I imported my new border collie puppy, Patch, from the UK to Norway in January 1995. All his paperwork was in order which meant instead of being incarcerated in quarantine kennels he was allowed home. However, there was a fourteen-day house arrest restriction with regular visits from the vet to check his health and take blood tests.
Our modest garden allowed him enough space to get some exercise and do his business, but still, Patch was extremely eager to get out and explore.
When the fifteenth day arrived, the outdoor thermometer read a chilling -25°C (-13°F)! I informed Patch that his first walk was going to be a very short one!
It never occurred to me that as we stepped out of the house onto the tarmac road this would cause Patch lots of pain. He squealed as his paws stuck to the frozen tarmac!
We quickly ran back inside, and I examined his paws for any trauma, but luckily all was OK.
I wracked my brains about what to put on his paws to stop them sticking to tarmac in these Arctic conditions!
The face and hand creams I had were just not thick enough to create a barrier against the ice.
Then I had light-bulb moment. Alcohol doesn’t freeze. I found a bottle of gin and with a cotton wool bud, dabbed some onto the bottom of his paws. Patch was not happy about the smell, and tried to lick it off. However, it worked long enough for him to cross the tarmac and get into the car. I planned on driving to the pet store to buy whatever the Norwegians put on their dog’s paws to protect them against these conditions.
I put a cotton-wool bud into a small plastic bottle and poured a tiny bit gin onto it before screwing the lid on. I would take this with us in case I needed to dab some more on while we were out.
It was, and still is, totally illegal to drink ANY alcohol in Norway and then drive. The penalty, if caught, is the immediate confiscation of your car, a fourteen-day prison sentence and a one-year driving ban.
As we drove down to town I saw the police check on the side of the road and a policeman stepped out and waved at me to pull in and stop. I was not worried because I knew I hadn’t had a drink for at least a week. In Norway alcohol is extremely expensive, and in our house, reserved for only special occasions.
As I drew alongside the policeman he indicated I wind down my driver’s side window, which I did, and he immediately stuck his head into the car and took a deep breath. That was when I panicked, because of course the pungent aroma of gin had just shot up his nose.
“Get out of the car madam” The policeman said sternly with a hint of disgust.
“No, no, you don’t understand, it’s not me it’s the dog!”
“Madam, I will not ask you again, get out of the car.”
I knew I was in serious trouble and that my car was about to be confiscated and me thrown in prison. And what would happen to Patch!
“Blow into this bag madam.” The policeman held out a breathalyser as I stood on the side of the road in full view of other drivers passing by.
“Really, it’s not me, please smell my puppy’s paws.”
“We can do this here or down at the police station, it’s up to you.”
I did as I was told. The policeman couldn’t believe his eyes when the machine indicated I hadn’t been drinking. He gave me a new breathalyser because obviously that one was faulty.
I blew hard into that one, and again the machine showed a negative reading.
I then blurted out my story of being British and not knowing what to put on my dog’s paws in these Arctic conditions to stop them sticking to the tarmac, and the pain my puppy suffered, and that I was on my way to the pet store right now to buy something. Honest!
While the policeman was still in a state of disbelief that someone would try to spin such a yarn, I continued desperately. “Please smell my puppy’s paws, I had to use gin on them this morning it was the only thing I could think of that doesn’t freeze!”
The policeman thoroughly checked inside the car, found the small plastic bottle with a cotton wool bud inside, reeking of gin. Luckily, he was a dog person and was able to persuade Patch to allow him to check his paws. Patch thought it was all a great game.
When he realized I was telling the truth the policeman started to laugh “they’re never going to believe me down at the station!”
© Vivienne Tregidga 2017