mud and water, mud and water*

*By the way, this chorus keeps going through my mind as we walk. It can be sung to the tune of ‘Guns and Roses.’

 

Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.

 

Sunday February 21st 2021

 

Because of the humans’ desire to find spaces in which they can walk without sinking up to their ankles in mud, Isis has never had such a diverse collection of walks within such a brief period of time.

Between us, Bev and I have tested and eliminated virtually every local space known to us.

I try Highbury. It hasn’t rained much over the past two days, so I decide to take Isis along the woodland path. This is where the excavation for the new road is taking place. Even if this is too soggy to walk on, I discovered on our last visit that there’s a grass verge above the excavations. It will be possible to follow this and then veer off it into the woods.

An addditional advantage is that we’ll miss the crowds in the main park. It’s unlikely that anyone else will be around: none of the Lockdown newcomers will know about the grass verge above the nascent road.

So I’m not disconcerted when we arrive to find the site is clearly non-viable today. It looks to be about eight inches deep in mud which, in turn, is surrounded by deep, tea coloured water. There are no islands of firm soil.

Smugly, I swing into plan B.

I scrabble up the side of the diggings only to discover that there is no longer a grassy verge there. It has been incorporated into the excavated area. At the same time as I realise this, I also become aware that I’ve forgotten to change into my walking boots.

I also notice that, Isis, plodding her way through the mire below, is too far ahead for me to capture.

Obviously, I can’t abandon her in order to fetch my walking boots. Anyway, the old suede boots I’m wearing are already covered in claggy clay.

There’s nothing else for it, I’ll have to follow Isis, who, by now disorientated by the disturbed scents and strange sensations under paw, is moving slowly forward in glutinous zig-zags.

I think of Lady MacBeth, and decide that it will be as difficult to retreat as to go forward. I lurch on towards Isis until she is stopped by the dead end bank of earth where the digging has been halted for the weekend.

After much slipping and sliding, I manage to persuade Isis to clambour up the bank and into the woods.

One thing I was right about though: we don’t meet anyone else.

So much for Highbury.

Before Bev and I meet up again, I’ve ascertained that although there are some navigable woodland paths at the Russell Road end of Cannon Hill Park, the main tracks lead into deep, muddy ponds.

One day when it is dull and damp, I walk Isis to Jasmine Fields. It’s not as swamped with mud as it was the week before – at least one doesn’t have to lurch across a bog to reach the dog bin. I’ll have to make sure that she doesn’t wander off down one of the many tracks which run parallel to, but high above the canal. These will definitely still be water logged.

That shouldn’t be a problem though, as she will sniff and play along her favourite lengths of hedgerow as she walks. She always likes to do that here.

There are two cat runs which she finds absolutely fascinating. One is close to where we begin our walk. This is a useful distraction if the light is upsetting her and she’s wondering if it would be a good idea to bolt for the gate by which we’ve just entered.

If kitty’s used it lately, Hairy One will usually spend several minutes snuffling around the entrance and pouncing into the long grass. We’ll come to another run on our way back.  The feline resident there obviously smells even more alluring than the first. I’ve often waited twenty minutes while Isis sniffs and snorts into the long grass and flings herself excitedly against the surrounding shrubs and trees.

And between these two delights is the corner which she enjoy most of all. It’s adjacent to the wildlife areas and, judging by her enthusiastic leaping, twirling and pouncing, it’s  saturated with scents. This is where she always spends the majority of her walk. Predictably, the two benches on the field are too far away for me to use, so I have to stand up. Walking is one thing, but I’ve always found standing wearing.

There is a bench not far from the second cat run, though. That’ll be nice.

Today Isis trots past the first cat run without a single sniff, and, for the first time ever, doesn’t want to play in ‘her’ corner.

When we reach the second cat run, she begins to show some interest. I sink gratefully onto the bench – sidesaddle, though as, inevitably, it’s surrounded by a murky looking mud and water moat.

I take my eyes off her for one minute. One minute, honestly. When I look up again, she’s disappeared.

Well, that was a short rest. Thanks Isis.

I rush off to find her. Yes, here’s a little track I didn’t know existed. And there, already dog’s ankle deep in mud is Isis.

Clearly, she was bored.

Fair play, she’s not had a very interesting walk so far. I surrender and follow her for about forty minutes along the tiny, twisty – and very, very, muddy paths parallel to the canal.

It’s Bev who preserves our sanity during these mud dominated days.

She suggests that we park in the car park at the Russell Road end of Cannon Hill. It’s years since I was in this area. I didn’t even know that there was a car park here.

Her idea is an excellent one. When the grass is under water, we can walk along the tarmacked paths, and make detours through the formal gardens. This we do several times. Isis seems less anxious in strange places when Rufus and Nancy are there too.

Rufus seems always to be aware of where she is and frequently checks on her.

 

 

 

Are you sure you should be going in that direction, Isis?

