Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

Telling Tales - articles by Samantha David


The First of Dolly 

      I heard about Dolly from the local poodle parlour.  My dog Sandy had recently died and they knew I was in that sad dogless state that can only be cured by a new canine companion. 

      "There's a dog in town needs rescuing.  It's a terrier, we think.  But it's hard to tell."

      So off I went to investigate.

      Following instructions, I picked my way up eight flights of dusty stairs, thinking "What am I doing?  I must be mad.  This can't be it."

      Right at the top on the last landing sat Dolly with her ears up, listening to my grumbles.  She was diminutive and long-haired, with yellow fur, milky eyes and a puzzled look on her face.  We looked at each other.  I'd never seen such a weird-looking terrier in my life before.

      Suddenly three huge wolf-type dogs erupted into the hall, barking furiously.  Leaping around the place and growling, they practically knocked me over.  Dolly rolled her eyes and shuffled out of their way.  Their owner followed, laying about him with a newspaper and roaring threats.  The dogs subsided and I walked up the rest of the stairs.

      "Have you come about the dog?" he said.

      Needless to say, five minutes later I was carrying Dolly down the stairs to my car.  Nothing else: no collar, no lead, no blanket, no toys, bowls, food, paperwork, nothing.  Just the dog.

      "She's never had a collar, she eats off the floor

and that's where she sleeps," shrugged the man.  "Look, she's not mine.  I don't keep ladies' dogs.  I just took her in because... yeah, well... I like dogs and the stupid thing was starving.  But I'm not keeping her.  That's what I told the bloody poodle parlour bloke.  I'm not walking round town with that at my heels.  Bloody hell."

      Dolly scratched her ear with a back paw apologetically, and yawned.  What else could I do?  Of course I took her.

      Home again, I looked at my new dog more closely.  She was fat, dirty, and incredibly smelly.  In fact, the stench made us all feel faint.  Never mind.  I showed her the house, introduced her to the other inmates (human and otherwise), fed her, walked her, and plopped her into the dog bed.  She sat right in the centre of it, upright and very, very nervous. 

      She didn't stay there long.  By the next morning, she'd watered the sofa and liberally decorated the carpets.  I'd never have believed she had it in her.  (I can only imagine it was nerves, because the man had said she was house-trained, and she's never done it since.)

      Having cleaned up the house, I had a go at

grooming.  Her coat was tangled beyond belief,

and she had enormous matted lumps of fur behind her

ears, under her arms and round her knickers.  She really

needed serious attention but in spite of going slowly,

and bribing her with a whole packet of doggy treats, she just sat and howled until I gave up.

      She was confused.  She liked being in the house and she liked being with us, but she didn't know how long it would last.  So whenever we went out, she hid.  Whenever we tried to take her out, she hid.  Whenever anyone came to the house, she hid.  And she wouldn't come out for Bonios, either.  She didn't know what they were, and she couldn't have eaten them anyway because she had so many wobbly broken teeth.

      She hated wearing a collar.  It itched and made her feel weird.  She spent days trying to get the thing off, walking backwards, rolling, rubbing against the walls.  It was only the softest, lightest little flea collar, but it was torment. 

      She couldn't walk far and she especially couldn't walk over fields because her paws were too soft.  Her nails were too long, and her legs ached.  She spent a lot of her walks sitting down and pulling backwards.

      She got cold easily because her coat was thin and straggly, and even more so once we'd cut all the matted lumps out of it.  So she sat and shivered instead of chasing around with the kids.

      Typically of dogs fed only on scraps, she didn't recognise dog food and wouldn't eat it.  She was sick a lot and her digestion was seriously upset.  Oh and she was frightened of men.

      That one at least, was easy.  I enrolled all the old boys in the village (including the postman) and supplied them with little pieces of dried sausage to give her.  Within days she'd learnt that at least chez nous, men could be trusted.  Outside the house she was still suspicious, but now she ran to the postman every morning to wag and say hello.

      In fact, I think it was at this stage that she

learned to woof three times every time anyone said

"sausages" and these days it's one of her best tricks.

      "Say sausages, Dolly!"


      Then her fur started falling out.  As I combed,

great handfuls would drift about the kitchen floor.

Was it bad-feeding?  Serious disease?  Hormonal

imbalance?  She still smelt dreadful too.

      Still, I'd already booked her in to be sterilised, so I took my bald, fat, frightened, smelly little dog to the vet.  He did a double-take and said "I know this dog.

Hasn't she got a scar in her ear?"

      Yes indeed, she had a scar, and the vet knew her very well.  She'd been re-homed more than once, but had never really been properly looked after.  Why?  Who knows.  Perhaps because she has the sweetest temperament and never complains.  Perhaps because without daily grooming she's a mess.  Perhaps because too many ignorant, lazy people keep dogs without bothering to learn about them first.

      Anyway, extraordinarily enough, Dolly was all

right.  No incurable diseases or chronic conditions.

The smell was full anal glands, the bad breath was

dirty teeth and the baldness was hormonal imbalance. 

      She had most recently belonged to a woman who shut her outside most of the time because she was dirty, and it turned out that the man who had given her to me had paid her off. 

      "I've been offering to spay this dog for years," said the vet.  "Free and gratis.  Just so I wouldn't get any more boxes of puppies left on my doorstep."

      Over the past 8 years, poor Dolly had produced litter after litter of misbegotten puppies, the last only a few months ago but due to negligence and poor feeding, they had all died. 

      "In fact," concluded the vet, "it's a miracle that

she's survived herself.  I mean, dogs like this usually

end up terminally ill or run over." 

      Dolly duly had The Op and making the most of the general anaesthetic, the vet also removed several rotten teeth, cleaned the rest of them, and dealt with matters round the back end.  Back at home, while she was still woozy, I finally got the remains of her coat combed out and her nails clipped.

      Poor Dolly was very sorry for herself the next day.  From one end to the other she had been assaulted and she couldn't even bring herself to ask for sausages.  A depressed, fat, bald little slug of a dog.  The neighbours thought I was mad.  All that money on a dog that was too old, too ugly, and too lazy to be of any use at all.

      Well, that was all nearly a year ago and she's

here now, lounging about on the sofa behind me as I

type.  She turned out to be a Bichon Frisé.  Not a yellow dog at all.  That was just dirt.  She's white.  Snow-white all over - and she has the softest, silkiest coat you've ever touched.  Her breath is sweet, her figure elegant, her nose twitches, her eyes are sparkly-black and her tail curls up over her back when she's chasing chickens.  (Her favourite sport, but don't tell the park keeper.  She

never catches them.) 

      In fact, the other day someone asked if I wanted to sell her. 

      Sell her?  Are you mad?  Dolly is my Darling.  She

walks on her back legs when she wants a biccie, she wolfs her dog food (she doesn't beg from the table any more), she sleeps beside our bed, she plays with the cats, she watches television with the Junior Members. 

      Of all the dogs I've ever rescued, she's got absolutely the best temperament.  She's 100% reliable with children, good with cats, babies, other dogs and rabbits, her only weakness is chickens.  Oh, and sausages...




If you would like to read more articles, or would like to commission one for your publication, please email me using the form on the contacts page.