Posting days: Sunday and Wednesday and, sometimes, maybe, extra ‘news flashes’!
Sunday May 14th 2017
Poor Isis has been having a bad time. It seems that whenever we arrive in Kings Heath Park, the sun conspires to frighten her.
Nowadays, whatever the weather, she never, ever, refuses to leave the car. She loves her walks too much for that. But as soon as I attempt to move off towards the main exit, she balks at the brightness. The situation is exacerbated by a vigorous wind which makes the tree branches and their shadows dance menacingly.
She wants to leave the car park by the other exit, but I know that this won’t work. She will be just as reluctant to move out into bright sun; additionally, she will be afraid of the deep shadows cast by the trees next to the fence. Left to her own devices, she will walk a few feet this way, turn round, then walk a few feet in the opposite direction, winding herself up into a state of near hysteria.
Echoes of the first year I had her.
If the worst comes to the worst, I can pick her up. But although it is relatively easy to carry her downstairs in the morning when she is contented and relaxed, it is damned near impossible to prise her from the ground when she is tense and resistant. And it feels like she has doubled her weight.
Most times it goes like this: Isis struggles until she has pulled her harness over her head. Fortunately, it’s attached to her collar. Grinding my teeth, I undo all the clips and replace the harness. Then I thread the other end of her double-ended lead through its ring and attach it to the left side of her harness.
This signals “We’re walking, whether you want to or not.”
When she has been whizzing about on her extended lead, or playing free, I use the double ended lead to tell her that play is over and we’re going to walk nicely now. It works like a charm.
But not when the contrast of light and shade is at its most fierce.
It’s only a short walk from the car to the first shrubbery respite stop, and I urge her on, inch by inch, patting her under the chin: the ‘it’s O.K., come on’ message. But on several occasions last week, I resort to hauling her forward a step at a time. This is not ideal, of course, and I’m sure that passers-by think I’m being very cruel.
I know that she is afraid and I feel for her, but I also know that she is not traumatised. She loves her park walks, and as soon as we’ve passed the very big tree just round the corner from the car park, her tail flicks back up and she’s a different dog. When the sun is at its brightest and the shadows very deep, she will flinch now and then as we walk the length of the hawthorn hedge, but reassuring strokes and under the chin taps are all she needs.
When I release her from her lead, she trots to where she feels most comfortable and usually she’s fine. Experience tells me that as long as she is able to choose the itinerary on the way back, she’ll still be a little jumpy, but she’ll be O.K.
Fortunately, these negative moments don’t put her off her walks. Before we leave home she always leaps around with huge excitement as I attempt to secure her harness, and although she freezes at the brightness of the front drive (tap, tap, cuddle, cuddle) sidles nervously through the gate (more taps and cuddles) and zig-zags across the pavement (pat, pat) she leaps into the car with alacrity.
The rain forecast for Sunday fails to materialise. It’s warm and bright all day. Poor Isis is tetchy and growly all evening, and, to prolong her misery, it’s still unseasonably light at bedtime. Three or four times I cover her eyes with the Doggles. Three or four times she pulls them off again. Eventually, I take her outside and then send her upstairs to bed.
Unfortunately, ear-piercing shrieks from above force me into an early night.
Neither of us gets much sleep as every half hour or so she wakes with screams of annoyance.
I cover her eyes with her Doggles. She removes them. I replace them. Several times. I tighten the strap of the Doggles. She still wakes up “Nyarr-nyarr-nyyarr, nYAFF, n-YAFF! N-YAFF! Followed by strangulated screeches and growls.
After each episode, I touch her gently and wait for her to calm down. Although she sounds ferocious, and I do not use the word lightly, I know that when she is fully conscious, she won’t bite me.
I drape her head with a cotton cushion cover. Still she wakes up. Eventually, I tighten the straps of the Doggles yet again and replace them, drop the cushion cover over her head once more and cover her entire body with a folded sheet.
Eventually, she falls asleep. It’s almost five a.m., and the sky is lightening.
But, whoopee! By Monday the sun has retreated. The shadows are banished. The sky is grey, the drizzle is intermittent and Isis is very, very happy.
In the morning we stay in the park for hours, and she runs and leaps and dances. By the time she’s had her riotous evening prance, she’s exhausted.
On Monday night she sleeps like a hairy log. She’s so relaxed that I am even able to read for a couple of hours with the lamp on, a rare luxury.
On Tuesday the drizzle is heavier and it persists all day. Isis is delighted. She runs and runs and runs. Even though I forget to draw the blinds before I go out in the evening, she is fast asleep on the futon when I return home.
Tuesday night is a repeat of Monday night. I read by the light of the lamp. Isis sleeps soundly all night.
Today, it pees it down from dawn to dusk. Isis has more brilliant walks plus twenty soggy but deliriously blissful minutes on the lawn in the middle of the day. I am obliged to dry her three times.
But nothing can spoil her day. As I write, she is spark out on the futon. I will have to wake her up when it’s bed time.
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 email@example.com or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk