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  • Writer's pictureHolly White

Old Man Higgins and His Custard Cream Eyes

My first entry to this blog is nothing more and nothing less than an ode to my dog, Archie. I assure you Reader that he is still very much alive at the ambiguous age of somewhere around sixteen or seventeen years old; he roams this Earth with wobbly back legs and breath as hot as a furnace, smelling unmistakably of death and decay. But no other animal, human or beast, in my life can waft such a stench my way and continuously hold top spot for the Best Boy Award.

It's been difficult to narrow down an aspect of Archie that I wish to share with you. He is older than some of your children, seen my siblings and I grow from junior school to university graduates, and watched on as relationships found in friends and partners have walked in and out of our lives. Too many memories to recount that would also be impossible to convey the depth of our love for him. However, amongst the biblically comparative collection of stories and lore that makes up Archie, there is one small anecdote to his life that I think many dog owners can relate to and can fully grasp how tightly coiled he has us round his little doggy paw. I shall set the scene, though a disclaimer stands that this is a second-hand retelling from my younger sister, who was blessed with the first-hand experience of this event. I can only write in mildly scathing jealousy that I was not a witness on that fateful night.


'Twas the night before Christmas, give or take a few months, and Amy (the aforementioned sister) was having herself a cheeky hot choccy in true gremlin form. Mismatched pyjamas, littered in miscellaneous food stains, and a hunch back over her cup ready to fend off anyone who happened to gaze upon her in the dead of night. She is a solitary creature who enjoys feasting in the dark, like a gremlin I reinstate, and we have all come to terms with these strange habits of hers. But on this momentous night, whilst the rest of us lay sleeping, hobbling into the kitchen lead only by her unyielding need to consume her holy water, she passed by Archie. Settling into her gremlin spot on the sofa, fuzzy socks on and probably the Simpsons playing in the background, Archie wandered into the room investigating this novel combination of scents and sounds assuming he was merely drawn by the unfamiliar aroma of her treats. At lightning speed, an uncanny resemblance to a viper so the story goes, biscuit still making its journey into her gob, Archie lent in and casually removed it from her grip to monch on as if handed to him as a gift. But in such a simple action Amy had discovered an unforeseen facet of Archie's devotion to these sweet delights. As she extended the biscuit upwards, Archie's reaction was nothing short of profound. The mere sight of the custard cream unlocked an unprecedented obsession within him, igniting a fervour and affection that bordered on an insatiable longing. That night, that one glorious night, birthed the family expression: “Oh go on, he’s giving you custard cream eyes, you’ve got to.” Archie is without a doubt the smartest dog I have ever encountered. I can’t express how attentive he was to any conversation looking out for words he knew and acting on them. Sadly, old age has taken his hearing from him and now we communicate through a few hand signals, but the night of the custard cream eyes lives on in him. He knows that we will move mountains to give him what he wants when he flashes us those big brown eyes. Case in point, he has a knack for sleeping in the middle of the hallway in the pitch black and has been booted in the face more times than I’m sure the RSPCA is comfortable with. Out of pure guilt, one could even say a horror, at our own capabilities to trample our beloved family dog, Amy and I will regularly dispense from a nearby packet (most likely left out by our father) a custard cream as an extension of our apology. I like to think it has only deepened our bonds as dog and owner, a mutual appreciation for the simple yet profound joy found in a humble biscuit.

‘Custard cream eyes’ has since evolved into a slightly macabre expression: “You’ve got to give it to him, he’s on hospice treatment.” As much as I wish the love we have for Archie to be enough to save him from what we fear is in the not too distant future, there will be a time when Archie will eat his last custard cream. So whilst we can still give him happiness, those big beautiful custard cream eyes need only be batted at us with a few gentle blinks and maybe a hungry paw at our knee and he will receive whatever it is he wishes.

Author’s Note: Old Man Higgins is a nickname we have for Archie, the origins are a little muddled, but I am certain it stems from the character Old Man Wickles from the 2004 live action film Scooby Doo: Monsters Unleashed. In literally no capacity can any resemblance be found to relate Archie and Wickles, but at the first sign of him getting old younger me latched onto the name and swapped it for Higgins – because children are odd like that – and Archie (also called Archiepoos) is often referred to as Old Man Higgins when he’s hobbling about.

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