 

 

 

On Monday we park here again. The dogs investigate fresh smells and meander happily around. It’s all new to Isis, and she needs more guidance than she does on other walks.

But she is content to sniff and walk. We saunter round from the gardens towards the lakes which are screened off with plastic fencing at present, prior to being emptied.

The doodle party is a few yards ahead of me and Isis is walking behind me on the other side of the path.

All is well. Good, she’s crossing the path now.

But I have forgotten that there is a small gap in the plastic fencing. I remember as I watch her. I rush to intercept her.

But it’s too late. She trots confidently towards the lake. Oh my Dog!

SPLOSH!

There’s a flurry of white as she hits the surface. But she doesn’t panic. She quickly paddles round to face the path, plonks her front paws on the concrete edge and heaves. It’s too steep for her. She struggles to get out. But she still doesn’t panic. I heave her out by her harness.

She seems fine. She shakes herself briskly and calmly continues with her walk. I guess she is used to surprises.

It’s been a nerve wracking week for Human though!

 

*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact kerry@aeza.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk

Posted in clever girl, Highbury Park, Holders Lane Woods, Isis in danger, oh dear, poor Isis, rain and more rain, scenting, these dogs!, walking with Rufus and Nancy, who'd be a human? | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

and for my next trick ……..

My apologies to readers who receive the blog through emails. The blog appeared on Sunday – well, in the early hours of Monday – and went through to Facebook but didn’t ‘publish’ here.

 

Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.

 

Sunday February 21st 2021

 

After our serendipitous encounter last week, Am. and I arrange to meet in Holders Lane Woods the following Sunday.

I’ve seen little of Am., even from a distance, over the last eighteen months. She has been working continuously on an important project.

Sunday will be the first day of a short break for her. She needs to exit work mode and relax; additionally, we have a lot of catching up to do. Isis is becoming used to walking through the woods, and needs much less supervision now. What better than a calm, stress free walk?

We meet by the car park notice board.  We do, though, eschew a visit to one of  Hairy’s favourite spots where the edge of the woods abuts several back gardens. All but one of these are secured by high fences. It is, of course, the one without a fence which attracts Isis.

Its boundary is marked only by a row of closely planted leylandii. On our very first visit to this spot two or three weeks ago, Isis runs excitedly up to the trees, sticks her nose into them and begins to snuffle and snort. She then pats the foliage with a front paw, steps back and goes into a prolonged twirl. Clearly, she would be content to stay here all day.

Each time we set out along the beginning of the path, she makes a beeline for exactly the same spot and enacts the same routine. I conclude that someone furry squeezes through an invisible space and uses it as a cat run. She is inordinately keen to make the acquaintance of this cat.

Since she enjoys herself so much, and there is no threat to the cat, who, sensibly, is always conspicuous by her absence, I usually sit on a log close by and let Isis play.

The day before I meet up with Am., however, things change. I rarely take my eyes off Isis for more than a few seconds. On this occasion, I believe I looked up to see if I could spot a bird which was chirruping above my head. When I turned back to Isis, there was an empty space.

I raced up to the leylandii, parted the branches and peered through them. Yes, there was Isis standing on an immaculate lawn, sniffing the grass and waving her tail optimistically. I ran round to where the trees ended, and captured her.

Hearing loud, indignant barking, I looked up to  see a springer spaniel protesting from behind a french window, and a man approaching the window to see what was going on. I acknowledged him with what I hoped he would recognise as an apologetic wave, and beat a hasty retreat.

So when Am. and I meet for our walk, I keep Isis on her lead until we have passed the track leading up to the cat run. After that, we agree, we’ll just let Isis meander as she chooses and we’ll follow her.

Although I can see that Am. worries about Isis crossing the little bridges on her own, nothing untoward happens as we make our way through the woods and down to the meadows. On the way we do some parakeet spotting, and admire the hazel catkins, and Isis explores some of the little tracks.

When we emerge from the meadows, we turn back.

We are enjoying our walk. When we reach the hazels again, we pause to discuss the cutting back which has been done in the park.

We are standing in a clearing, our backs to a plantation of tall, dense shrubs and brambles. Isis stands a couple of feet behind us.

Please excuse the poor quality of the images below, but they do convey the height and density of the area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a few minutes, we are ready to set off. I turn round, taking care not to tread on Isis.

I needn’t have bothered.

She’s vanished.

I rush to peer into the tangle of stems and brambles. No, she couldn’t possibly have forced her way through this.

I run along the edge of the plantation to the right. Am. runs to the left. There is no space we can get through to look for her. We walk up and down hoping to catch a glimpse of her through the  undergrowth.

Eventually, there’s a white flash of tail, right at the bottom, beneath a group of trees. She must have struggled all the way through the mass of stems until she reached a line of impenetrable bramble thickets, then made her way as far to the left side as she could get before finding herself surrounded by more brambles.

She catches our scent and lifts her head in our direction. Her tail waves hopefully. She tries again and again to move towards us, but she can’t find a way out.

