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Enzo’s big day out | Thank Frankel it’s Friday

23rd May 2024
andrew_frankel_headshot.jpg Andrew Frankel

This is about as far off-piste as this column has ever come, but as it’s all Goodwood’s fault I hope I’ll be forgiven…

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I have a young male Labrador called Enzo. And I know what you’re all thinking because it’s exactly what the Duke of Richmond thought when I introduced them and he said, ‘of course’. But I’m afraid you’re all wrong. I was fairly desperate not to call him Enzo because I knew it would spell a dozen or hopefully more years of having this very conversation with everyone who met him.

For the record, I wanted to call him Hesketh - which I thought and still think a quite brilliant name for a hound. But my wife so loved Enzo as a name, and for reasons that have precisely nothing to do with Modenese supercar constructors, for she has no interest in such things. If we’d had a boy, I would have had a battle royal preventing my son being so named.

As it was we had daughters, both of whom were as keen on calling the mutt Enzo as their mother. I was simply outvoted. Though, to be fair, not before me and my girls had outvoted my wife/their mother on simply whether to have another dog in the first place. So, net, I reckon I won that one.

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Enzo is perfect – beautiful, gentle, and with more intelligence in his dew claws than our two previous Labs could muster between them. He would make a perfect gundog and is, therefore, entirely wasted on us. One friend who shoots has an uncontrollable Cocker Spaniel and keeps on threatening to nick him. I have suggested some kind of rental agreement.

If Enzo presents me with a problem, it is that he has just celebrated his second birthday and is, in all meaningful ways, inexhaustible. Even though he is of working-dog stock and as such far smaller than the more square-jawed show-type Labradors, he is phenomenally strong. He’s possessed with the kind of enthusiasm you’d show if someone offered you the keys to their 250 GTO and asked if you wouldn’t mind taking it to Maranello long way round. Except that, in his case, the object of his affections is more likely a stick. Or one of my shoes.

So, what on earth was he going to make of Goodwoof, where he’d emerge into the grounds of Goodwood House and be immediately presented with, wait for it - ten thousand dogs?

Possible outcomes included snapping his lead as if it were a length of dental floss, heading off over the Downs and never being seen again, going to ground under the nearest table and refusing to come out, or requiring urgent cardiac resuscitation at the whatever you call the dog equivalent of the St John’s Ambulance.

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He certainly appreciated the transport: used to being stuffed into the boot of a Golf as he is, the accommodation provided by the load area of a Bentley Bentayga with integral prototype dog guard was like Versailles by comparison. He jumped in, passed out and didn’t so much as grunt for the nearly three hours it took to get to the Kennels, whereupon he was only grudgingly persuaded to dismount.

Those of you old enough to remember Mr Benn will appreciate what happened next. For those who are not, it was a late ‘60s and early ‘70s book and television series about a bowler hatted bloke who lived in the ‘burbs, who’d go to see his Fez-wearing mate at his local clothing store. He’d go into the changing room and immediately be transported to a world beyond his imagining. Personally, I thought it was all just some lysergic-fuelled trip, but I may be in a minority on that. But this was Enzo’s trip through that changing room. On one side of the Kennels, relative normality, on the other, field after field of mutt nirvana.

I braced myself for whatever reaction might follow. But he just gave me his quizzical look – ears forward, head cocked to one side – as if to ask ‘is this really what you were expecting mate?’ Then once he’d received the appropriate reassurance, just trotted into the midst of it all as if this was how he spent every day of his life. He went swimming, he jumped in the ball park, he posed for pictures, he did it all as though born to the task.

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But here’s the thing. I’d love to say how proud I was of him and what a wonderful animal this clearly marked him out to be. But the truth is, every one of the other 9,999 dogs behaved equally immaculately. We roamed around the entire day and I barely heard a bark, let alone witnessed any argy-bargy. It was like someone had cast a spell over the entire event. In fact, I think they were all so dazed and confused by what they saw it automatically tripped them into some kind of canine limp home mode where all they could do was pad about quietly with slightly bemused expressions on their faces.

If you’ve never been to Goodwoof and if you love your dog as I do mine, I could not recommend it more highly. You’ll have a great time but, for them, it will be the experience of their lives.

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