A post should appear every Sunday
Sunday March 26th 2023
I don’t know for certain how Isis discerns that preparations for her walk have begun. She recognises most of my routines: the smell of coffee in the morning tells her that I’m about to settle for breakfast in the front room, and often she’ll be there waiting for me. When I retreat up the stairs in my dressing gown, she anticipates that I’ll be gone for a while, so she returns to bed, yet if I nip up to fetch something, she’ll stay and wait for me to return. I suppose that living together for over eight years, we know each other’s patterns.
Sometimes she’ll make for the front door as soon as I wriggle into my old winter dog walking jacket. It’s well past its best by now, and hasn’t been washed since the end of last winter, so perhaps when I drag it out from underneath all of the other garments hanging over the newell post, it’s only too easy for her to pick up its scent!
She’s not displaying a huge amount of excitement yet though, because she knows Human far too well; she’s aware that there are several stages to go through before a dog can begin her walk. Human must transfer her phone, her driving glasses, two sets of car keys (just in case one key gets stuck in the lock again) and her bus pass (someone might steal the car) from their indoor safe place to one of the five pockets of the scruffy old jacket.
Invariably, the transfer process reveals that at least one essential item is missing. Isis leaves her rug, and settles patiently on one of the mats in the hall while Human searches for the missing item, trying to recall when she last used it and to puzzle out where she might have left it.
Isis doesn’t flicker an eyelid as her person shoots in and out of the downstairs rooms huffing and cursing, or when, for the third time, she scrambles up and down the stairs.
The Hairy One stands up and stretches though, when at last the front door is opened. Her tail is wagging now, faster and faster. She knows that her harness has been picked up, and begins to dance a happy dance.
Don’t count your chickens, Isis. Human has gone back in for her gloves and neck warmer. Now she’s rifling through the bottom drawer trying to find a pair of gloves which match, or are at least a similar colour.
At last Isis can smell that her harness is about to be put over her head. Now she is excited. More than excited, closer to hysterical. Her tail is flashing back and forth so fast that it’s just a hairy blur. She loses any inhibitions, growling, yipping, and barking at high volume, tossing her head to and fro, and jumping up and down.
Anticipating a high speed twirl, I block her with my legs. So now she’s attempting to swipe my pebble arrangement off the low shelf, or even worse, to smack down both front paws simultaneously onto the shelf so that it tips up and handfuls of heavy stones crash onto the tiled floor, sometimes bouncing off my feet on their descent. This is quite painful when one’s wearing Crocs.
Today, though, I am on the ball and anticipate the pebble assault. I grab her round her chest, and growl menacingly into her right ear. She leaves the pebble display and concentrates instead on grabbing my hand and pretending to bite me as I struggle to untwist the strap which has to be passed behind her front legs and under her chest. Since all four of her legs are trotting on the spot in merry rhythm, this is no simple task, and often has to be repeated at least once.
Then, of course, I have to check that none of her multitude of hairs is trapped in the clasp. She doesn’t appreciate my thoughtfulnes, of course, but continues to dance on the spot.
Click! I’ve captured the little toad at last. At this point, she gives her plaintive, haunting podengo howl, ‘Whoooo-hoooo-hoo-oo -oo.’
I love to listen to the howl, and sometimes try to encourage her by whoo-hoo-ing myself. This, of course, has no effect on her at all , as she can’t hear me. Even if she could hear me, she’d for sure twig that no self-respecting podengo makes a noise like this.
To stem her excessive exuberance, I open the porch door a crack. She stops caterwauling immediately, and pushes her nose outside.
Phew, thank dog for that.
She can’t wait to get out. I remind her that a well- behaved dog always waits for her person to go through the door first. She’s unimpressed, but I make her wait, as I prefer to walk, rather than be dragged to the gate; also, unless I slow her down, there’s no way I’ll be able to lock the door behind us.
Once we arrive at the gate, she stands still until I open it. She has become a normal dog again.
On the other side of the gate, she is eager to sniff along the wall to check which creatures have paused there since she was last on the pavement. Any unfortunate passer-by will be warned off by her gruff and seriously loud ‘Yoff!’ as soon as she picks up his or her scent. As she doesn’t catch a moving scent until people have passed her, they don’t anticipate the bark, and jump in alarm.
We cross the pavement to the car. I open the nearside back door, and guide her round it. She rarely leaps in straight away, as she still finds it necessary to sniff around to confirm who peed on one of her tyres in the early hours, or who crept under her car overnight.
Now she’s ready to get in, she needs to know whether careless Human has tossed any obstacles onto the back seat; she also sniffs the pavement and the top edge of the seat to calculate how high she has to jump. Her judgement is excellent, and I’ll never cease to be impressed by her abilities.
Once she’s in, she walks to the far end of the seat and settles next to her safety belt. She loves the car, and doesn’t turn a hair now when Human returns to the house to fetch something she’s forgotten. Nor does she complain if people or dogs walk past. This is her car, her territory.
The transition from hall to car is complete. Now she has transformed herself into the most calm, patient and well-mannered dog in the world.
…………………………………………………………. to be continued.
Isis came from Aeza cat and dog rescue in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact email@example.com or go to http://www.dogwatch.co.uk.