Posting days: Sunday and Wednesday and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday November 11th 2018
Today I realise that whenever I see, hear or think about Isis, I feel very, very proud of her.
I admire my brave little dog immensely.
When we arrive at Highbury Park, the light conditions are as frightening for her as they could be. The sun shoots in and out whenever it feels like it, casting large, unstable patterns of shade across the gravelled surface of the car park, the asphalt of the path we need to cross and the grass beyond.
Isis’s ears are drawn back and lie flat on her head, her curled under tail has disappeared from sight, and she crouches down low beside one of the car’s back wheels.
But she doesn’t scrabble for the nearest car door.
Perhaps she is too fear-frozen to move.
This is no time for impatient tugs on her harness or blocking tactics, so it’s very probable that she’ll just remain where she is.
I can only stroke her, try to reassure her. At one time I would have abandoned the walk, picked her up, put her back in the car and taken her home; however, now I know her well enough to realise that she is battling with her fight/flight impulses. She is terrified but she very much wants to walk in the park.
A young lady approaches along the main path.
“Oh dear”, she says, “He or she is terrified. What’s the matter?”
I explain poor Hairy One’s predicament.
“Well,” she says, “I’ll stand back and keep my dog well away from her while she goes across.”
I am a little embarrassed and explain that she might take a very long time to decide to cross, or might not cross at all.
Clearly, the kind young lady has more faith in Isis than I do: she and her well behaved dog stand back.
After a few seconds, still cowering, and very, very carefully, little Isis crosses the path and steps onto the grass.
I try to guide her along our usual walk down over the big meadow towards the stream, but she steadfastly refuses to be guided and tugs towards the nearby thicket.
I expect that once she reaches the edge of the thicket, she’ll lean into it and refuse to move.
Humans can be so stupid, and also so sure that they are right. It takes minutes before the most sensible option occurs to me: let Isis lead the way. She knows what she wants.
She creeps to the edge of the thicket, leans into it and slowly follows its edge round into the next grassy area.
Sensible dog. O.K., follow her lead.
I free her. Immediately, her tail pops back up. She is cautious but no longer afraid.
I follow her as she sniffs her way through the long undergrowth towards a group of trees and shrubs.
Now she finds her way to the edge of the path and follows it until she arrives opposite to one of the areas where she was first allowed to run free. She crosses the path and makes her way briskly towards the steep bank which leads to the next level. She then strides confidently towards the boggy patch close to the edge of the park.
There are allotments on the other side of a tall, strong fence, while on our side narrow tracks run virtually all the way from the High Street to the Moor Green Lane entrances.
It is not unusual for Isis to check in with me now and again, but I am surprised by her behaviour today, and very impressed.
She continues to walk in front of me, sniffing her way skillfully along the winding track.
Each time that she finds herself about three metres ahead, she stops until I catch her up, and lifts her head to sniff my hand before walking on. We walk this way and that along the winding tracks for well over an hour, and all the time she follows the same pattern: forward for three metres, stop, wait, check in with Human and set off again.
I wonder whether her diligence arises from a memory of getting lost last week, but think it’s more likely a result of our growing understanding of and trust in each other.
Today I notice another pattern of behaviour which seems to confirm this. Because she is blind and deaf, touch and smell, obviously, have to be our main means of communication.
Ever since she was first allowed to walk off- lead, I have touched her face or tapped her under her chin to direct her.
But Isis isn’t always keen on touch. In the past touching has often irritated her and caused her to be growl and snap. Obviously, I persist. I have to.
I have to touch-guide her quite often today, but not once does she flinch or growl, let alone snap.
We have a brilliant walk.
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