23.35 May 16th 2021

Because of problems with my computer which have only just been resolved, today’s post will not appear until tomorrow. I am sorry.

Pat

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now what?

 

 

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

 

Sunday May 16th 2021

 

Yes, we have a mouse.

Sigh.

Now what?

Perhaps it’ll go away of its own accord.

On the other hand, perhaps it won’t.

It doesn’t, of course.

Now I begin to notice signs of a small rodent operating in the vicinity.

 

 

 

 

No, that hole was definitely not in Isis’s bag of food when I fed her last night.

Something has to be done.

I can’t find my humane rodent trap, but friend Y., who is a dedicated creature rescuer lends me one of hers and donates a little bag of tempting seeds much favoured, Y. assures me, by mice.

“Of course,” she reminds me, “You can’t release her outdoors yet. It’s too cold. It’ll kill her.”

Of course it is. I’ll have to wait for the temperature to rise.

Sigh.

In the meantime, little mouse will have to be fed.

Hmmmmm.

At least it’s clear that s/he likes the Royal Canin Gastrointestinal High Fibre food recommended for Isis’s anal gland problem ………..

I wonder whether mice have anal glands. Good grief, can you imagine how challenging it would be for a vet to attempt to empty them?

Concentrate, Human.

I don’t want to use up Hairy’s special food. What else have we in the house which would appeal to a mouse? Ah. In the cupboard there’s a large container of nuts which need eating. I imagine that a mouse would enjoy a nut or two. In fact, surely mice will eat almost anything?

A week goes by, and every night the nuts, served in a genteel fashion on a fresh sheet of kitchen roll, disappear. Usually something like a bit of crumbled cereal or dropped toast is added in. There’s never anything left by morning.

Sometimes it’s necessary to follow Isis into the garden to clean up after her. On one such morning, I wiggle my feet into an old pair of boots kept by the kitchen door. No problem with the right foot but when it comes to the left, I find I’m standing on gravel.

Don’t know how that got there. With an irritable mutter, I take the boot off again and tip it upside down. Bad decision. It’s not gravel. A stream of broken up nuts spreads itself across the floor.

 

 

 

 

Ew. Ungrateful little ***!

Unearthing a brush and dustpan, I set to.

Although the boots don’t seem so in the photo, they are quite tall – half way between ankle and knee. This seems a long way for a small creature to climb repeatedly, each time with a  face full of nuts. Well, well. One can’t help but admire its tenacity.

My boot must have been mouse’s larder. So perhaps s/he does like nuts but knows they will store well. They are an emergency stash in case of hard times. Meanwhile, alternative sustenance would be appreciated, please.

Perhaps I should give it a new larder.

For goodness sake, it’s a mouse! It can make another store under the floorboards. You’ll be leaving a ‘tick your choice for tomorrow’ menu out next.

Back to the drawing board.

Biscuits. Yes, it likes shortbread biscuits. In fact, it appears to love shortbread biscuits. Not a crumb remains to be seen next day. Good. The fat in them will be good for a mouse in this cold weather.

Then, one night, Isis seems to be taking a hell of a long time over her drink of water. A quick peek into the kitchen ascertains that Isis isn’t drinking water. Crunch, happy crunch. She is, of course eating the mouse’s shortbreads.

Irritating dog. Now the little meal will have to be prepared again, biscuits crumbled again, the counter decrumbed once more, the kitchen roll replaced with clean, unlicked sheets and, of, course, hands washed yet again.

As all dog people know, having a dog entails an incredible amount of handwashing. Pat, pat, stroke, stroke – wash your hands. Feed her. Wash your hands. Pick up her toys, dry her feet, hang up her towels, pick a bit of something out of her coat … and on and on.

Believe you me, having a mouse is even worse. I’d definitely pass an audition for Lady MacBeth.

Now where can we place mouse’s food? I don’t want to put it on the counters. I’m far from houseproud, but shudder at the idea of mouse running and pooping around the kettle and toaster

Eventually, the new dining area for mice is sited close to the skirting board and behind the metal bin. This offers access for a small rodent but not a marauding dog. Just to be on the safe side, I place a plastic bag in a strategic position. Isis can’t reach mouse’s dining room  without disturbing the plastic bag and alerting Human.

Phew! These animals. No wonder there never seems time for riveting jobs like tidying and cleaning.

At present, mouse is demolishing dog treats, oats and biscuits with the occasional bit of something else. There are no leftovers, and Isis hasn’t attempted to raid the supply.

Mouse is still very active, and Isis is still leaping up and down oofing in annoyance and  leaping into her dog bed.

Sometimes she becomes really cross and protests with loud, aggressive barks.

On these occasions, I attempt to pacify her with pats and strokes.

“It’s only that mouse again,” I tell her stupidly – she knows perfectly well what it is –

“And soon it’ll get warmer and we’ll take mouse to Highbury Park.”

 

 

Oh Yeah?

 

 

*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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taking the mickey?

 

 

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

 

Sunday May 2nd 2021

 

We are relaxing contentedly on the day bed when suddenly, for no reason discernible to me, Isis wakes up, lifts her head, and jumps to her feet.

“Wurr- urr- urr,” she says, before sniffing the air meaningfully. I look around the room. I listen hard.

