Posting days: Sunday and Wednesday and, sometimes, maybe, extra ‘news flashes’!
Sunday January 15th 2017
Isis enjoys increasingly longer periods of freedom in both Kings Heath and Highbury Park. I recall that twice, a few weeks ago, she came to find me when she appeared to have lost her bearings.
This week she doesn’t lose her bearings.
On two consecutive days Bev. is the first to notice that Isis is carefully sniffing and looping her way towards me from the opposite side of the old bowling green. “She’s ‘looking’ for you,” Bev. alerts me.
Hairy One approaches and I lean forward to place a hand on her back. She wags her tail and then makes her way back to a dancing space.
Several days this week, in Highbury, I set her free in an area with which she is familiar, and she selects her own play space. I notice that she is widening her parameters. She doesn’t trot off in one direction, as she did once or twice when we first experimented with off lead time, but the circumferences of her play areas are expanding. On one occasion she elects to play for about fifteen minutes behind a large holly bush.
Fortunately, being mostly white, she is easily monitored. At one point, she ventures a little further than I feel is safe. I am just about to fetch her when she seems to feel she’s overstepping the mark, and retraces her footsteps.
Both dogs and their owners stop to stare at the flying apparition. Quite a few dogs keep their distance; others take a chance and approach to within a metre or so. Some come up and sniff her.
Sometimes it is necessary to rescue her from very young puppies. On Thursday little Pixie rushes up and leaps on her. But Isis deals with her very effectively. “Woof! Woof!, she orders, and off Pixie runs.
As we know, dogs are clever beings, and it is very rare for an adult dog to harass her. Soon after she has seen off Pixie, Archie arrives. He is a huge, full on, adolescent standard poodle and he races up to her with his usual enthusiasm. But he virtually skids to a halt in front of her, and gently sniffs her nose before leaping off to play with another friend.
We are all very impressed, not least Archie’s lovely owners.
At home, we begin our efforts to get Isis to make her way down the stairs supported, but not carried.
This is prompted by one of my more dramatic trips.
It’s Wednesday and Isis and I are on the steep bank by the hedge which divides the old bowling green from the level above. Having four sturdy little legs, Isis is fine. For bipeds, however, steep banks wet with melted snow are not the best places to frolic. I’ve just put Isis back on her lead and am about to walk her down the slope when, swoosh, THUMP! I stride into a patch of exceptionally sticky mud and land a metre further on in a tangled heap. There are so many hot flashes of pain shooting up and down my body that I need to lie dead still for about a minute in order to ascertain which bits still work. Fortunately, there is no one else around yet to witness my downfall, and I soon ascertain that everything is still working.
I have been amazingly lucky. But what if I’d broken something and could no longer carry Isis downstairs?
On Saturday, I wrap Hairy One in a padded harness, and, grasping it firmly, manoeuvre her onto the stairs. She’s petrified, poor little thing. But we persevere. She is still very frightened when we reach the bottom step. Although she recovers as soon as she reaches terra firma, this approach, clearly, will not do.
We must, as Polymath has suggested, tackle the training in very small chunks. Today I carry Isis downstairs as usual until we reach the penultimate step. Then I set her down gently. She freezes in horror. I carefully ease her down onto the hall floor.
We’ll do only one step each morning until she relaxes, I decide.
This is definitely going to be a very long haul.
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