Alfie The Collie.
We had left the roar and rumble of the motorway and were enjoying a sandwich lunch in a Cotswold churchyard, gathered under a spreading yew tree, sheltered from the gentle summer’s rain. A woman came by, in waterproofs, wellingtons and plastic hat, clutching two shopping bags.
“You don’t need to sit out there in the rain, go inside, it’s all right. No, you don’t need to worry about him, take him in, he’s a beautiful dog. What breed is he?
“I never heard of a short-haired collie, but he does have that look about him. An intelligent dog, I can see that. He’d be welcome inside, don’t you worry.
“You are dry there? Where you’re sitting now, that big box tomb, that’s what I calls the glove-maker’s tomb. My grandmother used to make gloves for him. He would send his man round to the cottage to collect the gloves and pay Nan for them. All made at home they were, while she was bringing up the family.
“Good boy! He is well behaved. He would be welcome inside. I takes my little Sam in with me. He’s a little Jack Russell but he’s not with me today, he gets all over-excited if he goes on the bus. No, but he likes to come here and light a candle for Steve and Billy, my two other Jackies that he remembers. He comes in with me either sitting in my bag or else on the lead.
“The first time he came in we got told off but I told them he had every right to be there. He was giving thanks for his good health. When he was a pup he swallowed a fish-hook, playing with the children. The vet said that he wouldn’t pull round, but I came in here, said my prayer and lit my candle: and he got better. The Good Shepherd listened to me and he looked after Sam.
“He’ll listen to your Alfie, too. He is a beautiful dog and he’s welcome to come inside.
“Unless he’s a Catholic of course.
“He is? Oh really? Well, nice meeting you all but it’s time for my bus. Goodbye, now!”