Running the line, with a dog

When we moved back to Leeds in 1985 we went to live in a nice little two bed house on a brand new housing estate in a little cul-de-sac with a dozen other houses of the same size occupied by young yuppie couples just like ourselves, the sun always shone, everyone had enough money to get by, we had space and greenery around us and all was well in the world – and we had the worlds nicest German Shepherd Dog, Samantha, who used to sit at the end of our driveway and observe our little street and occasionally wander across to say hello to whoever had just come out to cut their lawns.

Just down the road a way was a YMCA sports ground, a big clubhouse and several rugby, football and cricket pitches, I was even a member of sorts because Smithy ran the football section there and I’d occasionally assist by drinking at the bar when it was their turn to manage it, each section took a percentage of the profits if they’d take responsibility for opening, managing and closing it properly and occasionally we’d get notes from the rugby section to say “Don’t use the bottle of brandy in the bottom left hand cupboard, its full of piss” because they were prone to break-ins and took to leaving bottles of piss masquerading as whisky and brandy laying around in easy access for the burglars.

It was pre-children, it was a good time, I liked that house, I wished we’d have stayed in that house, we wouldn’t have a mortgage by now thats for sure, but it may have been a tad crowded when the children came along, still, it was a nice house, I’d go back there, deffo.

One sunny spring Saturday afternoon I perchanced to take Sam out for a walk, she was the dog remember, and we strolled the new estate smiling at people out cutting their lawns, they were always out cutting their lawns, and we came to the woods that had been left on the periphery of the estate and wandered through them and beyond and upon a short while we found ourselves at the YMCA sportsground.

It being a Saturday afternoon I pondered for a while on whether to pop into the bar for a swift one, this being a dog that didn’t mind being tied to a post outside for a couple of hours waiting for her human to get blathered, unlike the dog we have now who would be absolutely disgusted with you if you did something similar to him, when I noticed that one of the pitches was being prepared for a rugby match and so in a change of mind I and the dog wandered down there to spectate for a while.

Shortly the teams ran out and a referee of some description arrived too and spoke to what I can only call a “club official” being that he wore a blazer with a badge on and everything, whereupon said “official” walked across to me and bade me good afternoon, “I say old chap” he said as he was a stereotypical Rugby Union club official, “would you care to run the line for us ?”

I confess to being taken aback somewhat for I had a working knowledge of the game of rugby union but had not the first idea of how to officiate at a game, nor any desire to do so.

“Erm, I’m not stopping for long” was the first excuse I could think of
“Well just for a short while then” he insisted, handing me a flag
“But, but, I’ve got the dog with me” I replied, pointing to the rather obvious and rather large German Shepherd by my side

The official looked to the left and then to the right but seeing no other person in the locality, simply shrugged his shoulders, thrust the flag into my hand and said “Well you’ll have to do it, theres no-one else, you’ll be fine, just point to where the ball goes into touch” and he ran off to the other side of the field.

And so once again I managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and got myself involved in something completely and randomly bizarre and made the Guinness Book of World Records as the only linesman to officiate at a club rugby match with a dog on a lead, christ knows what the opposition must have thought when they looked across to the touch line to see a linesman and a German Shepherd Dog standing there with a flag, “Is that a guide dog with him?” would have been my first thought if I’d have been one of those players.

Sam actually did quite well as a lines-dog and every time we walked past the YMCA in future she’d always pull on the lead to have another go.


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