Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday December 29th 2019
Since the beginning of the Months of the Mud, Isis and I have a tussle every time we step out of the car in Highbury Park. It is all a matter of opinion, I guess. I think that it makes sense to walk along the main, tarmacked path, eschewing the muddy morass on the left, while Isis is convinced that she should be allowed to plough her way down the left side of the field and lollop about in the mud.
She is a very stubborn animal, and is quite prepared to jump backwards on stiff, resisting little legs until she manages to pull her harness over her head, under her chin and around the tops of her front legs. This is infuriating, as one is then forced to remove one’s gloves, scrabble through her hairy coat, locate three stiff clips, force them open – no mean feat when one’s hands are numb with cold – replace the harness and shove all the clips back in.
By which time, as I hiss menacingly into the nearest pink and hairy ear, “I am very cross!”
It’s not polite to yell, “NO!” at your dog, I’m told, and quite unacceptable in good dog training circles.
I yell “NO!” very loudly close to her ears. She knows that I mean business. Sometimes she walks on. Sometimes she doesn’t.
Today is a doesn’t day, so, after a surreptitious glance behind us to make sure that someone isn’t on the phone to the RSPCA, I haul her by her harness back onto the path and frogmarch her along it.
Her response is to lean as far to the left as she can without scraping the ground.
This does not make dog walking a relaxing experience. My next tactic is to nip over to her left side. She is forced to desist from imitating a motorcyclist on the wall of death, and, after a few attempts to cut across me and trip me up, she gives in, puts her tail back up and walks demurely along by my side.
As I explain to her time and again, we’re going to some of her favourite places, and she’ll have a lovely walk.
She perks up as we near the pond, and concentrates on some serious sniffing.
We walk carefully up the grassy slope below the beech wood, and I unclip her lead. She can run along by the hedge as we walk up. She enjoys that.
But no, she’d prefer to dash through one of the gaps in the new hedge plantings, and go wade through the swamp which used to be her rose bay willow herb plantation.
Click. Back on the lead. Now we bear to the left where it is possible to release the recreant once more.
Sniff. Sniff. Oh joy! The pine avenue! It’s months since she’s played here. She shoots into the trees and segues into an ecstatic dance.
Oh well, it’s probably easier to deal with the prickly stems dropped by the pines than it is to give Isis a bath. And, anyway, she’s very happy.
Eventually, she lies down under the tree, thus embedding the stems even more firmly into her coat.
After persuading her to crawl out, I pick off a handful of lose pine stems, and off we go. To avoid the quagmire of the track, we cross the stream.
Brilliant. Her coat may be decorated with pine stems, but it’s completely free of mud. I remove her harness and we amble happily across the flower meadow. While she explores the undergrowth, I drift off into a contented day dream.
Suddenly, I’m jerked rudely back to the present by dark, dirty looking clods of something flying past me. Eeeeeek! What’s she doing? She’ll be filthy.
She’s having a wonderful time, but, magically, she doesn’t appear to be any dirtier.
She is standing on top of what looks like a thatched mound. Cuttings from the final pre-winter mowing have formed a thick cover over fallen trunks and branches, and Hairy One is enthusiastically scraping them off to reveal the hidden treasure. When she has finished, she stands on the branches, wagging her tail triumphantly.
As her tail wags, a large, barbed pine stem is revealed. It’s over a foot long, is caught under
her tail and sticks out either side. It’s firmly tethered in her hair and wound tightly against her skin.
Detaching her hair from the stem is a two handed job, but, as usual when I’m trying to help her, she’s very cooperative. I snap off small pieces of the stem, one at a time, unwind the hairs from one section, then break off the next. In order to avoid hurting her, I have to unwind most of the hairs only two or three at a time.
Releasing this long stem takes about fifteen minutes. By which time Isis is more than ready to move on.
She trots by my side to the next playground: the log-in -the-long-grass. Here, she eagerly follows the trail I make by dragging her tugger along the ground, finds it, claims it and jogs away to find a comfortable spot in which to chew it.
There’s a strong, cold breeze blowing across the park, and already the air seems drier. I return to the car with a very clean, contented dog.
I told you you’d enjoy yourself, Isis.
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