A heart-stopping holiday experience

However hard I try to pre-empt calamities here at Bullock Towers and always be a careful chap, the unexpected frequently creeps up and gives me a nasty surprise.

However hard I try to pre-empt calamities here at Bullock Towers and always be a careful chap, the unexpected frequently creeps up and gives me a nasty surprise.

Such was the case on our recent trip to the Lake District, which involved borrowing a four-berth caravan and tow car for a week so we could tour some UK campsites.

I'd never towed a caravan before and several pals chortled at the thought of me zooming up the M6 with a fraught look on my face and an expensive Avondale Argente swaying dangerously in our wake.

The journeys certainly had potential for problems - especially if I'd failed to attach the blessed caravan correctly - and the camping holiday itself was always likely to prove a challenge. So Julie and I endeavoured to pack everything we could to ensure all went smoothly and every eventuality was covered: the first-aid kit, heaps of spare clothes, warm blankets, umbrellas, raincoats, walking boots, wellies, clothing, board games, puzzle books, insect repellent and so on.

Little did we realise that a traumatic incident was to occur before we'd even collected the caravan or started the holiday.

Having crammed the Bullockmobile to its limits with our assorted clobber, we set off early on the Saturday morning and headed for the Camping and Caravanning Club's headquarters at Coventry. Young Gregory sat quietly in the back, absorbed in his Beano, and our miniature schnauzers, Klara and Trudi, snoozed in the boot section.

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It was the first time in seven years that we'd included the dogs in our family holiday. Usually they are dispatched to their peaceful country retreat (the home of my in-laws) but the Camping and Caravanning Club's sites are pet-friendly and the Lake District, in particular, is a great place for glorious strolls with four-legged friends. So Klara, who is now 13, and Trudi, 10, were all part of the fun.

Having allowed extra journey time for traffic snarl-ups, we arrived far too early - as usual - and stopped for breakfast at a giant supermarket on the edge of Coventry.

Refreshing tea and toast duly scoffed, Julie and I agreed that she would browse in the shop with Gregory for 10 minutes while I gave the dogs a swift 'wee-wee walk' around the edge of the car park.

Klara and Trudi were excited to see me again, of course, and jumped eagerly from the boot for their comfort stop. Within seconds, however, Klara was unexpectedly tugging on her lead so I glanced around to see what was wrong.

To my horror and disbelief, she was - to all intents and purposes - dead.

Lying stock still on her back in the middle of the car park, our dear old dog had her eyes closed and paws sticking in the air. It was a terrible shock that left me trembling.

“Come on, Klara! Come on!” I shouted, over and over again, scooping her limp body up in my arms and returning her to the blanket in the back of the car.

As I kept stroking Klara and tickled her beard, my mind struggled to cope with the bizarre concept of dealing with a deceased dog at the beginning of a happy holiday.

How on earth would I tell Julie and Gregory when they emerged cheerily from the shop? Could the trip possibly go ahead after such a tragedy? How could I bury poor Klara in the garden of Bullock Towers if we were marooned in the Midlands?

More to the point, why do these dire experiences only ever seem to happen to me?

All of a sudden, however, Klara's beautiful hazel eyes flickered open and she slowly began to regain consciousness - peering up at me and licking my nose as if nothing had happened. What a relief! The dog was alive and the trip was back on course.

Having sought out an emergency vet in the depths of rainy Coventry - a typical Bullock Family way to begin a relaxing holiday - we were informed that she has a heart murmur and had either fainted or suffered a heart attack.

Indeed, our local vet has since suggested that by picking Klara up rapidly and stroking her, I may actually have restarted her heart. It turns out, dear readers, that I have healing hands.

The venerable Klara has been put on daily medication and is being watched closely for any sudden changes in behaviour or collapses. And, with all the worry, my ash-blond hair is now almost the same shade as her speckled grey schnauzer fur.