Two Feet, Four Paws: The Girl Who Walked Her Dog 4, 500 Miles

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9781840240023: Two Feet, Four Paws: The Girl Who Walked Her Dog 4, 500 Miles
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One girl, a dog from a broken home and an ancient camper van called the Spudtruck set off on a journey the equivalent distance of London to Calcutta. Raising cash for the homeless charity Shelter, Spud and Tess share their tears, sweat and champagne and reveal the true state of Britain.

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When the alarm went off at 6am on Sunday 1st August 1993, I had no idea that in six hours time I would be setting off to walk the equivalent distance of London to Calcutta. But perhaps Tess had been struck by a moment of enlightenment, and it was for this reason that she was nowhere to be found when our back-up vehicle, the Spudtruck, was ready to leave for Tower Bridge.

At this stage I had only belonged to Tess for one month, and we were experiencing the struggle for dominance common at the start of all relationships between man and beast. Tess was winning the battle. I eventually found her in the farthest corner of the house, ignoring my calls and happily shredding a sheepskin rug into tiny pieces. Her bright eyes shone out in victory.

Blackmailing her into following me with promises of a walk was not going to work. She had heard the word so much that she knew it was a waste of energy to rush for the door. In desperation I resorted to the voice intonation favoured by dog owners throughout Britain and, in what is equivalent to 'goo goo, gaa, gaa' in baby language, I cried 'Walkies!' She was soon leaving a trail of wool down the stairs and into the Spudtruck.

We had decided to leave from Tower Bridge for several reasons. I felt that by setting off on the water's edge I would reduce the risk of getting lost - while Shelter's PR team wanted a good backdrop for the photocall. The prospect of this photocall appalled me, inducing visions of armies of pushy reporters amidst the whirr of cameras and large fluffy microphones.

Instead, our allocated quota of small-scale fame started with three photographers unsuccessfully attempting to balance Tess on a bollard the size of a football. During those initial painful minutes in front of the camera it was apparent that Tess and I had at last agreed about something. Sitting in contortionist positions, squinting into the sun, wearing fixed smiles for an age, we had discovered something alien at which neither of us was any good. Also during this first photographic ordeal, the tantalising smell of bacon beckoned from within the hotel. Such is the price of small-scale fame.

The day was a scorcher. The sun blazed down and there was no wind at all. By 1pm the Tower Hotel room was buzzing with friends, family and sponsors who had come to see us off. At 2pm the coastline beckoned.

I gathered together my array of suburban maps, and changed my boots for the umpteenth time. My father, Pops, raised a toast, 'Ladies and Gentlemen, Spud and Tess are on their way. I'm sure you'll all want to raise a glass to wish them all the luck in the world!'

In response there were shouts and cheers. The surge of encouragement was tangible, and I blundered out of the hotel through a film of tears. On the other end of the lead, Tess set a cracking pace through St Catherine's Docks and down Wapping High Street. Ringing in my ears were the final terrifying words from Rebecca Stephens - 'Whatever you do don't give up!'

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