Not far to the North of Oxford is a hidden and magical countyside. It was not always totally hidden, because in the Comocyon Time, in 1549, orders were sent out for the neighbouring clergy to be hanged from their Church towers. Yes! Traditionis custodes in advance! But in the Kentiora Tempora, the furthest exercise of bloodshed involved the termination of Otters rather than of Parsons.
I have occasionally infuriated dog-lovers by referring to the species canis lupus familiaris as
Man's oldest and filthiest friend.
Canine coprolites have been found, have indeed been lovingly and scientifically excavated, at Bronze Age sites such as Amesbury.
Perhaps Dr Linnaeus should have named these animals canis lupus cacatorius.
Warden Sparrow, late of All Souls' College in this University, famously and Oh-so-accurately spoke of the Dog as
That indefatigable and unsavoury engine of pollution.
Indeed, when out walking in unfamiliar countryside, one always knows when one has got within an easy radius of a carpark because of the care one is obliged to exercise. Dogs, obedient ubiquitously to the Bergoglian injunction hagan lio, have been active. However, is it fair to condemn the dogs? Certainly not. Dog-owners, yes. I know a slipway in Cornwall where fish is brought in; the National Trust, who own it, were driven a few years ago to ban dogs from the slipway and to provide for the dogs and their walkers a simple pleasant alternative footpath away from the fishy area. Do you think they take any notice? And I know beaches galore with clear notices banning dogs between March and September. Quite possibly, dogs can't read. Can the Dogwalking Tendency read? What would be your guess? But such notices, of course, don't apply to them.
But stay: I digress. You see, we must not forget one particular doggie: Ringwood, the last echoes of whose deep full voice can still by the very sensitive ear be heard, baying. One murmurs Et in Arcadia ego.In those Kentissimi horti at Rousham in Oxfordshire, his "Master and Friend", Sir Clement Cottrell-Dormer, had this "otterhound of extraordinary sagacity" buried in the Vale of Venus.
You wonder if those last three words constitute a possibly dubious expression? Well, this admirable animal is buried right in front of the very statue of the Goddess herself reflected in the waters of her pool, nuda sed pudica. The Deity is dangerously overlooked by Faunus and Pan, only feet from the river Cherwell where Ringwood worked such righteous havoc upon the otter population. Not far away is a statue which Cottrell-Dormer was convinced represented Antinous.
Anyway, since those last enchanted years of the reign of His Most Eminent Majesty King Henry IX, this doggy wraith has surely mingled at dusk in the dances of the dryads and naiads.
Is Ringwood Canine Nature's Solitary Boast?