My dog of the moment is a splendid black Labrador called Donald. He’s a rescue dog. My previous dog, a wonderful big black Labrador called Scoter, of whom I was inordinately fond, had died under very sad circumstances. Anna, one of my best friends, who lives in London knew that I was shattered by the loss of Scoter, kept her ear to the ground and found Donald who was being fostered at a house in the Vale of Health in Hampstead. She went to see him and pronounced that I should seek to adopt him. So, a few days later, he arrived in Norfolk, liked what he saw and has been one of my best chums ever since. Thank you, Anna.
The first dog I can remember is my Father’s Golden Retriever, Bo. He was a really handsome dog and a wonderful retriever. My Father was passionate about shooting and when my Grandfather died he took over the running of the shoot in Yorkshire. Bo was always at his side and admired by everybody. Here, I am sitting next to Bo.
Chaucer, a Springer Spaniel, was passed to me by my Father. I used to shoot in those days and I remember shooting pigeons on the evening in January when a big storm caused a tidal surge and massive flooding occurred in East Anglia. The pigeons kept flying in and Chaucer was indefatigable in retrieving them as I shot them. I remember I accounted for over fifty.
The summer of 1954 was the year that I made a film about the training of a Goshawk for the sport of falconry with my friend, Noel Cunningham-Reid. Chaucer was in his element flushing rabbits and pheasants for the hawk to catch. Here, my Goshawk is perched on Chaucer’s back looking for rat that has gone to ground in a corn stook.
Filming became my livelihood. In 1990 I was asked to produce and direct a new children’s comedy drama series called “Woof!” It was based on a book by Alan Ahlberg and it was about a boy, Eric, who turned into a dog and back again into a boy at highly inconvenient and comical times. The pilot series won an American Emmy. For the second series my executive producer said I must try and persuade some “stars” to appear in the show. “There are lots of middle aged actresses moaning about not working – try Penelope Keith for example.” And that is how Penelope Keith and Anna Cropper happened to appear in a scene, travelling in a car on the way home from Crufts dog show, singing at the top of their voices: “How much is that doggy in the window?”
More about my dogs next week…