Saturday, September 16, 2006

Meeting Malik - a hero in fur

Tomorrow my dear friend, wonderful writer Anne McAllister comes to visit . . .
Correction, tomorrow she comes to visit SID. She says so on her blog - she is flying all the way from America - to visit my cat.

Those who know Sid will not be surprised by this. Sid is A Force of Nature in beautiful black tabby fur. He knows he is special - he is after all ACOSB (a cat of Superior Breeding) - and he sees it as his right that internationally renowned, mutli award winning novelists will fly thousands of miles just to see him.

So today, we have been busy preparing a room for our visitor - Well,I have been preparing it and Sid has been supervising- checking that the bed is comfortable enough, that there is enough space for him to stretch out - with a little bit of room for Anne there as well. The room is ready and Sid is keeping it warm.

Butu this morning I had to go into town to find some food - multi-award winning novelists have to eat, even when they are in the company of ACOSB. And it was in town that I met my hero in fur.

Now Sid has to close his aristocratic ears at this point because my hero in fur was a d-o-g. And Sid and d-o-gs do not mix. He has a friendship of sorts with Anne's d-o-gs - Gunnar, Mitch and Micah, but that is because they stay over their side of the pond and do not invade Sid's territory. Anne's d-o-gs are retrievers - this one was a handsome, elegant and very friendly golden labrador.

And why was he a hero? Well he was my very favourite and admired sort of d-o-g. He was a Guide Dog for the blind. He was sitting with his owner and guidee, together with another lady and her beautiful black German Shepherd Guide Dog and they were all collecting for Guide Dogs for the Blind. When I paused to chat and make a donation, the dogs came forward to say an affable and polite hello. They were two of the most gentle and best behaved dogs I have ever met in my life - and this was when they were off duty. They weren't wearing thier harnesses, as their owners were sitting down, and they were free to relax and be friendly - and receive a lot of fuss, which of course they accepted as their due. Which it was. On duty, Guide Dogs do a wonderful, deeply responsible job. They may be silly and playful when off duty, slobbering kisses all over my hands and bringing an old blue rug to show me - but the minute the harness goes on, all play stops - they are at work and they know that the job they do is important and it shows. Their whole demeanour changes. They are Guide Dogs and they are going to guide to the very best of their ability.

Which makes them heroes in my book. As many of you will know, I had my own sight hugely improved in the past year as a result of surgery to remove cataracts and it has made such a wonderful difference to my life. My sight was bad enough, but at least I could see. I can only begin to imagine how wonderful a gift a fully trained guide dog must be to someone who is totally blind.

But the fascinating moment of serendipity - the real coincidence came when I asked the names of these to canine friends. The black German Shepherd was Farina. And the beautiful, friendly, playful Golden Labrador was Malik. And Malik - meaning King - is the name of the name of the hero in my latest book - At The Sheikh's Command - which is published in October in both UK and America and in November - I think - in Australia. So Malik is the name of both a human hero and a canine one.

I have a sort of personal superstition that if just as a book is submitted or about to be published, the name of one of the characters appears in one of these serendipitous ways, then it's a good omen and the book is going to be a success. This started on the day that I went to London to have lunch with an editor for the very first time and to discuss the revsions they wanted for the manuscript that became my very first book - The Chalk Line. The hero's name in that is Leo Vincent and asI walked to the railway station, a van went past with the name Vincent emblazoned on the side. It's an omen that's worked well for me over the 50 stories I've written.

So I hope it works for Malik - my sheikh. Because if it does then I'm going to honour Malik the furry hero with another donation to Guide Dogs for the Blind so that they can breed and train up other wonderful canine heroes just like the ones I met today. Darn it, I'm going to make that donation anyway - but I hope that Sheikh Malik is a success so that I can make it a really worthwhile contribution

In fact, having just checked out the Guide Dogs for the Blind site, I've decided I'm going to sponsor a guide dog puppy - in honour of Malik the d-o-g - as a gift from Malik the Sheikh.

And I'm sure even Sid won't mind that.


2paw said...

Guide Dogs and Labrador Assistance dogs are fantastic. Their ads on TV make me cry. Yep, a 30 second ad and I am in tears as the Labradors picks up the phone the man dropped, in her mouth, and hands it back. Or the 'L' plate Guide dog goes through her paces. I support the Guide dogs here because I have The Labradors, and a friend is a trainer here too. They make my heart swell with happiness and belief in the goodness of things!!
Hi Sid, from the d-o-g-s!!! And German Shepherds are excellent too, can't miss them out: Noble beasts that they are!!

Michelle Styles said...

What a wonderful story.
Give the multi-award winning author a hug from me -- to hold her until I get to see you both on Friday!

Did you know that Nicola Cornick has trained guide dogs? Her most recent was Sassy. I do think they do a wonderful job.

Tuppence and Penny send their greetings to Sid and say that Cats rulle, dogs drool. Chile my yellow lab and Joss my Border Collie do not necessarily agree with the above statement.

Kate Hardy said...

Lovely story, Kate. Did you know Nicola Cornick is involved with Guide Dogs? She fosters them until they're ready to be trained...

(Why can I feel that lightbulb flickering at the back of my head?)

And what a lovely coincidence about the name.

Anna Lucia said...

I'm sure Sid wouldn't mind that, too.

Say Hi to Anne for me!

MarilynS said...

Well your Malik was certainly a handsome and strong one. Absolutely, loved the book and I just know it's going to be a huge success.


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