Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday August 9th 2020
“Hmmmm,” I think to myself as I bite into my Vacon, egg and dog hair sandwich.
“It’s July and she’s still not finished moulting.”
It’s been a strange year for moulting, at least as far as Isis goes.
Much earlier, her spring moult appears to conform to the norm. I can see ripples of her loosening winter layer beneath her top coat.
Then, suddenly, the temperature dips and her hair stops dropping. This intrigues me. Do animals stop moulting if it becomes significantly colder? It would make sense, but I have no idea.
After a few weeks, it warms up again, and soon, tempting little triangles of hair appear. They’re just waiting to be plucked.
But although the soft, warm wedges of fluff are loose, not attached to her skin, she objects strongly to my attentions. She doesn’t growl or snap. She moves away, her body language clearly saying, “Gerroff!”
It’s the right time for a fluff harvest as many of the garden and park birds are looking for nesting material.
After each grooming session, I take huge handfuls of hair to Highbury. It doesn’t stay around for long. For a while, even the crows are more interested in gathering nesting material than in food.
I’ve not known her to produce such a huge amount of hair, nor over such a long period.
Now, of course, the moulting is done. But her coat still feels very thick.
I wriggle my fingers down into her coat feeling for burrs and seeds, but it’s so dense I can’t feel her skin. The only glimpses of pink I see are among the sparse hair of her undercarriage, around her nose, and, of course, inside her ears: ears which close like hairy clam shells at the merest suspicion of a probing finger. Fortunately, so far, her ears have always been clean and healthy so a quick sniff and inspection is all she’s needed.
When it’s time for preemptive flea treatment, though, we struggle. It’s impossible to expose a site big enough to accommodate even one whole drop of the stuff. By the time we’re done, there are dozens of tiny, fractured pinpricks of liquid scattered around the base of her skull and her neck.
Recent heatwaves have brought temperatures hotter than Isis has experienced since she came to England almost seven years ago, and she spends a large part of several ‘walks’ lying in deep shade gnawing intermittently on a stick.
She eschews the garden too, instead playing wild games indoors in the late afternoon and evening.
“Come on,” I tell her, “You’re a Portuguese dog. “You’re supposed to need a coat in winter and take summer in your stride.”
She doesn’t comment.
On Friday, for the first time since March, we visit J. in the grounds of his sheltered living accommodation. We sit outside, of course. Isis would prefer to romp in J’s flat but she frightens his little budgie and is banned.
After a while, she finds a boundary and flies around its metal posts for a while. Then she comes to lie by me in the shade.
R, who lives next door to J, has his daughter visiting. Soon, they emerge from R’s flat with chairs and sit outside in the shade with their beers, leaving the door behind them open.
Isis takes a stroll and the next time I check she’s trespassing by the semicircle of potted geraniums which surround R.’s door.
She’s sniffing hard.
I leap up to retrieve her, but she refuses to budge. Embarrassing animal. I hesitate to give her a shove or hiss admonitions into her ear as I know these nice people will be upset.
J has told them all about Isis. They’ve seen her before. They think she’s beautiful. In their eyes, she can do no wrong.
“She’s all right,” calls R’s daughter, “We don’t mind.”
I explain the likely outcome for the pots, and try again to move the stubbornly disobedient animal.
“Oh, let her be,” they insist, and R’s daughter comes over to move some of the flowers to clear a path for the Hairy One!
Isis, of course, can’t see the path, so she walks carefully round the outside of the remaining pots, lifting her head to sniff the air as she goes. She’s obviously picked up a scent and is determined to follow it to its source. She finally hones in on the open door.
Oh no! She walks slowly onto the door mat in order to sniff at the open door. I don’t think she will venture inside, but really, we don’t stand sniffing at neighbours’ doors. It just isn’t done – and, oh my dog, what if she pees on the mat?
Once more I approach the little pest whose whiffling nose is getting closer and closer to the doorstep.
“She’s fine,” they call. “Relax. If you’re bothered, close the door.”
This I do, and return to my seat. After a few minutes, to my astonishment, Isis extends her front legs, drops her rump and settles in a majestic lion pose on the door mat.
Here she stays.
I can’t imagine what is causing her to behave in this way. Approaching people is not her thing, ever. As for sitting on their door mat. No way.
I wonder, as I have done on so many occasions before, what is prompting her strange behaviour.
When R gets up to replenish the beer supply, is Isis intimidated?
Not in the slightest.
I expect her to run away, but no, she moves politely aside – just enough to enable him to enter. She looks very pleased when he leaves the door slightly ajar. She puts her nose against the crack and sniffs, and sniffs and sniffs.
I know that she’s not sniffing food smells. She’s not a food driven dog. What is she up to?
When R emerges, he says, “I know what it is.”
He explains that they have left a very large fan on in the flat to keep the air circulating and there is also a gap under the door.
Then I notice that the transom window is wide open and the drawn blinds behind it are moving too and fro.
We all return to our seats and Isis returns to her vantage point and her whiffling. I imagine she’s lifting up her nose and letting it drop in time with the rhythm of the fan.
She is utterly contented.
Towards evening, the air cools and she comes to lie beside my chair.
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