There is no choice. Impossible though it seems, I will have to make my way in to rescue her. I fight my way a few feet forward. It’s very difficult to move through the knee high brambles without tripping up, let alone push the tall stems apart at the same time. After ten minutes, I’ve only advanced about six feet.

I don’t surrender easily, but I suddenly realise that even if I am able to reach Isis, there is  no way I can get her out. She’s too heavy for me to carry more than a few feet on any terrain. Even if I were able to carry her, I’d not have a free hand to push aside the stems and branches to allow us to get back. I couldn’t contemplate dragging her through the brambles on her lead. She would be torn apart.

Because, of course, she cannot see, there is no way that she can find an exit. I realise that  she feels trapped, and is becoming anxious Then she does what she always does when she feels stuck. She stands very still and waits for help.

What the hell are we going to do?

Then a man with a dog appears on the path. He can’t see Isis, but guesses there’s a dog in trouble. He is a strong looking middle aged man. He tells me that I’ll not be able to reach her, and motions me to come out of the brambles.

He has just finished work, he explains, and still has his protective work gear on. He will see if he can reach her and bring her out.

Can I assure him that she won’t bite him? No, I can’t, but I explain how to approach her and off he goes anyway!

He tells his dog to stay, and she waits with us, looking puzzled.

We watch.

As he approaches Isis, she wags her tail; however, when she realises that he is a stranger, her tail droops, and she backs away. He slowly follows, and lets her sniff his hand before scooping her up in his arms.

Holding her firmly against his chest with his right arm, he pushes the stems and brambles aside with his left. Isis looks apprehensive but she doesn’t move an inch.

When he arrives back in the clearing, he gently places the recalcitrant animal at our feet.

I am immensely grateful to him. We can’t thank him enough.

I ask him his name. It’s Richard. His dog is Bella and she, too, is a rescue.

What a kind, caring man.

We chat for a while, then Am. and I walk slowly back to the car.

So much for a stress free walk.

 

*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact kerry@aeza.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk

 

Posted in adopted dogs, crisis, Holders Lane Woods, Isis in trouble, poor Isis, rescue dogs, these dogs!, twirling, walking my deaf/blind dog, who'd be a human? | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

trips, slips and curses 2

 

 

Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.

 

Sunday February 14th 2021

 

It’s Monday, and we’ve arranged to meet Bev and the doodles  again at Holders Lane.

I’m a little apprehensive after Saturday’s debacle. I don’t want to spoil our friends’ walk. Well, I decide, if the worst comes to the worst, and Isis again refuses to move – which, of course, I am convinced will happen – I’ll just have to suggest that they continue without us.

Then I’ll see if I can persuade Isis to at least have a little sniff around in a quiet woody place close to the car park.

The Doodle Gang arrives, and we make our way up into the woods. Once off lead, Isis is hesitant. She stops and sniffs around, then slowly sets foot on the path. I recount to Bev Saturday’s disappointment, and tell her that I expect it to be a very slow walk.

“But, Pat,” says she indignantly, “It was only her third time in this park. Remember what she was like for months when you first brought her to Kings Heath Park, and when you introduced her to Highbury. Look at her now. Her tail’s up and she’s sniffing away. She can take as long as she wants; we’re not in a hurry.”

As if to prove Bev’s point, Isis ambles slowly along with us. She pauses often to sniff the  scents.

“You’re expecting too much of her,” continues my companion. Give her a chance. She needs to get used to the terrain. Let her go at her own pace.”

So we do. She follows Rufus and Nancy, snuffling where they snuffle, and, after a while,  finding her own scents to investigate.

We let her stop when she wants to, and carefully guide her when there are tricky obstacles like bridges, ponds, huge logs or impenetrable thickets.

She is entranced when we pause in areas heavily frequented by various tunnelling animals. Whether the entrances are too small to accommodate her whiffling nose or large enough for her to shove in her whole head, she walks on the spot as she sniffs and sniffs and sniffs.

She stays close to us, and, much more frequently than usual, her spotty pink nose connects with my hand or leg.

It is obvious that she is a very happy dog and enjoying herself immensely.

Over the next few days, I think about Bev’s observations, and how strange it is that it often takes another person to see what someone is doing.

She is absolutely right. I have become so used to Isis being independent in the places she knows that I’m treating her like an ordinary dog.

Poor Isis.

How could I be so stupid?

On our next two or three visits with the Doodle Gang, Isis is still careful, but her confidence grows by the day. There are several little wooden bridges across the paths through the woods. Until she gets familiar with the their layout, one of the humans shepherds her over them. Soon though, she is able to navigate them herself.

She is so much more relaxed now.

So am I. Too relaxed, in fact, so that when we  take a different path one day, I forget that she doesn’t know the bridges on this route.

She walks over the side of the first bridge. Fortunately, it’s a shallow drop and she lands on her feet. It’s still muddy under foot, and the ditch is lined with a thick layer of fallen leaves, so she comes to no harm. Momentarily, she looks a little surprised, but soon climbs the little bank back up to the path, and carries on as though nothing has happened.

