Part II: Come Back Pete
My mother used to be terrified of dogs. She hadn’t grown up around dogs and didn’t know much about them. Mum and Dad met as Sunday School teachers. Apparently church was a good place to meet girls back then. After their friendship developed Dad invited Mum to his home to meet his mother (Dad’s father had ben killed in the first world war when Dad was only eight). Dad took Mum home and showed her into the living-room and asked her to wait while he went to find his mother.
Dad closed the door behind Mum, she sat down on the settee, feeling a little nervous. That’s when she heard the breathing. More of a deep panting than regular breathing. Rather heavy sounding panting. Even a hungry sounding panting. Mum slowly looked around and there, right beside her, was an enormous dog. He was staring intently at her, panting and drooling a little. When she was sitting the dog’s eyes were level with her’s (and my mum was quite tall, about 5′ 9″). Mum was terrified, scared to move, too scared to call out. Dad had failed to mention they had a Great Dane named Puck, and that Puck was quite harmless. Puck continued to stare at my Mother and pant and drool some more. It must have seemed an eternity before Dad came back and rescued Mum. Puck was about the friendliest, softest, kindest dog you could meet. Once they had been properly introduced Puck and Mum became good friends. In fact Mum became a dog person.
Despite this traumatic beginning to their relationship, Mum and Dad eventually married and had dogs of their own, as well as my brother and me.
Before moving on to Pete, I’ll insert a quick note about Puck’s character. Dad’s family also had a cat (and a parrot, but we won’t talk about him today). Puck and the cat were great friends. But their friendship and the cat’s trust of Puck was notably demonstrated when the cat had kittens. It seems the cat was even friendlier than Puck!
Puck used to look after the kittens while mum-the-cat went to eat and do other things not to be mentioned here. Puck would sit by the kittens’ basket and wash them. Unfortunately, Puck was a large dog, with a rather wet lick. The kittens were very small. There were occasions when family members had to rescue one or more kittens from drowning. Puck loved those little kittens and helped the cat raise them.
But you are anxious to learn about Come Back Pete. Actually he was just called Pete. Pete was of uncertain parentage and didn’t display any noticeable breeding. He was the kind of dog who travelled round the neighbourhood daily. It was still the time in England when dogs could roam freely. Pete was a very friendly guy. He loved people, but was especially fond of children. Apparently, Pete liked to visit the local school at playtime (recess for US readers who need translation). He seemed to have worked out when the school breaks were and would arrive at the school in time to play with the kids.
To get to the school from our house meant a fairly long walk down the main road known as Chingford Mount Road – or The Mount, and a long, steep climb back. On a clear day you can see St. Paul’s Cathedral from the top of the mount (about twelve miles away). I saw St. Paul’s from The Mount twice in my 21 years living in Chingford!
Pete could often be seen trotting up or down The Mount. Usually Pete was pretty good at crossing streets and made it there and back safely. Unfortunately, one day, Pete misjudged his crossing, there was a squeal of brakes and tyres (tires for US readers). A very concerned woman got out of her car and found Pete lying on the road. She found his collar and the tag that displayed his name and address. She carefully lifted Pete’s lifeless body, laid him on the back seat of her car and drove to my parent’s house.
The woman carried Pete up the path, rang the bell, and explained to my mother what had happened. The woman was very upset and apologetic at not being able to avoid Pete. Mum was naturally upset, but tried to let the woman know that she understood it was not her fault. They laid Pete carefully down in the kitchen. After a while the woman said goodbye to Mum and walked towards her car looking very sad. Mum closed the front door and went to look at poor Pete.
It was at this moment that Pete opened his eyes, jumped up, wagged his tail and ran and jumped out of the front room window! Pete ran right past the woman who was just getting into her car. Mum stayed indoors and away from the window!
Had Pete been stunned or had Pete figured out a great way to get a ride home in a car? We will never know. But I will always feel a smile coming on whenever I think about Come Back Pete.