Chips, the policeman's son, had a labrador pup called Mitzi. Mitzi's parents had
been excellent police dogs so what more natural than that she, too, should be
given a trial at Training School ? She'd seemed healthy and strong, with sturdy
legs and a proud, firm head.
It required less than a week, however, to
discover that Mitzi wasn't going to make it. She just didn't have the right
qualities. Obedience, for example: on the third day her handler tried teaching
Mitzi to run and fetch a stuffed rabbit. Mitzi merely thought this was some kind
of joke and instead of bringing it back and dropping it at the handler's feet,
she tore it apart and hid it in somebody's allotment, knocking down several bean
poles along the way. On the forth day, Mitzi was taught to jump through an open
window. Instead, she picked a closed one. You could hear the smashing of glass
for miles. The inspector who lived in the house wasn't too pleased.
That was the end of Mitzi's career as police dog. With some hesitation, her
handler, who was a neighbor of Chips, had suggested that Mitzi might turn out to
be a reasonable house dog and pet. Even more hesitantly, Chips' father had
agreed to give her a try. Chips, who had never had a dog before, was delighted.
He started his own course of training at once. Sometimes he wondered if his
neighbor was all that good as a dog handler. Perhaps he simply had not
understood Mitzi. Mitzi had a mind of her own, but she could be obedient in her
Most evenings Chips took Mitzi for walks along the nearby canal, or the wide
river beyond. This particular day, late in October, was misty, muddy and damp.
And Mitzi's collar came out again, somehow. It couldn't have actually broken in
two; and the lead could not have snapped because Chips' father had insisted on
it being as stout and thick as a halter for breaking in a wild stallion. The
reason for these not infrequent partings of company was that Mitzi was big for
her age, just as Chips was small for his. When Mitzi got it into her mind to
tug, Chips had either to let go or take off and fly like a kite on a string.
When Mitzi disappears, in her own time she would pick up Chips' footsteps and
return to him, but not tonight, not yet. Seeing and hearing no evidence of
Mitzi's whereabouts, Chips tried his familiar canal path with the iron bridge a
couple of hundred yards along towards the faint lights of an estate. Mitzi would
turn up eventually wagging her tail, showing her teeth, up to her thighs in
thick, oozing black mud which smelt of garbage.
Too right ! There she was, at last, something remarkably like a grin on her
doggy face. Chips didn't bother to refit Mitzi's slipped collar. She followed
him closely for a while, perhaps thinking Chips could somehow protect her from
another spanner flung at her from one of the men in the workshops. He wandered
back towards the walkway along the big river, crossing the access road bypassing
the weir. Here were big cargo boats, sitting out on the shimmering water waiting
high tide with tugs blinking in the mist like fireflies. Chips found half a bar
of chocolate in his pocket. He sat in a shelter, put his feet on the slatted
seats, and gave Mitzi a piece of chocolate and watched her sniff along the edge
of the walk.
Suddenly a girl came whizzing by, traveling with incredible speed and skill
on a skateboard. There were bulging shopping bags in each hand. She reached the
shelter and caught sight of Chips. She saw Mitzi too, dashing out of nowhere.
Mitzi liked little girls, especially if they were moving fast. She bounded after
the girl who slithered in alarm to a standstill. She abandoned the skateboard
and picked up one of the bags she had dropped. The contents had spilled: tea, a
burst bag of sugar, a scatter of buns.
"Sorry," said Chips. "She doesn't mean any harm. That sugar ..."
"You'd better buzz off," she said.
"Only trying to help."
"Leave me alone."
Chips let her go. He had tried his best to help. He looked around and
discovered he had lost Mitzi again.