a blog on the Castrati.
No it's not! Not today, anyway.
It has been weeks since I chatted with Jia Li, and I can't chat and do serious blogs at the same time. As our conversation has tended towards animals, and specific dog breeds, let me tell you about Brandy.
He was our English Springer Spaniel, of a line of Crufts winners - I went into the country one day to choose him with my Daddy. I was chosen by a pretty little female, but Dad chose the one who was to become our Brandy-boy.
We never cared for his Champion name. As the years passed it faded from memory, and he became the Boy. Brandy. Byansy-wols. Byan-Byan. Yes, he got the baby talk and he gave the eyes with it.
He was taller than any English Springer I've ever seen and required surgery on his shoulder when he was an adolescent, but he has become my standard. He was handsome and gosh didn't he know it! We have a photo of him staring in the mirror. If you check the sites of other E-S owners there will be many other instances of vanity!
This could SO be Brandy, but B was black and white, this one's liver:
I say, old chap...I seem to have misplaced my monocle...
English Springers love to pose. They are such gentlemen, they do the Royal look naturally. They are described as having a "proud bearing". That is, when they're not yanking your arm off during walkies. Natural trackers, they follow their noses like crazy and don't care if you follow or not, even if you are attached by a leash.
Hell-ew, and who ahh you?
But Brandy's eyes were more human (something for which Springers are renowned), less droopy, and his ears longer, like this:
Wouldn't you pour out your woes to this face???
"I look like King James in his periwig...look regal, look regal."
And look! This is why they are called Springers:
Like any English gentleman, Springers love to go hunting, which is when they drop the regal pose and play with the big boys.
Brandy would turn inside out with glee when Dad took him shooting, which was not often, thank goodness. We have (had?) a nice photo of them, the English countryside in the background lying in a cold haze, a patchwork of duns and beiges; Dad in green wellies, cords and cap ready to take his shot; Brandy "pointing" slightly in anticipation of a retrieval. They're actually supposed to raise the birds by springing but I'm not sure Brandy had put two and two together, he just used to "point" a bit.
On the home front, his place was on the hearthrug at night, Dad's feet buried in his fur.
Never mind Dad, though. My mother was his object of worship. He guarded her with his life. She was his Master, and Springers are very much the sort of dog who need to know who's boss.
Mum used to put his food down and he would eat on command, sit there straining in every muscle but not eating until he was told, at which he was quick as a bullet. The effect was very much diminished by the clothes peg holding his ears out of the gruel (he never ate meat, but mum would jazz up his grain diet by stirring in the drippings or the bit of water in which she'd boiled the trimmings she normally threw away).
She could take his food or treats away at any time, but he never complained because he knew she was "the leader of the pack".
To Brandy, I was the little thing he kept an eye on in case I got lost in the cracks. And he patiently put up with me tugging his ears and sitting on his back. He would ride me round the garden till I fell off.
Those were the days of unlocked front doors. If Mum fell asleep while sitting contemplating or reading, Brandy would sit at attention facing the front door, always making sure he could feel her, even her foot, against his back.
He did the same when she was gardening. If she crouched they were the same height, and he'd face the front gate, even though he couldn't see it through the side garden. He would attach his back to her shoulder and I must say, she did get rather annoyed.
One time, a fugitive was reported in the neighbourhood and our neighbour called to say a strange man was asking around the houses for a glass of water. When he got to our gate, Brandy went sailing, ears at full mast, over the gate, at the man, who certainly didn't stick around to find out what happened next.
Another time, we were 6 pence short some bill or tax, and the bailiff came round to take something worth...6 pence. He had a horrible acid burn up the side of his face, and there was another thug with him. He would not take 6 pennies.
Mum opened the door, but Brandy refused to let them in. He actually stood up, planted his paws on Mum's shoulders, and turned to bark at them.
If she wanted, Mum could set him on someone by saying, "Hup brandy, hup!" She didn't train him on that, they just had a sort of understanding. She called him her son...
He wasn't all brawn and bluster. He was also a baby. She could tell him off, and he would lie down, take his paws and cover his eyes with his curly ears. We even caught him peeping through them!
Unfortunately, after she got sick and nearly died, we had to give him away. Some friends in Buckinghamshire knew a farmer, so he went to Bucks. He and the farmer got along famously, he'd jump in the Land Rover and they'd go off counting the sheep and fenceposts.
I like to think that, as his muzzle greyed, and he lay in the farmhouse at night with his aching old bones, he still waited for his Mummy to come and take him home.
I miss you, Brandy...