|In at the Death - Background to the Book
I can really, really sympathise with Corvinus here because Placida is Annie, our second dog (see picture), and apart from making Sestia Calvina’s four-pawed disaster a bit bigger than the original they are otherwise dead ringers.
We finally collected her, duly passported, the following Easter. At that time the Zeebrugge/Rosyth ferry - which we normally use - didn’t carry pets, and in any case it was out because for legal reasons we had to use a French port. So... Calais to Dover, and a long, long drive up to Carnoustie.
We’d arranged a dog-friendly hotel the other side, having warned the owners in advance that we didn’t know what the hell we’d be landing them with. Fortunate, as it turned out, because the first thing she did when she got there in true Placida fashion was piss on the floor while the owner was explaining where everything was (incidentally, if you’re ever looking for a genuinely dog-friendly hotel then Toddies, Mead House, 9 East Cliff, Dover is the one to go for. They were great). Then up to my sister’s in Chorley, where we got a repeat performance with added extras. My sister is very houseproud and not really a dog person. Ouch.
All in all, quite eventful, really.
I’ll spare you the rest, because it’s all in the book (although - fortunately - the bit with the neighbours’ cat is invented). It took us a year of hard, hard grind plus a fortune in detergent, carpet shampoo and incense sticks but she’s now settled, happy and reasonably civilised. Or at least relatively so. Or at least...
As I write this she’s flat out and snoring on the living-room floor, with the door open to provide a decent through draught. She’s got a lovely nature, though. Honestly.
By the way, if you look carefully at the frieze at the top of the book cover (you may need a magnifying glass) you’ll see Annie in her Placida persona: wide grin, large ears flying out behind her. It’s taken from a Gallo-Roman pot, and I asked my editor if it could be included somewhere because it’s absolutely spot-on. The only thing it doesn’t have of hers - because pots aren’t wired for sound - is the howl. The dogs in Carnoustie really appreciate that.
David Wishart (May 200)