“Wurr-urr-urr,” she repeats, sniffing the air again, and bouncing up and down a little to make sure I am paying attention to her complaint.

“There’s nothing there dear,” I assure her, patting her head and stroking her absently.

After a minute or two, she lies down again. Now she has a quizzical expression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange.

Oh well.

A few nights later, I am awoken by subdued ‘oofs’ from below. They’re not persistent barks telling me that something is hurting and human intervention is urgently required. They’re not the ‘woof, woof, WOOF, WOOF WARRRRF’ alerting me to a prowler – human or animal – in the garden. They’re most certainly not the snarl-snap-scream barks typical of Isis awakening from a nightmare.

I listen.

Silence.

Perhaps some creature of the night came into Hairy One’s territory but has now been warned off.

Then, after about five minutes,there’s another burst of oofs.

Then silence again, and, thankfully, more silence. I go back to sleep.

In the morning there are no signs of any nocturnal disturbance in the house or garden. Isis is not reluctant to trot into the garden for her morning pee. No more reluctant that usual, anyway. She would always prefer to have breakfast first.

The day passes peacefully. There are no signs of disquiet. Not, at least, until the evening.

Then, again with no warning, Isis leaps to her feet. This time, before going into the oofing routine, she executes two or three turns. The mattress on the day bed is firm but springy, so if one is eating or drinking, each time she takes off or lands one is in danger of swallowing one’s fork; or sloshing one’s coffee over one’s right shoulder.

Even if one is only attempting to listen to the latest episode of the The Archers, her oofs obliterate the cliff-hanger and leave one puzzled for the next twenty-four hours. Very irritating.

“For goodness sake, Isis,” I mutter nastily, “There’s nothing there. Silly dog.”

In the past she used to do the jumping up and down every time she picked up a particularly delicious smell wafting from my plate. Cheese, ice cream, fish or, strangely, vegetarian sausage were always triggers.

One of those mattresses which have independently moving halves would definitely be useful. But more practical would be targeted training for a dog. Or etiquette training for a human.

Hmmm.

I decide that it is a good idea to do both: the first because, after all, there are only so many times one can tolerate a lapful of baked beans; the second because one day, when lockdown restrictions are lifted, there could be another human dining with me.

One never knows.

So now I usually eat  my breakfast and evening meal in the front room. Isis follows me and lies on the rug beside my chair. In the past, carried away by food smells, she has dragged the claws of her nearest front paw across my bad knee in order to alert me to the fact that one of us is eating and it’s not Isis.

The pain is indescribable.

“NOOOO!,” I admonish, resisting the urge to suffocate her. If she repeats the assault, I push her into the hall and close the door.

Nowadays she lies on the rug with her chin on her paw and says nothing.

Now, too, if I am about to eat something she particularly likes, I pop a little bit into her bowl before I sit down. If she stands up, I direct her towards her bowl.

That long-winded diversion is intended to underline that no-one now has any reason at all to leap up and down on the day bed, or by the dining table.

So why are we doing it now?

The strange oofing jig goes on, now and then during the night, but more often as darkness descends in the evening.

Soon, things escalate. The performances happen almost every night. Sometimes, as a finale, the hairy little toad leaps into the centre of the room or scrambles from the day bed and skitters into the kitchen as though she is in hot pursuit of something.

I look around the kitchen. I open the back door. Sometimes I scan the back garden with a torch. There’s no sign of anything which could be worrying her.

On some mornings, I find that her dog bed has been shoved several feet from its usual resting place, and the toys which were in it scattered across the floor.

What is she playing at?

Oh dear. Perhaps she’s under stimulated. Should I play more with her in the evening?

But each evening, she takes toys from her toy box, settles in her bed with every sign of contentment and plays her own little games as she always does. It’s only when she settles on the day bed with me or is sleeping there alone at night that the jumping oofs seem to happen.

It’s a mystery.

But there’s a nagging thought in my head: there’s always a reason for Hairy One’s strange behaviours.

Then, one night, the mystery is revealed.

It’s about ten o’clock. Isis is sleeping. I am glued to my Kindle.

Suddenly, she leaps up, and begins oofing and trampolining on the spot. She seems irritated. Her nose is whiffling. She is staring in the direction of her day bed.

I follow her gaze. Among the toys, a dark shape is twitching.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek! An escaped tarantula? Automatically, my tendons twitch into flight mode.

No. Thank dog. It’s not a spider.

It’s a mouse.

And it’s exploring Hairy One’s bed. That’s where she eats her ‘before bed treats’. It must be searching for crumbs ………………………………………………………………….

I have to be honest, Isis doesn’t actually say, “I told you so.”

 

*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 Isis at home, oh dear, poor Isis, strange behaviour, training, twirling, who'd be a human? | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

here and there again

 

 

 

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

 

Sunday April 25th 2021

 

In Britain, April is supposed to be a month of showers, but it’s Friday now and still relentlessly dry and sunny. The gardeners need rain, but, like everyone else, they are reveling in the continuously good weather. Everyone is smiling, it seems, and full of bonhomie.

Everyone, that is, except for Isis and I.

Today the sky is cloudless. Oh dear. Where can we go?

Then I think of Jasmine Fields, our nearest little urban nature reserve. At least there are no stark shadows on the playing field, and there are numerous little tracks for Isis to explore.

