finding a voice (2)



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


Sunday June 28th 2020


We return contented from a pleasant morning walk.

For Isis a pleasant walk comprises well over two hours of walking, playing and running around. For me, it’s walking and meandering interspersed with log sits and fantasising.

After all the exercise, Isis should snooze contentedly for a few hours while I work in my art space.

I follow the usual routine for these days, shuffling out of my light coat before working up a lather for my 2020 style hand wash. Then I drop the house keys into a mug of washing-up liquid, retrieve them, wipe soap over the porch door handles, and door chain, then disinfect driving glasses, glasses’ case and phone.

Automatically, I mutter myself  through the remaining pre-breakfast tasks.

“Check – are the kitchen blinds closed? They are. Check – is the front door closed. It is.

Good. There’s nowhere for light to sneak in, no potential threats to  disturb Isis while she’s eating her breakfast, no reason for tantrums.

Next job? Weigh out her breakfast. Perfect: 75 grams.

Isis sits angelically by her dining space.







I place her bowl in her food stand, straighten up and touch her lightly under the chin. She dives forwards.

As I climb the stairs, I hear the clink of her tag against the metal bowl.

Everything’s going smoothly.


Even my dog walking clothes are not scruffy enough to work in. It seems like I only have to look at paint for it to transfer itself to whatever I’m wearing. Just as I’m about to change into my bespattered art clothes, my ears are assailed by a loud “Woof! Woof! Woof!” 

Now what category does this voice fit? It’s not sharp and angry, not preceded  by growls, not accompanied by snarls. 

It’s not a cross, startled bark to tell me some uninvited feline has sneaked into the garden for a pee.

It’s not a shriek of pain or fear.

Perhaps she’s just come across something which she disapproves of, and the barking will be very short-lived.

No such luck.

“Woof! Woof! Woof!” 


“Woof! Woof! Woof!” 

It’s a firm, persistent bark. It’s a bark which tells me that something needs seeing to. NOW.


Slightly irritated, I clump downstairs.

As always, I assume that there’s nothing which a reasonable human would consider a problem.

She stops barking as soon as she knows I’m on my way, and when I get down, I find her skittering around from the back room to the hall.

I walk into the back room. There’s nothing on her bed, on the floor, anywhere, in fact, to account for her disquiet. The blinds are closed.

I look around the front room. Nothing has fallen onto the rug, the sun isn’t glaring through the window, there’s no-one at the front door. No-one’s standing chatting by her gate. No utilities workman is digging up the pavement. There’s no pile-up on the road.

I walk back down the hall. “What’s the matter with you?, ” I enquire stupidly, as one does. 

She looks ……………. how does she look? Not agitated, exactly. Worried? Not really. Concerned? Yes, concerned, I think. Concerned and very serious.

“What’s the matter?” I repeat, puzzled.

A senseless question to ask any dog, let alone a deaf dog.

I stand in the kitchen, looking at her. She’s definitely trying to communicate something. But what?

She follows me into the kitchen and sits down decisively by her food bowl.

Oh, perhaps there’s something in there which I didn’t notice and which is upsetting her.

I peer into the bowl. But it’s clean and shiny and quite empty.

She wriggles and embeds herself back into the ‘dog awaits her breakfast’ mode.

Then, I have to confess, I do something really, really stupid. Stupid even for me.

“But you’ve had your breakfast, you’ve already eaten it,” I tell her.

A flood of sense suddenly bursts into my mind – where from, heaven knows.

Come on. Does she ever carry on like this after she’s eaten her breakfast? No. Does she ever expect more when she’s finished eating? No. Has she ever behaved like this before? No.

Then she’s trying to communicate something ……………………………

I glance again at her bowl. Definitely empty. Definitely clean. Not a crumb to be seen.Very, very clean, as though it’s just been washed.


Could I possibly not have fed her?

I peer into the pan of the scales. There, in the pan, is her carefully weighed food.

I had served her an empty bowl.


*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 or

Posted in clever girl, clever Isis, dear little Isis, Isis at home, relationship building | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments




Sunday June 21st 2020.


Apology: today’s post will not be published until tomorrow!


Footnote: Foolish Human has been concentrating on close work for many hours today and ignoring me. Now she’s going cross-eyed.

Serves her right.

Signed electronically,


Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

finding a voice (1)



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


Sunday June 21st 2020  

It must have been about two years ago when I came across a surprising statement in an article about podengos. ‘Podengos are very fond of the sound of their own voices.’


Isis isn’t a vocal dog. But the article is authoritative, well researched, and well written. So what’s the matter with her?

True, there are the rages. We’ve discussed the hysterical outbursts which used to accompany each meal time, those hair-raising shrieks which, I assume, are designed to see off imagined hordes of wolves and hyenas.

