This week the ‘Stare of the Dog’ had the look of a canine wanting his first night in a hotel and so, being the indulging owners that we are, an overnight bag was packed and off we went. The trip south to our Cotswold hotel began by shoveling Dudley into the back of our car. This inelegant operation acts as the starting gun to any excursion despite him being eminently capable of lunging straight in to the boot from a standing start. Instead, indignant looks are exchanged by both parties before I ‘deadlift’ him aboard.
This particular journey did not end well either. Two hours into a three-hour drive, the clutch went leaving us coasting desperately to stop on a slip road of the M42 like downed airmen in search of an airstrip. Like any man, I confidently flipped the bonnet, scanned the scene for symptoms I was unqualified to diagnose and returned to the drivers seat feeling satisfied I’d left no stone unturned. Common sense told us to leave the hound in the back of the car lest he bolted from his boot space sanctuary and unleashed an impromptu bout of motorway slalom. We however took to the embankment to await rescue
The following passage of time could be summed up thus; A forty minute flatbed pickup ride to Hilton Park services, a tortuous wait in the lorry park for an exchange of vehicles and a further 90 minute journey back to Manchester. To Dudley’s credit, he spent 5 hours solid folded into the boot space of a Ford Focus without too many complaints. If the truth be told, he had the better deal and I think he knew it. Incidentally, I heartily recommend parking in the truck section of the motorway services to spice up an otherwise dull journey. First up, there’s the fear of being annihilated by an HGV reversing into your bay, then there’s the frisson of excitement you might get as you scan the backs of trucks for emerging economic migrants or just the sight of a trucker taking a piss against a wheel – his tachometer presumably preventing a trip to a perfectly good service station loo.
Having swapped cars and begun the journey a second time, we arrived at the hotel, and made sure Dudley’s tanks were emptied before heading inside. The hound managed to drag me through the corridors to our room, every inch of the way making me look and feel like a learner on skis struggling to master a button lift. The hotel room could best be described as utilitarian. Small, clean, ideal for two humans. Within thirty seconds the work of a diligent cleaner had been completely undone. The toilet was plundered, the bathroom floor took on more water than Boscastle and the complimentary biscuits were nosed off the sideboard scattering crockery as they went like billiard balls. Next the hound turned his attentions to the bed. With a single bound he was on it in a flash whirling like a dervish in a bid to catch his tail. With each rotation, a new set of muddied footprints appeared on the pristine sheets along with a fine layer of brown hairs.
The evening passed well enough with a hearty meal at a local pub – Dudley impressed by staying quietly seated at our feet – before we returned to our dishevelled and malodorous room to feed the hound. We had of course forgot his food and water bowls and so had to improvise. As he’d already demonstrated the water holding qualities of Armitage Shanks’ finest wares, I decided we now only needed a food vessel and set off in search, feeling like Ray Mears less the sharp axe. It wasn’t long before I had plundered an empty KFC family bucket from a nearby skip and was able to feed the brute.
The remainder of the evening was nothing more than parental sleep deprivation. Initially the problem was one of territory and establishing it. No one had managed to stake an adequate claim on the bed despite trying. I did feel however that I cut quite the figure, manhandling Dudley off it several times that night wearing only pants. In threes these problems came to prevent our slumber and the next one to arrive was his barking. Beyond the cardboard thin walls, children could be heard chattering and slamming doors. Dudley needed no further invite to add to the noise growling with gusto. By two in the morning, boundaries had been established, children banished to their rooms and all seemed quiet. Even the hound could be heard snoring. Then came the fire alarm. Too long for a test, too short for the real thing.
When the false alarm call finally came through I’d already made up my mind. Hotels are for humans.