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What to say about Fluff? There are a lot of questions, e.g.

a) Why does a dog have a cat's name?

b) Where did he come from?


Well, both my sons were used to having a dog (a Black Labrador named Jem). When we lost Jem in 1989, I said that we would get another dog, once my eldest son Stuart was old enough to walk a dog (first misconception*). In March 1994, Stu's cat Mere (short for Meredith - though 'she' was a he) was killed on the main road. So now was the time to go dog-hunting. March doesn't appear to be a very fruitful time for puppies. But there was an advert in the paper for 'Springer Spaniel puppies'.

All the litter were black/white Springer Spaniels. I quite liked the look of 'Florence' but, as is often the way in life, all the 'girls' were already spoken for. The only puppy who was actually awake to greet us had a tuft of white fur sticking up on his forehead and spent the entire time showing us how well he manoeuvred the steps from the utility room - where all the puppies slept - to the great outdoors, and back. It was Stuart's choice, and he chose a livewire. We returned the following week and took him home.

That first night was like something out of 'The Lady and the Tramp'. Following advice, we had heaped the puppy's huge bed up with blankets, and stuffed a hot water bottle underneath so that he would not miss his mother too much. In this we were mistaken. He spent the entire night yelping and complaining pitifully. I now understood the meaning of the term 'Howling at the moon'.

Next we had to find a name for him. I advised Stuart that something short and pithy would do, as he did not want to sound too cissy shouting 'Cyrano' or 'Michelangelo' across the park, when calling him. I remembered that Elizabeth Barrett Browning had a [King Charles?] spaniel called 'Flush'. In this day and age such a loaded word wouldn't be appropriate, though there followed many many times when I wished that one could 'flush' after a dog. Stu picked up on this and decided to call him 'Fluff', after the white flash on his forehead. I did try - honest - but 'Fluff' he was.

Once Fluff became a member of the household, there was no getting away from him. I fondly imagined that I would be able to rest my head on him where he lay on the floor. I hadn't learned that anybody on the floor was fair game for a wrestling match, 'a la Fluff'. I had been warned that Springers can leap up to six feet over gates and hedges, and got proof of this the first time Fluff climbed over the six foot fence into the garden next door, to retrieve the ball. He loved mud (especially the wet, sticky stuff) and would lie down and roll in it on our walks through the woods. It was such a commonplace to have him covered in mud when out walking, that some people thought we had a brown and black dog, not a b/w one. He loved snowand would run through it with his nose pushing through it, like a snow-plough or - as we said - a hoover. He loved water, which was not usually a problem. Except the time when, as a puppy, we took him on the lake in a boat. He spotted a rather fetching Old English Sheepdog on the shore and promptly leaped over the side of the boat, into the water, to go and greet it. I had hold of his lead and dragged him back in. Thank goodness the boat was full and we didn't all get ditched.

He loved ballgames and would play 'piggy-in-the-middle' when the boys had a game of tennis. Invariably, he would get the balland you can see how pleased he was with himself. Only problem then was - how to get it back? The solution we found was to throw another one (even he couldn't get two balls in his mouth at once).

He loved people - how he loved people! He would be so excited of an afternoon, when we walked up to school to collect the boys. He would be grinning at all the small children, and snuffling and snorting and generally wagging his bottom off. Unfortunately, the sight of a dog with teeth bared and 'both ends burning' was extremely intimidating for someone not much taller than Fluff, and I had to keep a tight rein on him and advise the children not to approach as he would just get more excited. He wasn't a 'bark-y' dog. This I liked. The only time he barked was when the whistling dustbin-men would come for the bin, of a Monday morning early.

I made the mistake once of entering him for the dog-show at the Harvest Fair locally. A great day for Fluff, with so many new friends and other dogs to meet. I kept him on the lead at all times (yes, Fluff is the one lying on the ground - his version of 'ready for inspection'). This time, he got so excited that he broke his collar and ran straight into the 'birds of prey' arena. He didn't even notice the birds - he was just showing off for the crowd - but they noticed him, and that day my name was 'Mud'.

It was wonderful to come down to the kitchen every morning and be greeted with love and enthusiasm. He was terrifically wearing but enormous fun. He greeted life and its people with gusto.

When his back started to go and he must have been in extreme pain, the front half of him was still working flat out telling you how great it was to see you and how great it was to be alive. In the vet's surgery on our last trip, he was intent on making new friends and influencing people.

Even today, people mention him. Everyone knew him by sight (you couldn't miss him) and name. Nice one, Fluff.

* When it came to walks; like a duckling, Fluff fixated on me, his 'mum', from day one. The first time Stuart tried to take him for a walk, they got a few yards up the road before Fluff noticed that 'mum's not with us', turned tail, and shot back indoors, dragging Stuart in tow. Fluff always liked to keep us in sight when out. We teased him often by throwing the ball, then hiding behind a tree; while he 'cantered' (there's no other word for it) round the park with ears bouncing like some hair-shampoo advert, looking for us. It was also great watching him try to retrieve a stick in a cornfield. Rather than snuffling through the corn, he would leap up and down over it, like a kangaroo. Cheap entertainment.

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