The dogs regarded me anxiously as I paced, unable to settle to anything, waiting tensely for another call from Barry. When the telephone shrilled I nearly jumped out of my skin before I rushed to answer it.
Has anyone ever literally jumped out of his skin, I wonder? Where did the saying originate? Pupae of various insects shed their skins after their metamorphosis into their ultimate imago or adult conformation. Snakes - and tarantulas and other arthropods - slough off their outer casings regularly as they grow. Humans shed their skin all the time, albeit not in great quantity at any one time - but has any creature ever leapt entire from its skin leaving it empty and discarded?
Consider if a human could spring out of her outer casing; the skin, with its disparate coverings of hair, some scattered widely, as on the forearms, others arranged in patches, for example on the head, would lie forlornly on an uncaring surface while the newly-freed body cavorted with pleasure or relief at its release from subjugation. What would this figure look like? Would it be deep blushing pink or would it perhaps have a new skin, not yet quite seasoned for daily use, requiring its inhabitant to lie low for a while to allow adjustment to atmospheric forces.
Heart pounding I answered the phone. After an agonising two hours Barry had found Frodo who had emerged from the trees not very far from the car. He was now taking him to the vet to be checked out. Our lost boy was feeling rather sorry for himself and would be happier if I were present too. Once again I clambered into the respectable car and drove the short distance to our vet.
As I entered the consulting room three things struck me simultaneously. My nostrils were assailed by the most overwhelming odour, like the smell that emanates from a butcher's shop but a thousand times stronger. The next thing I noted were Frodo's eyes peering at me from a face strangely changed. Thirdly, I saw that his coat also was different. Our Dalmatian, with his clear black spots on snowy background, had turned reddish-brown from his head to well below his ribs. He was the very personification of hangdog. The vet was gently talking to him as she bathed him to discover if there was anything other than superficial damage.
We will never know for sure just what happened that night and can only surmise that Frodo had found a deer carcass and feasted royally on it. To say he stank is an understatement. The deer had been well hung – i.e. rotted - and the stench had invaded every pore of our dog's body.
Once we were all satisfied that the abrasions on Frodo's face and legs were the result of bones scratching as he passed them on his way into the body cavity we bade farewell and took our rather portly lad home. Our dogs are always interested in any of their number returning after an absence but this time Frodo was the centre of truly excited attention. He still smelt quite dreadful so underwent a bath, to which he submitted with unusual grace and docility. Clean and white once more he, and we, and the rest of the dogs, went to bed.
We anticipated a busy night expecting stomach upsets from the boy but he slept extraordinarily soundly and suffered no side-effects whatsoever. He was on light rations the following day!