The title of this piece was a headline from the magazine ‘The Lady’. Everything else is fictional and no real person is intended to be referred to.
On Saturday, 5th May, Mrs Roberta Mornington-Smythe, 64, was arrested at Edinburgh Zoo for attacking one of the camels with her umbrella.
Thomas McBride, Headkeeper, said, ‘I was just coming round the corner with some food for the llamas when I heard this racket. The little girl was crying, and her grandmother was screaming, yelling, and whacking Abu about the head with a long umbrella. I dragged her away and called for Security, and the police.’
After confiscating her umbrella, the Security officers and police escorted the protesting Mrs Mornington-Smythe and the sobbing Eleanor to the Director’s offices, where they interviewed her. The Vet was called to Abu, and treated several bruises around his face.
‘The vet, Dr Portman, is happy to report that no serious injury was sustained in the attack, but we shall be keeping Abu under observation, and have placed him in an enclosure away from the public for a while,’ reported Mr McBride.
It transpires that Mrs Mornington-Smythe had been prevailed upon by her son-in-law, the Honourable George Jamieson, 34, Parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party, to take her five-year-old grand-daughter Eleanor to the Zoo.
‘It is not the sort of place to which I am accustomed!’ the elegant, silver haired grandmother said, ‘I have not entered the Zoological Gardens myself since I was six years old. I distinctly remember that on that occasion I was frightened by the elephants, and expressed the desire to leave and not to return.
‘My son and daughter were brought by their Nanny when they wanted to see the animals. I would not have come today, except that my daughter and son-in-law had an important meeting this morning, and persuaded me to bring Eleanor because it is a place she enjoys.’
Questioning Mrs Mornington-Smythe, Inspector Thompson of the Edinburgh Police, soon discovered the cause of the attack.
‘It seems she had come into the Zoo with her miniature Pappillon tucked inside her coat. Of course it is forbidden to bring dogs into the Zoological Gardens. It is inevitable that they will upset the animals, and cause disturbances.’
‘How was I to know?’ protested Mrs Mornington-Smythe. ‘How could I have dreamed that such a prohibition would apply to my dear Algernon? He isn’t like all those nasty big dogs which I’m sure could hurt someone. Besides I never, ever go anywhere without him, he couldn’t have born to be left at home – he’s never been parted from me since he first became one of our family. He’s no danger to anyone because he doesn’t run about outside the house in case he hurts himself, he cuddles up under my coat in his special carry-bag.
‘He’s usually perfectly good and quiet, but he began to growl and snap, so while we were looking at the camels I took him out to calm him down and give him one of his little treats.’
‘It is now quite clear what happened,’ explained the Zoo’s Director, Sir Matthew Campbell, ‘Abu is our male camel, and would naturally act aggressively to protect his harem of females. Witnesses told us he had already caught the dog’s scent, and as soon as he saw him he reached over the fence and snatched him out of Mrs Mornington-Smythe’s hands. He then dropped him to the ground and stepped on him.
‘The body has been recovered and examined, and we have been assured that he must have died instantly. His neck was broken before he was trampled.
‘We are most concerned about this incident, and though we sympathise with Mrs Mornington-Smythe in the loss of her dog, she was quite clearly in breach of the bye-laws of the Zoo, and will be prosecuted for her offence. It was only fortunate that none of the public were harmed.’
The Honourable George Jamieson, and his wife Felicity were called from their constituency meeting, and hurried to the Zoo.
‘Eleanor has been seriously frightened by this,’ exclaimed Mrs Jamieson. ‘We will provide her with some counselling and therapy in order to ensure that no lasting damage has been done. Whether she will ever return to the Zoo is something we are unable decide at this moment in time.’
‘I have apologised whole-heartedly to the Zoo’s authorities for my mother-in-law’s actions,’ said the Honourable Mr Jamieson, in a statement, read out by his lawyer. ‘I was not aware that she would take Algernon into the Zoo, or I would have persuaded her against doing so. We hope that the case can be settled quietly and quickly.’
We beg our readers to take careful note of this story. None of us is above the law, and we must always consider the safety of others, especially those for whom we are responsible, whether they are our family, our friends or our ‘more than pets’.