The field is empty when we arrive, and we meet no-one as we meander along the short tracks nearest to the entrance. Isis is a little jumpy when we come to patches of sunlight but for most of our foray, the foliage is dense enough to shield her. 

I think she’ll enjoy walking the woody stretch above the canal, so we head back across the field to find a gap. I remind Isis several times that the gap needs to be suitable for both of us to navigate. Yes, I tell her, I know that she can trot under this fallen tree, but her companion would have to perform a belly dance: a feat for which she is ill-equipped.

We soon sniff out a navigable gap and join the narrow pathway forged over time by walkers.

Yes, Isis is definitely pleased to be here.

 

 

 

 

How different it is from the last time we visited. Then, our walk, punctuated by thick mud and deep puddles, felt more like a slide. We only attempted it because Isis found her way here and was so pleased with herself I’d not the heart to drag her back.

Jasmine Fields is surrounded by houses, high rise flats and main roads, yet it is so quiet I can hear every rustle in the undergrowth and every flapping wing in the trees and bushes. The birds are singing fit to bust a gut, and I can feel a fresh breeze on my face.

Isis walks ahead, pausing every now and then to check that someone who smells like Human is following her.

When we first made short sorties onto this path, I stayed glued to Isis all the time. She insisted on making her way to the edge, high above the canal, and many times would have launched herself down one of the many dangerously steep animal tracks if I’d not managed to grab her first.

I am surprised by how much more careful she has become over recent weeks, cautious even. Why? I’m puzzled.

It’s only today that it occurs to me that she has learned this since we have been venturing into different environments. When she wants a drink from the stream in Highbury and she stands hesitantly on the bank, I place a palm on each of her flanks if it is safe for her to climb down into the water.

When we began walking off piste in Holders lane, she baulked, as she always has, at venturing under any obstacles. Holders Lane woods are full of fallen trees and low to the ground branches, so I began to teach her how to negotiate these. I encouraged her with strokes and pats, of course, but it was only when I placed a hand on each flank that she began to gain the confidence to crawl under obstacles.

Yes, I suddenly realise, she has generalised the ‘safe to leave the bank’ signal to cover other possibly dangerous situations.

She’s a bright little dog.

So along we walk, relaxed and contented.

It’s as though some magnanimous nature fairy has set this scene for us. Everything looks and sounds beautiful.

I am enchanted by the different shapes and the details of the shadows.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one is my favourite.

 

 

 

 

There are groups of glowing celandines here and there along the sides of the path

 

 

 

 

 

and daisies.  Simple, and perfectly designed.

 

 

 

 

And fragile violets

 

 

 

and delicate wood anemones.

 

 

 

 

I’m beginning to feel quite euphoric …………

 

Our path ends with a steep descent.

 

 

 

 

Last time we came, Isis scrambled down on her own without turning a hair while I followed more cautiously, slipping, sliding, and grabbing  thin, whippy twigs to slow down  my descent.

This time, led to the edge, she stops. What on earth’s the matter with her? Little pats have no effect on her. Oh dear. It’s that blasted safe sign. I give her the sign. She moves two steps forward and stops again.

Now, scrambling down a very steep bank without tumbling head first is a challenge in itself, let alone scrambling down a very steep bank without tumbling head first while at the same time laying reassuring hands on a reluctant dog.

It isn’t smart to try capturing the process on video. Only a first class twit would do that.

So I apologise for the quality of the video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isis looks surprised to have arrived, but kindly waits for me to catch up with her.

Then, the icing on the cake: there, at the end of the railings, is a cowslip.

 

 

 

 

I want to look into the flower heads to take my shot, but the cowslip is facing the canal and is only a foot away from the water’s edge. I begin to shuffle my way forward. I feel myself swaying. I desist. My share of luck has been used up descending the bank.

Last time we came, I had a deep and very sore wound at the end of my longest toe. I smashed it into so many rock hard, submerged roots that I could barely walk. I recall feeling very miserable and exhausted and sinking onto a bench when we were back on the field. I also vividly recall that I had to drag myself to my feet after a few seconds because Isis decided to continue walking. I was not thrilled. I expect I called her something obscene.

But today I’m virtually floating along, full of energy, delight and goodwill to all men – and dogs.

 

 

*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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I’m not going ANYWHERE

 

 

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

 

Sunday April 18th 2021

 

Oh dear. Not the best of weeks.

Monday

My car has an appointment with the garage. For a long time now the steering lock has been temperamental. Every now and again, when the engine’s switched off, the lock refuses to release the key. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it is, to put it mildly, rather inconvenient.

It’s not a wonderful idea to park a car outside one’s home with the keys in the lock. It has to be fixed. Unfortunately, the lock has to be mailed, repaired and returned. This means that we’ll be car-less until the weekend. This wouldn’t be such a big deal for me, but it is, of course, a very big deal for Isis.

Before I drop off the car, we head for Holders Lane. It’s one of those days which Isis hates: the sun is bright and the shadows are strong. We walk away from the sun towards the main park. No problems. We only have a few yards to go before we can turn off into the wooded area which skirts the edge of Cannon Hill. All’s well.

We meet up with the doodles team and have a pleasant stroll along the little tracks.