One day, while Isis and I are walking alone, we come across a young man looking into one of the small ponds. He walks down from the pond as Isis and I walk up towards it. Knowing that Isis, unaware, of course, of the approach of walkers, joggers and cyclists alike, will almost certainly walk into him, I grasp her collar and move her aside. But he tells me that he likes dogs, and doesn’t care if she walks into him.

He asks me about my unusual looking Isis as many people do, and I tell him about her. He is intrigued by her story. Isis approaches him and carefully walks round him sniffing his trousers. Then she returns and stands by my side.

From dogs, we  move on to talk about nature in general. The parakeets are particularly vocal today, and he tells me of his father’s delight when he first heard the squawk of a Birmingham parakeet! Parakeets originate in the Punjab where his dad lived, apparently, and this is where he had last heard them.

We go on to talk about environmental issues, the efforts now being made to balance the needs of populations with their natural environments, of experimental rewilding projects on large estates, about urban forests and city centre parks. It transpires that A works in conservation.

We talk for at least thirty minutes.  Apart from another careful sniff around my companion’s trousers, Isis stands still by my side. She’s not done this before. I wonder if it’s because I am talking to a stranger, and she feels I’m her responsibility!

As soon as we set off again, she trots ahead to her newly established favourite place, high up, next to the fences which mark a boundary between the woods and the bottoms of gardens.

Here, she goes into play mode.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we both have a memorable walk.

And, for the icing on the cake, as they say, on the way back to the car we come across my friend Am. Because of Lockdown, we’ve not met for months.

Isis are in Holders Woods for three hours, and it’s been brilliant.

 

*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact kerry@aeza.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk

 

 

 

Posted in a joyful dog, a very good dog, clever Isis, Holders Lane Woods, Isis says "No"., learning to trust, oh dear, park dogs, poor Isis, walking in the park, walking with Rufus and Nancy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

trips, slips and curses

 

 

Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.

 

Sunday February 7th 2021

 

‘Never count your chickens before they are hatched’ is a proverb which one should always keep in mind when predicting how Isis will respond to events. Likewise, assuming a problem is solved just tempts fate. I remember this soon after last Friday’s successful walk with Bev, Nancy and Rufus in Cannon Hill Park.

It has rained over night yet again. There is no question of paddling round the claggy waste which Highbury has become. Thank goodness Bev reintroduced us to Cannon Hill.

On Saturday, with high hopes, I take Isis there again. I decide that we’ll take it very slowly, introduce these new spaces a little at a time. Today she can enjoy being off-lead, exploring the two sports pitches, maybe even the small fields which are adjacent to them: they’re all only a short walk from the car park.

I set off enthusiastically: a lot more enthusiastically than my hairy companion who looks anxious and drags her feet.

We follow the same route out of the car park as we did last time, but now our progress is not encouraging. I have to urge her on every step of the way down the slope. When she heaves herself  left or right, towards whichever side of the path I have chosen not to walk on, I block her. When she refuses to move, I walk close behind her with my shins against her reluctant bottom.

At last we reach the wide, grassy edge of the all weather surface pitch. Thank Dog for that. I unclip her lead so that she can have a good sniff around. But she doesn’t care for a sniff around – good or otherwise. She’s not stupid. She knows exactly where the car is.

She doesn’t retrace her  pawsteps. No need. Instead, she takes a short cut, setting off briskly up the very steep, and extremely slippery bank which separates us from the car park.

The car park!

Eeeeeeeek!

I scramble  up after her, like a drunken spider, and almost, but not quite, on my hands and knees. Because it’s so wet and muddy, I’m wearing wellington boots, not walking boots, and struggle to keep my grip.

I manage to catch up with her just as she arrives on the other side of the fence.

What is the matter with her? It’s a dull day. There’s no threatening sun.

Let’s try again.

This time she refuses point blank to walk to the path, let alone along it, and I can’t face the hassle of chivvying her. We’ll return the way we came up. Not a sensible idea, but there’s a strong looking shrub which I can hang onto, and gravity will be against her once she begins the descent.

We reach the bottom without incident. Now she begin to have a serious, in fact urgent, sniff around. Oh, good, this is more like it!

Yes, the sniff is definitely urgent. Urgent, but brief. A poop.

Oh.

As I am desperately trying to open a bag to collect it, she hurries back up the bank we’ve just descended.

I utter a barrage of expletives as I clamber hurry after her. The ascent is even more difficult with a poop bag dangling from one hand and her lead from the other, but one must look for silver linings – at least there’s a dog bin at the top.

Perhaps I can persuade her to walk in the opposite direction this time.

I can, but only just, and it’s very hard going. Walking bent over so that I can pat, stroke and under-chin tap her every foot along the way is not a relaxing experience. At one point, I trip and fall over her in a chuntering arch, my hands sinking up to the wrists in soggy earth.

