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Star Sign: Capricorn. There was room for six horses inside. And there was a pony already on board — a part-load on its way to Gaillac, two hours north-east of our destination. Which left plenty of room for us, the cats and our own luggage. This was another big advantage of travelling in the horsebox — plenty of space for any forgotten extras which had evaded the removal men — or had had to be rescued, like the Hoover for last-minute cleaning detail. Then came the bad news. Portsmouth would not take the horses. It would be too rough to carry them. And all the Channel ports to the west were closing.
Our only hope was Dover but that raised another problem — the new guidelines for the transportation of animals. It would take six hours to drive to Dover and that would put the new journey time over the limit. Which meant putting the horses into lairage at Dover. Which meant a statutory eight hours rest before they could be loaded again.
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The loading started well despite the wind whipping across the yard and rattling the metal cladding of our big barn. One horse loaded. One to go. Three strides later Rhiannon put on her stubborn face and dug in her front hooves. Shelagh turned her around and tried again. Same result. That worked for a while. We managed to place one hoof on the ramp but that was it. Rhiannon started sniffing the ramp suspiciously and snorting. Then we tried apples. Letting her take a bite then drawing it away from her.
We managed to get both front feet on the ramp — perhaps a push from behind might be enough to And then we tried speed. Perhaps if we approached at a fast walk, the momentum would carry Rhiannon up the ramp. Time ticked on. We tried to calm her down, keeping a close eye on the end that kicked as we walked her around the lawn a few times and plied her with mints and soothing words. Then back to the horsebox. We pushed. We pulled. We cajoled. At one stage we had all her feet on the ramp, but just when it looked like she was going in, she bounced back out.
Apparently, the tread boards on the ramp were now the problem. Instead of picking her feet up and stepping over them — they were only half an inch proud of the ramp — she decided she had to drag her feet through them. More foot-lifting, horse-shuffling minutes ticked by. Not compared to some animals. And then it happened. Rhiannon trotted up the ramp, a couple of bounces, a head toss or two No back-breaking foot-lifting required. No pushing, shoving or mints with a hole.
The cats were next. They had their own deluxe travelling crates with separate areas for litter tray, food, water and sleeping. The only complication was the fact that we had to arrange them in a particular order. Put them within sight of each other and spit would fly all the way from Devon to Dover.
Luckily we had plenty of room in the box with its feed passages and spare stalls. Then came the blankets and rugs for the horses, the hay and the hay nets, the dog and cat food, their bowls and water containers. And then our luggage — in by far the smallest bag — a change of clothing, some food, our money and all the papers we were going to need for the journey. We said goodbye to the high banks and narrow lanes of Devon, to the white farmhouses and the slate and thatch.
We passed through the chalk of Dorset and Wiltshire, across the lower reaches of Salisbury plain to the accompaniment of scudding clouds racing to beat us to Dover. We were making good time — the one advantage of having a force eight gale at your back. We checked on the horses every half hour or so — walking back through the horsebox and checking their water and hay nets. And we talked to the two major feline powers, stressing the importance of maintaining the no-spit zone. Most amazing of all was the behaviour of Gypsy. Which was unexpected.
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And worrying — was she being too good? Was this a ploy to make her next descent into the diabolical even more terrifying? Which presented us with another problem — where would we stay the night? Sue had suggested a hotel and was ready to book us in.
French Fried one mans move to France with too many animals and an identity thief by Dolley & Chris
And would they have a night porter who could wake us up as soon as this window arrived? Then Sue remembered the darts room at the lairage. It was a rest room provided for the grooms. A sofa, a few chairs, a dart-board — not exactly plush or indeed private — but it was warm and on-site. The lairage was an impressive sight. A few miles outside Dover and room for about fifty horses. It was the equine equivalent of an airport hotel — close to the ferries and the stop over point for all the horses bound for the continent; the show jumpers, race horses, eventers Which improved her mood considerably.
Complete with high tail carriage and flashy Arab trot, she pranced down the aisle, parading herself unashamedly before the gathered on-lookers. It was now mid-afternoon and a lull in our journey.
Things were calm. Pulse rates were back below the critical level. It was small, just big enough for a sofa and a few chairs but it could have been a hell of a lot worse. There was even a bathroom next door with a shower. By the evening there was still no sign of the promised window. If anything the wind was stronger. Zaphod had been our first dog — a whippet lurcher — and, generally, well-behaved. Except when provoked — usually by cats or loud noises or someone doing something unexpected, or wearing strange clothes, or looking at him funny, or walking within ten yards of a bone or anything else he claimed title to.
In other words he was a normal, well-adjusted dog. I went to the bar, a fiver in my hand, pleasant thoughts wafting brain-side. And then all hell broke out behind me — overturned tables, spilt drinks, screams. And in the middle of it all — Zaphod — dragging Shelagh through a table. I turned, folded the fiver back into my pocket and slowly walked towards the exit.
I have never seen these people before in my life — especially the little brown and white one with the terrier in its mouth.
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Shelagh tells a different story. One with Zaphod as the innocent party. The two of them were merely walking towards an empty table when a small dog — the aforementioned terrier — who had been sitting under an adjoining table, loomed into view.
I have never been too convinced about this part of the story — the thought of a very small terrier looming does not strike me as that credible. Zaphod, in a state of justifiable shock at the proximity of another dog and in fear of an imminent attack upon his mistress, naturally had no other recourse other than to leap under the table and attempt to eat the terrier. In the process he happened to drag Shelagh after him. So goodbye table and goodbye drinks. The staggering conclusion to this affair was that the owners of the terrier admitted full responsibility.
After all, what were the chances of finding another dog with form? Better to find an empty box, well away from any horses, and see if we could leave Gypsy there for a few hours. Which is what we did. It was our last evening in an English pub. We sat sipping our real ale and draught cider surrounded by beams and antique brasses. And watched the weather forecast on TV. You could hardly make out the English Channel beneath all the isobars. And it was getting worse. The forecasts for Thursday and Friday were horrendous.
Walking back to the lairage, we expected to hear a cacophony of barks and screams but it was strangely quiet. Could everyone be dead? Gypsy was asleep in her stall, curled up in the straw and looking angelic. But only for a few hours. And the vet inspection had been booked for Apparently all our paperwork for the move was now obsolete. The embarkation port had changed, as had the date. And our vet inspection — which had to take place no more than twenty-four hours before embarkation — had now lapsed. Which meant we had to start again. Luckily the lairage was used to this and had all the forms and their own vet on stand-by.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue? Upload Sign In Join. Save For Later. Create a List. French Fried: one man's move to France with too many animals and an identity thief by Chris Dolley. Reviews: "This was a fantastic read. Read on the Scribd mobile app Download the free Scribd mobile app to read anytime, anywhere. What investment? You cancelled it in April.
It was now September. September 22nd Even though it was a nightmare to organise. And then there were the animals. Two horses, three cats and an enormous puppy. Did I mention the cleaning? As I said, no defence. On to the next room. Then I returned to the lounge to fetch Gypsy. I screamed. Twelve hours to go and I screamed. Do you think Rhiannon will load OK? And we were going to have to try again in about an hour. At least we only have to do it once. But no horsebox. Then we heard it. A rumble down the drive and there was the lorry.