Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday February 14th 2021
It’s Monday, and we’ve arranged to meet Bev and the doodles again at Holders Lane.
I’m a little apprehensive after Saturday’s debacle. I don’t want to spoil our friends’ walk. Well, I decide, if the worst comes to the worst, and Isis again refuses to move – which, of course, I am convinced will happen – I’ll just have to suggest that they continue without us.
Then I’ll see if I can persuade Isis to at least have a little sniff around in a quiet woody place close to the car park.
The Doodle Gang arrives, and we make our way up into the woods. Once off lead, Isis is hesitant. She stops and sniffs around, then slowly sets foot on the path. I recount to Bev Saturday’s disappointment, and tell her that I expect it to be a very slow walk.
“But, Pat,” says she indignantly, “It was only her third time in this park. Remember what she was like for months when you first brought her to Kings Heath Park, and when you introduced her to Highbury. Look at her now. Her tail’s up and she’s sniffing away. She can take as long as she wants; we’re not in a hurry.”
As if to prove Bev’s point, Isis ambles slowly along with us. She pauses often to sniff the scents.
“You’re expecting too much of her,” continues my companion. Give her a chance. She needs to get used to the terrain. Let her go at her own pace.”
So we do. She follows Rufus and Nancy, snuffling where they snuffle, and, after a while, finding her own scents to investigate.
We let her stop when she wants to, and carefully guide her when there are tricky obstacles like bridges, ponds, huge logs or impenetrable thickets.
She is entranced when we pause in areas heavily frequented by various tunnelling animals. Whether the entrances are too small to accommodate her whiffling nose or large enough for her to shove in her whole head, she walks on the spot as she sniffs and sniffs and sniffs.
She stays close to us, and, much more frequently than usual, her spotty pink nose connects with my hand or leg.
It is obvious that she is a very happy dog and enjoying herself immensely.
Over the next few days, I think about Bev’s observations, and how strange it is that it often takes another person to see what someone is doing.
She is absolutely right. I have become so used to Isis being independent in the places she knows that I’m treating her like an ordinary dog.
How could I be so stupid?
On our next two or three visits with the Doodle Gang, Isis is still careful, but her confidence grows by the day. There are several little wooden bridges across the paths through the woods. Until she gets familiar with the their layout, one of the humans shepherds her over them. Soon though, she is able to navigate them herself.
She is so much more relaxed now.
So am I. Too relaxed, in fact, so that when we take a different path one day, I forget that she doesn’t know the bridges on this route.
She walks over the side of the first bridge. Fortunately, it’s a shallow drop and she lands on her feet. It’s still muddy under foot, and the ditch is lined with a thick layer of fallen leaves, so she comes to no harm. Momentarily, she looks a little surprised, but soon climbs the little bank back up to the path, and carries on as though nothing has happened.
One day, while Isis and I are walking alone, we come across a young man looking into one of the small ponds. He walks down from the pond as Isis and I walk up towards it. Knowing that Isis, unaware, of course, of the approach of walkers, joggers and cyclists alike, will almost certainly walk into him, I grasp her collar and move her aside. But he tells me that he likes dogs, and doesn’t care if she walks into him.
He asks me about my unusual looking Isis as many people do, and I tell him about her. He is intrigued by her story. Isis approaches him and carefully walks round him sniffing his trousers. Then she returns and stands by my side.
From dogs, we move on to talk about nature in general. The parakeets are particularly vocal today, and he tells me of his father’s delight when he first heard the squawk of a Birmingham parakeet! Parakeets originate in the Punjab where his dad lived, apparently, and this is where he had last heard them.
We go on to talk about environmental issues, the efforts now being made to balance the needs of populations with their natural environments, of experimental rewilding projects on large estates, about urban forests and city centre parks. It transpires that A works in conservation.
We talk for at least thirty minutes. Apart from another careful sniff around my companion’s trousers, Isis stands still by my side. She’s not done this before. I wonder if it’s because I am talking to a stranger, and she feels I’m her responsibility!
As soon as we set off again, she trots ahead to her newly established favourite place, high up, next to the fences which mark a boundary between the woods and the bottoms of gardens.
Here, she goes into play mode.
So we both have a memorable walk.
And, for the icing on the cake, as they say, on the way back to the car we come across my friend Am. Because of Lockdown, we’ve not met for months.
Isis are in Holders Woods for three hours, and it’s been brilliant.
*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