We had planned to walk back to the fields alongside Holders Lane, but when we turn round, Isis is very twitchy, even in the woods, for now, of course, we are walking towards the sun. All she wants to do is get back to the safety of the car, so we split and return home.

I had hoped that it would be a dull and overcast until the weekend so that Isis would be happy to go for road walks, but the forecast promises bright, sunny weather for the rest of the week.

I’m not looking forward to the next few days.

Tuesday

I manage to persuade Isis to come with me into the lane. I give her several toys, but she ignores them. She glues her tail to her underside and hangs around close to me. Then she paws at the gate. She wants to go inside.

Sigh.

I hate for her not to have a walk, although, actually, it seems to bother her less than me. All she appears to want is to stay very close to Human and sleep on the day bed.

As it happens, that’s all I want to do too. I don’t know whether it’s my second Covid jab catching up with me, or the jarringly painful tooth I’ve endured for two weeks, but I’m spent. I should be grateful that Hairy One doesn’t want to go out, but paradoxically, I feel guilty.

We both sleep all day and most of the evening. Isis sleeps all night too.

I don’t. I have an appointment with the dentist at 8.15.

Wednesday

She’s still sound asleep when I leave. And sleeping still when I return, clutching a pack of antibiotics and feeling sorry for myself. The tooth, apparently, is cracked down to the root  and is infected. It will have to come out. The dentist will make a referral to the dental hospital. Oh dear.

Time to let Isis out.

The sun is streaming down, and she is very reluctant to emerge from the house. When I usher her out of the back door, she turns round and, before I can stop her, rushes back inside and plants herself firmly on the day bed.

I virtually have to peel her from her blanket, and, eventually, manage to persuade her that she has to go into the garden. I push against her reluctant bottom until she’s over the threshold. She stands on the path, hunched up, with a disappeared tail. She looks very frightened.

I change my footwear for the third time today and we go into the garden side by side.

She wants her breakfast but, by now, she has worked herself into such a state that she is afraid of the light coming through the very small pane in the front door. She barks angrily.

She leaves her breakfast uneaten and retreats to the day bed. I swallow an antibiotic and a painkiller before eating mine. Then I join her on the day bed. As the day passes, she pushes herself closer and closer to me, until she’s virtually under my arm.

 

 

 

 

Her breakfast remains uneaten as we sleep away another day.

She’s not had a walk for two days. By 7.15 the sun has gone in. Will she come for a road walk now?

Yes, she will. In fact, she’s quite enthusiastic.

On the outward  journey, that is. Once we make our way home, she segues into her go slow act. I don’t know why she does this, but that’s Isis. Even when she choses to walk to Kings Heath Park she does the go slow on the way home. Unless it’s raining, of course, or snowing.

Sigh.

Her stand-offs are very irritating, necessitating as they do, harness heaves and rear end pokes every few feet.

Obviously the walk was good for her, though. She is very chirpy now we’re home, and plays happily with her toys.

Thursday

I’ve come round now and am tackling a few long neglected tasks.

Isis hasn’t come round. The sun is still very bright and she flinches and creeps when I take her into the garden. Back in the house, when I leave a room, she soon follows.

There is no way she’ll go into the lane, thank you. And no, thanks again, she doesn’t wish for an evening road walk. The sun’s gone in, but she doesn’t like the look of the light.

Another day without a walk.

Friday

Obligingly, the sun pops in around lunchtime, so I rush Isis into the lane while the going is good. She’s much better today. Visiting Kitty is sitting watching her, and Hairy One is most excited. She sniffs her way towards her prey; Visiting Kitty, of course, neatly sidesteps Hairy One, then comes to greet me.

Now Isis is happily playing with one of her ex-squeaky toys. When the sun comes out, she just retreats to a shady spot. When it fades, she drops the toy and leaps about. At least she’s getting some exercise.

I contact the garage. The lock is back and they’re about to refit it. I can collect the car from 4.30 onwards.

Yay!

Isis is very pleased when she realises I’m going out. She’s wants to come too. She leaps about as I fit her into her harness. She’s delighted when I clip on her lead. She strolls out to the gate, and walks jauntily to where the car should be.

Oh.

Her tail droops.

Will she walk?

No way.

Back in we go. Harness and lead are returned to their box.

Saturday

The sun is still bright, but that’s OK. Her car’s there. We head for Highbury and park in the road, close to the gatehouse. From here we can walk in the shade to the woods.

Isis is jumpy when we emerge from the shade, but we’ve had a good long walk. At home she’s chirpy and contented.

Today

She’s a funny little dog. She’s made a lot of progress with her sun fears. It’s not that long ago since she’d not follow me into the hall when the sun was strong, let alone into the porch and out of the gate.

The front of the house faces south and the sun glares into the porch. Now, though, she dances eagerly, play growling and yipping as her harness is put on. She can’t wait to get out of the door.

True, she flinches as she waits for me to let her into the car, but she’s fine once inside. Nowadays she doesn’t even seem to mind when the sun flickers at her through the windows.

Nor does she refuse to leave the car for her walk, although she’s very hesitant and jumpy once out in the open.

Today, as usual, she chooses to follow the little paths which are mainly in the shade. It’ll be a week tomorrow since she last visited Holders Woods. She needs reassurance when she comes to patches of sunlight, but mostly she is relaxed and happy ……

until we reach home and I open the car door for her.