For years, whether it is sparked by frustration, an imagined threat to her person or her food, a dog nightmare or a lost treat, her reaction is always the same: wild screams, snarls , growls and barks of pure rage. Yes, at these times she makes a hell of a noise, but I don’t think that’s what the writer of the article means by ‘very fond of their own voices.’

Then there are the persistent, irritated snarls and yaps which follow the switching on of a light, the opening of blinds, or a slice of sun sneaking round the edge of a curtain.

These are ‘protest’ barks.

And, as time passes, she often emits a long, resonant howl of what I take to be excited anticipation when I’m struggling to clip on her harness in the porch.

If, as I frequently do, I then turn back into the house for something I’ve forgotten, she’ll paw at the low shelf so that it tips up and deposits its contents on the floor. But she doesn’t bark. She doesn’t even protest if I forget to feed her. She just looks resigned and goes to sleep.

Hmm. Isis must simply be an atypical podengo, I decide, and think no more of it.

Gradually, though, she changes. It’s only over the last few months that I begin to realise that she expresses her feelings much more often than she did even six months ago.

It’s not just that she’s more voluble though; her comments on life are also much more specific. For years, apart from the musical porch howl, she voices only anger. Now, day by day, she refines her growl and bark vocabulary.

As far as I can remember, the first addition to her repertoire happens one night a year or so ago when she comes across a large hedgehog in her garden. She responds to this strange phenomenon  with a sound I’ve never heard her make before – series of low, muffled little ‘oof…oof…oof ‘ s

Oh. OK. So this is her ‘surprised bark’.

Next to emerge, I believe, is a very loud ‘RAH-RAH-RAH-RAH-RAH uttered when we step out of our front gate as an innocent pedestrian is passing. Even worse is the barking when the street appears to me to be empty but she picks up the scent of someone who has very recently passed. It’s worse because I am not prepared for her screamy warnings and they tear through me like electric shocks.

When she barks like this, she means it. There’s no question that she would attack if I didn’t restrain her.

In the Highbury car park, only last week, she barks an identical bark at a stranger who walks too close to her car.






Right. These, obviously, are examples of her territorial bark.

For years, these are the extent of her vocabulary.

Then, only very recently, she develops what I can only describe as ‘entitlement’ barks.

These are quite finely graded. Only one is angry: that’s a protest she sometimes makes when I leave her downstairs at night. For a while I can’t work out what sets her off. As far as I am concerned, the scenario is always the same. She pops outside. When she returns, she disappears into the back room, then turns and pokes her little head round the door.

I unclip and remove her collar, then return to the kitchen to lock the back door and collect five treats. Nowadays, if this takes more than a minute, she gives a good-tempered, but firm  ‘woff-woff.’

Quite understandable. This must be an entitlement bark.

When she has ‘found’ three ‘hidden’ treats, she jumps up onto the day bed to receive the final two.

She seems to be particularly fond of the next routine and is anxious to get on with it.  She also knows how easily Human is distracted, knows that a dog shouldn’t have to wait;  therefore, if there’s more than thirty seconds’ delay, she delivers a volley of very high pitched, piercing, barks.

The treats arrive. They are two gravy bones broken into six pieces. As soon as I sit down, she positions herself very close to my left side and tolerates a cuddle. Piece by piece, I hand feed all but one to her, then signal ‘down’ and ‘last one’ before cupping the sixth piece in my hand. She has to wrestle it out from between my fingers. She always ‘wins’, of course, even if she has to hold my hand down with a firm paw. Finally, after a soppy few seconds and a goodnight pat, I leave the room.

Sometimes, there’s a blissful silence, and when I peer round the door, there she is, snuggled at my end of the bed, ready for sleep.

At other times, as soon as I get up, she twirls round irritably and barks.


Or she waits until I’m in the kitchen making myself a coffee before she erupts. Or she waits until I’m upstairs in the bathroom. Or the outburst comes when I go into my bedroom.

Whatever her timing, I must rush back and give her a little poke with a finger as it’s very late and I don’t want her to disturb my neighbours.

To me, these nocturnal performances are completely random. I’m ashamed to admit that it takes me a very, very, long time to learn that whatever a dog says or does, there’s always a reason for her behaviour.

It’s never random, Human. So why is she doing it? Stop and think. Ask yourself what isn’t OK.

Right. When Isis wants to sleep at night, she is very, very irritated by any light whatsoever. It dawns on me that she doesn’t appreciate the light being on in the kitchen while Human wanders around making coffee or deciding whether to clear something away or whether to take a biscuit to bed.

Isis is tired. She needs darkness. She’s disturbed and miserable when lights flash on and off in the hall, and suddenly pop on in the rooms upstairs. I have no idea how she perceives the trickle of light sneaking around my bedroom door, but she does.

So I devise a routine and make an effort to follow it.

I make the coffee and the biscuit decisions and switch off the kitchen light before dog’s bedtime. The front room door and blinds are closed to block off the seepage of light from passing cars.

