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Teeny Tiny Tyke ~ A Fairytale

Image by LLorensen on Pixabay

Lucy and her family lived on a farm. One market day, Lucy was in town to sell their eggs. Once she’d sold them, she tied up the money carefully in the corner of her handkerchief. She was on her way home when she overheard two farmers talking near the butter-cross. One of them was holding, in the crook of his arm, a very small grey dog, with tightly curled hair. It’s eyes had a knowing twinkle, but one was bigger than the other. In spite of this, Lucy liked the puppy right away.

“I dunno what to do with this wretched little tyke,” the farmer said to his friend. “He’s the last one in the litter and much smaller than the six others. I sold them as easy as kiss-me-hand.”

His friend laughed. “He’s too small for herding sheep or guarding the house, he’s too ugly for anyone to want him as a pet. You’ll have a job getting rid of him.”

“Well I don’t want to keep him,” said the first farmer. “I’d give him away, but I doubt anyone would want him.”

Lucy could hardly believe her ears. “Please mister,” she said shyly, “if you don’t want him, can I have him?”

“You want him?” The farmer was surprised. “Right then Missy, the little tyke’s yours. Take him and good riddance.”

Lucy thanked him. She tucked the little grey dog under her arm and ran all the way home in case the farmer changed his mind.

“Mum, Mum!” she cried, bursting in through the kitchen door. “See what I’ve got – a teeny, tiny dog called Tyke.”

Lucy’s mother looked doubtful. “He’s so small Lucy, and his eyes are crooked. What good’ll he be? How will he earn his keep?  he’s too small for herding or guarding the house.”

“Please let me keep him,” Lucy pleaded. “I’ll work twice as hard to make up for him.”

“We’ll see,” said her mother. “I can’t worry about dogs now. The witch has put a spell on the well. I can’t get any water for cooking and the boys can’t get water for the stock to drink.”

Their farm was in a valley, on the hill above lived a horrible witch. Although Lucy’s family were poor, they were happy. This made the witch sick with envy.

Tyke had been sniffing around the kitchen. When he heard about the witch, he sidled up to Lucy and whispered, “I can deal with the witch.” But Lucy was too busy helping her mother to listen.

Lucy’s father stamped angrily into the kitchen. “That cursed witch put a spell on the gate. It won’t let me through to pen the sheep and it’ll be dusk soon.”

Tyke stepped forward, and spoke a little louder this time. “I can deal with the gate,” he said, but no one took any notice.

Lucy’s big brother Tom came into the kitchen, his cheeks flushed with frustration. “The cows won’t give milk, they’re too thirsty. Old witch has put a spell on the well.”

Tyke swaggered forward. “I can deal with the well,” he boasted, but everyone was too busy to listen.

Lucy’s little brother Peter came in looking sad. “Not one egg in the henhouse,” he showed his empty basket. “They’re so thirsty there’s no cackle from the hens nor a crow from the cock.”

“I can deal with the well,” shouted Tyke, having climbed on a chair. “Leave it to me.”

All the family turned to stare at the teeny, tiny dog.

“You!” they cried. “You’re a scruffy grey ball of fur, what can you do? You’re too small to fight and you’re not clever enough to deal with the witch’s spells. Get out! Get away from here.”

The teeny, tiny dog’s boasting had amazed and angered everyone except Lucy. She picked him up and looked into his mis-matched eyes. 

“Could you, Tyke? Would you?”

“I could and I will,” he said firmly.

“All right,” said Lucy, “prove it.” She opened the door and let him out. Tyke ran to the gate.

“You can’t go through, the bewitched gate said importantly. “No one belonging to this farm can pass through.”

Tyke threw back his scruffy grey head and laughed, his little pink tongue hanging out. “But I don’t belong here, they told me to get out.”

“Then I’ll have to let you pass,” squeaked the gate grudgingly.

Tyke scuttled through, ran up the hill, rounded up the sheep and penned them in the fold. Next, he ran to the well.

“No water, no water!” cried the well. “No water for anyone belonging to this farm.”

“That’s all right then, because I don’t belong here,” said teeny, tiny Tyke. Then he hauled up the water bucket with the rope held between his teeny, tiny teeth.

Big brother Tom took water to the cows, little Peter carried a bucketful to the hens and Lucy took water to her mother so she could cook. In no time there was milk and eggs on the kitchen table and a stew bubbling on the stove.

Lucy picked Tyke up and gave him a hug. “Isn’t he clever?” she said to her mother. “Now he can stay, can’t he?”

Just then they heard the gate calling. “Look out, here comes the witch!”

