Well I am going to go off the beaten track a little bit. I've talked about my early experiences of Hounds and my distinct lack of access to them ! All that was to change when in 2003 I emigrated to Australia (details are another story).
Arriving in South East Queensland I had a myriad of changes to contend with, not least the wildlife ! I had an extremely diverse and challenging change of career which saw me working in a warehouse preparing furniture (most of which had been imported via Asia) for the Australian market. Aside from unloading furniture from shipping containers, we also had to occasionally unload hitch hikers that had boarded the container with the goods. These included cats ( all of which died on the journey), lizards, (who also died) and on one occasion Scorpions who were VERY much alive. This incident involved the pale faced Pommy standing on a chair whilst two very Aussie colleagues attempted to catch said scorpions in the Pommy's sandwich box. Apparently they were "worth a thousand bucks each," (to collectors). To the Pommy I couldn't care if they would give me a million bucks for them. They had been locked in the drawer of a hall stand and they were REALLY hungry and REALLY pissed off. The Australian wildlife officer was duly summoned and a really salty sea dog type chap arrived. He looked like a cross between David Bellamy and Jeff Capes. He looked me up and down (still standing on chair) and without me uttering a word said "G'day Pommy."
Thinking he would arrive with gas, explosive darts and the like I stood back to watch the expert at work. A chap from the warehouse had cornered one of said Scorpions under Pommies finest Tupperware box. Ignoring the cucumber sandwiches "Scorpy" as it's captor had christened him, was now headbutting and repeatedly stinging inside of box.
"This is it." I thought.
" I wonder if he will gas it and take it away in a specially sealed box for examination"
"Or even maybe I might get my picture taken with it"
"POMMY SAVES QUEENSLAND" I imagined in the headlines.
What he actually did was lift the lid and squash it with the heel of his boot.
He then threw remnants into the bin. Pommy gets down from chair in an "I'll make it look like I was testing this chair type way..."
Aussie Wildlife man " Ahhh dinkum, Malaysian Scorpion seen a lot of them."
Me " So not poisonous then?"
"Nah just make yah feel a bit crook, one got me years ago."
"Oh just like a sting then?"
" yeah sorta, I couldn't move, see , drink, eat or anything for a fortnight"
Me " Oh just a BIT poisonous then."
I closed the lid on the bin.
Pommy bashing is a national sport, although for the best part of it is very good humoured and I gave as good as I got. Excluding " place the Huntsman spider on the Pommy's shoulder game," (they are as big as a dinner plate), "go swimming with the Pommy in the river MOST inhabited by poisonous fish game" and other such hilarious antics. My how we laughed.........
Amongst our may discussions I had however discussed my love of Basset Hounds and how I hadn't been able to have one for one reason or another. One such discussion was with my work mate Neena....
Neena was effectively my boss in the warehouse. Neena also played rugby for the Aussie national ladies team. Neena had very large arm muscles and I am sure could have beaten me up with her arms and legs tied behind her back. Neena and her 'lady friends' once took the Pommy fishing. Having consumed ALL the alcohol on our boat Neena and her friends decided to get more. Three of them then dived overboard swam 200 metres to the shore and swam back with a 'slab' ( 24 cans) of beer on their shoulders. Imagine trying to pee in front of six pissed Aussie rugby playing girls? I couldn't even find it , let alone pee from it. Do you remember ever having that dream as a kid? The one where you have to go to school in your underpants? It was like that but for real. I had mentioned to Neena my love of Hounds and she said that her sister had a Basset that they could no longer care for, several additions to their family had meant that this hound had been living on the house patio and garden for a year or more. I agreed almost at once that I wanted him.
The following day a V8 Holden screeched to a halt outside our workplace and the passenger door flew open. Out jumped the dirtiest largest Basset I had ever seen. He charged toward me the ears flailing. I dropped to my knees to greet him at which point he bounded onto my chest pushing me onto the hot concrete surface of the warehouse floor. He stunk....not a little bit, oh no. He REALLY stunk, he smelt like a cross between road kill that had been in the sun for a week and sewerage. Worse still he was now licking me, licking me with a mouth that had clearly been feasting on kangaroo poo and dead things. You could have bottled his breath and used it in chemical warfare. The tips of his ears were encrusted in food and god knows what else, they had gone stiff in the sun. His classic Basset ears were like blinds that you weight at the bottom so they hang correctly. He was a lemon and white Basset ( I think) and he was now MY Basset.
