Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday February 7th 2021
‘Never count your chickens before they are hatched’ is a proverb which one should always keep in mind when predicting how Isis will respond to events. Likewise, assuming a problem is solved just tempts fate. I remember this soon after last Friday’s successful walk with Bev, Nancy and Rufus in Cannon Hill Park.
It has rained over night yet again. There is no question of paddling round the claggy waste which Highbury has become. Thank goodness Bev reintroduced us to Cannon Hill.
On Saturday, with high hopes, I take Isis there again. I decide that we’ll take it very slowly, introduce these new spaces a little at a time. Today she can enjoy being off-lead, exploring the two sports pitches, maybe even the small fields which are adjacent to them: they’re all only a short walk from the car park.
I set off enthusiastically: a lot more enthusiastically than my hairy companion who looks anxious and drags her feet.
We follow the same route out of the car park as we did last time, but now our progress is not encouraging. I have to urge her on every step of the way down the slope. When she heaves herself left or right, towards whichever side of the path I have chosen not to walk on, I block her. When she refuses to move, I walk close behind her with my shins against her reluctant bottom.
At last we reach the wide, grassy edge of the all weather surface pitch. Thank Dog for that. I unclip her lead so that she can have a good sniff around. But she doesn’t care for a sniff around – good or otherwise. She’s not stupid. She knows exactly where the car is.
She doesn’t retrace her pawsteps. No need. Instead, she takes a short cut, setting off briskly up the very steep, and extremely slippery bank which separates us from the car park.
The car park!
I scramble up after her, like a drunken spider, and almost, but not quite, on my hands and knees. Because it’s so wet and muddy, I’m wearing wellington boots, not walking boots, and struggle to keep my grip.
I manage to catch up with her just as she arrives on the other side of the fence.
What is the matter with her? It’s a dull day. There’s no threatening sun.
Let’s try again.
This time she refuses point blank to walk to the path, let alone along it, and I can’t face the hassle of chivvying her. We’ll return the way we came up. Not a sensible idea, but there’s a strong looking shrub which I can hang onto, and gravity will be against her once she begins the descent.
We reach the bottom without incident. Now she begin to have a serious, in fact urgent, sniff around. Oh, good, this is more like it!
Yes, the sniff is definitely urgent. Urgent, but brief. A poop.
As I am desperately trying to open a bag to collect it, she hurries back up the bank we’ve just descended.
I utter a barrage of expletives as I clamber hurry after her. The ascent is even more difficult with a poop bag dangling from one hand and her lead from the other, but one must look for silver linings – at least there’s a dog bin at the top.
Perhaps I can persuade her to walk in the opposite direction this time.
I can, but only just, and it’s very hard going. Walking bent over so that I can pat, stroke and under-chin tap her every foot along the way is not a relaxing experience. At one point, I trip and fall over her in a chuntering arch, my hands sinking up to the wrists in soggy earth.
Now and again I encourage her to leave the path and walk a foot or two up into the woodland, but it’s a thankless task. She just wants to go back to the car.
Well, at least she’s had some exercise. But I feel defeated and irritable. Our other open spaces – even Jasmin Fields – are submerged in mud and, as we know, she balks at pavement walks unless it’s pouring or snowing.
If she’s not going to enjoy Cannon Hill, where the hell can she go?
Sunday is dull and there’s a steady drizzle, so we walk to Kings Heath Park. Yes, we’ll both emerge wet and filthy, but she’ll be happy.
She is. She scampers joyfully around the first big, splodgy field, kicking up clumps of mud and splattering it onto her undercarriage. She paddles merrily through all the deep puddles, and she seems pleased to be reunited with the old bowling green.
Clearly, all the children in Kings Heath have been sledging down the bank. There are only one or two narrow strips of grass left. Apart from these, the surface of the bank gleams like a newly glazed chocolate cake.
Even Isis struggles to reach the top.
As it’s still drizzling remorselessly, she trots home in her deep brown knee socks, without dragging her feet. She’s happy.
She’s not happy with the next stage, though. It’s a bath. And a very thorough one too.
Generally, Hairy One’s coat is easy to care for even when the weather is excessively revolting. On rare occasions, I wash her feet in a bowl outside the front door. Sometimes she just has her feet wiped. Usually, though, I spread a large towel over the day bed, let her jump onto it, and, as the mud dries, it drops off.
Her coat, though, takes a long time to dry. After much towelling, she’s still very damp and looks somewhat sorry for herself. When I settle beside her, around midnight, she creeps up to me and wriggles around the contours of my body until she’s very close. Then she gives two or three little heaves to push herself even closer, puts her head on my knee and falls asleep.
Like many dogs, Isis finds being bathed a nasty experience. Perhaps she also feels she’s being punished. Maybe this is why she feels upset, and wants to be close.
She doesn’t feel damp any longer, but I’m anxious that she may be cold when the heating switches off. I’m still not sure if it’s because I think I need to monitor her overnight, or because I’m overcome by her sad little face. Whichever, I clean my teeth upstairs, put on my stripy onesie (in which, by the way, I look totally ridiculous) collect an extra pillow and return downstairs.
In the early hours, I feel her move away, and realise that she’s fine.
But where shall we walk tomorrow?
(To be continued.)
*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