Years ago, before Blogger was a twinkle in his oddmummy and odddaddy's eyes, before he ended up at Battersea to be my chosen pain-in-the-arse dog, Chester roamed the earth. Chester was an English Bull Terrier with a nose that would have made the most bendy banana jealous, and eyes that any pig would die for. He was white, deaf, and as a vet told me, probably had the animal equivalent of Downs Syndrome. He used to sleep on his back, with his trotters in the air and his snout the same length as his trotters, making him look like the illustration of a set of factory chimneys in one of the books I had as a child. He was obsessive-compulsive, and the main target of his affections was orange-and-white traffic cones. He could drag you across the road in the chaotic rush-hour to grab one in his jaws, which then would lock, clamping the cone in a deathly grip; he would then try to kill the cone by whacking it from side to side as hard as he could, before coming to rest against the nearest wall, forehead pressed against the bricks, puffing and panting out of the sides of his frilly black lips, huff puff, huff puff, huff puff.
You couldn't go for a quiet stroll with him.
One day, we took him to Covent Garden. After an adventure in a shop, in which he grabbed a pair of yellow rubber gloves and wouldn't let them go, he managed to find a traffic cone and embarked on his ritual performance in a particularly energetic and alarming way, amongst the Saturday crowds. It was impossible to make any progress as far as hanging out and looking cool were concerned, so we gave up and tried to prise the cone from his jaws. I held his body, and my partner yanked at the cone, trying to coax it away from him. A tug-of-war ensued, which although we tried to keep it subtle, soon turned into quite a dramatic scene. A crowd gathered, completely ignoring the buskers, who became a little miffed at the change of focus.
It began to get embarrassing. I'd been wearing my Saturday afternoon dress, a fifties number that I thought I looked rather cool in. I had mud from his feet all up my arms and white scratches too. My partner was hissing endearments at Chester, who of course couldn't hear them, because he was deaf.
Finally, we worked it out. We would have to make him bark, and rip the cone from his jaws as soon as he opened his mouth. The only way to do this was to make him even more excited. My partner started grimacing and leaping, and gradually Chester's peripheral vision told him that there might be even more exciting things happening in Covent Garden than a traffic cone. At last, he got so worked up he barked, allowing us to part him from the traffic cone, which was disposed of as rapidly as possible.
We got a massive round of applause from the hordes of people who had stopped to watch; but it was us who went home with our tails between our legs, not Chester.