Me " He stinks a bit Neena"
N " Yeah he needs a bath."
Me " He needs sandblasting.."
Me " I haven't even asked yets...whats his name?
N " Yeah thats kinda of a funny thing"
Me " Okay what is he called?"
Me " EUGENE"
Me " EUGENE"
Me "EUGENE...good grief, how, why, when who...."
That was it. Pommy had a Basset, a filthy dirty Basset, a Basset that someone had decided to call Eugene. He had a rather chequered history that I was only to learn sometime later. Eugene had been acquired by a rather unscrupulous pet shop (somewhere in Queensland !) as a puppy. He was now about five years old. As a puppy the pet shop owner had agreed a price for said pup before he apparently discovered the true worth of a hound. He reneged on his original offer trebling the price. Now some rather large 'ladies' ( I have no idea who ! ) decided that this was not playing fair. After distracting said unscrupulous owner Eugene began life smuggled inside a coat and out of the shop. Eugene was a hot dog in every sense of the word.....
I was also to learn that Eugene was a) not house trained, b) knew no commands whatsoever c) Loved howling and d) had an irrational fear of brooms and mops ( will become clearer later).
My first problem was getting over his name. I found that shouting " Oo ooh Eugene here boy" attracted some rather curious looks from your average Aussie bloke.
" OO OOH EUGENE here boy"
Aussie bloke " whats your dog called Pommy ?
Me(whispering) " eugene"
AB " Pardon?"
AB " Oh right...."
Aussie Bloke would then look at me like I was some limp wrist ed Quentin Crisp character and back away from me slowly. I gradually manufactured his name to "Huge," he seemed to answer to this. He also had not had the snip and was a very big boy in the trouser department. They would ask why he was called "Huge" until they saw him from behind . " fair dink um mate, he is that !"
Eugene had several other skills that I was also to learn. the climate meant that when we were out Eugene would mooch around the large garden. He would mooch until he felt like a walk. He would then burrow under the fence and bugger off to wherever he felt. I would arrive home on several occasions with Eugene sitting outside the front door looking at me like "Where have you been I want to get BACK in the garden."
At the bottom of the garden there was a gentleman who liked a beer. He liked beer so much he would have one for breakfast lunch and dinner. Eugene loved him. I think this had something to do with this gentleman howling. The more beer he had the more he would howl. He would howl because this resulted in Eugene howling. My how all the other neighbours laughed.........
Sweeping the yard one day I noticed Eugene would hide away when I had a broom. Whether he had been hit with one or whether it was just something he did not like I will never know, but it was the only time I ever heard him growl. Calling in at a local hardware story one day I tied his lead to a very heavy 'sandwich' board type advertising board that was made of metal. He lay in the warm sun and was happy to be patted by passers by. Standing in the queue in front of me a chap had bought a mop. He and his son had seen Eugene and were chatting about him. I said that he was "very friendly" and the little boy could stroke him . Dad and the little boy walked toward Eugene.
Eugene's ears lifted and he sat up. I realised then that the chap was heading toward him with a mop. I held out my outstretched arm in a pointless effort to stop him. I mouthed "nooooo." Eugene now stood up. He looked at the chap with the mop like he was being approached by some evil dog 'napper. He turned to his right and ran, and ran and ran. Sadly he was still connected to the sandwich board which flailed behind him side to side like a ball and chain. He ran the length of the High Street with pedestrians leaping his lead like hurdlers. The 'ball' narrowly missing a variety of very large and shiny cars parked on the roadside. Coming to a stop near a very busy supermarket I calmed him down, disconnected him from the board and began the rather sheepish walk back to the hardware store with the (now) very battered advertising board. Eugene looked at me like he did not know what all the fuss was about. A variety of pedestrians were dusting themselves off having dived into shop doorways and raised flower beds to avoid the ensuing mayhem. I shopped elsewhere for a little while !
Returning to UK Eugene would have been too old to travel and would have hated UK climate (don't we all) so he stayed with good people. He was my first 'Hound' and certainly not my last....