Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday December 22nd 2019
Isis and I have been to Kings Heath Park most days over the last two weeks. Temporarily, it has taken the place of Highbury as our ‘all weather’ park. I’ve only found two areas in Highbury where Isis can run free without both of us becoming plastered with mud. These are the landscaped area above the walled garden, and the burr log by the lower park entrance.
When it’s sunny, Isis won’t walk up to the landscaped area, and we don’t always feel like a deburring session, so the bank above the old bowling green in Kings Heath Park has become our default exercise spot.
There are disadvantages: I have to guard the little fir tree which Isis unkindly beheaded some weeks ago. An additional hazard is that other dogs enjoy chasing one another across the old green, and are inclined, upon spotting Hairy One engaged in strange rituals, to trot up the bank to investigate.
Nowadays Hairy One is much less afraid of other members of her species than she used to be. Once or twice lately she has surprised me, after intruders have left, by popping back through her hole in the hedge escape route, and resuming her bank play.
Toss-and-gallop is one of her favourite games. It goes like this: you lie down for a few minutes, nonchalantly chewing on your toy, then you leap up in the air and spin. Simultaneously, you release the toy. Then you gallop around before slowing down, sniffing out the toy and retrieving it.
One day she is playing on the bank with her orange tugger. An energetic toss-and-gallop game is in full swing when no fewer than four dogs arrive on the bank in quick succession. None of the dogs jumps on her, or takes the tugger, but she surrenders her toy and disappears through the hedge onto the next level.
I can see a faint white cloud hovering behind the hedge, and once the other dogs have departed, Isis emerges from the hole looking troubled and begins to search for the tugger. She sniffs around, undercarriage close to the ground. Usually she sniffs out her toys very quickly, but she can’t find the tugger, and is looking a little agitated.
I pick it up and return it to her, and she resumes her play.
The next day, as soon as I release her onto the old green, she trots happily up onto the bank. While she’s having a good sniff at whatever has happened since yesterday, I place the tugger on the bank and pull it down over the grass. As a challenge for her, I make quite a long trail. Before I turn to walk over to the dog bin, I see that she’s already picked up the scent and is on her way to the tugger.
When I turn round – it can only be a minute later – both Isis and the tugger have disappeared.
I walk up to the Colour Garden, her retreat of first choice. There’s no sign of her. I make my way back by the side of the basket ball court, through the shrubs at the bottom and onto the grassy mound, another place she likes to be.
There she is, dancing exuberantly near the border of shrubs. But there’s no sign of the tugger. Damn. She’s dropped it somewhere along the way.
But that’s unusual. She doesn’t leave her toys behind unless she thinks another dog intends to challenge her.
How strange. She wouldn’t have hidden it, would she?
I walk past her and part the branches of the nearest shrubs.
There is the tugger, hidden behind a holly bush.
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