Lucy was still hugging Tyke when her father, Tom and Peter ran in.

“Put me down, I have work to do,” said Tyke. “I’ll deal with the witch.”

“You!” said Lucy’s father scornfully, “you couldn’t outwit her – not in a million years.” But Lucy believed in Tyke and let him out.

The witch was so angry, she was spitting. Her temper had changed from sour jealousy to burning fury. Her broomstick knew better than to dawdle when she was in this kind of meed, it had brought her down so fast that the earth scorched where she landed. She began to walk around the farmhouse waving her arms and chanting a spell to keep everyone inside until she released them. 

“And that’ll be never!” she cackled at her own cunning plan.

“That’s where you’re wrong!” said teeny, tiny Tyke. “I’ve followed behind you every step of the way, brushing your footprints out with my teeny, tiny tail. I’ve broken the spell.”

The witch’s face went rigid with fear. “You’ve ruined it, you horrid little grey mutt,” she cried. “Shoo, scat!”

“No – you go or I’ll bite you and drain all your power.” He began to run after the witch, snapping his teeny, tiny teeth.

The witch was furious, but she knew she was beaten. Muttering and grumbling, she leapt back on her broomstick and flew away.

“And that’s the last time she will trouble you,” said teeny, tiny Tyke.

“Well done, you clever dog, come indoors,” said Lucy.

“You said I don’t belong,” said teeny tiny Tyke.

“We want you to live with us,” said little Peter.

“But I’m ugly and scruffy, said teeny, tiny Tyke.

“A stout heart’s worth more than a pretty face,” said Lucy’s mother, “come, sit by the hearth.”

“But I’m too small to be any use,” said teeny, tiny Tyke.

“Good things come in small parcels,” said Lucy’s father. “You proved that.”

“I need a friend,” said Lucy, “please stay Tyke.”

“Oh, very well,” said the little dog, “I’ll stay for Lucy’s sake, and in case the witch tries to come back.”

But she never did. Teeny, tiny Tyke lived on the farm and made himself useful.  He was Lucy’s best friend. He followed like a shadow when she was at home, he walked her to school and was always waiting when she came out. At night he slept curled up at the foot of her bed. He and Lucy were very content.

“This is the life for me,” said teeny, tiny Tyke. 

This was piece of fiction created by my mother with editorial input by me

Always a Lady

A beautiful, but poignant tribute written by my Father about his beloved spaniel – a working dog and key member of our family.

We first met when she was two years old. Her father was a famous field trial champion with similar achievements going back all down the sire’s line as far as the pedigree reached. On her dam’s side  there were one or two field trial awards sprinkled about, but mostly, there was clear evidence of a gamekeeper’s faithfuls like Jenny (no Kennel suffix) or Flikka. Anyway, her dam was a really cracking small springer who had the trick of keeping one eye on her boss however far out she seemed to be going. Her boss was one of the nicest gamekeepers I’ve ever met.

This small, 2 month old chubby chops was lent to me to try each other out. With my elder daughter I slowly walked and talked her up along the edge of one of the release woods near the keeper’s cottage: she followed with some hesitation but no attempt to break back or into the wood. When we got back (carrying some of the way, because small legs get tired) we popped her down by a likely looking wood pile and encouraged her to seek!  She gave that rat and rabbit smelling wood pile such a combing, with her fat little bottom and docked tail showing fully her pleasure in the work.

My daughter and I took her back to the outdoor run with her litter brothers and sisters who were just about to have their evening meal, as they were being weaned from their dam. Food, the most important event in any healthy dog’s life. Slurping and jostling each other with their backs to us, ‘our’ little bitch ignored the food. She sat facing us, looking unwinkingly at us with that peculiar intentness that is a gift beyond price. It was that which decided me to have her.

I left her with the gamekeeper for one more month as I had a rather jealous, stern Weimaraner bitch that I did not want to tyrannise her too much. My elder son came to collect the puppy with me and sat with her and the Weimaraner in the boot to see fair play. Within 24 hours of arrival she proved she had a memory. I had bought a rabbit skin back too and hung it in a tree for a later use as a dummy. In the night the wind picked up and blew the skin down. When I turned the pup out for early morning penny-worths and a run, she made straight for the shrubbery, where, unknown to me, the skin lay under a tree. She ate it whole and ran back mighty pleased with herself.

From then on her training was a pleasure. She had her mother’s trick of always keeping one eye on me whatever she was about. I found I did not have to bother about hares or rabbits. She would course them for about 20 yards, then return as she early found they were much quicker than her. Maybe she would not have ever reached a field trial, but she was a mighty putter up of game, quickly learning to get down-wind of bits of cover to save pushing through everything, she could also gauge content by nose. 

