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Taylor, a mongrel
The story behind the poem

Taylor is our second Italian dog, a spinone cross like Joules and, like him, found abandoned. I was told the whole litter had made some sort of den on a hillside near Montefalco. He was taken in by an Italian equivalent of the Canine Defence League and given veterinary treatment for worms along with his brother and sister. He was the first to recover and was taken from the vet's compound to be fostered in a home where he had constant human contact and affection.

Following the sad death from cancer of our golden retriever Pascal, we were on the look-out for another dog although our intention was to find a pure-bred spinone. We responded to an advert which stated the puppy in question was a spinone cross, and spoke to the foster mother. She emphasised how sweet and well-behaved he was, explained that she could not bear to send him to live in the municipal kennels which would otherwise be his fate, and insisted we come and view him.

Still with our minds on a pedigree spinone, we went to see the puppy. The second I saw him I was enchanted. He had the most beautiful almond-shaped eyes and a calmness about him as if he were weighing me up, too. He was quite unafraid, and we were able to pet him and even introduce him to our other dogs. Needless to say, we took him away with us.

His name in his foster home had been 'Arturo' (Italian for Arthur), which quite suited him. But we wanted something more English-sounding and also in the tradition of the other dogs. So we named him Taylor after the mathematician Brook Taylor.

Taylor is the most delightful of dogs. Self-styled leader of the pack and occasionally needing a firm hand to keep him in his place, he reminds us politely if we are at all late with mealtimes and eats voraciously, but is not greedy and has a trim, muscular figure. He is extremely fast. He runs with a carefree joy, teasing Joules into chasing him.

When I whistle for him with my special dog whistle, he comes running at full tilt right up to the house and screeches to a halt spraying gravel over the walkway.

My affection for him reaches its height when he sings to accompany my violin playing. He puts his all into that singing: muzzle aimed right up at the ceiling, a controlled howl on a single note issuing at such volume that he quite drowns out my playing. And yet I can recognise an attempt in him to sing the correct notes. He makes me laugh so much that I put down the instrument and give him a hug.

by Damaris West

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