CHAPTER FOUR – CANINE PARTNERS
At 8 o’clock the next morning Clive Baker was turning out of his drive and heading for Exeter grumbling to himself about the rush hour traffic. However much he tried not to keep asking himself why a lost dog in Exeter had his name on his collar his mind kept coming back to that question. What was it the police officer had said – he was “a very smart dog.”
Well, thought Clive, if he is, then wherever he has come from, perhaps he could be trained as a “canine partner.”
There was never a shortage of disabled people of all kinds who needed a trained dog to help them, and now his old friend, Shah, the senior consultant at the Stoke Mandeville spinal injuries hospital had asked if he could find a dog for Sam Pearson. Sam was fourteen years old. His parents had parted and Shah had told him that as if that was not bad enough, his father had been killed in a car crash which had left Sam paralysed from his waist down. “He needs a friend – a real friend that he can always trust,” Shah had said. “The people in his life have let him down. He needs a dog - one of your dogs - and he needs it now because he is leaving hospital very soon and he feels very lost and lonely.”
It was all very well for Shah to say the boy needed a dog, but dogs take time to train and every dog at Canine Partners anywhere near ready to start work was already allocated to someone. But perhaps if Ben really was smart, he was the answer. After all, what had the old lady, Miss Hanson, told him? That the dog had come from Russia to Exeter, met up with an old lady and landed up as a lost dog in the police station?
After a while Clive Baker gave up asking himself questions he could not possibly answer and got on with his journey to Exeter.
It was not quite 11 o’clock as he turned off the A30 into Exeter and followed the signs to the police station.
For some reason he felt slightly nervous as he walked up to the desk and asked for PC Hudson.
“Yes,” said the clerk. “Can I tell him what it is about?”
“Of course. I’ve come to collect a lost dog. My name is Baker.”
The clerk’s face lit up. “Oh, you mean Ben – he’s a lovely dog – but however did he get all the way here from Midhurst – it must be one hundred and fifty miles?”
One hundred and fifty miles – if Miss Hanson was right, it was more like three or four thousand miles, thought Clive Baker, but he kept the thought to himself and just smiled.
“Well, that is a mystery I must say,” he observed. “But where is Ben now?”
“Right here, under PC Hudson’s desk,” replied the clerk. “Hi Ben – your master’s here.”
Ben had been listening carefully to make sure he didn’t make a mistake. He had been working out how he would recognise Clive Baker and how he would greet him. Now was the time to do it. Out from under the desk, paws up on the counter (he couldn’t jump over it because of the glass screen) and Ben let out a series of half barks, half whoops of welcome, looking straight into Clive Baker’s eyes.
By now PC Hudson had arrived and opened the door to let Clive Baker into the office, but Ben was too quick for him and in a moment was through the door, standing up on his back legs and paws on Clive’s chest to give him a big licking.
“Well,” said Hudson. “I don’t have to ask if you two know each other.” Just as well, thought Clive – and so did Ben, who dropped down onto all four paws and then sat at heel by Clive’s right side.
Within a few minutes the paperwork was done. Ben had barked his thanks to PC Hudson, wagged his tail and followed Clive out of the door, along the road and into the back of his car. Clive turned in his seat and looked at the dog.
from "Ben's Story" By Norman Tebbit
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