Simon was the leader and that was fine with Huckleberry. He loved everybody and everything except birds. If you offered him a piece of dry bread in the house, he’d curl his lip and not touch it, but if you threw crusts out for the birds he’d rush out and gobble them up. My mother stuck a half-loaf in the crook of a tree and he sat barking every time a bird came near to peck it. I don’t remember that he ever caught one, he just didn’t want them fed.
His father Simon was always out looking for a bitch in heat. He’d go outside in the morning and sniff the air to see which direction to take off. Huck was sexless. Totally uninterested. He was affectionate though and loved to be stroked, he was quite vain – a very good-looking dog and he knew it.
He was a very fast runner. We did not demand obedience from our dogs. When we went out in the car, they expected to come too, but they didn’t just get in. They wanted a race first. They’d follow the car to a long, straight road and race it the half-mile to the end. Then the driver would turn and drive back, 5 mph slower. Then back and forth until the dog, Simon or Huckleberry, would indicate he’d had enough and get in. Simon could reach 35 mph but Huck would get to 40.
His best friend was the roadsweeper. He’d go off in the morning and be by his side all day, sharing his lunchtime sandwiches.
His mucky habit was an affection for sordid smells and tastes. You had to watch out with the dirty linen basket or he’d empty it, sniffing luxuriantly. He used to wade into garden ponds, coming out covered in smelly mud and spend the next hour or two licking himself clean until his lovely golden hair was silky again.
Our drawing room had a doorknob on the right hand side as you went out, and the dining room door’s knob was on the left. Conveniently, Simon was right-pawed and Huck left-pawed, so one of them could open each door – coming into the room from the hall, they only had to push, of course.
Disobedient isn’t quite the word. I mean, would you call yourself obedient? Good-natured, biddable, co-operative perhaps, but jumping to the word of command isn’t quite what is expected of an adult person, except in a few situations or jobs. That was how it was with Simon and Huck. “Would you like to come over here, please?” might get a positive result, but “Here, boy” would be met with a raised eyebrow and the command ignored. An offer to shake hands would be greeted with enthusiasm, however, as long as a treat was the result.
He was a keen jumper and climber. There was a five-foot chain link fence against the road – there were two gates and a drive in between in front of the house. Huck could scale it, paw over paw. There was a white picket fence between the drive and the kitchen garden and Huck jumped it daily. He was particularly fond of raspberries and used to pick them off the canes delicately between his lips. Once, I was in my parents’ bedroom ( a lovely room, we spent a lot of time there) and heard a terrible screaming. I looked out and Huck had misjudged the jump and landed with his back legs between the uprights of the fence and couldn’t get out. We rushed out and released him, he could barely reach the ground with his front paws and must have been in great pain. He was quite careful after that.
Here is Huckleberry. He was quite perfect. I love him still and my hand remembers the shape of his head as I stroked it and the softness of his ears. I miss him to this day.