Posting days: Sunday and Wednesday and, sometimes, maybe, extra ‘news flashes’!
Sunday October 16th 2016
When we meet Lola and her person Jo. in Highbury, Jo. tells me about an enclosed space only a few miles away in which dogs can be exercised. Delighted, of course, I take Isis and off we go to suss it out.
Isis is nervous to be in a strange place and tries to move back to the car, but, with reassurance and encouragement, she begins to walk. She is nervous and very jumpy, but not terrified.
Having been told three or four times how to find the enclosure (I have no – and I mean no – sense of direction and forget instructions as soon as they are uttered) we eventually find what we are looking for.
I can hardly believe our luck. For two years I have been longing to find somewhere like this. It is a sizeable grassy area, completely enclosed by strong, high, wire fencing and two sturdy metal gates. And it’s empty!
Hardly able to contain myself, I take Isis in and close the entry gate firmly behind us. I check that the gate on the other side is closed and let her off the lead.
I move to the middle of the field so I will be able to monitor her from all angles. I feel quite tearful as I watch her, liberated from her lead, able to do what she wants in this huge space. I wait with rising excitement for this explosive little animal to shoot into freedom.
And what does she do?
She stays close to the gate, sniffing, then trotting along the base of it, up and down, up and down, before retracing her footsteps, twirling merrily. For fifteen to twenty minutes, she walks, trots or twirls, confining herself to an area of about ten by four feet.
Then I place my hand on her side and guide her to the centre of the space. Her tail stays up. She walks tentatively but doesn’t seem frightened. We walk slowly towards the opposite side of the field. When I take away my hand, she walks across to the other gate, in the opposite corner, and repeats her former routine.
After about an hour she ventures along the fence, following it as far as the corner, then turns round and sniffs, trots, twirls and snaps at the air all the way back to the gate. She does this, perfectly content, it appears, for the rest of our visit!
Only twice do other dog owners approach. The first has young two pups: a flat coat and a Newfoundland. I explain that Isis is not at all aggressive towards other dogs but might run into them. He doesn’t think that would bother his two ruffians. The pups have no interest in Isis. They stay close to their owner and, after a very short time, sit down so he takes them off for a walk!
We’re there for almost ninety minutes before a couple arrives with a hairy little Jack Russell rescue called Jack. They tell me that they daren’t let him off in a park because they think he’ll not come back. They are also very worried that he might be aggressive towards Isis because he barks madly at every dog he meets. The man and I think that he’ll probably be O.K. with Isis when he’s off lead. Again I explain Hairy One’s disabilities and my fear that she might run into him and knock him over. This doesn’t worry them as he is, apparently, a tough little dog.
As soon as they release him, he shoots down to where Isis is happily pirouetting by the fence. He stops when he reaches her and wags his tail. He looks puzzled. Most dogs do on beholding a dancing dog who completely ignores them. Then he races up and down, obviously enjoying his freedom. Twice he returns to Isis and gives a friendly little bark and an invitation to play. When she carries on doing her own thing, he resumes his happy careering. And, guess what? When his owners call him, Jack rushes joyfully up to them. We’re all delighted and off they go to the park!
Isis continues her fence shadowing, stopping now and then to sniff and leave her scent until, after almost two hours, we relinquish the enclosure to a bouncy young cockerpoo pup, whom, the owner explains, would jump all over Isis.
As we return to the car, Isis is much less anxious than when we first arrived – even though we walk around for about twenty minutes looking for the car. (Eventually, of course, it is where I thought I’d left it but obscured by larger vehicles which have parked either side.)
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that Isis restricted herself to an area much, much smaller than that which she usually occupies when on her extension lead. But I was.
Friend-in-Wales, Polymath, of course, is amazed that I am surprised. What did I expect?, she challenges. Poor little Isis was in a strange place, and must have been aware that she and I were not attached by a lead. Of course she felt insecure. Polymath expects that because Isis is blind, gates and fences make her feel grounded, help her to orientate herself.
Yes, that makes sense. I was so full of joy at the thought of Hairy One being granted her freedom at last, that I foolishly expected her to race round the field at breakneck speed as she does when she’s on her extending lead in the park.
When she’s used to the new space, I guess she will be more adventurous. We’ll go at least twice a week, I decide.
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.co.uk