Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday August 30th 2020
August 5th and it’s one of those uncertain weather days.
It’s OK, but only just. Isis plays tentatively. Her weather nose is telling her that the sun might suddenly blaze out and kick those menacing shadows onto the grass.
It’s not long before she approaches the log on which I’m sitting, and comes over to stand by my side. This is a relatively new routine, one which has developed over the summer months. Before, if she was anxious, she’d creep, cowering, up towards the car park.
But now she seeks out Human and waits. I greet her and give her a series of light, rapid pats either side of her waist while jogging on the spot. This is supposed to communicate excitement and tell her “Go-go-go!” If she’s just come to check in with me, the pats will ‘release’ her, sending her bounding off for more adventures.
Today, she doesn’t bound off. She looks serious. She sits down.
She’s not happy. The sky looks the same to me. I can’t detect any threats. There’s still quite a strong breeze. There are still grey clouds, but nothing ominous. But what does a mere human know?
I get up from the log and tap her to follow. She’s reluctant. At one time, that would have been the end of the walk. She’d have refused to move in any direction other than towards the car park, and even then it would have been very much a stop and start, pull and push journey.
Again it’s only over the last few months that this has changed. Now, however the light is behaving, she’ll come with me if we’re joined by her lead. If sun and shadows are playing very silly games, she’ll need her harness on too so that I can restrain her without strangling her.
Today, the lead is enough. As she feels it being clipped to her collar, she relaxes, lifts her tail and wags it briefly. Yes, she’ll come.
I let her choose the route. Now she’s looking chirpy again, and I unclip her lead. She walks towards the stream. The bank is steep here. She can’t stretch down far enough to judge the distance, so I place a hand firmly either side of her waist to let her know that it’s safe. She drops into the water, has a couple of laps and then climbs out on the opposite bank and waits for me.
I’m extending my left leg towards the stream when I remember. “**** it in a bucket,” I mutter to myself, “Don’t be stupid. That leg’s not reliable.”
Getting old really sucks, doesn’t it?
I wish to avoid the indignity of sitting on the bank to effect my crossing. Looking around, I notice that the slim lower branches of a young oak overhang the stream. They’re only a few inches above my head. Ah, there’s an easy way out.
I grasp a branch in either hand and launch myself from the bank.
As I do so, the branches sweep rapidly down over the water, snatch themselves from my grasp and deposit me on my back in the stream with a resounding SMERBLUNK!
Then they snap back into their rightful position.
I glance up at Isis. She doesn’t appear even slightly surprised. Well, she’s lived with me for almost seven years.
The bad news – it goes without saying, but somehow balances the sentence nicely – is that I am very wet. The good news is that the phone in my breast pocket is perfectly dry. This is not, I hasten to add, because I am well endowed, but because the stream is relatively shallow.
I lever myself out of the water. Dammit, we’re not going home yet. We’ve hardly been here half an hour. I don’t feel very comfortable, but I’ll soon get used to it.
We both scrabble our way up the steep slope which leads to the back of the pond, and make our way onto the narrow earth path.
When I first brought Isis along the path, I had to guide her round every protruding trunk and every watery inlet. After three guided tours, she was confident enough to do it herself. Now she enjoys coming this way and never falters.
When we emerge from the path, we walk up towards the beech wood. Soon we meet S. with his dog Gemma. I explain why I have taken on the appearance of Stig of the Dump.
S sniggers. It’s about then that we feel the first dots of rain.
“Oh, gosh,” says S, as the dots become splodges, “I’ll be getting on home.”
Within minutes, the wood empties people, children and dogs onto the steep slope which leads down to the pond.
Clumps of sunbathers rise from the grass and scatter towards the main exit.
Soon the shower becomes a downpour.
I smile widely. Isis leaps up with joy.
We stay in Highbury for almost two hours. The rain becomes heavier and heavier.
But we don’t give a damn.
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