The Adventures of Billy
(Or Travels with a Skeleton)
It was in 1972 that Billy Bones came to live with us - if that is the right way of putting it.
When a student starts his medical training, the first thing he has to acquire is a skeleton and his training in anatomy is based round that. Dog people talked knowledgably about the importance of bone, of spring of rib, structures of elbow, stifle, hock etc. but it was all too clear that this was surface knowledge and not knowledge in depth. Few had studied or even seen the underlying structure of a dog and certainly not the structure of skeletons of known breeds. So I suggested we take steps to obtain the skeleton of a Cardigan and this was agreed.
The University Museum in Oxford told me of a company specialising in the preparation of biological specimens and they agreed to do the work - indeed the man I contacted had prepared a skeleton of the breed in which he himself was interested. All we had to do was provide the dog. This is where the comedy of having the skeleton started. What if there was a problem in getting the dog to them? 'Oh' they said, 'put it in a plastic bag and pop it in the freezer'. We hoped it wouldn't be too near Christmas!!
The call went out for a dog and eventually I was told of one who was going to have to be put down, that we could have, but donor and dog were to be anonymous. I picked up the dog the next morning and drove him to Littlehampton, so we did not have to contend with our worst fears, and several weeks later I got Billy Bones.
His first adventure was to go to Crufts. We had a breed stand and he was the centre of our display. Many people were interested, some wouldn't look at him - I recall one lady, not of our breed, who said she knew all about structure and didn't want to know. Then there was an American gentleman, determined to enjoy his Crufts and taking movies of everything; he photographed Billy for a full three minutes but Billy behaved perfectly and never moved once.
Mr. Bones at the CWCA 60th Anniversary Championship Show in 1986
Billy proved useful in our studies, we could now see what we were talking about, but interest in him was limited. After several years his donor agreed that he and they should be named. Dilys and Hywel Jones had closed the Dilwel kennel by then, indeed Dilys had died. And most people now knew that Billy was Dilwel Gwilym, a fine dog, a noted sire and a great influence on our breed.
Dilwel Gwilym, born 02.10.1963
That knowledge made a major difference to the interest taken in Billy. The demand for him increased, he made more appearances and I have seen folk patting and stroking him, admittedly more for who he was than what he is. But Billy now assists in talks for other breeds too. He has stood in on talks to Schipperke, Puli and Collie clubs and most recently, and perhaps most bizarre, as a substitute St. Bernard!
He has also travelled overseas to Finland, and to the USA twice, which raises its own problems. There is no problem in taking him out of the UK, but you have to have a licence to bring him back.
You cannot import bone or bone products without a licence from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and normally bones can only come in through a port (they are used to foodstuffs, fertilizers, glue and china manufacture etc.). Billy has a licence for each trip and a dispensation to come in through an airport. Next you must check that you can take him into the country you wish to visit - and you must transport him too. He travels packed in a box as part of my hand baggage - he is as precious as a Duchess's jewels to us - and that must go through an X-ray machine!
That shows up national characteristics! You tell them what is in the box and what they are going to see. In Finland you get a polite 'OK', he also had to be checked in and out of the customs office - 'OK'. In America it is usually a lady working the machine, who cries out 'Oh my God!" or 'take it out of here'. They don't say 'the English are mad anyway' but you can see it in their eyes. At Heathrow you start an incident. Forewarned, they do not believe you. The box is isolated and two examiners descend on you, full of suspicion, demanding to look inside. You tell them again what is in it, that you are taking it as the basis of a talk, and I even asked them what they were going to do after they had looked inside. They don't know, look anyway, continue to look suspicious and send you on your way apparently convinced that there is something illegal about it if only they could figure out why!
If you enjoy the comic side of life it beats going to a dog show any day!
CWCA Newsletter Spring/Summer 2010
Mr Bones Today
After many years of obscurity spent lurking in pieces in a cardboard box. Mr. Bones, alias Dilwel Gwilym, was re-assembled, spring cleaned and given a lovely new display case. This new lease of life was thanks to Peter Tomlinson, corgi enthusiast, committee member and veterinary student.
Mr. Bones, re-assembled
For the first time in many years, Mr. Bones was on show at the CWCA championship show in September 2012 and in the hotel on the evening preceding the show, when Peter talked about the process of rescuing our old friend. However, not in his super new showcase due to issues at the university in Liverpool where Peter Tomlinson studies.
But Mr Bones is on the scene again and Peter has kindly agreed to be his on-going custodian, along with dad Nigel. They are keen that he is seen by people much more frequently than in the past. When his overhaul is complete Mr Bones will again be available to grace more shows and educational events.
CWCA Newsletter Summer & Winter 2012