Now and again I encourage her to leave the path and walk a foot or two up into the woodland, but it’s a thankless task. She just wants to go back to the car.

Well, at least she’s had some exercise. But I feel defeated and irritable. Our other open spaces – even Jasmin Fields – are submerged in mud and, as we know, she balks at pavement walks unless it’s pouring or snowing.

If she’s not going to enjoy Cannon Hill, where the hell can she go?

Sunday is dull and there’s a steady drizzle, so we walk to Kings Heath Park. Yes, we’ll both emerge wet and filthy, but she’ll be happy.

She is. She scampers joyfully around the first big, splodgy field, kicking up clumps of mud and splattering it onto her undercarriage. She paddles merrily through all the deep puddles, and she seems pleased to be reunited with the old bowling green.

Clearly, all the children in Kings Heath have been sledging down the bank. There are only one or two narrow strips of grass left. Apart from these, the surface of the bank gleams like a newly glazed chocolate cake.

Even Isis struggles to reach the top.

As it’s still drizzling remorselessly, she trots home in her deep brown knee socks, without dragging her feet. She’s happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She’s not happy with the next stage, though. It’s a bath. And a very thorough one too.

Generally, Hairy One’s coat is easy to care for even when the weather is excessively revolting. On rare occasions, I wash her feet in a bowl outside the front door. Sometimes she just has her feet wiped. Usually, though, I spread a large towel over the day bed, let her jump onto it, and, as the mud dries, it drops off.

Her coat, though, takes a long time to dry. After much towelling, she’s still very damp and looks somewhat sorry for herself. When I settle beside her, around midnight, she creeps up to me and wriggles around the contours of my body until she’s very close. Then she gives two or three little heaves to push herself even closer, puts her head on my knee and falls asleep.

Like many dogs, Isis finds being bathed a nasty experience. Perhaps she also feels she’s being punished. Maybe this is why she feels upset, and wants to be close.

She doesn’t feel damp any longer, but I’m anxious that she may be cold when the heating switches off. I’m still not sure if it’s because I think I need to monitor her overnight, or because I’m overcome by her sad little face. Whichever, I clean my teeth upstairs, put on my stripy onesie (in which, by the way, I look totally ridiculous) collect an extra pillow and return downstairs.

In the early hours, I feel her move away, and realise that she’s fine.

But where shall we walk tomorrow?

Who knows!

(To be continued.)

 

*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact kerry@aeza.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk

Posted in Highbury Park, Isis at home, Isis gets bathed, Isis is sad, Isis says "No"., Kings Heath Park, oh dear, poor Isis, rain and more rain, sleeping arrangements, these dogs!, walking with Rufus and Nancy, who'd be a human? | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sunday January 31st 2021

 

 

 

Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.

 

Sunday January 31st 2020

 

By last Sunday, of course, everywhere is thick with snow, and Isis plays in the lane.

The following day, we go to Highbury again. There are only two cars in the car park. As we arrive, they both leave.

It’s a snowman’s graveyard here. It’s damp and grey. Just as we emerge from the car, a light but steady drizzle begins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s not a person or a dog in sight. Isis doesn’t care. She’s fond of drizzle. Although it’s not cold enough to sustain the snowmen, the snow is still firm and crunchy underpaw, and she can dance where she will.

And dance she does. For two and a half hours. Clearly, the thaw has begun. There’ll be no snow to play in tomorrow. I don’t have the heart to take her home sooner. 

We finally get home, drizzle drenched but contented. She does not, I note, play with her toys in the evening. She’s flat out.

By Wednesday, I am forced to acknowledge that because of the hugely increased footfall in all of the parks through Lockdown, everywhere will be muddy.

Curse. Groan. Sigh.

I decide that we’ll go to Jasmin Fields. At least we can get filthy somewhere different.

Here, too, dozens of snowmen are in their death throes. Here, too, frequently used areas   are virtually ankle deep in mud. Even accessing the dog bag bin presents a significant challenge.

On closer inspection, though, I realise that although the track round the edge of the field is well trodden and squelchy, the grass in the middle is relatively mud free. Efforts to lure Isis onto the nice, clean grass fail miserably, of course, so I stop trying.

But once we reach the opposite side of the field which runs parallel to the canal, and is surrounded by tall hedgerows, we discover that there are two or three large patches of ground which are still covered in snow.

What a gift.

Isis, of course, is thrilled. She is particularly taken with the largest patch on which stands a headless snowman. As we know, she’s always had a penchant for things she can dance around.

She loves the feel of the snow under paw, and the chance to leap against it as though it were a bush. She can even use it as an ice lolly when she feels thirsty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

She is beside herself with joy. She shoots this way and that way, changing direction with a leap and a spin, flying towards me, then veering off so sharply that I almost expect to hear a squeal of brakes.

She skitters around wildly for over an hour. Dog knows how much longer she’ll keep it up. Sadly, this human doesn’t have as much resilience as her dog. Her fingers and toes are burning with the cold.

