This is an extract from the beginning of the book. Frisco was the family pet and the first dog that I formed an incredible bond with. Although I didn’t know it at the time my love for Frisco formed the blue print for a large part of my life….
‘As a child, my two younger siblings and I were fortunate enough to own shares in the family pet dog, a female Alsatian Labrador cross called Frisco, whom we loved with a passion. Frisco was quite a character, a free spirit who frequently escaped from the back garden and was rather partial to taking herself off for a stroll around the local picturesque lake. The lake was within half a mile of our house and situated across the other side of a busy main road at the end of our sleepy street. Getting herself to the lake involved jumping over the garden wall, walking down our street, then carefully crossing the main road.
Our independent agile dog loved her strolls around the lake, after which she liked nothing more than to while away her time sat in one of the canoes, moored by the lakeside. And there she would happily chill without a care in the world, that was until she caught sight of a flock of geese coming in to land. Once landed she excitedly jumped out of the canoe and felt compelled to give chase to the birds, barking ferociously the whole time. When she tired of tormenting the local wildlife, she made her way home, at the same time getting a chance to practice her foraging for street food skills. She was good at this. The food came in various forms, usually scraps left by picnickers or walkers, but her best source of sustenance came from Mrs. Clegg who lived on our street at number twelve. Mrs. Clegg was an avid baker, every morning without fail she rustled up tantalising culinary delights. It didn't take long for Frisco to catch on to the baking activities going on at number twelve. Gravitating towards the welcoming aroma, she always called in for a pit-stop before returning home. And there sat outside Mrs Clegg’s door, she barked incessantly until the lady herself appeared and fed our peckish dog with a home-made scone. Once devoured, it was then back to our house in time for lunch. Afternoons followed a similar pattern.
Like a lot of dogs, Frisco appeared to possess an inbuilt clock and always made sure she was home in time to greet us from school. Taking the scenic route home from school one afternoon I witnessed her returning from one of her lake escapades. Earlier than usual I caught her unawares and watched as she sat at the curb with her back to the lake. Looking to her right she waited for a gap in the traffic, oblivious to the fact that I was spying on her. When a gap appeared, she strolled into the centre of the road, then sat down again waiting for the traffic to clear to her left.
At this point, she was sat in the middle of the road with cars passing behind and in front of her, yet she remained calm. After about a minute the traffic to her left cleared, allowing her to calmly walk towards the other side of the road. Once safely across the road she picked up her step and headed off towards home, still unaware of my presence and of how completely in awe I was. Jaywalking was just another one of her many talents!
In the time-honoured tradition, Christmases were always spent at our grandmother’s home. In her youth grandmother attended catering college in her home-town of Darwen, Lancashire and graduated as a first-class cook. Her confectionery masterpieces were legendary, she could give Mrs. Clegg a run for her money any day of the week. The festive season was a time for her to show off her infinite culinary talents, in particular her desserts which were nothing less than ambrosia to the palate. Frisco’s maiden Christmas at grandmother’s was bound to be a glorious experience for our greedy young pet, she would love being on the front line in grandmother’s kitchen. However, we were proved wrong.
Following our usual schedule, we all arrived at grandmother’s on Christmas Eve morning, full of excitement and festive cheer. That evening at about 6 pm my mother received an unexpected phone call from Mrs. Clegg alerting her to the fact that Frisco was outside her front door barking for her scone! In all the excitement we had failed to notice that Frisco had done her disappearing act, yet again.
The whole family tried to recall the last time we saw her. When we arrived that morning, we remembered her getting out of the car and then watched as she made her way straight through the house and into the kitchen where grandmother was busily preparing food for our Christmas Eve visitors. Frisco was doing her usual begging thing and in the process getting under grandmother’s feet. Grandmother was clearly irritated and told Frisco to “Scarper”, and that was the last anyone saw of her. Frisco had taken grandmother at her word and ‘scarpered’ all the way back home. Like some sort of big furry homing pigeon, she made the seven-mile trip back to number twelve to try her luck there, snubbing grandmother in the process.
The clever dog would have achieved this remarkable feat by following landmarks and also drawing on her incredible sense of smell. Frantically covering as much ground as possible and trying to pick up the scent of something to lead her back home, or more importantly to Mrs Clegg’s. It’s truly amazing how dogs can do this, it’s as if they have an inbuilt sat nav. There is now research to suggest that dogs may be able to search by using magnetic fields in a similar way to migrating birds, for further information refer appendix A.’