It became apparent that he had been trained as a working dog, a gun dog, in fact.
Boris knew every command and followed it
instantly. In fact, he was pathetically pleased
to obey. He had obviously been harshly treated,
he was ever ready to cringe and cower; when we first took him on, he was so afraid of men that he peed himself every time his new master spoke to him in a loud voice.
He had congenital eye disease, which must have been the reason for his having been abandoned; no breeder could get away with a visible defect like that; nobody would buy expensive Labrador puppies who would more than likely pass the condition on.
Within a month or so, after he'd come to us, Boris was fine; he had an operation on his eye, which stopped him going blind, he had put on weight and his fur was back to normal. He became a happy dog; also a very handsome one, he was pure black Labrador.
Valley's End has a castle on a hill, a river round it and a field between the two. All the local dogs are exercised here; this is where Boris and Bhuna first met and where Boris instantly set about training the unruly Bhuna.
Bhuna's master was delighted; we met up frequently, one or the other of us taking both dogs out for long walks; they became inseparable. In fact, Bhuna frequently turned up in our garden on his own, having jumped over the garden gate; Boris was too well-behaved to leave his territory, but he was always ready to welcome Bhuna. The two dogs were more like boys than dogs.
I said that this was going to be a soppy story, it's going to get even soppier.
On one of our long walks we went up into the woods above the valley. The dogs were roaming freely, both noses in the same hole, both of them tugging at the same fallen branch or chasing the same animal scent. They disappeared, came back, disappeared again.
Until, about an hour into the walk, there was only Bhuna; at first we paid no attention, walking on, thinking Boris would turn up eventually. Bhuna started to behave strangely, walking backward in front of us, stopping, looking at us, then walking behind us, stopping again. He did this several times. ending up behind us, following very slowly, standing still in the middle of the path, looking at us, then half turning, looking back over his shoulder.
We finally got the message. Bhuna was telling us Boris was missing, he was in trouble.
The moment we turned back, Bhuna made for the steeply wooded slope ascending above the path and started to climb, all the time making sure we were following, stopping every so often to let us catch him up, finally leading us to where Boris lay, trapped by a huge spike attached to a branch which had gone deep into his paw. There was no way that Boris could have limped down the hill on three legs, every move he made drove the spike deeper into his paw, with the branch dragging on it.
As soon as we reached Boris, Bhuna stood to one side, then ran off, totally unconcerned again.
Boris took no lasting harm; we managed to remove the spike, performed some first aid with spit and a handkerchief and slowly made our way back down the hill. The Vet cleaned out the wound and very soon all was well.
Boris died of cancer when he was eleven years old; until then the dogs remained staunch allies. Within the year we adopted Benno, another black Labrador, also a rescue dog. We all thought Bhuna and Benno could pick up where Bhuna and Boris had left off but Bhuna never took to Benno. The two of them growled at each other every time they met.