Lost: One Cavapoo
Lucy was riding her bike at a slow and wobbling pace and Tony was jogging beside her. Bikes were safe in the lanes that led up to Llancariadmynydd but the road was steep and Lucy dismounted to walk beside Tony.
She just reached his shoulder and her long fingers were tiny compared to his. She also talked more; but then she spoke three languages so he supposed she had more to say.
“Great Grandpapa Nyguen took Grandpa Nyguen and Grandmere Marie (who is now Madame Rochelle) on a boat from Vietnam to escape from the Vietcom who had tortured him.”
“Who?” Tony asked, lost.
“Great Grandpapa Nyguen. In my family we have been Christians for eleven generations. Have your family been Christians for eleven generations?”
Tony felt it was not the moment to say anything about Bert and Bart. But he had to be honest.
“No.” he said, “At least, I don’t think so. My step-grandfather is a Presby-something.”
They reached a five-barred gate on which was carved ‘Ty Fair Kennels’ in curly letters.
Lucy chattered on unstoppably.
“Grandpére Rochelle thought this place looked like the part of France where he was born. Great Grandpapa Nyguen’s little boat was found by a French ship and they were all taken to Marseilles but Grandpa Nyguen came on to UK and started life here. Grandmere Marie had already met Grandpere Pierre Rochelle and so they married and had their family in France but later Grandpa Nyguen invited them to come and be his business partners, so they did. And Grandpa Rochelle called this farm Chateau Marie, in Welsh. Uncle Louis and auntie Therese live there now. Though uncle Louis not much. Aunty…”
Tony let her voice run on like a spring of continuously flowing water. She can’t half talk he thought, but he liked her prattle. He switched his mind back on as they turned past the back of the kennels and on to the low roofed house with windows coming out through the slate.
“…so you see” she was saying. “Daddy looks Brit and Ma Mere looks French and my brothers take after them. When we go out together people say of me, ‘Oh is she adopted?’ and once when we were in France someone said to Daddy ‘Was your wife faithful?’ He meant did I have some other father. Its very upsetting not to look like the rest of your family. Do you look like the rest of your family?”
He did not have an answer to this. He changed the subject.
“Do we knock?”
“No” she said “you pull this chain: it makes the bells ring in the little tower.”
Tony found himself being introduced to a lady who was very tall and willowy. Her three quarter trousers and top were very French but she looked just like Lucy.
“You are very like Lucy,” he said tactfully. “I would have known you together anywhere.”
Both of them beamed at him. The backyard when they went in was full of dogs.
“These are pedigree Cavapoodles. Please note that I say Cavapoodles. There is no poo here! We are going for a walk on the moor.”
“With all of them?” Tony was staggered.
“Oh yes, they will not fight.”
The mass of dog: black, white, brown and honey-coloured was amazing. Some looked like poodles (he had seen a poodle before, once) and some more like what he was told were Cavalier Spaniels.
They set out along the track behind the kennels up to the high moor with its crags of rock pushing up through a sea of high mosses and low heathers. The rocky bits, all of them higher than houses, had names which Chantal Rochelle reeled off. Tony had been asked to call her by her name, which Lucy pronounced Shantal. The dogs streamed over the moor; there were about a hundred of them.
“How will you get them back?” he asked anxiously.
“All of them?” she inquired. “I whistle. One out of all? I call by name. Or you.” She said to Tony pointing to a dog three hundred metres away. “That is Dennis. Call him, shout Dennis.”
“No, much louder!”
“Dennis!” he roared at the top of his voice.
A small golden puppy streaked through the heather towards him. Every other dog carried on undisturbed. From a pocket hitched on to the belt over her loose tunic Chantal took out a small dog biscuit. She fed and patted Dennis, who scampered round her.
“He knows his name.” Chantal said. “But he also knows my voice. If you had a deep man’s voice he would not have come.
It was about the most marvellous half hour he had ever had, sitting in the heather with Lucy, playing with a pair of puppies too small to wander. Chantal walked about and he could see that she was watching each dog. The trouble came when they were about to set out for home.
“Where is Cloud?” Chantal said anxiously, (she pronounced it Clue) “Cloud!!” she roared the name.
There was a pitiful whimper almost overhead. They looked up; Cloud was hanging over the edge of the rock called the Giant’s razor.
Chantal did not hesitate; she ran up the lower slope and began to scramble over the rocks. The small dog hearing her call tried to move and slipped. She was scrambling with her back paws to get a foothold. They could hear her whimpering.
Chantal was on all fours now, crawling up the razor top with a forty foot fall either side of her. Lucy grasped his arm,
“Look Antoine! The dogs, they are following her. They will push her off!”.
If she had not called him Antoine instead of Tony he might have been too afraid to think clearly, but he realised that he had just been made a member of her family, he put his two fingers in his mouth and blew. Nothing happened.
“Make me whistle,” he said, not quite sure to whom this was addressed. “Just make me whistle!”
He blew over his fingers and a sound of shattering loudness came out of his numb mouth. Every dog charged towards him. They were crushed by the sea of dogs but he could not take his eyes off Chantal. She was about a metre from the top clinging on with one hand, she seized Cloud’s collar. Then she lost her balance and she and Cloud slid down the side of the razor. A ledge stopped their fall but Chantal was still clutching Cloud.
“I’m alright” she called shakily, “I am letting Cloud find her own way from here.”
Chantal let go of the dog and inching her way across the ledge got herself hand over hand down to the level of the moor. Lucy stumbled through the dogs and flung her arms round her aunt.
“I’m alright, ma petite, no more than bruises. Where is Cloud? Cloud!”
The dog came squirming to her feet a picture of guilt. The other dogs shrank away from her.
“You are a bad dog.” Chantal said severely and every ear in hearing went down. She tapped the creature sharply on the nose with two fingers, while the other ninety-nine tried to look away in embarrassment. Then they set out for the kennels with Cloud in Chantal’s arms. She thanked Tony for his prompt action. He said, truthfully, that Lucy had told him to do something.
The dogs took themselves to their kennels and the humans had a high tea of French rolls and fresh butter from Mrs Dai Jones the Farm and apricot confiture (alias jam) made by Lucy’s mother. On the way home Lucy tried to give him a French lesson, but he wasn’t up to it. He found he didn’t like heights himself and the terror of watching someone else had left him tired out.