Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday May 31st 2020
Even Jake has had enough of TV and boxed sets.
Photo taken by Bev.
And yes, things have changed for Isis and me. Medication which I take for the rheumatoid arthritis puts me on the ‘very vulnerable, should shield and stay at home’ list in order to protect myself and the NHS.
Although Isis needs her walk, I do respect the NHS workers, so, in March, I stop going into shops, and begin rising ridiculously early in order to reach the park and return home well before normal people emerge.
So Human who was never a morning person, suddenly becomes one.
When we first begin leaving the house at the crack of dawn, I wonder if the Hairy One will object. But no, whatever time I wake her in the morning, like most dogs, she is alert and delighted that her day is beginning.
Once we’re out of the house, I, too begin to enjoy the earliness of the morning.
Lack of traffic pollution and engine noise encourage one to relax and to breathe more deeply, and the many species of birds in the park all seem to be trilling, or warbling or squawking more loudly than ever before.
On many occasions, mine is the only car in the car park, and it’s at least an hour before we even see a jogger in the distance.
It’s interesting to note who regularly visits the park at this time. I guess the one or two very early joggers and dog walkers I see are people who usually come to the park before they set off for work, or those who, unlike me, enjoy leaping from their beds a few hours after they’ve crept into them. Who knows, these strange beings may even go to bed early.
After a day or two, we virtuous ones recognise one another and wave. These greetings feel good in this time of plague, when we must all keep away from one another.
There’s the quiet young man who arranges ropes and rings over the branch of a certain tree and exercises there to the subdued sounds of reggae. There’s a smiley man who always tells Isis she’s beautiful. His lovely German Shepherd bitch likes to stalk the field mice which nest under logs in the wildflower meadow. She’s a gentle creature, and never tries to attack them.
We often see the lady with the hairy dog who likes to lick my ear (the dog, not the lady) as I sit on a felled tree trunk near one of Isis’s play areas. And we often come across B, whose circle of arty friends meet on Zoom to take it in turn to propose a subject for them all to represent, in any way they wish, during the following week.
Often, Rufus and Nancy find us, and Bev and I settle down on the half felled ancient oak to chat: we sit on separate logs, two metres or more apart, of course.
Now and then, my friend M. hoves into view with his little Westie, Rosie. We always talk, and M. always becomes so engrossed in the conversation that I have to remind him about safe distancing.
When we return home, a couple of hours later, Isis makes short work of her breakfast. She then waits in the back room, until she becomes aware that Human is passing the door with her breakfast.
This prompts Isis to follow. If she is feeling relaxed and satisfied with the state of things, she stretches herself out on the rug. On the other hand, if she’s feeling particularly frisky, she sneaks up to the table and interrupts the passage of my Shredded Wheat from spoon to mouth by casually scratching my leg, or attempting to clean her breakfasty whiskers on my elbow.
Although she can’t hear, a bellowed expletive followed by a deep, growly “No!”, generally does the trick. Perhaps she can feel the negative vibes.
Often, she’ll bark very crossly. This is serious. The sun is shining on the rug and I must draw the blinds – like now!
As I eat, I read the news on my phone and Isis sleeps contentedly.
The next part of the daily routine, she does not approve of: I gather my stuff together and go upstairs to my art space.
Now, there is no reason that she shouldn’t continue to sleep peacefully on her rug. She does so in ‘normal’ times, while I potter around downstairs. Then, it’s only when I go out that she retreats to her back room bed.
I know she’s affronted by my disappearance upstairs, but I’ve made a pact with myself to draw, paint and/or research oil painting techniques which I’ve never learned, and to do this for at least three hours every day.
Even though I creep away, and tiptoe upstairs taking care not to trip or to drop anything, she’s never in the room when I return. She’s retreated to the solace of her back room and our day bed.
After two or three hours, I go down, greet her, give her a Markie and open the back door before returning upstairs.
The art space overlooks the back garden, so I can keep an eye on her. To be fair, unless something has upset or unnerved her, she’s a contented little dog, and will often stay in the garden, playing with toys until early evening. Sometimes she’ll stay outside until I fetch her in for her evening meal.
Once she has retired, however, things are very different.
When sharing the day bed with Isis, one has to be very circumspect about how one moves. And since, invariably, she lies across the width of the space, rather than the length, move one must, sooner or later.
I find any activity, or even inactivity, impossible for more than a few minutes if my knees are drawn up under my chin, or my legs folded beneath me.
Even a very careful, toe by toe shift in position, or a thoughtless leg stretch, is likely to provoke a disgruntled growl
An affectionate pat? Out of the question, unless I know for sure that she is awake. It is true that the once frequent leaps in the air accompanied by hysterical growling and tail grabbing occur much less now. Even so, one can’t take liberties.
Isis, I note, like her person, does not alter her bedtime to suit the new circumstances imposed upon her. Dog’s preferred bedtime evidently, is nine p.m. and she insists that this is respected.
At human bedtime, our final routine is ‘seek the treats’. Strangely enough, she never objects to being awoken for this.
I let her out into the garden while I ‘hide’ a couple of treats in her dog bed and one under my desk.
I retain two gravy bones and retire to the kitchen to make coffee.
I have to be quick though, as by now she has shot in from the garden, found the treats and is waiting for the next bit of action.
A hairy head peers round the door. I remove her collar and hang it on a knob in the hall. If this isn’t completed within thirty seconds, a reminder is issued in the form of a sharp woof.
Now I need to stick very carefully to the rules. I sit on the day bed with six bits of broken up gravy bone in my hand. Isis steps carefully behind me and sits on my left side.
At this point, a gentle hug is allowed, as long as it doesn’t hold up the proceedings for more than a few seconds.
And then it’s down to business. With my left hand, I offer her five pieces of gravy bone, one by one. These she lifts gently from my hand.
Because she used to fly into an hysterical rage when the treat flow ceased, I warn her that the next one is the last one, by putting two fingers firmly on her back. She lies down and I curl my fist loosely around the remaining treat.
She enjoys teasing it out from between my fingers, if necessary, holding the fist down with a paw.
When I have risen, very slowly and carefully, and left the room, she takes over the space which I always occupy, and settles down to sleep.
That’s the perfect scenario.
Things aren’t always perfect, but that’s another story.
Lockdown is working fine for Isis and me.
*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