Click. Click. Off goes the hall light and on goes the landing light. I hurry upstairs so that the landing light won’t disturb her. I close the bathroom door before switching on the bathroom light, and close the bedroom door before switching on the bedside lamp.


A comforting fleece of silence descends on the house.

All is peaceful.

Hairy One sleeps.


  *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 or

Posted in dear little Isis, dreaming, food rage, Isis at home, nightmares, oh dear, poor Isis, sleeping, strange behaviour, we don't like bright light | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

an independent dog



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


Sunday June 14th 2020


Naturally, the more familiar Isis becomes with the geography of the park, the more confident she grows.

She extends her off lead range. We explore new areas and walk different routes. Some activities she has enjoyed in the past no longer interest her.

Familiar hedgerows, though, are an enduring pleasure. And her favourite is still the edge of the wooded strip which divides the two big meadows near the car park.

On arrival here, her first duty is the early morning patrol. This involves following the edge of the woodland. Beginning with the feral raspberry patch, she quickly checks the bases of the young oaks, sycamores and hazels which slope down towards her special stretch.

Once there, she begins a more detailed investigation. She needs to know who has crept, run or fluttered here since she last visited. This is a demanding exercise. She must  snuffle and snort under the low growing elders and hawthorns, whiffle carefully around the grass entangled roots of the blackberry brambles and stinging nettles, and poke her nose gently into clumps of tall buttercups and grasses.

Now,  duties done, it’s play time. Wham! Time to play fight with nature, to box and wrestle with the hedges, bushes and plants.

She launches herself at the nearest bush, nipping off an offending leaf. She exchanges swift smacks with springy twigs, and snatches at the stems of young brambles. She scrabbles at sticks, prises them out of the grass, and bears them off triumphantly, head held high, neck outstretched and white tail bobbing.

More often than not, it’s her eccentric play mode which catches the attention of passers by, prompting them to ask, “What’s she doing? What is she trying to catch?”

But today there are no passers by, not even a curious dog. The morning is dull. No alarming sun bursts through the cloud. Everything is stable. The breeze is gentle. Isis knows where I am. She has no need of me.

Once she’s secured a good stick, she likes to trot further down the slope with it before turning round abruptly for a return run.

Then she’ll take it into the meadow grass where she’ll mouth and chew it.

The meadow grass is tall now, and when she lies down in this mini savanna, she disappears from sight. Fortunately, she’s a restless creature, rarely still for more than a minute. Soon, she’ll move into a front legs down, back legs up pose. Then, a bit of tail bobs into view just above the grass line. When she’s done with her stick, her erect, hairy ears flash into view, and she bounds back to the undergrowth.

Usually, after an hour or so, she’ll toss away her current stick and catapult herself into a crazy run. I love to watch her run, and am waiting for this display of exuberance. But today, she doesn’t oblige.

So I sit on my log, enjoying the park and writing this. 

Suddenly, a loud drilling erupts just above my head. I keep as still as I can and survey the trunk and branches. No sign of the woodpecker, of course.

Then  a loud squawking heralds the flight of the parakeets from one tree to another.

Providing that we arrive early, I can let her play for as long as she likes. This morning, we began our walk at 8.15. It’s going on for 11.00 now, and she’s not come up once to check me out.

As I make this statement, the independent one arrives, calm and alert.






I reward her with a gravy bone which she munches eagerly. A little dachshund whom I’ve met before approaches and wriggles on her stomach at my feet. Yes, she’d like a treat too. I get the OK from her person, and she gets her treat.

Isis stays around the log, waiting for me to make a move. I guess she’s decided it’s time for a dog to go home for breakfast.

We move off and walk side by side towards the car park.

“You’re such a lovely dog,” I tell her.


*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 or  


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Isis and the garden in 2020



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


Sunday June 7th 2020


Isis and the garden in 2020? Perhaps a more apt heading would be ‘Human gives up’.

Some very loyal and long suffering readers may recall that years ago, when my energetic podengo had pounded the last, stubbornly remaining blades of my lawn into the earth’s crust, I decide that something must be done

After months of researching products designed to protect grass from juggernauts, footballers and packs of rampant dogs, the decision is made. At great expense the special rubber mats and the ‘Dogs and Sprogs’ grass seed are purchased and the date for the transformation set.

But the grass doesn’t grow well.

Near the house, is a very small area of long grass which hasn’t been tended for years. I allocate this to Isis.






and the rest, the fantasy lawn, I fence off.

Perhaps it will grow over the next year … or the next.

Four years later, when spring arrives, the ‘new lawn’ is still sparse and  fragile. But some green has emerged, and I decide to give Isis access to a quarter of the plot for a few days, then fence that bit off and allow her to prance on the next quarter and so on. Thus, she can run free, and I might be able to preserve a patch of green here and there.