She had the usual particular stance and ‘yip’ when onto a rabbit. She loved water and swam quite flat with no fuss or tenseness. She played in the rubber boat with the children in the pool learning to trim to the set of a boat: anticipating its movements and shifting her feet. One of her favorite games, as a puppy, was hiding in the rubber inflatable boat on the grass with her two eyes peeping out of the top. She’d then run to nip my younger son’s bottom as he crept up, starck naked, to try and get in the boat too. Gales of laughter as this game went on for hours.

When she retrieved duck to me, she threw them sideways out of her mouth and turned back to the water. In this way I had to set her onto one or two runners that slipped straight into the reeds and had to be retrieved again. Once she realised this, she brought the duck to hand. She was always chancey on cock pheasants. On her first full working day she had a cock torn from her mouth by an aggressive labrador, one of a team of three worked by a gun’s wife; the bird spurred her in the mouth. I spent the rest of the season gentling her back to retrieving. 

On the last day of the season, our very last push through cover, I realised from the behaviour of both the Weimaraner and the young springer that a bird had drawn ahead of them down a ditch and hedge. I asked permission to follow up and set the dogs on again. Their eagerness increased each yard and from beside a pond at the hedge junction they pushed a cock pheasant. I shot it as it crossed the plough towards a wood and the springer was sent to retrieve. She had just collected it and was returning when the same black labrador rushed across the field and snatched the bird from her.

She adored wildfowling, starting at 18 months when she picked her first pinkfoot: a beautifully proportioned half-sized mutant. Even that was big for her at the time. If I was cross with her and swore at her (which I did I regret to say – having a low flash point and hot temper) she would not look at me for a while. She’d sit, back to me and very still, with her cheeks sucked in. All the family loved her dearly and if I or my wife had to scold the children, particularly the younger two, they would go and sit with the springer, resting their heads on her til they felt better. The Weimaraner accepted her and, latterly when I found my springer dog on Liverpool Street Station (nobody ever claimed him) he doted on the springer bitch, as did my wife’s grand little rough coated dachshund.

Sadly, all good things come to an end, and with tragic suddenness for the little springer bitch. She ran, as she thought, after me towards a road behind a sandy beach in Northumberland. My wife and younger son had just crossed, but I had stopped to watch a bird. I whistled and called but the noise of an old banger with three tearaways in it drowned my calls; with a sickening foreboding I thought “she’s going to be hit by the car”. I ran as fast as I could towards the road and heard the bang of the impact. My wife and younger son saw her turn to try to get back to me when she realised I was still coming from the beach. My younger daughter saw it all from our caravan. Lady died quietly while my wife and I stroked and talked to her. I knew she would never leave that Northumberland beach.

The children chose her name, Lady, which always seemed so opposite to her playful nature. As my younger daughter said to her mother: “When Daddy can bear to think about it, Lady was 10 years old and she had just had her most full and successful season. He would have hated seeing her getting gradually older ‘til the Awful Day.”

They say each man deserves one good dog in his life, and I believe in Lady I may have had mine. All I know is how much I still miss her.

4Thoughts

The #4Thoughts_Fiction meme is hosted on a #NSFW site, so be warned if you follow the link, but I’m no prude The prompt is currently ‘Longing’.

Henry Potstam’s Coat

Henry Potstam was a very pampered dog. He lived in a large house in a smart area of London. His owners didn’t have any children, Henry was their baby and they made no excuses for that.

Everyday their maid would take Henry Potstam for a walk. His master and mistress worked and so this broke up his day until they were at home. It allowed him to stretch his legs and catch up with any ‘messages’ left on lamp posts and walls by other dogs in the neighbourhood. Henry was a west highland white terrier, whose sense of smell was very keen. His almost black eyes were bright and alert and he enjoyed sniffing the trunks of any trees planted in the pavements en route to the park near his home.

Because Henry Potstam was a ‘gentleman’, he had a coat which he wore when he went out. His dog jacket was tartan, it slipped over his head, covered his back and fastened round his ribs but, most importantly, it had a pocket. Henry was such a pampered dog that he had an allowance. So the maid would put one penny of this into his jacket pocket every day before they set off on their walk.

London parks can be very beautiful, with paths through grassy spaces and avenues of trees. There are often benches dotted about and large beds of flowers known as herbaceous borders. In 1950s London, when this story takes place, parks also looked good because litter was confined to ornate wrought iron receptacles and an army of gardeners kept the bushes and flower beds maintained. 

