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Max dragging an old lady across a field.

Max Arrives - Chapter1

Dave, the tall, stick like boatman with hair that resembled a hastily constructed sparrows nest, sat on the deck of the sailing barge “Hillsborough Owl” sipping his tea and gazing across the tow path to the fields beyond. There was a castle in the distance, its ruined outline silhouetted against the slight orange glow of an evening summer sky; insects hovered lazily in the air and cattle and sheep grazed contentedly in the lush green fields. 

Everything on the canal was at rest: the boats were all tied up for the evening and life was taking on the same gentle pace as the water that flowed beneath them. The only excitement, if you could call it that, was the occasional passing dog walker or fisherman; everything was at peace and all was right with the world. Dave put down his tea and reached for the packet of digestives. He teased one of the biscuits from its cellophane home and was just about to dunk it in his tea when he became aware of someone, or something, watching him intently.

Dave looked down to see a large brown and black woolly dog sitting at his feet. The dog was staring fixedly at the recently dunked digestive, his eyes following its every progress as he popped it into his mouth. Dave looked down again and he was certain the dog was wearing a disappointed expression.

“Oh, you want one do you?” Dave enquired. 

The dog’s expression brightened and its great jaws widened into a definite grin.

“Are you sure you are allowed this?” 

Dave looked questioningly at the dog and he was sure it nodded back to him. 

“OK then, here you go.” 

Dave prized another biscuit from the packet and tossed it in the woolly dog’s direction. The dog leapt into the air and caught the digestive skilfully in his teeth before flipping it into the air, catching it again and then crunching noisily before swallowing. 

“Wow, that was stylish!” commented Dave, taking a slurp of his tea.

“Max. Come here!” 

A very loud, but despairing voice cut through the perfect evening stillness. The dog and Dave jumped almost in unison.

“I think you are wanted, mate,” Dave commented, looking in the direction of the large woolly dog. Again the dog looked at Dave and seemed to shrug its shoulders before turning in the direction of the approaching loud voice and sitting down in the middle of the towpath.

“Come here you naughty dog!” 

An old lady was making her way as rapidly as her spindly legs would carry her towards the large woolly dog. In her hand she carried a lead and a great shiny choke chain. The dog sat where he was on the tow path and the old lady thrust the choke chain round his neck.

“It’s a good looking dog you have there,” commented Dave. “What sort is he?”

“He’s a very badly behaved Airedale,” the old lady replied with a slightly annoyed tone in her voice, before continuing, “He’s pulled me off my feet twice and if he does it again I’m giving him away!”

Dave thought for a moment and then replied, “If he’s a bit of a handful I would be more than happy to have him; he seems such a good natured animal.

The old lady grimaced and then, giving the woolly dog’s lead a tug, she continued on her way up the tow path towards the public footpath that led across the fields full of cows and sheep.

Peace and tranquillity returned to the canal bank once more and Dave was about to finish his tea and think about doing something useful when the sound of a terrible commotion floated across from the fields full of peaceful grazing cattle.

Dave looked across the little stone wall that divided the canal from the fields to see an old lady being dragged across the field by a large brown and black scruffy dog. The dog appeared to be in hot pursuit of something furry and edible that obviously had other ideas about being eaten on such a fine and pleasant evening.

The mere fact that he was attached to a yelling old lady did not seem to be deterring the dog in the least and he was making a good pace as the pair careered towards the hedge at the edge of the field. 

Dave hovered with indecision, wondering what sort of reaction he was going to encounter as he untangled an old lady and a high spirited dog from a thorn hedge. Then he put down his tea and set off in what could vaguely be described as hot pursuit of the source of the commotion.

Once Dave arrived at the point where old lady, dog and hedge had joined forces he had to desperately try and hold back a smile. Fortunately for the old lady, the small furry edible thing had decided to make good its escape by rapid evacuation into its burrow which was situated at the bottom of a sandy bank underneath an elder bush. 

The large woolly dog now had its head jammed well and truly into the hole and was snuffling loudly and burrowing with great gusto, sending showers of sand, earth and grass in the direction of the old lady who was still attached by the lead. This wouldn’t have been quite so bad had not the course of pursuit of the furry edible thing involved traversing a number of very fresh sticky green cow pats.

The old lady, being attached to the fast moving dog by his lead, had proceeded to plough her way through the aforesaid cow pats and was now covered from head to foot in cows deposits. This had been added to with a layer of the mud, sand, grass and dead leaves which the large woolly dog was proceeding to excavate from the furry edible thing’s burrow.

The old lady struggled to her feet, removed the lead from her wrist and handed the free end to Dave. 

“That’s it!” The old lady spluttered through a mouthful of sand, leaves and cows’ deposits,

“I’ve had it with that dog. He’s utterly uncontrollable! I’ll bring his bed and bowl down tomorrow.”

With that she turned on her heel and stormed back across the field leaving Dave holding the lead of a furiously burrowing dog. Dave shuffled in a bewildered Moose sort of fashion, pondering on his next move. 

This was the last thing he expected to happen and as the cognitive wheels of a boatman’s mind generally run at the same speed as the water they are travelling on; it was taking a while for things to catch up and fall into place. Another volley of leaves and sand from the burrowing dog, who was evidently enjoying himself, brought Dave to his senses.

“Max!” barked Dave in his best commanding voice, “Come on!” 

He jerked the lead attached to the burrowing dog, but this appeared to have very little effect as the dog was snuffling loudly and had jammed his head even further into the edible furry thing’s burrow. Dave tried again, this time giving the lead a really good sharp pull.

A yelp from the dog and a rapid retreat from the burrow signalled success. 

“Come on, you,” Dave announced in his best firm, no nonsense kind of voice. 

The dog looked up with a confused expression on his face. He seemed somewhat surprised that the old lady on the end of the lead had been replaced by someone else entirely and rather than there being a diminutive grey haired old lady, there was now a tall, stickish chap on the other end. Max was so surprised in fact that the thought of extracting the edible furry thing from its burrow, where it had very unsportingly retreated in his opinion, went totally out of his head.

“Come on!” Dave announced again, giving the lead a tug and pulling Max in the direction of the path that led back to the canal. Max looked up at Dave and decided that he’d better do as he was told. 

He had obviously disposed of the old lady in some unspeakable fashion and was about to start on him if he didn’t comply, so Max thought it better to cut his losses and follow this new holder of leads. Dave led Max back down to the canal tow path and then along to where the sailing barge was moored next to the bank.

“Welcome aboard, Max,” announced Dave, leading the way onto the deck of the barge. 

He looked round for a length of rope with which to attach Max’s collar to something secure. Events had definitely taken an unusual course this evening and Dave didn’t feel like further complicating matters by letting this wild furry pleasure seeker loose on an unsuspecting world, particularly as it seemed he was now responsible for the exploits of this large woolly thing. 

Max watched as Dave busied himself finding a water bowl for the new arrival and then pondered on where this furry reprobate was going to sleep. Eventually he opted for an old wooden box that fitted nicely in the bow locker and, with the addition of a blanket that had seen better days, it looked quite a cosy home.

“Hmmmm,” thought Max. “I better humour him. I think he wants me to sleep in there.” 

As Dave stepped back to admire Max’s new home, Max obligingly went and gave the box a preliminary sniff before climbing in and closing his eyes. 

“Well he seems to have made himself at home,” thought Dave. “We’ll just have to see what tomorrow brings.”

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