I round her up and take her home.

What an unexpectedly good time we’ve had.

And what beautifully clean, pink pads she has!

 

****************

 

By next day, though,not a speck of ice remains, and the desperate search for mud free grass is on with a vengeance.

Bev tells me that most of Cannon Hill Park is much less revolting than Highbury. She suggests we meet at Holders Lane car park on Friday.

I often brought Ellie, my before Isis dog, here, to Cannon Hill. She enjoyed swimming in the river, snatching balls from games of cricket and, on one occasion, retrieving a child’s Teletubby ball from the middle of a pond, and, cheered by a little group of onlookers, bringing it safely back to land.

But Isis isn’t Ellie, and I’m anticipating problems. As she’s not been to Cannon Hill before,  there are no favourite little corners for her to play in. She must be be kept on her lead. To make matters worse, the sun is out.

To my surprise, while Nancy and Rufus forge ahead, she trots along contentedly, absorbed by the new scents. The only time she refuses to move is when we walk up a slope towards the sun in order to avoid a swampy area.

Rufus pops back to see what the problem is, I administer a series of tugs and shoves, and, eventually, she walks with us up the slope and back towards the entrance.  

Apart from this little incident, she  seems to enjoy the new experience. Bev points out that the two games pitches close to the entrance will be good places for Isis to run, once she’s familiar with these new surroundings. We also earmark several hedged in areas where we think she’d enjoy running free.

Right. I’ll bring her here from now on, until the ground dries out.

Problem solved.

Or so I thought at the time ……………………………………

 

*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact kerry@aeza.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk

Posted in a joyful dog, a very good dog, oh dear, rain and more rain, twirling, walking in the park, walking with Rufus and Nancy, we don't like bright sun, who'd be a human? | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

 

 

Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.

 

Monday January 26th 2021

 

I’ve never had such a hassle with a post before! It’s not often that I admit defeat. But I’m doing so now. I’m handing over to Isis. If you turn up the volume, you can hear her ‘biting’ the snow flakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(A very long time elapses. It’s damned cold.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, this is definitely my territory.

 

 

 

 

Human: I think you’re tired. Shall we go in now?

 

 

 

 


NO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Human: Come on, dear. You can bring your nice red ball with you.

 

 

 

 

Stuff your nice red ball!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact kerry@aeza.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk

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Apologies

 

 

Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.

 

Sunday January 24th 2021

 

I am afraid today’s post will not appear until, hopefully,  tomorrow. I had prepared a mini photo-journalism post recording Hairy One’s snowy forays. But, unfortunately, when I came to write it, I discovered that my wi-fi connection had mysteriously switched off – or, which is more likely, I’d accidentally switched on plane mode – so that none of today’s photos had uploaded.

They are, I trust, uploading now. They are many and will take a long time, so here’s to tomorrow!

 

*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact kerry@aeza.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk

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the snow stick

 

 

Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.

 

Sunday January 17th 2021

 

Well, last week’s snowfall was definitely worth waiting for: someone is absolutely thrilled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think she just can’t quite believe that anything so wonderful is really happening.

For well over two hours, she skips and skitters merrily this way and that. Today, she’s not interested in checking over the rest of the park. She wants to run around in her favourite space.

She doesn’t even mind when the snow stops falling because by then she has realised that she can make the hedges and brambles snow.

She tugs vigorously at the brambles. They are loaded with snow, and each tug dispenses   slices of the delicious stuff over her muzzle, ears and neck.

When she leaps up and down under the lowest branches of the young beeches, nose-nudging their snowy dead leaves, she’s rewarded by random spluts on her back and her feet.

And, best of all, when she launches herself at the springy hawthorn bushes she creates a nose to tail shower.

Words can’t adequately convey her pleasure. I watch, enchanted for two and a half hours.

By which time she’s ready to go home?

No way. Not on your Nelly, as my grandmother would have said. By which time she is not ready to go anywhere, and my toes and fingers are painfully cold.

But, to be fair to her, she is a good natured little dog and she doesn’t resist when I thread her into her harness and lead her to the car.

After her tea, she sleeps like a hairy log. She doesn’t even wake up for her usual evening play with her toys.

The next day she trots onto the snow, full, I imagine, of anticipation. Great. She can feel the wonderful stuff under her paws.

She rushes to the spot where she had so much fun yesterday. She stands stock still, lifts her little spotty nose skywards and opens her very pink mouth in anticipation.

She waits.

And she waits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But nothing happens.

Her disappointment is palpable. I feel so sorry for her. “Sweetheart, it’s not falling today,” I tell her sadly.

Then comes a gentle breeze. It puffs a few facefuls of snow into the air.

Isis is ecstatic. She leaps up and down and waits for more, but the breeze dies down again.

Come on, dimwitted Human, use your imagination. Ah, yes! Look for a twig. Search for a nice twangy one with a bushy end.

Yes! Here’s the perfect snowstick!