I expect her to be delighted when I move the fence aside, but she isn’t. In fact, she is very reluctant to venture beyond her little patch.

It’s several days before she sets foot in the long lost realm where once she frolicked unrestrained. When, eventually she edges in, she creeps forward inch by inch sniffing the ground before her. She sidles up to the border as though there’s something very nasty there waiting to bite her. If she brushes against a twig or a plant, she leaps backwards as if she’s been stung.

To make her feel more at home, I pick up her snake and offer it to her. She grabs it immediately, and rushes into the house with it.


In the evening, full of energy, she she flings toys around the back room and thrashes the rug to within an inch of its life.

Over the following days she goes back into the strange territory, but her garden demeanour now is very uncharacteristic. In a lady-like fashion, she minces along, sniffs around her very cautiously, fusses about where to settle, and eventually nestles at the edge of the border, mouthing a soft toy until she decides it’s time to come in. Everywhere else, she is her usual bouncy self.

It’s all very strange. I can hardly believe what I’m seeing. Perhaps, after all, it might be possible to reseed the grass, grow a beautiful, thriving, green lawn and share the garden with Isis.

My fantasies are brought to an abrupt end, however, when, two weeks later, she recovers from garden alienation and resumes her normal persona.


Soon, even the sparse clumps have surrendered.





Then, three weeks ago, I’m listening to GQT (Gardeners’ Question Time) on Radio 4 when a listener asks how she can control a weed which has sneaked into her lawn.

The lawn expert who responds tells her that once desirable, neatly striped lawns are now considered passé in garden circles, that they no longer feature in prestigious garden shows, and  are fast disappearing from parks and estates.

Gosh, so they are, I reflect. It’s several years now since the wild flower meadow was established in Highbury. And this year, I notice, instead of whole areas of grass being mowed short, most grassy areas are being left to grow, and a few interconnecting paths  mowed through them.

The GQT man says that this ‘wilding’ approach works well in gardens, too. The secret of success, he advises, is to maintain a closely clipped edge around the wild area. This will catch the eye and immediately establish that the wildness is planned.

I’m definitely liking this.

I quickly convert my front grass patch into a shared area: some for the bees and insects, some for  established plants.

This can work in the back garden, too. I can allow tough, native meadow grass to grow all over it. This grass will resist Hairy One’s batterings. She can enjoy throwing herself around,  I can enjoy the wildlife, and there’ll be very little maintenance.

Shame I’ve only used my new lawn mower once. Otherwise, though, it’ll be a win-win situation    …………………………………….

Won’t it?  


*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 or  

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Isis, lockdown and me




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


Sunday May  31st 2020



Even Jake has had enough of TV and boxed sets.





Photo taken by Bev.



And yes, things have changed for Isis and me. Medication which I take for the rheumatoid arthritis puts me on the ‘very vulnerable, should shield and stay at home’ list in order to protect myself and the NHS. 

Although Isis needs her walk, I do respect the NHS workers, so, in March, I stop going into shops, and begin rising ridiculously early in order to reach the park and return home well before normal people emerge.

So Human who was never a morning person, suddenly becomes one.

When we first begin leaving the house at the crack of dawn, I wonder if the Hairy One will object. But no, whatever time I wake her in the morning, like most dogs, she is alert and delighted that her day is beginning.

Once we’re out of the house, I, too begin to enjoy the earliness of the morning.

Lack of traffic pollution and engine noise encourage one to relax and to breathe more deeply, and the many species of birds in the park all seem to be trilling, or warbling or squawking more loudly than ever before.

On many occasions, mine is the only car in the car park, and it’s at least an hour before we even see a jogger in the distance. 

It’s interesting to note who regularly visits the park at this time. I guess the one or two very early joggers and dog walkers I see are people who usually come to the park before they set off for work, or those who, unlike me, enjoy leaping from their beds a few hours after they’ve crept into them. Who knows, these strange beings may even go to bed early.

After a day or two, we virtuous ones recognise one another and wave. These greetings feel good in this time of plague, when we must all keep away from one another.

There’s the quiet young man who arranges ropes and rings over the branch of a certain tree and exercises there to the subdued sounds of reggae. There’s a smiley man who always tells Isis she’s beautiful. His lovely German Shepherd bitch likes to stalk the field mice which nest under  logs in the wildflower meadow. She’s a gentle creature, and never tries to attack them.

We often see the lady with the hairy dog who likes to lick my ear (the dog, not the lady) as I sit on a felled tree trunk near one of Isis’s play areas. And we often come across B, whose circle of arty friends meet on Zoom to take it in turn to propose a subject for them all to represent, in any way they wish, during the following week.

Often, Rufus and Nancy find us, and Bev and I settle down on the half felled ancient oak to chat: we sit on separate logs, two metres or more apart, of course.

