A few years ago a well-known record producer friend of mine was living on his yacht in Antibes marina. One day he decided that he missed his dog.
As he’d left the dog behind in the States , he arranged for the animal to be flown over to France. It was a very large long-haired Alsatian.
The dog was flown to Nice airport in a fibreglass doggy container and his arrival in Nice was announced by a phone call to Nigel which informed him that the dog had eaten its way out of its Porta-Kennel and wouldn’t let anyone near the plane’s baggage hold. That meant that the plane could not be unloaded, causing delays and chaos “all over Europe” (this WAS France!)
Nigel was also told in no uncertain terms that unless he was there within 30 minutes, the dog would be shot.
Nigel leapt into his Corniche and sped-off along the RN7 in the direction of St Laurent du Var and the airport. An hour later, he returned with the dog and a severely depleted wad but he still had the half-pound gold ingot around his neck, swinging on what we all used to think was a solid gold bike chain. (Nige had class!).
Later that evening, I was wandering along the quay towards his yacht because Nigel had called me and said that he had something interesting that he wanted to show me (and probably smoke).
When I finally arrived at his yacht’s pasarail and before I slipped-off my battered Docksiders, I noticed a large wolf-like creature sitting on the aft-deck. It was making a noise like a slightly misfiring diesel “camion” engine. It stared straight at me and growled very gently – it was almost a purr – a cross between irritation and the anticipation of a teatime snack.
I rattled the pasarail and shouted “Nigel! Can you come out and hold onto your fucking wolf!………. Nigel!!”
I heard the wheelhouse door slide open and a rather disshevelled Nigel staggered out. He looked at me and then looked at the dog: “Don’t be such a fucking tart, Dickie. Come aboard. He won’t touch you. He’s as gentle as a kitten.”
Meanwhile, the Alsatian continued to growl and drool.
“Come on! Come aboard” encouraged Nigel.
“Nope!” I said. “Hold onto his collar and THEN I’ll come aboard.”
An exasperated Nigel walked onto the deck and grabbed to dog by the collar. The dog didn’t flinch. It was locked onto me like a heat-seeking missile.
I crossed the pasarail and noticed that the dog was pulling against the 18 inch choke-chain around its neck…..and I was just about to enter his territory!
I made it across. Nigel said, “See! Let him sniff the back of your hand….go on!”
I offered Barnaby (that was the wolf’s name) the back of my hand. He didn’t lick it. He just looked at it before re-locking his gaze onto my eyes.
“They can sense fear, you know Dickie. If he knows you’re scared, he’ll go for you. Tell you what, Dickie, kneel down and let him lick your face. He’s very friendly….Go on! Show him you’re not scared!”
“Are you sure , Nige. He’s growling…..”
I knelt . The wolf was so close that I could hear his heartbeat – but I’m not sure…it may have been mine.
“Go on…..let him see you’re not afraid. He’ll lick you in a minute……”
I’m not sure who was the most surprised at what happened next. The dog leapt at me with it’s mouth wide open. It went for my face. Nigel dragged the dog back but it had already made contact and one of its fangs had caught the underside of my chin and had ripped it open. Nigel dragged the dog away and said “Bad boy.” Then he turned to me…
“Look at that, Dickie ! Look at the fucking mess you’re making. You’re bleeding all over my teak deck. I only had that sanded yesterday. Bastard!”
Nigel turned his back on me and the dog, saying “Hold on. I think I’ve got some tissues in the galley….”
I only just made it back down the pasarail . As soon as Nigel let go of the dog, it came for me again. This time there was no pretence. It is was nothing less than growling, spitting venom. It wanted to eat me!
As I leapt into my Docksiders, Barnaby then just sat down, barked a couple of times and then arranged himself on the aft-deck and stared.
Nigel soon reappeared with some tissues. “What are you doing down there. Been winding Barnaby up again?” He threw the tissues at me “Come on we’ve had our fun. Come on… got something to show you….”
Needless to say, I did not accept Nigel’s kind invitation and the point of the story is nothing to do with my fear of Alsatians. It’s to do with blinkered owners who, like an over-tolerant parent, cannot see or understand that their dog is NOT playful but a psycho-nutter which can “lose-it” in a split second.
I only appreciated the full extend of Nigel’s “denial” when I spotted a contraption on his yacht which looked like a length of scaffold pipe. “What’s that Nige?” I asked….thinking that it was probably something to do with his boat.
“That’s what I take Barnaby for walks with…like a dog-lead, only solid. When we’re out , he gets excited. Bless him! You know, he sees people and gets a bit wound up and tries to bite them and sometimes he tries to bite me..he only wants to play…….the little rascal…so I have to have him on this pipe. That way, he can’t get near me! Good isn’t it!”