Zingy, springy, slim and whippy, it’s very similar to the one she played with a few weeks ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect!

“A snowstick, Isy”, I tell her. I take a wide swipe at the closest clump of snow, lifting it up from the ground and over her head.

A happy dog again, she dashes off, leaping and bounding, while I race over the snow behind her, swooshing the lovely white stuff up and over her with my snowstick.

This is somewhat tiring, but just as I’m wondering how long I can keep running, the breeze picks up and blows clouds of snow at her.

The bursts of breeze are frequent now. They scatter left over snowflakes from the tops of the tall shrubs and the trees.

And Isis remembers that if she roots in the snow, she can gather a wedge of it on her nose and toss it up in the air herself.

So, all in all, today is as good as yesterday.

 

 

*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact kerry@aeza.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk

Posted in a joyful dog, deaf/blind dog plays, Highbury Park | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

waiting for the white stuff

 

 

Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.

 

Sunday January 10th 2021

 

Two whole weeks of adventures. Impossible to detail every one. Just as well: you’d all stop following Isis if I did, out of sheer boredom.

Brrrrr. We’ve been having some very cold weather over the last couple of weeks.

Each day, I emerge from the house wearing thermal vest and tights, ancient quilted ski pants, three pairs of socks, a long-sleeved polo necked T-shirt, a long-sleeved polo-necked jumper, two neck warmers, a heavy, warmly lined, hooded and waterproof walking jacket and two pairs of gloves.

Isis has long given up the happy notion that as soon as I wake her, we’re off for our walk. Instead, after a quick visit to the garden, followed by breakfast, she returns to the day bed  and continues snoozing for the ages it takes a dozy human to put on all those layers.

She is a very, very patient dog, fortunately. After all, she is used to the draggingly slow pace at which I meander through the morning routine. A dog has to allow for the fact that every morning her person rediscovers that she can’t get her thermal tights on over three pairs of thick socks, and has to remove all six of the socks she’s just put on.

Or, just as she’s ready to come downstairs, she feels a little shivery and realises that she’s forgotten to put on the thermal vest.

In this scenario, there’s the inevitable dilemma to be pondered: should she not bother, as it might not be as cold today as it was yesterday? Sometimes the weather forecast has to be checked again.

Oh dear, it is as cold as it was yesterday. Off with the jumper, off with the T-shirt. Where’s the thermal vest?

Ah. Vibrations on the stairs. Don’t get excited yet, little dog. Porridge oats must be shaken in sunflower oil for the crows, and a few dog treats pocketed just in case, and, oh dear, where’s the car key? Surely she didn’t put it down on her bed when she went back into the bedroom for the vest?

Yes, she did. She thunders up the stairs to retrieve it.

We’re getting closer to a walk.

Now for her false tooth. Oh “*^! She’s touched something which could be contaminated with The Virus. Best wash her hands again first.

And is her hearing aid firmly ensconced in her ear? Gosh no. Must still be upstairs.

Boom! Boom! Boom!

Damn. Not there.

Oh. It’s been dislodged by the first neck warmer.

Ah, but in  rescuing the hearing aid she’s touched her face. Best wash hands again. Or would it be more effective to use the sanitiser? Best do both.

O.K. Now we’re ready to go.

Almost.

We have to remember our driving glasses and our phone. Where the hell’s the phone?

Upstairs? Oh no. Ah, she’s already put it in the inside pocket of her jacket.

Into the porch we go. Now, at last, the ever tolerant Isis allows herself to get excited. She spins and twirls and leaps around. As soon as one front paw is popped through the appropriate loop, Human struggles to pop in the next one. She succeeds, only to see the first paw popping back out.

She feels irritable, and tells Isis she’ll never get to the park at this rate. But hey, look who’s talking.

Human leaves her ebullient little podengo to rave in the porch, and steps back into the hall to retrieve her dog’s car blanket and towel from the radiator.

Quite often there’s another wait once we climb into the car. Something has been forgotten and Human returns to the house to fetch it. But Isis doesn’t mind. She knows we’re on our way.

Almost.

And, usually, we have a lovely time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact kerry@aeza.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk

Posted in a joyful dog, a very good dog, deaf/blind dog plays, Highbury Park, Isis at home, patience is a virtue., walking my deaf/blind dog | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

an unlikely little angel

There will be no post on December 27th or January 3rd. Isis and Human are taking a break.

 

Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.

 

Sunday December 20th 2020

 

 

 

I’m a happy dog again now. Here I am today with my private stash of twigs hidden in the hedge.

 

 

 

Hurray! Hurray! Last night, for the first time in months, Isis sleeps without her Elizabethan collar. It is with some trepidation that I leave her and go upstairs. I can’t quite believe that her tail will survive unnibbled.

There’s no commotion during the night; nevertheless, when I wake her this morning my eyes scan her bedding for blood. No. No sign of any. What a relief.