On bright days, it goes like this:

 

 

I can’t see you so you can’t see me.

 

 

Noooooo. Noooooo
I’m not coming out. It’s dangerous. Something will get me. Nooooooooooo.

 

 

Hm. It’s still there. Let me in. Quick !

 

 

Much better now.

 

 

 

Phew!

 

 

 

What do you make of that?

How come she tolerates the sun’s glare on the way to the car, but is afraid to leave the car on the way back to the house?

Answers on a gravy bone. Chicken flavour, please.

 

*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 terrified dog, dear little Isis, Holders Lane Woods, Isis at home, Isis says "No"., oh dear, sleeping, sleeping arrangements, strange behaviour, we don't like bright light, we don't like bright sun, who'd be a human? | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

here, there and everywhere 4

 

 

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

 

Sunday April 11th 2021

 

It’s a few minutes after six a.m. These are stolen minutes. I think there are only four of them.

You have to do this,” I mutter. I force myself out of bed. I imagine what a limpet feels like when it’s torn from a rock.

I plant a foot on the floor. No, you can’t retreat. No, not even for five minutes.

Get OUT. Get OUT.

I plant the other foot on the floor and reel towards the bathroom.

Well, I’m conscious and I’m vertical.

My friend K. plans to pick me up between eight thirty and eight forty five. We are off to a funeral in Worcestershire. The journey will take us about fifty minutes, so Isis will be on her own for at least three hours. She must have a good walk first.

Soon I’m downstairs, holding my hand out under a somnolent muzzle. In seconds my smell permeates her nostrils and flies to her brain. She opens her eyes.

Snuffle, snuffle. Wag. Wag. Human’s here. It’s getting up time. Something nice is going to happen.

Most dogs I’ve known would be very indignant to be woken at this unearthly hour. Or at least a little surprised.

Not Isis. When she feels her collar close to her neck, she leaps in the air as she always does and lets out a little “Woof!”  I pick up the collar as I always do and try again.

When I look out of the porch door, my already sunken spirits sink a little further. The windscreen and windows are coated with ice.

A couple of days ago people were out in t-shirts. Last week even I put my thermal tights, gloves and neck warmers away, and swapped my arctic anorak for a light weight one.

Fool.

This country really is something else. The weather forecast said it would be cold today, so I have reverted to four layers again, but I didn’t expect ice.

The good news is that Kings Heath Park will be empty so no worries about The Virus; also, it’s too early for sun; and we arrive during a flurry of haily snow, so Isis is very impressed.

I’m beginning to recover from the trauma of separating myself from my bed and I gaze around me. The park is magical in the frost. Every bit of it is transformed into something other.

Diminutive rinds of frost have spread themselves along the stems of the japonica, like fraying hems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun and the frost heighten colours, throw up contrasts, enhance shapes and sharpen edges. The whiteness of the magnolia makes me blink, and behind it, each of the tiles on the pavilion roof is neatly outlined in frost.

Magnificent.

 

 

 

 

 

Isis and I stand in awe. We’re both electrified, she, I guess, by the piquant scents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I by the visual feasts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stop by every clump, shrub, trunk, every woven, frosty square of wire fence. Even the grass has been transformed into a textured, mottled, woven thing.

 

 

 

 

 

The park is transformed. It’s a struggle to move on. I want to linger, to explore everything.

Our time is limited, though, and Isis has another plan.

Today it’s so delightfully empty here that I let her choose where she wants to go.

I watch her. It’s as though the frost is a scent shifter, and everywhere smells completely different. She appears to be a little disorientated, for it takes her a while to find her favourite route.

It’s clear that she’s made her decision, though. Yes! It has to be the Colour Garden!

I expect she’ll want to move on after a while to play on the bank and the mound. But she doesn’t. She spends all of her time here.

I took a lively video of her dancing around her favourite shrubs, but today videos refuse to upload to the media gallery.

Sorry.

 

*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, dear little Isis, frost and snow, Kings Heath Park, scenting, VERY early in the morning., who'd be a human? | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

here, there and everywhere 3

 

 

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

 

Sunday April 4th 2021

 

As Isis and I walk in Holders Lane, it’s as though someone has fired the starting pistol for the spring race. Buds are exploding so vigorously from their sepals that I feel I ought to be able to hear them popping. Trees which were only green a couple of weeks ago are now supporting clouds of blossom, some bright white and floaty, some crisp white with a pink tinge.

 

 

 

 

(This won’t do, I’ve paused to look up the distinguishing features of blackthorn, hawthorn and crab apple trees. Very interesting, but let’s not get carried away or I’ll still be writing at dawn.)

Holders Lane is an excellent place for Isis as there are so many different options for her. When it’s dull and cloudy, she’ll trot along behind Rufus and Nancy contentedly, stopping, of course, to investigate the scents as she goes.

When the light is uncertain, as it is today, or the sun casts huge shadows across the path, she wants to dive into the woods as soon as she can. Here, screened by trees, bushes and undergrowth, she can relax and concentrate on following wildlife trails, tracing all the twists and turns little mammals have taken during the night. This obviously gives her huge pleasure. Tail waving steadily, she’ll often spend thirty minutes or more snuffling around a particularly stimulating site.

