I got my first dog when I was around ten years old. He was a Pekingese who was, because it was a Chinese breed, named Ming. This was an unfortunate name for a Gasgow dog as to ‘ming’ meant to smell. I soon lost count of the number of “Oi! Yuir dug’s mingin’” jibes I got. And truth to tell, sometimes he was. But I digress.
Ming was a marvelous wee dog. He was affectionate, liked to go for walks and play and was very, very smart.
When we went for a walk, I never needed to put the leash on him. He had a chain lead with a leather handle and all I had to do was to hold on to the chain end and let the leather strap dangle. Ming would take it in his mouth and trot along beside me, King of the World, dropping it whenever he needed to use the facilities (yup, euphemism).
My mum had a friend, Liz, who lived across the back courts from where we stayed. Our back windows were diagonally opposite hers. Ming loved to go and visit Liz. I’d let him out from our top floor flat and listen as he trotted down the stairs and out into the back courts which he crossed in a leisurely manner. When he reached the rear entrance of Liz’s close, he knew to go in and climb the stairs up to her top floor flat where he would bark until he was let in. He loved to go visiting.
At night, Ming slept right outside my bedroom door. If he needed to pee during the night he would bark quietly outside my door. It always woke me. I’d get up, open the door and let him out on his own. When he was ready to come back in there would again be the quiet bark that only ever seemed to wake me, and he’d take up his position outside my bedroom door once more.
For all he was small of stature, he had the courage of a lion. We took in a stray bearded collie once and Ming soon showed him who was the boss. If I was irritating him he would growl and take my hand in his mouth and just hold it as a warning, as if to say, “You’re beginning to piss me off. Do it again and I’ll bite!”
Ming had a couple of doggy friends, Chieftain, another Peke, and Shona, a soft, black, German Shepherd. Shona used to look after the smaller dogs and they would spend hours roaming about the back courts together. One day, however, Ming got a wee bit too adventurous and wandered off on his own. I came home from school to find that Ming had been attacked by another dog, another Shepherd, and had been seen being tossed into the air several times.
Ming was left paralysed in his front two legs.
He was such a clean wee dog that he wouldn’t go potty in the house, even though we put down newspapers and encouraged him. I had to carry him downstairs and support his front legs while he did the business at the back end. He was a proud, dignified and brave little boy.
He eventually got back the use of his legs but was left with a tendency to drag them in the rain, or when he was tired. the tops of his paws would bleed and he was left with callouses over which hair would never grow.
He died of heart problems when he was 12 years old, just weeks after my dad died.