Now and then, my friend M. hoves into view with his little Westie, Rosie. We always talk, and M. always becomes so engrossed in the conversation that I have to remind him about safe distancing.

When we return home, a couple of hours later, Isis makes short work of her breakfast. She  then waits in the back room, until she becomes aware that Human is passing the door with her breakfast.

This prompts Isis to follow. If she is feeling relaxed and satisfied with the state of things, she stretches herself out on the rug. On the other hand, if she’s feeling particularly frisky, she sneaks up to the table and interrupts the passage of my Shredded Wheat from spoon to mouth by casually scratching my leg, or attempting to clean her breakfasty whiskers on my elbow. 

Although she can’t hear, a bellowed expletive followed by a deep, growly “No!”, generally does the trick. Perhaps she can feel the negative vibes.

Often, she’ll bark very crossly. This is serious. The sun is shining on the rug and I must draw the blinds – like now!

As I eat, I read the news on my phone and Isis sleeps contentedly.

The next part of the daily routine, she does not approve of: I gather my stuff together and go upstairs to my art space.

Now, there is no reason that she shouldn’t continue to sleep peacefully on her rug. She does so in ‘normal’ times, while I potter around downstairs. Then, it’s only when I go out that she retreats to her back room bed.

I know she’s affronted by my disappearance upstairs, but I’ve made a pact with myself to draw, paint and/or research oil painting techniques which I’ve never learned, and to do this for at least three hours every day.

Even though I creep away, and tiptoe upstairs taking care not to trip or to drop anything, she’s never in the room when I return. She’s retreated to the solace of her back room and our day bed.

After two or three hours, I go down, greet her, give her a Markie and open the back door before returning upstairs.

The art space overlooks the back garden, so I can keep an eye on her. To be fair, unless something has upset or unnerved her, she’s a contented little dog, and will often stay in the garden, playing with toys until early evening. Sometimes she’ll stay outside until I fetch her in for her evening meal.







Once she has retired, however, things are very different. 

When sharing the day bed with Isis, one has to be very circumspect about how one moves. And since, invariably, she lies across the width of the space, rather than the length, move one must, sooner or later.

I find any activity, or even inactivity, impossible for more than a few minutes if my knees  are drawn up under my chin, or my legs folded beneath me.

Even a very careful, toe by toe shift in position, or a thoughtless leg stretch, is likely to provoke a disgruntled growl

An affectionate pat?  Out of the question, unless I know for sure that she is awake. It is true that the once frequent leaps in the air accompanied by hysterical growling and tail grabbing occur much less now. Even so, one can’t take liberties.

Isis, I note, like her person, does not alter her bedtime to suit the new circumstances imposed upon her. Dog’s preferred bedtime evidently, is nine p.m. and she insists that this is respected.

At human bedtime, our final routine is ‘seek the treats’. Strangely enough, she never objects to being awoken for this.

I let her out into the garden while I ‘hide’ a couple of treats in her dog bed and one under my desk.

I retain two gravy bones and retire to the kitchen to make coffee.

I have to be quick though, as by now she has shot in from the garden, found the treats and is waiting for the next bit of action.

A hairy head peers round the door. I remove her collar and hang it on a knob in the hall. If this isn’t completed within thirty seconds, a reminder is issued in the form of a sharp woof.

Now I need to stick very carefully to the rules. I sit on the day bed with six bits of broken up gravy bone in my hand. Isis steps carefully behind me and sits on my left side.

At this point, a gentle hug is allowed, as long as it doesn’t hold up the proceedings for more than a few seconds.

And then it’s down to business. With my left hand, I offer her five pieces of gravy bone, one by one. These she lifts gently from my hand.

Because she used to fly into an hysterical rage when the treat flow ceased, I warn her that the next one is the last one, by putting two fingers firmly on her back. She lies down and I curl my fist loosely around the remaining treat.

She enjoys teasing it out from between my fingers, if necessary, holding the fist down with a paw.

When I have risen, very slowly and carefully, and left the room, she takes over the space which I always occupy, and settles down to sleep.

That’s the perfect scenario.

Things aren’t always perfect, but that’s another story.

Lockdown is working fine for Isis and 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 or





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Simba and Mikey



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


Sunday May  24th 2020


Last November, I wrote about Simba and his new humans (post ‘three dogs and a tortoise’ November 10th 2019).

To recap: J and her partner had been on holiday at a beach resort in Turkey earlier in the year and had met pup Simba, agreed to adopt him and arranged to return to collect him in November.

K. tells me that it is common for bar, restaurant and hotel owners to obtain kittens and puppies at the beginning of the season because they attract tourists.

At the end of the season, when the bars close down, sadly, these poor ‘cute’ animals are turned out and left to fend for themselves.

A group of around half a dozen local volunteers does its best to keep an eye on the abandoned dogs, taking it in turns to feed them each day on the beach. For most of the time, though, the dogs are on their own and vulnerable. K told me that only a few weeks ago, one of the dogs was found bleeding. Unbelievably, both of his ears had been cut off with a knife.