She’s become familiar with the area, and is adept at navigating all the natural obstacles which proliferate in woody environments. I observe her with pride as she picks her way through dense thickets, over fallen logs, and under low branches;

 

 

 

 

I love to watch her spreading out her toes cautiously as she descends steep banks or walks around deep holes.

She manages this impressively well. Often I try to guide her up a dead end track only to have her point me in the opposite direction. She rarely stumbles or walks into anything.

She does, though need guidance when crossing the little plank bridges which punctuate the main paths. Several times she has fallen off them, always because her person is day-dreaming. Today I notice that she is very hesitant when she reaches a bridge. This is not surprising, in view of Human’s bad behaviour. She is reluctant to cross until I place a hand on each of her flanks: this is our ‘it’s O.K. to do it’ signal. To my surprise, she responds immediately. I will be more vigilant when we have to navigate bridges.

For a short distance, we are walking towards the sun. Isis hates this and squirms along, tail tucked under her. She needs much persuasion to walk on until we can cross the path and escape onto a little track and into more woodland, this time close to the river.

Here, Isis relaxes and begins to sniff with renewed vigour.

 

 

 

 

Obviously, someone different frequents this side of the path. Someone who smells very enticing, I guess, because although I’m only walking at a dozy meander, each time I turn to check on Isis, she’s way behind. I wait and watch her. Again and again she thrusts her  twitchy nose into the same clump of ragged robin, or lets it hover over an ivy covered tree trunk.

Eventually, the path ends and we walk out onto one of the wide fields. Almost immediately I come across the first field primroses I’ve seen this year.

 

 

 

 

A week or so ago the fields were claggy with mud. Now there are only dry ridges here and there.

We amble along the left side of the field which is edged with oaks, willows, blackthorn and hawthorn.

 

 

 

 

And here, there’s everything a dog could need. When we reach a bridge Isis quickly sniffs out a stream and finds her way down for a long drink. She always knows when there’s water, even quite a distance away.

What does clear water smell like? I’ve no idea.

It’s a cold day, so the blossom which gives out a strong fragrance when warmed by the sun has very little smell – for humans, any way. No doubt Isis is aware of it. Not as interesting as a nesting mouse or fox pee though, of course.

On the way home I notice how relaxed I feel. I’m also aware that I’m smiling. This has been a brilliant walk, interesting and invigorating for both of us.

We’re very, very lucky to have so many open spaces in Birmingham.

 

*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 dear little Isis, Holders Lane Woods, Isis says "No"., learning to trust, oh dear, poor Isis, relationship building, scary shadows, scenting, walking my deaf/blind dog, we don't like bright light, we don't like bright sun | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

here, there and everywhere 2

 

 

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

 

Sunday March 28th 2021

 

Highbury Hall, now a Grade II listed building, was commissioned as his                       Birmingham residence by Joseph Chamberlain in 1878, two years after he became      member of parliament for Birmingham. It took its name from the Highbury area of London, where Chamberlain had lived as a child.*

 

The park is undergoing substantive changes in order to restore the environs of Highbury Hall to their original layout. Among other projects is the relaying of lost paths and the restoration and replanting  of borders.

Those of us who have walked in Highbury over decades, with or without dogs, feel at best ambivalent about the current changes. The most special feature of Highbury, much enjoyed by its round-the-year users, and frequently commented on by visitors, was its wild areas.

Until now, it was possible to walk around three sides of the park without meeting anyone, and, apart from the distant hum of traffic, hear only birdsong and rustling leaves. Sometimes you could only hear silence. A good silence. Very rare in a large urban area.

A buzzard might swoop down and fly across your path. You had to weave in and out of trees, and push rampant plants aside to follow the twisty little tracks. You felt as though you were in the country.

Now we have lost our wildness, and it feels very sad.

And since lockdown a year ago, the tarmacked paths have often been redolent of Saturday’s city centre pavements.

Yes, of course it’s good that more people are enjoying the city’s open spaces. It’s fair that  wide paths with smooth, level surfaces will make much more of the park accessible to wheelchair users and others with limited mobility.

The men who are carrying out the restoration work are doing an excellent job. I’m sure the areas on which they’re working will be pristine.

And preserving our local history is important too.

Sigh.

Whatever, when Y. tells me that Highbury is no longer a quagmire, off we go, Isis and I, to suss out the new paths which are being laid, and see whether it might be possible to circumvent them and still enjoy a bit of untamed woodland.

On Friday, after Isis has had as much time as she wants with her favourite hedgerow, we follow the erstwhile woodland paths.

We walk up through the community orchard. Volunteers have covered the muddy entrance to the area with wood chippings, so paws and boots no longer sink into deep, black mud. This is pleasant. Thank you volunteers.

Isis knows the park so well that she can lead the way up along the woven hazel fence, past the entrances to the two lower level paths and across the top edge of the project, where parts of brick paths, floors and steps have been uncovered over the years, again by the orchard volunteers. Then we meander up the steep hill, turning turning left as we reach the Angry Wall.

