‘I hope we don’t get any emergencies,’ she confided to Jenny. ‘I’m not sure...’

‘If I were you I’d worry more about the dog-training class than any emergencies,’ Jenny advised her wryly. ‘Ben will be there...’

‘Ben? Mrs Latham’s Ben?’ Georgia questioned, groaning when Jenny nodded.

‘Oh, no!’

Mrs Latham’s Ben was an English setter. A beautiful dog without an ounce of aggression in him, but unfortunately with more than his share of scattiness. To make matters worse Ben was a rescue dog, with Mrs Latham his second owner. Ben had been rescued from ending up in a dog’s home thanks to her decision to give him a place to stay with her, and Georgia could well remember the first time she had seen him.

She had been working at the surgery for less than a month when a harassed young woman had turned up with Ben, who was just over a year old then and physically fully grown. He was a handsome, lovable, charming and completely dizzy dog, and Ben’s then owner had complained to Georgia, who had been the vet on duty when she had brought him in, that with an elderly father to care for, a husband whose work took him away for days at a time and two young children she simply could not cope with a boisterous, energetic large dog.

As she’d looked from the woman’s anxious eyes to the dog’s trusting ones Georgia’s heart had sunk. Ben was a beautiful dog, healthy, young, and as a fully bred pedigree had no doubt cost his owner an awful lot of money, but here she was telling Georgia defensively that there was simply no way she could keep him.

It had been at that moment that Mrs Latham had walked in, and Georgia’s heart had sunk even further.

Mrs Latham was the owner of a raffish ginger tom cat who had adopted her when his previous owners had moved house. Ginger had cynically pounced on Mrs Latham’s tender heart and the equally tender choice cuts of fish and meat she supplied him with and had moved himself in to Number One Ormond Gardens. But Ginger was, at heart, an independent warrior, and his night-time clashes with other cats in the neighbourhood meant that he was a regular visitor at the surgery.

Having reassured Mrs Latham that Ginger was recovering very well from the small operation he had had to repair a tear in his ear, Georgia had left Mrs Latham in the waiting room with Ben’s owner whilst she went to collect Ginger from the cattery.

On her return she had discovered that Ben’s owner had left but that Ben was still there, with a rather bemused Mrs Latham, who’d announced breathlessly to her that she was now Ben’s new owner.


In vain had Georgia gently tried to dissuade her, pointing out all the problems she was likely to encounter with such a big dog in her small, pretty town house. Mrs Latham, however, had proved unexpectedly resistant to her arguments. Ben was now hers.

And so Ben had gone to live with Mrs Latham and Ginger, and a more indulged, pampered pair of pets, everyone at the surgery agreed, it would have been hard to find.

Ben, despite all Mrs Latham’s attempts to ‘train’ him, was still regularly disrupting the weekly training class the surgery organised for dog owners.

‘The problem is that Mrs Latham simply can’t bring herself to be firm with Ben and show him who’s boss,’ Jenny had complained wryly after Ben had totally disrupted her own training session.

‘He’s a lovely dog but he needs a firm hand. As a breed, setters are scatty for the first two years. They need exercise and space and an owner who knows how to handle them. Mrs Latham loves him but she’s sixty-two, and before Ben’s eruption into her life she lived for her weekly bridge sessions.’

Helen had giggled. ‘Has she told you about when she took Ben with her and apparently he was lying under the table and then got up at the wrong moment and sent it and the cards flying? He’s banned from going now...’

Georgia, whose heart was just as tender as Mrs Latham’s, had sighed.

‘It’s a shame, because he’s such a lovely dog.’

‘Try telling yourself that after you’ve taken a class with him in it,’ Helen had advised her.

‘I already have,’ Georgia had told her, ‘and I know just what you mean, but there’s no malice in him; he’s just—’

‘He’s just not the dog for a woman with Mrs Latham’s lifestyle,’ Helen had interrupted her.

It was true. Mrs Latham lived virtually in the centre of their small market town which, although quiet by modern-day standards, and surrounded by the farmland whose needs it serviced, was still no place for a dog who needed long, long country walks and a physically energetic owner.

Predictably, perhaps, Ben’s original owner had proved impossible to trace—a ‘visitor’ unknown at the surgery. They had no record of either her or Ben.

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