When K. and her partner return to collect Simba, he greets them enthusiastically.

But he’s not alone. He has acquired a friend, a black labrador the volunteers have named ‘Mikey’. Clearly, this dog adores Simba. And clearly too, the feeling is mutual.

The couple are excited to be taking Simba home, but their excitement is dampened by regret that they can’t take Mikey too. They feel sad and guilty that the friends are to be separated.

The evening before they are to return to the UK, they sit outside having a drink with the volunteers. When Simba sits close them, Mikey squeezes himself between the couple.

“You’re going to miss your friend,” one of the volunteers tells Mikey

“Not for long,” interjects J’s partner, “He’s coming as well when we’ve sorted out the finance.”

J, astonished, bursts into tears.

The couple plan to get the money together to cover Mikey’s vaccinations, passport and air travel to the U.K., and agree that at the end of February J. will go back to Turkey to fetch him.

Since lockdown, of course, people no longer gather in groups in the park; additionally, Isis and I go for our walk early in the morning, so I’ve not seen Simba or his people for months.

Then, one day, two weeks ago, I get up late. Just as Isis and I are setting off from the car park in Highbury, there they are, out of the blue: J., Simba and a shiny black Mikey.







All three look happy and relaxed. I can’t rush up and greet them as I’d like to, of course, but I am able to get close enough to have a conversation.

I am eager to know about the reunion and how the dogs reacted to seeing each other again.

The meeting had been carefully planned. When K. and Mikey arrived, K.’s sister, who would be in the house with Simba, would come out into the garden and stay there with Mikey. K. would go into the house to greet Simba. 

Then K. and Simba would go and meet Mikey.

When the dogs meet, a quick sniff is all it takes. Clearly, they are delighted to be together again.

In fact, everyone is happy.

Simba is not the best dog in the park when it comes to recall, but the humans are working on it. They know that Mikey will want to stay close to them, and think that he will be a  good example to his brother!

They are about to try them out off- lead in Highbury, when the lockdown is imposed. (Dog owners are asked to keep their dogs on the lead in public spaces in case they run up to other people and have to be retrieved, thus putting ‘safe distancing’ in jeopardy.)

So running in the park will have to wait.

In the meantime, Simba and Mikey are two very contented 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 or

Posted in adopted dogs, Highbury Park, park dogs, park people | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

taking out my human



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


Sunday May 17th 2020


Have you ever taken a human for a walk?

Don’t bother.

It’s not worth the effort.

I don’t think they mean to be difficult. I think they just can’t help it.

I take her for her walk early nowadays. I think she’s frightened that someone will sneeze or cough on her. She’s a very nervous human. It must be her breed, I guess.

Well, I try my best to get her out early. Actually, it’s not as easy as it sounds. I’m ready to go as soon as she wakes me up. I don’t waste any time. To keep her mind on what she’s doing, I even dance and jump up and down while she’s trying to put my collar on.

Once we get into the porch, you’d think we’d be outside in seconds.

You’d be wrong.

Even though I twirl and twirl and fling myself against the door to hurry her along, she always goes back into the hall to fetch something. Nothing important like gravy bones. Just keys, and glasses, and silly things like that.

In the end I have to pull the shelf down with my paw. The big box of leads and harnesses and collars slides off onto the tiles. I can feel the crash. She comes much more quickly now. Though I still need to dance, shake my head and bark to liven her up.

When she’s especially slow, I do my special podengo howl. It goes like this: HOO-OO-OO-OO WOO-OO-OO-OO-OOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

It’s best to do it when she’s trying to fasten my harness because she has to bend down with her ear very close to my head. Sometimes she gets grumpy, but the podengo howl always gets results.

At last we get to leave the house. At last. I thought it was never going to happen.

Then there’s another of her irritating habits. As all dogs know, sometimes we really need to stop on the front lawn before we walk to the car, and sometimes we just want to take a minute or two to sniff around to check who’s been there the night before.

Other times, a dog just wants to walk straight down the path without stopping. At these times it’s very annoying when your human stands still and we have to hang around.

Yes, she’s wanting to know whether I want a pee or a poop. It’s so embarrassing. Any passing dog knows exactly what we’re standing there for. I’m sure I sensed a poodle sniggering the other day.

You won’t believe this, but if someone has just passed our gate, and I bark to tell her, she gets very cross, and tries to shove me in the car before I’ve made sure we are safe. She thinks the pavement outside our house doesn’t belong to us. But I know it does.

What would happen to her if I wasn’t here?

It’s such a responsibility.

Talking about responsibility, you won’t believe what goes on when we get to the park. Sometimes I try my hardest to warn her that it’s dangerous to walk along the big path to the top of park. I know it’s not safe. I know for certain that someone is going to switch the sun on or off without any warning. Then we won’t know where we are, or where we are going. If it wasn’t for my wonderful nose, we would get lost every day.