 

8 Sept 2011 – The 20ft wall, which borders one side of Highbury Park, was, according to local folklore, built by its former owner Joseph Chamberlain to wind up his neighbour Richard Cadbury. It is thought it was made to look like a series of cannon shells wedged into an embankment as a taunt to Cadbury, a pacifist liberal.**

 

Isis overshoots the path but quickly turns back to follow me. She is both intrigued and confused by the scents she picks up. There are no newly constructed paths here, but saplings, roots and undergrowth have been torn out. She moves very slowly because she is preoccupied with so much sniffing. She also moves very warily, often stopping. I think this is because the once familiar territory doesn’t smell like it did.

She always checks to make sure I am still around, but she asks for more reassurance than usual. She wants to be a follower, not a leader today.

When we are assaulted by the first newly constructed path, she is clearly disorientated. I feel disorientated too – although that’s nothing new. I have no sense of direction and  usually rely on Isis to navigate us through the woods.

We walk along the as yet unsurfaced stones for quite a way until I suddenly realise we can reach the next level by leaving the path and descending through an island of natural growth.

That’s better.

When we walk past the stagnant pond to the little wooden bridge, we are in for an unpleasant surprise.

There is now a wide new path going down to the bridge and a virtual motorway leading from it to vast steps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh.

The luxuriant grass mound where Isis used to love to dance is now bald.

She recognises the mound, but when scents lead her back down onto the path, she seems mystified.

Thank goodness it’s only about forty strides from the beginning of the steps to the mound. On the other side of the mound the path curves to the right. We walk behind the yews and down the narrow, undulating track which meanders to the main entrance.

We’ve met no-one along our way. I guess that this area is considered out of bounds.

Naturally, we carry on. Let’s see if there’s a way out.

There is now a wide verge of tamped down earth along the edge of the new highway. Isis and I walk along this towards a huge digger. I smile at the working men and they smile at me. Then we squeeze between the notice board and the machinery, back into the main park.

I decide that we’ll go somewhere else tomorrow. Then I discover that I’ve dropped my much loved neck warmer knitted for me by friend A.

So we will return to Highbury the next day and retrace our footsteps.

I’m glad we do because next day there’s rain and sleet and my Hairy One is very, very happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Headliner from Wickipedia

** https://www.business-live.co.uk › economic-development

*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, clever Isis, deaf/blind dog plays, dear little Isis, rain, running running, scenting, sleet | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

here, there and everywhere

 

 

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

 

Sunday March 21st 2021

 

 

 

 

Photograph by Bev Dakin

 

This is definitely the highlight of the dog walking week.

Bev and I are watching the activities of the birds on the partially drained lake in Cannon Hill Park, when she notices the heron standing in the middle of the lake.

He has a predatory look about him, but surprises us by walking purposefully to the shore and pooping mightily before returning to the water. (Well, who’d poop in their pantry?)

The heron is now seriously ready to hunt. We are surprised as we know that the fish have been relocated to the smaller lakes. We have just told the heron that he’ll be lucky if he finds a tiddler, when he stiffens into dive mode.

Bev catches him seconds after he emerges with this sizeable fish.

*****

Hairy One’s horizons have widened considerably over lockdown. She’s been taken to new places with very different features.

Among potential destinations are now three parks, two recreation grounds and a huge wood. As a last resort, if the light is continuously changing and Isis is clearly distressed, there’s always the back lane!

We have frequented all of these over the last few months. The ever changing British climate and the ratio of space to bodies is a decisive factor when we’re considering where to go. We also attempt to frequent venues where the mud is less than ankle deep.

Hairy One’s first outing, seven years ago, was to Kings Heath Park. Then, persuading her to leave the car was the first challenge. The second was persuading her to walk.

The poor little animal was clearly traumatised, but no-one understood why.

In the early days, thirteen year old Jo. frequently came with us, and we spent a lot of time trying to work out Hairy One’s apparently random behaviours. Why would she leave the car sometimes and refuse to move at others? Why, on some days, would she refuse to walk, then, on different occasions, happily spin around on the grass at the end of a long lead held by Jo?

In Kings Heath Park, both Isis and Human learned a great deal. I learned both from my own observations and from the observations of our caring dog walkers’ gang. It was Gr. who first noticed that she shied away from trees which moved in the wind, D. who suggested that rather than avoiding the stretch of path which terrified Isis, I try carrying her, then putting her down when the ‘danger’ was over, and Bev who was convinced that Isis would be more willing to walk if she got used to the presence of Nancy and Rufus.

In this park Isis had her first taste of freedom beyond her own garden. The old bowling green where our group gathered early each morning was the ideal spot for The Big Release, we had decided.

For some time B had been urging me to try Hairy One off lead but I was afraid that she’d bang into the conifers which line one side of the green. So she was taken every day to walk in and out of these trees. As the group pointed out, there were enough of us to give chase if she staged an escape.

The big day dawned and I released Isis on the edge of the green at the bottom of the high bank. She began to sniff, and as she sniffed, she climbed slowly and calmly up the bank.  She made no attempt to run away, and so long as nobody canine or human approached her, she seemed to be perfectly contented.

She was still very frightened of other dogs and of people. When taken towards even a group of two or three dog walkers, she would bolt with me on the other end of her lead.

Then, at last, came the day when she would stand with me on the edge of a small group as long as no two legged or four legged beings were too close. Eventually, she walked along with our group – shadows permitting – always on the outside, but no longer terrified. Gr. and B. even persuaded her to take a treat from them.