The maid enjoyed her leisurely walk with Henry. As they left the house at the same time every day, they saw a lot of familiar faces. She stopped and talked briefly to a few friends but did not dawdle, as this was Henry’s walk and he was keen to get to the shop. 

A bell rang once the heavy door of the tobacconist shop opened. Henry and his walker were well known, they visited every day. Henry walked around the counter to get his usual fuss from Mr Crawford the owner. Having bent down to greet the dog and issue an ear rub, Mr Crawford would enquire whether the maid needed any shopping. In those days shops were not self service and to serve her, he would have lifted down jars to weigh out dry goods: toffees or sugar or whatever she needed. Once the maid had made her purchases Mr Crawford could turn his attention to his 4-legged customer.

“So Henry, is it the usual?” he would enquire.

Not needing an answer, he would bend down to remove the copper penny from Henry’s coat pocket to exchange it for a bar of chocolate. A penny bar of chocolate was small and fairly basic, “marching chocolate” it bore a historical picture of a soldier on it’s foil wrapper. In the 1950s nobody knew that chocolate was not suitable for dogs and this was Henry’s treat.

If the weather was fine, Henry and the maid would leave the shop so she could sit on a park bench to feed him his chocolate. If there was rain or snow, then Mr Crawford would unwrap the treat for Henry and he’d eat it in the shop, before walking happily back through the avenue of trees and along the pavements to his home.

This is a true story, perhaps the names have been changed to protect the innocent! My mother worked for Henry Potstam’s owner and this was one of my favourite of her annecdotes, as she relayed it to me.

My Dog’s Tale

Recently I had a light-bulb moment about reminiscing: it actually feels nice. A pleasant sensation is evoked by sifting through old memories. It’s particularly noticeable when I’m prompted to trawl my memories for something I’d almost forgotten. It makes me wonder if it’s like massaging for one’s brain!

I love dogs, I grew up with dogs and when I was old enough was given one of my own. Since then I haven’t stuck to the same breed of dog. Small, medium and large, I’ve owned all sizes. This story is about a large dog I owned when my children were younger, a weimeraner. They’re a beautiful looking breed, large and athletic with short, mouse grey fur with pale eyes to match. They make loyal and devoted family dogs but they’re also a lot to handle, in regards to both strength and their ‘fizzy’ temperament.

Determined to do things right, I had started by taking our girl to puppy classes. Next my dog and I drove to an agricultural college where a weekly obedience class took place at a fenced-in field. She was a sociable dog but rather vocal. I suspect  our trainer viewed us both as slightly ditzy. If we arrived early to class she wanted to greet (with a sniff and a wag) all the other dogs. If anyone arrived late she barked at the newcomer, seeming unable to settle til our tea break, when she could say her canine ‘hello’.

Tea-break on a blowy day in the middle of a grassy field was fairly basic. Our trainer provided flasks of tea and coffee. Alongside plastic cups, plastic spoons, sachets of sugar and milk, he brought biscuits and stackable plastic picnic chairs. We gathered in a circle with our dogs by our sides to chat, siping our drinks to warm ourselves.

The wind was making my dog quite lively. I didn’t want her to spill my coffee, so I had a cunning idea. I put one leg of my chair through the loop on my dog’s lead before I sat. The group of dogs were quite relaxed with each other, comfortable in close proximity. On this day, however, I wished I’d chosen a seat further away from a West Highland White Terrier called Theo. 

They were both puppies, but Theo’s testosterone was kicking in, causing him to want to dominate other dogs. My girl was happy to play, but the windy day seemed to make her more spirited. What she wouldn’t tolerate was Theo using alpha moves or trying to mount her. A few doggy tussles went on around my chair. I tried to get my dog to sit on the other side of me, away from Theo. I tried to avoid causing a disturbance, our trainer was telling a funny story. 

Suddenly Theo made another lunge for my Weimaraner. For her it was the last straw. She darted out of reach, accompanied by a crack like a shotgun report. Every startled human whipped their head round, seeking the source of commotion. 

I couldn’t understand how my dog had moved so far away. When some of the other dog handlers began to laugh, I noticed that my girl’s lead was still round the white chair leg. The chair leg, however, was dragging in the grass no longer attached to my chair!

Yet, without spilling a drop of coffee, I was still sitting on that chair with one leg missing!

This story is submitted for a writing meme the Reminiscences summer writing project. The point of this writing project is to create new content by writing from memory, with a focus on the form of memoir. The first prompt is to consider ‘wind’. (Both realistically and metaphorically.)