I love the park, but I can’t just run around and enjoy it. Oh no. When I’m off my lead, walking along the interesting little paths, I love to sniff everything I find. You wouldn’t believe how exciting it is. You’d be amazed at who’s run or jumped or crawled along here since I last came.

But can I relax and enjoy being free? Oh no. I have to keep sniffing Human’s leg to make sure she hasn’t wandered off. Even when we reach one of my favourite play places, I can’t relax.

She leaves me there to play, but I can’t. Her scent is not so strong now. It’s getting weaker and weaker. I must find out where she’s decided to sit. Some big, fierce dogs might come up to me, and I’ll need to get to her quickly in case they attack her.

I’m not afraid of them, of course, but I have to protect my human. She has no sense of danger. I wait for a few minutes, then creep up to her. Yes, there she is sitting on that log again. That’s fine. I’ll be able to get to her quickly if I need to.

I can go back and play now. Yay!

Being in charge is very tiring. But this doesn’t bother Human. She’s too lazy to do even the easiest jobs.

This will shock you, but I feel I must be honest. Would you believe it – I have to take care of our territory on my own! I mark and mark until my bladder is empty. Honestly.

In all the years that I’ve been taking her round the park, or for road walks, she’s never, ever, not even once,  peed on one blade of grass or spotted on one bit of pavement.

It makes you wonder what humans are for.



How long do I have to stand here telling you?
It really is time to go home.




*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 or*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre,

Posted in Highbury Park, I'm off my lead!, scenting, walking in the park, we don't like bright light, we don't like bright sun | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

it’s cloak and dagger stuff



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


Sunday May 10th 2020


By mid April, Isis is becoming increasingly irritable. She snaps at her tail and back legs. She has also, I observe, nibbled off a little patch of hair from one of her front legs.

Clearly, the anal gland problem must be addressed. It’s a problem because the RSPCA animal hospital is closed to the public except for emergencies.

When I was ill in 2017, and unable to drive, White Cross vets at the end of our road, kindly accepted Isis and Daisy as temporary patients. Just before the lockdown, I call in to ask if they are willing to see Isis again if it is necessary during the time that the RSPCA remains closed.

I’m relieved to be told that they would be willing to treat her since she is already registered with them.

Because the medication I take for rheumatoid arthritis compromises the immune system, I no longer go into shops or any other indoor public spaces.

I’d feel safe to take Isis to the RSPCA. Their waiting room is huge. We usually ask for an early morning appointment and are the only ones there. I hope that they reopen before Hairy’s glands need attention.

But this is not to be.

I make the phone call and we’re given an appointment for the next day. We’re instructed to park outside the practice, then phone to confirm our arrival.

This is a relief. At least it sounds as though we’ll not be sharing the waiting room.

Next morning, we’re in luck: there’s a parking space directly outside.

When I call in, a receptionist answers and tells me that someone will collect Isis from the car.

This is very sensible. It should be reassuring. Well, it’s good that I’ll not have to wait inside, but little Isis has never been in a consulting room on her own. She’s never had any treatment without Human standing beside her, holding her head.

Oh dear.

She may well refuse to go with the nurse. She may just as well refuse to walk into the practice.

Nowadays, when we go to the RSPCA, she will walk up the drive and even through the front door. She allows me to lead her to the scales, steps obediently onto them, and stands still while being weighed.

What she always refuses point blank to do is to walk into the consulting room. Either I have to carry her over the threshold or force her forward with a series of heaves and shoves.

We’re early for our appointment. Rain pulses rhythmically on the car roof as we wait. I’m apprehensive, but Isis, who has had a long walk in the park, is perfectly relaxed. She snoozes contentedly on the back seat. 

Before long another car parks beside us. A man gets out, ducks through the rain, and dashes to the door.  He tries to open it, but it’s locked. He tries again. Then he knocks on the glass door. A receptionist appears and points through the glass to a notice beside the door. The man reads it, returns to his car, and picks up his mobile. 

When a nurse appears at the door, the driver emerges, and opens the boot. In it sits a handsome German shepherd. This well behaved animal trots off confidently with the nurse.

What will Isis do when her time comes?

Soon it’s our turn.

I tap Isis out of the car and hand her over to the nurse. Anxiously, I explain that Hairy One needs to be guided round any obstacles. I also suggest that it would be advisable to muzzle her during treatment.

I watch apprehensively as Isis walks – very slowly, but without protest – along the short stretch of pavement and through the door. I can see through the large plate glass window  that my dog is also being compliant about her weigh-in.

Then I watch her slow but uninterrupted progress towards the consulting room.


It’s not long before they return. Isis looks perfectly calm. Everything has gone fine, the nurse tells me. There were no problems.

