Tommy was out with Patch on a walk, or ‘patrol’ as Patch would call it and their stroll patrol took them past the Royal Weyport Yacht Club.
Patch was always fascinated by the sea, which he felt in his bones that he had a connection with – having heard all the stories of the ‘Canine Chronicles’ from his beloved mother, who told him through ‘Word of Wolf’ as it was known in the doggy world, of the adventures of England’s greatest seadog ‘One Eyed Patch’ who was Admiral Nelson’s faithful, four legged companion and who had played a heroic part at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 – but that’s another tale (tail)!
Tommy let the little Bedlington off the lead as the pair walked up and down the marina admiring yachts of all shapes and sizes. The whiff of the sea air, the feel of sea breeze in his fur and the rocking of the boats, was enough to make Patch float off to a place where he, as One Eyed Patch, was fighting off a squadron of French poodles on the port side.
‘Why the port side?’ he thought, ‘Why not the rum side?’ Patch began to lick his lips – he knew One Eyed Patch was partial to a drop of West Indian spirit. His thirst turned to hunger and then he recalled the ship’s biscuits.
‘Bah, I hate weevils ….’ he thought and then the little dog began to splutter in distaste, as if spitting out the offending vermin.
‘By ‘eck Patch lad,’ said Tommy, ‘What’s the matter with thee boy?’ Yer not getting sea sick are yer? You’re not even on the water!’
‘A Bedlington, me, seasick. How dare you Master Tommy! My ancestors were the finest seadogs this country has ever produced, the sea is in my blood!’ exclaimed a rather indignant Patch, affronted by his Young Master as doubting his maritime heritage.
Patch barked at Tommy in protest.
‘All right Patch, all right boy,’ I don’t know what I’ve done but I’m sorry’, said Tommy, puzzled by his dog’s behaviour.
Patch led out a snort having forgiven his Young Master’s indiscretion but also because he imagined he still had the taste of weevil in his mouth.
‘Put that dog on a lead,’ came a stentorian voice from one of the three figures coming towards them, ‘You shouldn’t let your animal run around free in this marina young man’.
The voice belonged to Belinda Forbes, a stalwart of the Royal Weyport Yacht Club and principal organiser of Weyport Regatta, the highlight of the local sailing scene. She was accompanied by fellow member Inspector Tom Pratchett.
‘E wouldn’t harm anyone misses, my Patch is a good dog,’ Tommy piped up immediately of his pet’s defence. ‘‘E just gets excited like.’
‘Your mutt doesn’t look if it has got much discipline, son,’ added the chief of Weyport police.
This response brought another bark from Patch.
‘He’s got right under my collar that flatfoot. Mutt indeed!’ thought Patch. Patch let out another Bedlington bark to warn him off but Inspector Pratchett hadn’t finished his derogatory doggy remarks.
‘It wouldn’t make it as a police dog, wouldn’t pass the height test,’ smirked one of Weyport’s finest, before laughing at his own joke.
This was too much for our Patch who having given his adversary a warning and insulted by reference to his lack of progress in the height department, leapt at the insulting inspector and pretended to give him a sharp bite on his ankle.
Tommy could only gasp at astonishment at the sight before him while Belinda Forbes stood shocked, but secretly amused, as the policeman, losing balance from the surprise assault, flailed his arms in the air before tipping over into the water from the marina walkway.
‘Roger and out!’ exclaimed Patch to himself, ‘That’ll teach him to mess with a Bedlington.’
As the unfortunate policeman emerged from the dark waters and spat out the diesel soaked liquid from his month, the fear in his eyes alerted those safely on shore.
‘I can’t …. can’t swimmmm,’ spluttered the Inspector.
His look of horror was shared by the onshore onlookers.
‘Well I can’t go in. I just got this matching ensemble from Country Casuals,’ declared a concerned but practical Belinda, inviting Tommy to see the distress she had over the prospect of ruining such a fine dress. ‘It won’t wash out. It would never be the same again, cost me a fortune.’
Patch looked up at Tommy.
‘Well I’m not going in Young Master, even though us Bedlingtons are renowned swimmers. Besides it clearly states in the ‘Doggy Manual’, health and safety section, claws four, paragraph six, subsection three that “four paws should not dive into water to save a two paw if it endangers their own life”. I mean I would do it for you Young Master and the rest of the Wagstaff pack - especially Mistress Ma and the lovely Young Mistress Emma - but not that nasty two paw who has just insulted me.’
While Patch had this interesting but long, internal philosophical debate Inspector Pratchett emerged from the depths for a second time.
‘Help, help’ … he cried.
Tommy began to take off his shoes and was just about to gallantly jump in to assist the near drowning victim when suddenly, out of nowhere, amid the sound of rapid feet pounding the planks of the marina walkway, an athletic, tall, lithe figure came to the scene, dived into the waters with a grace that any Olympic diver would have been proud of, and in a flash, was next to the flailing policeman.
Even Patch was impressed, and his eyes widened in awe and his tongue flopped out in wonder at such a stirring sight.
Brigit Larsen, who had been temporarily assigned to Weyport Police from the Copenhagen Constabulary, in one swift action grabbed the torso of the panicking policeman and dragged him to shore; without any help from Tommy and Belinda she, in one fluent movement hurled her rescued colleague up onto the marina before emerging herself athletically from the waters.
Patch’s eyes turned to saucers at such a masterly (or mistressly) doggy paddle by the beautiful four paw.
As soon as she was ‘ashore’ Brigit turned the soaked inspector over and expertly proceeded to pump his chest of waters before giving him a ‘kiss of life’. Tom groaned, mostly at the thought at the humiliation he was going to receive from the rest of the lads down at the police station when they heard all about this unfortunate affair.
‘That bloody Bedlington’, thought Tom, though he was relieved to be on terra firma.
Larsen turned Inspector Prachett into the recovery position and ordered Belinda to go to the yacht clubhouse and get the inspector a blanket. Belinda meekly obeyed the ‘heroine of the hour’ and tottered off, her expensive clothes thankfully still uncreased and dry.
It was then Patch unexpectedly jumped to the water, much to the surprise of Tommy and Brigit, and began to frantically doggy paddle, pretending he was in trouble.
Brigit bent down on the water’s edge, grabbed Patch by the scruff off the neck and not without strength, tossed him to the safety of the marina’s wooden decking.
‘You are a strange dog, but very cute ………’ smiled Brigit.
The little Bedlington was delighted and proceeded to lie on his back with all four paws in the air next to the ‘striking Viking.’
‘What is your dog doing?’ asked Brigit of Tommy.
Tommy smiled. ‘I think he wants yer miss to give ‘im the kiss of life!’
Brigit gave a puzzled look.
‘How odd! Are all English dogs like this?’ she said.
‘Oh no miss. There’s only one Our Patch!’ Tommy responded.
With that Brigit bend down tickled the little dog’s tummy, gave him a kiss on his snout and patted his tuft.
Patch was in doggy heaven. He was in love!
‘Our Patch’ – the original book by John Hutchins of the adventures of a Bedlington Terrier in a North Yorkshire mining town before the First World War - is available from Amazon UK, United Writers (www.unitedwriters.co.uk) or bookshops.ragraph text here.