One day we met R. and S. with the greyhounds Gilbert and George. R. distributed some particularly delicious treats to six or seven of the dogs as, looking angelic, they shuffled surreptitiously nearer and nearer to her. When she’d finished and was about to put away the treat bag, a clear, single ‘woof’ was heard from behind the group: Isis was asking for her treat!

She became very attached to certain areas of the park, and always chose to play in them. The first was around one of the pine trees high up on the bank. While the other dogs chased balls and each other, she would spend her time circling the tree, pouncing on its springy branches and nipping at them.

She also enjoyed playing on the high mound up above the path and behind the basketball court. Here is a deep shrubbery against which she could bounce and into which she could plunge if another dog appeared. There’s a nice holly bush there too, she discovered, under which one could gnaw peacefully on one’s stick.

Her very favourite place was, and still is, the Colour Garden. Quiet and enclosed on all sides, its long, wide beds invite twirling and dancing. She would race around them and launch herself into their substantial shrubs for hours on end.

She still loves Kings Heath Park, the bowling green bank, the little track near the railway line, the mound, the copses and the Colour Garden.

Over the last twelve months, we have seldom been there: the park is small and has been packed with people taking their lockdown exercise, and the more secluded areas have been intolerably squelchy.

We’ve not abandoned our park completely. When it’s overcast and rain threatens, Isis is happy to take to the pavement, and we walk there and back. Nowadays, she can wander   virtually anywhere there, so when it’s raining and virtually empty, she can race around on the grass to her heart’s content.

I’m sure that the first British park she ever set paw in will always remain a favourite.

 

*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 terrified dog, I'm off my lead!, Isis says "No"., Kings Heath Park, oh dear, park dogs, park people, poor Isis, rain, running, scary shadows, strange behaviour, the dogs of King's Heath Park, twirling, walking in the park, walking my deaf/blind dog, walking with Rufus and Nancy, we don't like bright light, we don't like the dark | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

badgering the wild life

 

 

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

 

Sunday March 14th 2021

 

As we have seen, defecting from an overpopulated and churned up Highbury Park presents Isis with a number of very positive new experiences.

At first she finds each of the unfamiliar environments intimidating. She creeps and cowers and wants to go home. Gradually, though, she begins to enjoy herself. I had always been convinced that introducing her to unfamiliar areas, would traumatise her, that it would take her years to learn to negotiate new routes.

I was wrong.

Except for Jasmine Fields, each time she’s been introduced to somewhere new, she’s been accompanied by Nancy and Rufus. There’s no doubt that their presence reassures her.

The other major player in this success story is what she can smell. This isn’t surprising since podengos are sight/scent hounds and Isis only has the scent faculty.

All dogs are interested in scents, of course, but for Isis, they are totally immersive. Once she gets wind of one, that’s it. It doesn’t matter where it comes from, she’ll follow her nose to its source, oblivious of anything else, including danger, unfortunately.

The scent which a fortnight ago leads to her being stranded in impenetrable brambles, turns out to belong to foxes. (When we revisit the spot, Bev finds the run.)

Last week, Isis  scrambles through a small hole in someone’s fence and shoots excitedly into a deep, closely planted border. A cat run this time, judging by its size.

Today she sniffs, apparently  innocently, at the bottom of a vast heap of prunings. I blink and she’s gone. This is ridiculous, I tell myself, scanning the surrounding woodland. Literally less than thirty seconds ago, she was at my feet, now there’s no sign of her.

But when I look up, there she is standing triumphantly at least eight feet above me, at the top of the heap.

Soon after, I’m waiting impatiently while she stands, sides heaving like a pair of bellows, with her muzzle shoved under a thick patch of ground ivy. Minutes go by. And more minutes. Probably, by now, beneath the ivy, a little mouse or shrew is having a small mammal heart attack. Eventually, mean Human removes her from the ivy and blocks her way back to it.

She doesn’t complain. She has other fish to fry. She’s not reached the climax of today’s scenting adventure yet. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

She’s only been coming here for a few weeks; even so, I realise today that she knows all the little twists and turns of each tiny track in this area, and I watch in awe as she leads on, oozing through the narrowest of twiggy interstices, ducking under low, low branches and wriggling over felled tree trunks.

She’s on a mission. She’s following her current most favourite scent of all. And now its source is tantalisingly close.

 

Yes – that’s it. Mind the slope. Spread out all your toes.

 

 

We’re here. Brace yourself.

 

 

 

Snuffle. Yes! They’re definitely down there.

 

 

 

Whoops! Nearly fell in.

 

 

She does, in fact, fall into the hole. Unfortunately, she scrambles out at the speed of light and I’m not quick enough to snap her.

Very soon, she approaches the largest, and, if appearances are anything to go by, the smelliest entrance tunnel of them all. And, to my delight, I manage to snap her red handed.

To my dismay, the image appears to have disappeared into the ether. Like the fish that got away, it was a brilliant photo.

Serves me right for being so smug. You’ll just have to imagine a large white and grey rump protruding from the entrance of the sett below.

 

 

 

 

“One of these days, my dog,” I tell her, ” a huge hairy badger will come out of his bed and grab your little spotty nose.”

She doesn’t believe me.

 

*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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