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VIEWPOINT;BETTER MAD DOGS & ENGLISHMEN THAN LOSE THE COCKER SPANIEL

By Published on .

England, gallant little England, is yet again under siege.

No Spanish Armada this time. Or "the monster" Boney massing ships at Boulogne. Or Hitler's Luftwaffe blitzing London.

This time it's a Danish diplomat whose cocker spaniel died.

And to Henrik Sorenson, England is anything but gallant; more truly a "perfidious Albion." Mr. Sorenson, an attache at the Danish embassy in London, blames English quarantine laws for the death of his 12-year-old pet, Mr. Bogie. The English require that when a pet enters the country, the animal has to be quarantined for a full six months, the gestation period for rabies. Of which England as an island, is blessedly free.

Now in a dispatch by Sarah Lyall to The New York Times, we learn of the unfortunate death of Mr. Bogie in an English kennel. And Attache Sorenson's charge that his dog was "confined to stay in a small area with cement floors and heavy drafts."

This sounds like the description of not a dog kennel but a typical English flat. But never mind.

Various persons have sprung to the defense of the quarantine law. And we are reminded one reason people opposed the Channel Tunnel was that bats and rabid animals might make their way across. But Lady Fretwell, who opposes quarantine, tugged at hearts with an account of her basset hound, Bertie, during its six-month tour. Bertie, said Her Ladyship, could no longer bark. The dog "seemed to have lost courage. He was never very aggressive, but he never had the same chirpiness and spring of life."

Shortly after, the Times reports, Bertie passed from us.

Some years back I had my own experience with quarantine. We crossed on the Queen Mary with our miniature poodle, Silver Temple Gatsby's Girl, known to us more familiarly, as Gigi, fully alert to what lay ahead. The Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries (unofficially, "Ag & Fish") had sent us in the States a detailed memo and a list of approved kennels. We chose one in Hackbridge, Surrey, close to London, and made those arrangements in advance.

On board Gigi stayed in the ship's kennel run, curiously enough, by the ship's butcher (he'd always have a goodly supply of scraps), and was let out in our custody whenever we wished to frolic. Our friends aboard ship, Norman and Fiona Lonsdale, also took up acquaintance with Gigi, and Norman, who loved a good scheme, began to concoct ways to avoid quarantine and smuggle the poodle (quite illegally) into England.

Although several of his plots were quite plausible, we were put off by fine print in the Ag & Fish documents to the effect that if a dog were smuggled in and apprehended, it would be done to death in order that the corpse could be autopsied for rabies. So we thanked Norman for his cleverness but decided we'd do things according to regs.

At Southampton we were met by a kennel rep, documents were exchanged, and off went Gigi.

At first my wife visited just about every day and I went down on the train Saturdays. The dog seemed more confused than anything else and behaved very well, reasoning, I suppose, that if she were good we'd take her home. We brought her favorite Yummies to snack on, a familiar blanket for the fairly large cage in which she lived, and so on. When we visited, she was let out into a dog run where she raced about and such. The most overwhelming memory I have of the kennel was an unholy racket all the dogs set up when visitors came, and the stentorian voice of the woman keeper and her shout of "QUIETTTTT!," so powerful 40 dogs instantly fell silent.

After a month Gigi lost patience and began to bark at us, not in welcome, but in anger, punctuating the barks with growls, and with furious assaults on her favorite blanket which she tossed around in justifiable rage. And unlike Lady Fretwell's unfortunate Bertie, our Gigi, I am proud to say, lost neither bark nor courage. Gigi's bark simply became deeper, hoarser, I guess, from all that yipping.

Beyond that, her coat was thick and healthy and her appetite fine. She looked swell; she was just sore at us.

Finally, the six months were up. We hired a silver gray Jag with the chauffeur in matching silver grey livery to reclaim our silver gray dog from Hackbridge, and drove back into London in considerable style. But if we hoped this was an end to it, it was not. Despite being pleased to be back with us, Gigi showed her annoyance by promptly wetting the floor in every room in the apartment.

You don't mess with poodles, by God.

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