This is the third in this dog story series. If you want to read them in sequence click on Dog Stories in the menu then select the post by date.
In the first story I told you a little about our dog Chota (Pekingese). Chota and I grew up together. He had a long and good life but had a bad heart towards its end. His dying was sad but beautiful. Mum, Dad and I were in the kitchen where Chota was resting in his bed. He was obviously struggling and the end was near. Chota got up and came up to each one of us in turn. Gave each of us a little dry lick, went back to his bed, laid back down and quietly went to sleep… We are sure he knew what was happening and wanted to say goodbye.
After a little while of grieving his death, Mum and Dad decided they needed another dog. They decided on another Pekingese. They knew more about the breed by then and found a very good breeder. We made an appointment to drive across London to go and ‘just look’ at some pups. R-i-g-h-t, just look.
I’m sure you know, people don’t choose puppies, puppies choose us! Such was the case with our selection. All the puppies were adorable and bouncy. But this one little fellow was way out front, he took charge of us almost at once. The deal was done – Dad, was good at naming and he chose the name Ming Ki Lee (Kighley is a family name of ours, I’d never heard the Chinese sounding connection before Dad came up with it). But from that day on the puppy was known (far and wide) as Ming. Ming had a very black face and light coloured fur. He was a very pretty dog, in a manly sort of way.
We arrived home going in the back door (the door opened into the kitchen). Ming immediately went round to the spot where Chota used to have his water bowl, and looked up expectantly for some water. Dog’s know things we don’t.
After about fifteen minutes Mum wanted to show off our new buddy. So we took Ming around to the next street where Nan S. lived. We didn’t have a harness small enough for Ming so he just ran along with us. What surprised us was that he would run a little way ahead, then stop and wait for all three of us to go by before running ahead again. He had already counted the number in the pack and took it as his responsibility to make sure we were all herded together before taking a lead position again! Dog’s understand more than we imagine.
As you can guess Ming grew to be a force to be reckoned with in our household. I’m not sure how it began, but we came to notice that Ming loved Polo Mints (English peppermints with a hole in the middle that look like Lifesavers).
This became the treat of choice and the grocery list always included a dozen rolls of Polo’s. Very soon, Ming had made it known that entry to the house required Ming receiving a Polo from whoever was entering – family or visitor alike. Some frequent visitors brought their own packets and Ming would sit up and beg for his mint. New or less frequent visitors would find a conveniently placed package of Polo’s on the shelf by the door as they entered. No mint, no entry, Ming’s rules.
Ming was a very friendly little guy but also considered himself in charge of security for the property. There was no threat too large for Ming. Some tradesmen (milkman. etc. started bringing their own Polo packets to keep on the boss’s good side.
In Ming’s early years we were still having coal or coke (the fuel kind) delivered. This came in hundredweight bags – carried in by big muscular men known as, well, coalmen. These were pretty tough guys. It was hard and dirty work. They wore heavy jackets, monster work gloves and big hefty boots. As can be attested to in the “I wanted to be a Judge” skit in “Beyond the Fringe” it hurts to drop a large lump of coal on your foot.
Anyway, these guys were strong, tough, and well protected – but Ming would not let them in through the side gate to the coal-bunker. They refused to come in unless he was put inside the house. :Ere missus, can you put yer dog in, ‘e won’t le’ us in”. He really could look ferocious, all twelve and a half inches of him. I can attest to his ferociousness. We got on very well, but even I wouldn’t dare try to touch one of his bones; he loved lamb-chop bones and any other bone. I know, today, we are discouraged from giving dogs splintery bones, but Ming was a master at knowing just how much chewing to do. But his growl and bared teeth were definitely reason to stay clear of his bones, even old green looking ones that he appeared to have discarded or forgotten on the lawn. These were quietly disposed of by cover of night!
Ming was a very intelligent dog, but had his quirky side. He thought he should be able to catch the birds that went after his bones in the garden. He would go flying (not literally) along the path to chase the birds and as they lifted off in flight just ahead of him, would jump into the air, land and look around seemingly puzzled about why he couldn’t fly. We watched him a few times when there were no birds about. He would run down the grass and try to jump into the air. After a few months he gave up on this project.
One of Ming’s gifts was the ability to crack a hazelnut shell into three identical pieces and retrieve the kernel from inside. Ming loved Christmas time as there were always plenty of nuts about. And I’m not just talking about the family gatherings. He loved eating nuts.
It was the family custom on Christmas day, to have dinner around 1pm. We would adjourn to the next living room to gather round the tv to hear the Queen’s Speech. As you can imagine for a young boy this was definitely a highlight of Christmas. One year, after listening to the speech, we went back into the dining room to discover Ming standing on the dining table licking out the remains of liqueur glasses. Apparently a better treat even than hazel nuts.
Another time we were gathered in the living room watching a movie I think, when Ming kept asking to be let into the dining room (there were glass doors separating the rooms. He kept wanting to come in then go out, then come in and go out. After a while Mum or Dad, I can’t remember which, had had enough and said something like “What on earth do you want Ming?”. They went into the other room with him to discover that one by one Ming had been helping himself to a box of chocolates. These were the wrapped kind. There were wrappers all over the floor. Ming was in disgrace. Mum loved chocolates too!
Each summer we used to go for a holiday in the West Country of England. This two weeks away was the highlight of my year. For a few years we stayed at a small English hotel called the Merton in Minehead, Somerset. This was a lot like Fawlty Towers, not the management, just the building and overall style. Mum and Dad liked to take Ming, so they stayed in the annex, a bungalow where the two owners lived and where there was an extra guest room.
Derek, one of the owners loved dogs. But because he couldn’t be trusted not to kill them through spoiling, was not allowed to own one. Derek thought the world of Ming, and Ming, of course, lapped up the attention – as well as the polo mints Derek kept on the bar for him.
Mum, Dad, and I would often drop in for a drink before dinner at the hotel, Ming always went along. Derek managed the bar. One late afternoon we arrived in the bar, Derek saw us, looked down and in a panic said “Oh Ming, Oh no! I don’t have any Polos left!”. This for Derek and Ming was a catastrophe. However, Derek was fast, he said “Don’t worry Ming, I know what to do.” He then broke open a brand new bottle of Creme De Menthe, took a sugar cube, dipped the sugar in the liqueur and gave it to a very satisfied Ming.
There are many other stories I could tell you about Ming, but for now this will give you a view of our pint-sized, mint-conditioned Ming. His only disappointment, I believe, was that he never learnt to fly.