She was dozing happily in the sun when she heard the sounds, the sounds that she had heard so often before. The yelp of terror, the whirring of a rope uncoiling, the thump of someone hitting dry earth, and the echoing clank of the same someone being hit on the head by a tin bucket.
Timmy had fallen down the well again.
Lassie sighed, climbed to her paws, and set off to let somebody know.
Other dogs didn’t have to put up with this crap, she told herself. Timmy and his four owners spent each summer holiday in search of dark catacombs, hidden treasure, and high teas. Snoopy spent most of his life asleep on top his kennel. The Hound of the Baskervilles (or Snuffles, as all they knew him) got to terrorise the entire Devonshire moors with his huge footprints, flame-red eyes and blood-freezing late-night yowl.
Lassie, however, got to be the pet of a congenital idiot. It was lucky that the well had dried up decades ago, or Timmy would have drowned several times over by now.
In fairness, she told herself, if Timmy was a moron it wasn’t hard to see why. As Lassie trudged off to face his family she was dreading the pantomime that would soon ensue.
She approached them as they did some work on their fence that was obviously far more important than looking out for their seven-year-old son. Lassie barked.
“What is it, Lass?” asked Timmy’s dad.
Lassie was unable to answer questions, of course, since she did not have the gift of speech. This had never deterred the family, however, who seemed to labour under the impression that she was Scooby-Doo.
The guessing started. This was the part she hated most.
“Fox got into the chicken coop?” asked Timmy’s dad.
Lassie barked. This could have meant “yes”, “no”, or “what are you, mental?” but the family kept going.
“Is Mr Benson from the next farm being still carrying on his affair with Lola from the café?” asked Timmy’s mum, who loved juicy gossip.
It’s not easy to shrug ignorance when you’ve no shoulders, but Lassie managed it.
“Have we been invaded by vampires?” asked Uncle Jeb. Jeb was regarded as a bit simple by the family, which was rather like being considered the short one by the rest of the Seven Dwarves.
“That couldn’t happen, Jeb,” said Timmy’s mum kindly. “At last, a bit of common sense,” thought Lassie.
“Because it’s broad daylight, and vampires only attack at night,” continued Timmy’s mum. Lassie closed her eyes as if in pain.
Timmy’s dad’s face suddenly brightened, possibly because of the light-bulb that turned on almost visibly above his head.
“Is this to do with Timmy?” he asked.
“Woof!” said Lassie, encouragingly. Nearly there, she thought.
“Has he fallen down the well again?” asked Timmy’s mum.
“Well, duh,” thought Lassie. She turned her back.
“She wants us to follow her,” said Uncle Jeb. In fact, in sheer contempt and because it was impossible for her to give them the finger, Lassie had been merely showing them her arse.
An hour later all was well. Timmy had been rescued, and then gently scolded. Lassie had been given a bone, and then ignored.
This made it easy for her to creep out of the gate. She looked back and could see Timmy already making his way down to the well again, but the last thing that Lassie had done before she left was drag a huge board across the top of the well, something that never seemed to have occurred to Timmy’s family.
The next few months were spent on a long journey across mountains, ravines and white-water rapids, the kind of journey that Disney film when they aren’t making cartoons, but at last Lassie arrived in London.
She now lives happily on the very best in dog-food in the Blue Peter studio, watching while the presenters show a pre-pubescent audience how to construct a rabbit-hunch using Brillo-pads, toilet-roll-cores and sticky-backed plastic.
She has had to change her name to Getdownshep, but she reckons it’s worth it.