Over the last week or so, I’ve left her collar off in the day time as long as I’ve been downstairs, but have replaced it if I need to spend some time upstairs. Since Thursday, I’ve been even braver and have left her downstairs for an hour or two without the collar. (Even with the radio on I am able to recognise a loud, angry ‘RAFF-RAFF’ when I hear one.)

But no, not a sound. This is wonderful.

Give the vet her due: she was confident that the treatment would be effective. Never the optimist, I was very sceptical. I couldn’t believe that the dermatits would heal, that there’d be a time when Isis would stop her incessant scratching and nibbling.

It’s now six weeks since we last saw the vet. Tomorrow evening I’m taking her for an anal gland check. (Isis, that is, not the vet.) It’ll be interesting to see whether the change of diet has had any effect on that problem.

This dog is on her way to sprouting a halo. Not only has the self-harming ceased, there has also been a huge improvement in her dining room etiquette.

When she became ill at the beginning of September, I had almost completed a series of posts detailing seven eventful walks. But not quite. There’s still one post missing. I’ll return to it one day.

At this time, too, I commenced yet another attempt at eradicating the hysterical mealtime barking which, for some reason best known to Isis, had crept back into her daily routines again.

O.K. Taking away her food until she was quiet had ceased to be effective. She was just becoming more and more irritable at meal times, and the effects of the ‘training’ were wearing off more and more quickly; additionally, to be honest, I was getting fed up to the back teeth with the whole pantomime.

“It’s not working.” I tell her some time in August. “We’ll have to think again.”

Yes, well, reward, as every educator knows, is much more likely to be effective than any negative action.

But how do we go about it?

Right, I decide once she is feeling a bit better, every time she eats without the vocals, I’ll give her a Markie.

Thus, on the infrequent occasions she manages to eat without ranting, I rush out into the hall the minute she leaves her bowl, shower her with praise and reward her with a Markie.

She likes this, but, unfortunately, when she isn’t the perfect diner and is not, therefore, rewarded, she loses her temper. She flies into a ferocious spin, snarling and attacking her tail.

Hmmm. Perhaps my idea is not as good as I thought.

But we’ll persevere.

Then Hairy One becomes ill. For days it’s all she can do to creep out to her dining area, let alone leap about barking when she gets there. She just eats in silence, then skulks back to bed. Even so, I give her her treat.

As she comes round, the training is resumed. As before, when she’s not rewarded, she goes into a cacophanous strop. Resisting the temptation to throttle her, I gently block her spinning, and, without a word, put her back into the Elizabethan collar.

It’s not long, though, before she changes her tactics and adds a new dimension to the proceedings. As soon as she’s finished eating, she only gives me a few seconds to appear with her Markie before she begins to bark imperiously.

This is the latest addition to her vocals. It’s not an angry bark. It obviously means, “Get on with it.”

I am not amused. “I BEG your pardon,” I announce loudly, “WHAT was that you said to me?”

Her ears twitch up and down. I stand next to her. She lifts her head and waits quietly. She gets her Markie.

It seems that, at last, Isis and I between us have succeeded in sorting out mealtimes.

We’ve both learned, and there’s a bit of give and take. If she barks once because I’ve thoughtlessly turned on a light, or opened the blinds, I overlook the bark and she still gets her Markie.

If, as happens this evening, she loses her rag – whatever the reason – no Markie.

Tonight, when I peer round the kitchen door to investigate the cause of the riot, I find a still spreading pool of water on the floor. Isis is paddling in the pool, sniffing for bits of food. There’s a trail of wet paw prints from the pool to the outside door and another set back again. Her feeder/water stand is askew, and has travelled about a foot from its usual position.

So what’s happened here?

I put on my deerstalker, and attempt to reconstruct the crime scene.

Here’s what I deduce:

Isis finishes her tea, and decides to have a drink. In the dark, she misses the water and crashes into the water bowl. The stand tips, and water cascades all over the floor. Isis is very cross with it. She retreats to the far end of the kitchen to ponder. Then she smells bits of dog meal which were previously under the feeder. Now the feeder has been knocked aside, the bits are within easy reach, and she is retrieving them.

Fair enough. But that was a hell of a kerfuffle. I commiserate but I don’t give her a Markie, and it’s clear that she doesn’t expect one.

I’m very pleased with this latest training effort. At the same time, I’m not entirely sure how we achieved such a positive result. It’s definitely not all me. It feels as though we’ve achieved resolution by taking cues from one another. Once again, I have underestimated Isis.

It’s so pleasant. After her meal now, she doesn’t even demand her reward. She just sits between the kitchen and the back room waiting – unless, of course, Human forgets. Then, we both agree, a gentle reminder is quite in order.

 

*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact kerry@aeza.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk

Posted in a very good dog, clever Isis, dear little Isis, Isis at home, Isis is no angel, learning to trust, oh dear, poor Isis, relationship building, self-damaging, self-harming, strange behaviour, teaching my deaf/blind dog, these dogs!, training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments