Gentle, Loyal, Devious, Clever and Boisterous
Stanley was a huge dog personality in Thrupp (physically and metaphorically) and was known and loved up and down the cut and for miles around. He sadly passed away recently … I sat with Mark, Stanley’s ‘owner’ and we remembered him together:
“Stanley looked like a pointer and behaved like a staffie”
Declared Mark – “His mum was a Labrador pointer cross, and his dad was a staffie collie cross – he looked like a pointer and behaved like a staffie! He’d always prefer to go through hedges rather than around them!”
Stanley was my best buddy for 14 years. I work as a Boat Safety Examiner (still do) on narrowboats and Stanley used to come to work with me most days – sleeping on the towpath while I worked. But not when it was wet, or cold… then he wasn’t so fussed!
“He had no whiskers in the winter!”
He got cold easily – when it was cold he was a fire worshipper! He used to stick his head so close to the fire he didn’t have any whiskers left! He only had whiskers in the summer. It’s safe to say that he liked to cook his head – he had a very thin coat.
“He looks like a Stanley to me”
Stanley came into my life because I was doing some work on a boat and they had a puppy there, and I said “that’s a nice looking puppy where did it come from? Are there any more?” They said “yes – those travellers by Kings Bridge have got a whole load of puppies there”.
I went and knocked on the travellers van door and there was a caravan full of about 6 puppies. It was chaos! I think Stanley chose me, rather than me him. All the others came bowling out of the caravan and Stanley stood at the door and had a good long look at me – didn’t want any fuss, just wanted to eyeball up the whole situation.
All the others were brown with white dots and he was the only white one with browny blacky dots. I said “how about the white one, can I have him?” They said “we’ll think about it”. I said “oh?” They said “we just need to check you out” “OK” I said, “fair enough, just ask people about me up and down the canal”. An hour later they phoned me up and said “you’re sound as a pound, come and collect your dog – for free!”
So I threw him in the back of my Robin Reliant and I got him back to Thrupp. He was a bit covered in poo and he had fleas. He was inside my jumper. I met Martin at the gate and I jumped out of the car with him and walked over and said “Martin, what’s a good name for a dog?” “Oh” said Martin, “he looks like a Stanley to me”. So I said “fair enough!” So Martin named him on the gate.
“He once ate a ball of string!”
The ball of string story was quite funny. He ate a ball of string when he was a puppy – I couldn’t pull it out as I didn’t know what damage it would do, so I just had to put some scissors in my pocket when we were out on walks and keep cutting it off when it came out!
He was so independent, and so upset when the string wouldn’t go away! He ran up to me in distress – ‘Dad, dad – some poos following me!’ He’d stick his head between my legs as if to say ‘there’s a big problem back there!’ The ball of string gently worked its way out over a few days and I just had to cut it off as it came out! … he pooed string for days!
(I really don’t know how the string got there … all I knew was the secondary side of it! I can just imagine him starting to eat the string and thinking oh that tastes ok… and then realising, once he started swallowing it that he would have to eat the whole ball like an extra long piece of spaghetti!!)
“Stanley knew more people than I knew”
He knew pretty much everyone in and around the canals. I could be stepping off a bus in Banbury 15 miles away and everyone would say ‘morning Stanley!” – I wouldn’t have a clue who they were! More people knew Stanley than I knew. He always knew who the soft touches were too. For food.
He loved tuna – he would do anything for that – any fish really. Also cucumbers for some strange reason. He loved food and would have eaten until he exploded – and nearly did a few times. He got himself into a pickle more than once, so I had to be a bit strict with him and food.
We remember… the staffie in him came out in spades 2
At this point I remembered some times which made us both smile: Stanley could be quite devious … evidence of this; when he would regularly call in for a cheese scone at Annies tea room and be ever so cute (but not overstep the mark) and rarely fail to receive his quarry; a large fresh cheese scone!
The staffie in him came out in spades – If a dog he knew was visiting Thrupp, he would jump on to their boat and rush in (no invite needed) – as Mark said; you could imagine Stanley saying “Hello – I’m here! Where’s my dinner?” “The world can stop, I’ve arrived”! He did this frequently with Millie, my parents dog, who came several times a year to visit Gilderoy Scamp, at the time two boats away. They were the same age and best buddies from about 10 weeks old. My parents often had to rescue glasses and plates from low tables as the two of them sprinted at full speed through the front cabin thrilled to be reunited again (and again, and again!!)
Stanley didn’t know his own strength and was quite capable of tossing you to one side or pushing you over when he came to greet you – very effusively! Thrusting his big head into you for a pat… and nudging continually until you did. And if you were seated, you were likely to get punched with a big paw as he sought your attention.
Stanley chased sticks into the river like his life depended on it – literally barging so enthusiastically into the water that quite often the stick had been subsumed in a tidal wave and it took him a while to find it! He was a seriously strong swimmer.
Once, when Tisbury and I turned up in Thrupp, Stanley actually jumped through the car window and onto the back seat so he could be first to say hello! And poignantly, Stanley still visited Daisy when she was in the area looking for his friend, even after Tisbury had died. Or maybe he was just looking for Tisbury’s food bowl as more often than not it wasn’t quite licked clean and Stanley DID love to hoover up any last scraps!
“He was ‘fit as a butcher’s’” 1
Mark continued … “Running with him was a big part of our life together. We did a lot of miles together. He was ‘fit as a butchers’ – I don’t think he had a favourite walk – he just loved going out. He loved going to the woods he had lots of fun there. His ashes are spread around the top field as its probably where he did most of his walks.”
“His place was always on the back deck for when we went boating. His last boating trip was on the 1st January 2020. And his last decent walk was at Port Meadow on the same day.”
Farewell Stanley Man
You gave us all so much affection and enthusiasm. And we loved you for it. Wherever you are, may your days be full of cheese scones, cucumbers and tuna – and barging about with your mates. You are gone from us in this life but your spirit fills our memories. You will not be forgotten.
Born March 2006, Died 9 January 2020
All photographs © Mark Paris
1 ‘fit as a butcher’s’ comes from the saying ‘fit as a butcher’s dog’ based on the assumption that a butcher’s dog is likely to be well fed because of the ready supply of its master’s meat.
2 ‘in spades’ means ‘in abundance, very much’. There are lots of theories about where the phrase comes from and most of these agree that it may be something to do with cards.