Jock

The Raven Prince opens with the heroine, Anna Wren, being nearly run down by a large ugly man on horseback who happens to be accompanied by his large ugly dog. Little did I know when I sat down to write that scene that I’d get nearly as much reader mail about the dog as I did about the hero and heroine. But then Jock (as he eventually came to be called) was an outsized character from the start.

Jock is described in The Raven Prince as “a mongrel mix that included a good deal of mastiff and perhaps some wolfhound. The result was an ugly, mean-looking canine.” Mastiffs are heavy, powerful dogs with hanging jowls. Males can easily weigh two hundred pounds or more. Mastiffs of various types have been in England since Saxon times. Through the years they were used in war, as guard dogs, and in baiting bears and bulls. It’s no wonder, then, that many characters in The Raven Prince are frightened when they first meet Jock. And of course it’s not always easy getting a two hundred pound dog to do something he just doesn’t want to do — something Anna finds out in the second scene below:

Here’s part of the scene where he and Anna meet more formally in Chapter 2:

Anna held herself very still. She wasn’t afraid of dogs. Indeed as a child she’d owned a sweet little terrier. But this canine was the largest she’d ever seen. But this canine was the largest she’d ever seen.  It was also familiar–she’d seen the same animal not a week ago, running beside the ugly man who had fallen off his horse in the high road. She extended a hand, palm downward, for the dog to sniff. The dog followed her hand’s movement with its eyes, but disdained the gesture.

“Well,” Anna said softly. “If you will not move, sir, I can at least get on with my work.”

She picked up her quill again, trying to ignore the huge animal beside her. After a bit the dog sat down, but still watched her. When the clock over the mantelpiece struck the noon hour, she put down her quill again and rubbed her hand. Cautiously, she stretched her arms overhead, making sure to move slowly.  

“Perhaps you’d like some luncheon?” she muttered to the beast. Anna opened the small cloth-covered basket she brought every morning. She thought about ringing for some tea to go with her meal, but wasn’t certain the dog would let her move from the desk.

“And if someone doesn’t come to check on me,” she grumbled to the beast, “I shall be glued to this desk all afternoon because of you.”  

The basket held bread and butter, an apple and a wedge of cheese, wrapped in a cloth. She offered a crust of the bread to the dog, but he didn’t even sniff it.

“You are picky aren’t you?” She munched on the bread herself. “I suppose you’re used to dining on pheasant and champagne.”

The dog kept his own counsel.  

Anna finished the bread and started on the apple under the beast’s watchful eyes. Surely if it were dangerous it would not be allowed to roam freely in the Abbey? She saved the cheese for last. She inhaled as she unwrapped it and savored the pungent aroma. Cheese was rather a luxury at the moment. She licked her lips.  

The dog took that moment to stretch out his neck and sniff.

Anna paused with the lump of cheese halfway to her mouth. She looked first at it and then back to the dog. His eyes were liquid brown. He placed a heavy paw on her lap.

She sighed. “Some cheese, milord?” She broke off a piece and held it out.

The cheese disappeared in one gulp, leaving a trail of canine saliva in its former place on her palm. The dog’s thick tail brushed the carpet. He looked at her expectantly.
                
Anna raised her eyebrows sternly. “You, sir, are a sham.”

* * *

Another Scene:

She turned to face the dog. “Go back, Jock.”

Jock sat down in the middle of the drive and regarded her calmly.

“Now, sir. Go home, Jock!” Anna pointed to the Abbey.

Jock turned his head to look in the direction of her finger, but didn’t move.  

“Fine, then,” she huffed, feeling silly arguing with a dog. “I’ll just ignore you.”

Anna walked the rest of the way determinedly not paying attention to the enormous dog following her.  But when she rounded the gates of the Abbey and saw the carriage, she knew she had a problem. The footman had caught sight of her and had opened the vehicle’s door in anticipation of her entering it. There was a blur and a scrabble of claws on gravel as Jock dashed past her and leapt inside the carriage.

“Jock!”  Anna was appalled.

From inside the carriage came a commotion that rocked it briefly from side to side, then it stood still.  The footman stared in the door. She came alongside him and hesitantly peeked in as well.Jock sat on one of the plush seats. Across from him Pearl watched the dog, horrified. Coral, predictably, was unperturbed and smiling faintly.

Anna had forgotten how frightening Jock could be on first sight.  “I’m so sorry.  He’s really quite harmless.”

Pearl, rolling her eyes to the side to see her, looked unconvinced.

“Here, let me get him out,” Anna said.

But this proved difficult. After one menacing growl, the footman made it clear that his job did not include handling dangerous animals. Anna scrambled into the carriage to try to cajole the dog out. When that did not work, she grabbed hold of the loose fur near his neck and attempted to drag him out.  Jock simply set his feet and waited while she wrestled.

Coral started laughing. “It appears that your dog wants to come with us, Mrs. Wren.