The best ever walk in Highbury Park with Hairy One. Hard to believe that only a couple of months ago she did not even want to leave the car, let alone walk in the park.
We haven’t been to Highbury since before Christmas and she is eager to explore. So eager, that the brave little creature walks through a hundred yards of stripy sun and shadow. She is obviously afraid: she is very hesitant and her tail hangs low. But she is determined.
Strong, warm winds over the past few days have dried out most of the park and she is free to walk wherever she wants.
Excitedly, she follows the scents and Ji. and I follow her. We laugh as we cover the ground in wide swathes, wiggly lines, tight circles and figures of eight.
She snuffles among the leaves, paws at the carpet of beech nut shells in the little coppice, clambours up sweet smelling piles of wood chips and over felled tree trunks, sniffing and sniffing and sniffing.
From time to time she lapses into a fly snapping twirl which will become a self-harming spin. Immediately I reel her in, admonishing,
“There’s no time for twirling, no time for fly snapping, Isis. Concentrate on the wonderful smells.”
And she does.
Ideally, one would always correct unwanted behaviour by withdrawing attention. But because the self-harming escalates so rapidly, ignoring the behaviour is not an option.
Until very recently I used to feel guilty if I deprived her of her freedom to twirl. Now I realise that these routines are compulsive and obsessive, not life enhancing. It is unlikely that they will ever be eradicated but at least they are disapproved of. And I have inklings that my approval is beginning to matter to her.
When I intervene immediately to stop the twirling Isis resumes ‘normal’ behaviour within seconds. If I allow her to persist she becomes more and more angry and begins to twirl again as soon as her lead slackens.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or www.dogwatchuk.com