Monday, April 2, 2012

Beau and the Chickens

Life in Paris revolved around many activities at The Salvation Army.  One of those activities was the participation in La Musique Nationale – the French national Salvation Army band – of which Glen and John were members. In 1990 Elizabeth, too, joined the band.  Often Elizabeth and Eleanor accompanied them on various outings with the band.  One such outing was the annual music workshop weekend of the band held at Morfondé.  Morfondé was a large residential centre for adolescents operated by The Salvation Army in Villeparisis, not far from Charles de Gaulle airport.  The campus covered several acres with residential buildings, administration building, an auditorium self-service restaurant and barns which were part of a working farm which figured in the training for the adolescents in the program.  Barns, of course, meant animals. And Beau, as a Brittany spaniel, had a penchant for hunting.  In Beau’s mind space to run and animals were made for each other.  It seemed logical to him.

The program for the weekend was intense – with rehearsals on Friday night and all day Saturday, a worship service on Sunday morning and a concert in Paris on Sunday afternoon.  The members of the band stayed at Morfondé and ate in the self-service restaurant there.  Most of the resident adolescents had gone to be with their families for the mid-winter break on this first week of March, 1989. 

The weather was glorious.  The whole family was there and Beau had come along for the Sunday.  He stayed in the car for a while during the activities, and we let him out during the lunch-hour break.  A lunch hour break in France meant time for a proper meal – with bread, salad, entrée, cheese, dessert and a long, slow coffee.  The Sunday meal was roast chicken – a good feast as I recall.  We had Beau out for a sprint as others were going through the line in the cafeteria.  At six months, Beau had grown and now had the sprint of a gazelle.  He criss-crossed the spacious terrain with glee. Then he spied a live chicken, which had escaped from the chicken coop.  Chickens, it appears, are like dogs in their desire to get out of enclosures and run around.  The hunter genes took over and Beau was off like a rocket.  Without breaking stride he took the chicken in his mouth and gambolled across the grounds with John, Elizabeth and Glen in frantic pursuit. 

The sure sign of a good hunting dog is a soft mouth so that the game is not hurt – just held.  Beau had the soft mouth of the hunting dog.  He also had the speed and agility of a hunting dog. There was not a chance of our catching him.  What if he ran into the dining with the chicken in a terrified squawk between his teeth as our colleagues finished their chicken meal?  What would this do to Beau’s welcome in the environs?  What would it do to our family’s reputation as responsible dog owners?

Glen was in a state of total despair.  It was left to John to save the day.  Out of the corner of his eye as we tore across the field in pursuit of Beau John spied an empty watering can.  Grasping it as he ran he aimed at Beau and flung the can, catching the dog in the right hind leg.  Beau opened his mouth to bark his protest.  That second was all the chicken needed to go free.   Our relief was palpable!
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