Dog Adoption, Dubrava Style; or, The Shanghaiing of a neighbour by the village Press Gang

Shortly after my father, Joseph Anthony Gerard Morrissey, passed away in 2009, I discovered some hand-written ‘diary entries’, written by one of his many Slovakian friends, on loose A4 sheets of paper. Many other ‘diary entries’ had already been typed up, by my father, and published on a Slovakian website, which is unfortunately no longer on-line. I do not know who wrote the following, or how to go about contacting anyone that may know the author, so I am placing them here, to finish what was started.

If anyone reading the following ‘diary entries’ does have any information, or thinks they may know someone or something, please feel free to get in touch, by either leaving me a message or by e-mailing me.


I have previously mentioned that after virtually every Christmas, one or two dogs are abandoned, in the snow, on the lane to our village. Their ex-owners tiring of their Christmas pets and, having no interest in the long-term responsibility of owning and training a puppy, and with their children back at school, simply drive up to our village and unceremoniously dump their dogs, like so much Christmas wrapping.

The village, again as previously mentioned, has an extravagant collection of dogs and this is an eyewitness account of how this heterogeneous pack came to be.

Last week, a little puppy was found, abandoned, freezing and starving to death – its ribs were starkly standing out – trapped deep in a roadside snowdrift. It was found by a good neighbour and was temporarily given to us to feed and warm up. We have, for unknown reasons, by far the warmest cottage in the village. It was very affectionate and desperately anxious to please, though, as we soon discovered, completely un-house trained, which, whilst speaking volumes about its original owners, kept us busy. The next day the finder, of the puppy, and some friends came round to discuss what was to be done with it. Most of the permanent residents are animal lovers. Between the half dozen of us in our cottage, that morning, I calculated that we had a grand total of five dogs (most of them abandoned outside the village). Four cats, five goats and three sheep. I have lost count of the chickens and rabbits, which count for eggs, meat and cash, therefore not counted as pets. The former all answer to individual names and are fed by hand. Oh, I forgot, there are a few million bees, who clearly ‘know’ their keeper. After much drink-fuelled discussion, (having the puppy put-down or put into a dog’s home was simply not discussed, as this was unthinkable). Thank God a dog-less family in the parent village was fixed upon. The mother had intimated, in passing, to someone that they would like a dog for their two young daughters. That was it! We all set off, with the puppy, collecting on the way a growing throng of villagers, until virtually all the permanent, and semi-permanent, winter inhabitants (and their visitors) were in the Press Gang, some dozen or so. There was a metre of snow on either side of the lane, but the snowplough had recently visited and the lane was negotiable by two-wheel drives with chains and a bag of ash or by four-wheel drives. But it was a glorious, sunny midday, so we opted to make a festive walk of it, especially as many of us already had a number of drinks. Snacks, copious quantities of Pivo and home-distilled ‘Slivo’ were packed into rucksacks, and off we set. We walked three kilometre down to the family’s house. One of those four-storey houses – counting the capacious basement with its double garage that was self-built under the Communist regime – There was a huge pile of wood in the garden, as the modest means of the couple does not permit them to heat the large house by gas as was the case previously. (Current gas prices being way beyond them.)

We knocked and were welcomed in. The shanghaiing of the family, principally the father, by the Press Gang immediately commenced. It was an amazingly smooth, well rehearsed, sophisticated, psychological, psycho-social and totally ruthless operation. The head of the household, at least the nominal manifestation of it, was known to be partial to a drop or three of quality home distilled 60%-plus ‘Slivo’. So a carefully selected bottle of the same was opened as was a packet of his favourite, pungent brand of hand-rolling tobacco, purchased at the village store adjacent to his house, where it was known to be kept especially for him. The unsuspecting victim was delighted by the ‘Slivo’ and the baccy, as well he might be. After all, this was just a party of friends and acquaintances, passing by. Slovak village hospitality is famous, or should I say, infamous.

After a few rounds of ‘Slivo’, his glass was always kept topped-up with the special ‘Slivo’, washed down with strong lager, the subject of the dog was introduced. It was gently, but firmly, eased into the general chit-chat about the snow, the local snowplough and its drunken driver, who considers himself a combination of Sterling Moss and Michael Schumacher rolled into one, when at the wheel of his racing snowplough, which he drives with prodigious, not to say reckless speed, enveloped in a self-generated small snow blizzard. A spectacular sight, both to behold thundering and flying along and carefully avoid. Yes, he sympathized with the Press Gang; it was indeed a criminally hard hearted thing to do to a puppy, as hard as Stalin, I added, knowing that his grandfather had vanished in the Communist takeover purges after the war. – My personal verbal contribution to the conspiracy. Fatally, he with much encouragement, stroked the puppy, which enthusiastically responded, at that very same instant, as if on cue, his two young daughters burst into the room, demanding to see ‘their’ new pet. The penny dropped. The bewildered man visibly, inwardly began gnashing his teeth, cursing his gullibility and feeling immediately less well pleased towards his unexpected guests, that he had welcomed with open arms. He had thought his daughters were safely out building a giant communal snowman. However, one of the Press Gang, on a ‘lager replenishment trip’, had slipped them the word that their Dad was adopting a puppy for them… NOW!

The father did not stand a dogs chance of refusing. The poor sap. How could he publicly disappoint his children? The reader can guess the rest: More ‘Slivo’ and lager followed, together with suggestions as how useful a guard dog would be. Though no one knew if the puppy would mature into a child-biting and intruder-licking dog. Exercise and companionship were mentioned, as was teaching the children responsibility. My partner and I played another small part in this shanghaiing by discreetly not mentioning that the puppy was totally un-house-trained.

At this point the mother, recognizing that discretion was the better part of valour, and as a woman being the head, as opposed to the nominal head, of the household, intervened saying, they did not have any dog food and that they would discuss the matter and let us know. Where upon the Press Gang triumphantly produced a five-kilo bag of dry dog food, three large tins of dog food and, to cap it all, a meaty bone. Most of them had much loved dogs, usually press-ganged upon them, hence the dog food and the zealous expertise in doing the return honour.

The thinking about the proposal was over. The inevitable accepted. The children marched out with their new dog, complete with collar and lead, also thoughtfully provided, to show their friends their new pet. We all celebrated the deal drinking to the happy family, including the chief victim, the happy Press Gang and last but not least a happy dog in a good home.

Deep down I know that after this, I am a marked man. Dog-less, an oddity in the village, resident for much of the year, so arguments about a small Bratislava flat and a seaside Croatian cottage will not wash. Therefore, sooner or later, the village Press Gang, with a strange dog in tow, will descend on me armed, not with cudgels, but with their knockout liquid equivalents. As I am known to be partial to wine and the odd cigar; a bottle of vintage wine and a fine Cuban cigar will be proffered along with home distilled ‘fire-water’, if past precedent is any guide.

Short of jumping out of a back window and heading for the the forests and hills, which once sheltered the anti-Nazi partisans, which is difficult in our case as we have no rear window to jump out of and there is, at this time of year, a metre-or-two of snow, the most likely time, making flight even more difficult.

So I know that the Press Gang will depart dog-less and our cat, much to its temporary disgust, will have a new companion, which hopefully will be house-trained.

I will keep you informed

A resigned to the inevitable


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