That’s a relief. And, I can pay by card over the phone.

I am impressed with White Cross’s arrangements.

I’m impressed with Isis too.







*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 or*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre,

Posted in a very good dog, a vet visit, dear little Isis, oh dear, White Cross Vets. | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

a week’s worth of walks 3



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


Sunday May 3rd 2020


Highbury Park: Friday April 24th

Isis sniffs half-heartedly along the wooded area between the two meadows. This spot is her default choice. But today, she’s uneasy. The trees make frightening shadows on the sunlit grass. Just as I am settling myself on one of the most comfortable logs, she begins to meander back up to the main path.

I desettle myself and follow.

She turns towards the car park. Oh no, she can’t want to go home again, can she?

I wait to see what she decides to do next.

She stands on the tarmac for several minutes, nose carwards.


Then, unexpectedly, she turns and steps onto the grass the other side of the path. She begins to sniff.

I approach, and, tail erect, she leads the way across the grass, squeezes through the brushwood barricades placed there to protect new saplings from human and dog traffic,  and sniffs her way to the little track which runs along the side of the park up to the allotment gate. She likes this track but it resembled a swamp during the rainy weeks and I don’t know whether it has recovered yet.

Isis doesn’t care, of course. She follows the track ahead of me. Her navigation is astonishingly good. She walks the winding track confidently and doesn’t walk into anything. I’m very impressed. Every few yards she stops to check I’m still there before setting off again. A brief sniff of a leg of my jeans, a strip of my sock or a length of bootlace reassures her, and she continues on her way. 

She chooses her exit, and we emerge onto the landscaped mounds. She sniffs one or two of the areas where she usually likes to play, but the sun and shadow contrast is too sharp for her, and she elects to return along the track and follow it right down to the end.

I don’t like her doing this. Over the years walkers have created little short cuts down to busy Avenue Road, and Isis finds these very inviting. She always wants to sniff her way along them, despite  being thwarted every time by mean Human.

Once harnessed and pointed in the opposite direction, she trots along contentedly enough until we reach the driveway from the entrance gates to the car park.

On the other side is the log she likes to play around. She would happily set off across the road without stopping. I’m attempting to train her to recognise the smell or feel of the road, and to sit and wait on the verge until I signal that it’s OK to cross.

I don’t imagine that this will be easy. When it’s a nice, safe, dull day, we’ll have a park road crossing session. At least now she doesn’t seem compelled to do the opposite of whatever she thinks I want her to do. That’s a huge improvement.

We walk over to the log and she plays energetically for an hour.


Saturday April 25th

It rains solidly all day. Perfect for a walk in Kings Heath Park as I guess it’ll be virtually empty, and there’ll be no problem with safe distancing.

It’s raining heavily as we leave the car. Isis, of course, is thrilled. There is no-one in sight, so, for the first time, I release her outside the café. She is beside herself with joy and leaps and dances, face turned up, snapping at the rain. 

She dances for more than twenty minutes, while I stand and watch her, enjoying her pleasure.

She wants to stay here for ever. But her spoilsport person is cold. The hairy reveller repeatedly ignores my tap-tap requests to move on, and, in the end, I put her on her lead to walk down the slope to where the hawthorn hedge begins.

Off the lead once more, she hurries towards the old bowling green, scampers off the path, runs across the grass and begins to scramble up and down the bank. Then she speeds back down to the empty green and begins looping back and forth, as though revelling in the space.

Then she’s back up the bank, gathering sticks, and flinging them away again. Now she’s ducking through the hole in the hedge and bursting out onto the next level.

I follow her, but not through the hole.

Then she pops back again. For a few moments, I lose sight of her, then I become aware of a blur of white flashing across the interstices of the hedge.

She returns to race up and down again. For a few minutes, I even persuade her to run by my side before she runs away to chase the wind, or the rain – or her own fancies.

At last, when she’s sated – or feels it’s time for breakfast, she stops, raises her head, and walks purposefully across the Colour Garden. Before I can stop her, the naughty little animal strides onto the current, pristine bowling green, where, I may say, dogs are definitely not allowed.

When she reaches the centre, she raises her head and sniffs the air.

I stand on the edge of the green, emanating disapproval. I know she knows where I am. I also know she has no intention of coming to me.

I walk carefully across the grass. Hooking a finger into the loop on her collar, I escort her to the path. She doesn’t mind. Much more biddable that she used to be, she leads the way to the car park.

After breakfast, she sleeps very soundly.

I’m not surprised.

And then it’s Sunday again. It’s bright and sunny.






We’ve come full circle.


*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 or
















*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 or*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 or www.dogwat

Posted in a joyful dog, clever girl, clever Isis, deaf/blind dog plays, Highbury Park, Isis is no angel, Kings Heath Park, learning to trust, rain, relationship building, running running, scary shadows, walking in the park, we don't like bright light | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment