Posting days: Sunday and Wednesday and, sometimes, maybe, extra ‘news flashes’
Wednesday July 19th 2017
We are in Kings Heath Park for our morning walk. As usual, Isis is let off her lead when we approach the bottom of the slope leading down to the old bowling green.
I try to persuade Isis to walk onto the green and play with the shrubs along its edge, or to return to her old favourites, the two little fir trees high on the bank. Once she’s engrossed with playing around one or other of these trees, she’ll occupy herself for thirty or forty minutes. And it’s easy for me to keep an eye on Isis while I enjoy the antics of the other dogs and chat to their people.
But, unfortunately, since she’s been discovered a few times by inquisitive pups who like to bounce off older dogs, she no longer wants to play on the bank.
I can still have a brief conversation while she makes her way along the little tracks at the bottom near the railway line fence. In the late autumn, winter and early spring, it’s easy to see the white whirling dervish as she twirls and dances her way along the tracks.
At this time of year, though, it’s harder to spot her behind all the trees, shrubs and undergrowth, and once or twice I’ve thought that she’s popped out of the green tunnel and wandered into the main park when, in fact, she’s still cavorting among the weeds.
Even when she walks away from the tracks, she tends to follow a narrow range of patterns. Her first choice used to be to stay close to the fence around the TV garden (the garden which was used to screen a popular TV gardening programme) and follow it into the wooded area. This was perfectly safe as she could easily be seen and retrieved.
But then she grows bored with this adventure and, after following the fence for a few yards, begins turning right at the shrubbery and climbing onto the mound behind the basketball court. Here she dances to her heart’s content.
Sadly, it’s goodbye to my park social life. But Isis loves the mound.
After many happy weeks of mound pounding, she discovers that a dog can creep through the shrubbery, walk along the basketball court enclosure, and emerge into the Colour Garden.
She is obviously very impressed by her discovery.
Since she loves popping into shrubberies for a snuffle, the first time she exits into the Colour Garden, I don’t notice that she has departed. By the time I search the shrubbery, she’s already gone through to the other side.
Yikes! Where is she? Panic, panic.
I find her running round the flower beds, joyfully snapping the air.
So this becomes her new pattern. There are few deviations. Sometimes she takes a short cut through the gap in the hedge on the top bank above the old bowling green and I can take a leisurely stroll over to the mound where she is sure to be playing.
I’ve also become used to her exit through the shrubbery, and, if I’m quick, I can follow her around the enclosure and into the Colour Garden. She doesn’t actually run, but she walks very briskly, tail held high, and seems to cover an amazing amount of ground in a surprisingly short time.
One day last week, however, it all goes wrong.
Isis has her usual little jaunt along the tracks, follows the fence for a little way, then crosses the path, as she often does, on her way to the mound.
I stroll up to the mound.
No sign of Isis.
Then walkers on their way down to the bowling green call to me, “She’s right over there, by the childrens’ playground.”
I look across. To my horror, there is Isis, following her way along the playground fence as we often do when we are walking back to the car park. At the end of the fence is an exit to Avenue Road and a busy junction.
With the same ploughing through treacle feeling which characterises many nightmares, I stumble towards her. Now and again she stops to sniff and I think it might be possible to get to her before she reaches the end of the fence. But each time she moves on too soon for me to make up any ground.
Everything seems to slow down like those dramatic moments in films where the victim moves in slow motion towards the edge of the cliff.
Isis is at the end of the fence. She moves towards the barrier, walks round it. But she doesn’t pick up the path on the other side of the exit, which we always do when she is with me on her lead.
She walks out of the park and onto the pavement.
I stop breathing.
There’s no-one near her, no-one I can call out to, ask to grab her. She sniffs towards the busy road as I scramble towards her.
Fantasies flash into my mind. Fantasies of screaming dogs and screeching brakes, of a little limp white heap in the road.
Then she stops at the kerb.
She turns round and stands still.
The last few steps I have to take to reach her seem to take for ever.
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