My apologies to readers who receive the blog through emails. The blog appeared on Sunday – well, in the early hours of Monday – and went through to Facebook but didn’t ‘publish’ here.
Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday February 21st 2021
After our serendipitous encounter last week, Am. and I arrange to meet in Holders Lane Woods the following Sunday.
I’ve seen little of Am., even from a distance, over the last eighteen months. She has been working continuously on an important project.
Sunday will be the first day of a short break for her. She needs to exit work mode and relax; additionally, we have a lot of catching up to do. Isis is becoming used to walking through the woods, and needs much less supervision now. What better than a calm, stress free walk?
We meet by the car park notice board. We do, though, eschew a visit to one of Hairy’s favourite spots where the edge of the woods abuts several back gardens. All but one of these are secured by high fences. It is, of course, the one without a fence which attracts Isis.
Its boundary is marked only by a row of closely planted leylandii. On our very first visit to this spot two or three weeks ago, Isis runs excitedly up to the trees, sticks her nose into them and begins to snuffle and snort. She then pats the foliage with a front paw, steps back and goes into a prolonged twirl. Clearly, she would be content to stay here all day.
Each time we set out along the beginning of the path, she makes a beeline for exactly the same spot and enacts the same routine. I conclude that someone furry squeezes through an invisible space and uses it as a cat run. She is inordinately keen to make the acquaintance of this cat.
Since she enjoys herself so much, and there is no threat to the cat, who, sensibly, is always conspicuous by her absence, I usually sit on a log close by and let Isis play.
The day before I meet up with Am., however, things change. I rarely take my eyes off Isis for more than a few seconds. On this occasion, I believe I looked up to see if I could spot a bird which was chirruping above my head. When I turned back to Isis, there was an empty space.
I raced up to the leylandii, parted the branches and peered through them. Yes, there was Isis standing on an immaculate lawn, sniffing the grass and waving her tail optimistically. I ran round to where the trees ended, and captured her.
Hearing loud, indignant barking, I looked up to see a springer spaniel protesting from behind a french window, and a man approaching the window to see what was going on. I acknowledged him with what I hoped he would recognise as an apologetic wave, and beat a hasty retreat.
So when Am. and I meet for our walk, I keep Isis on her lead until we have passed the track leading up to the cat run. After that, we agree, we’ll just let Isis meander as she chooses and we’ll follow her.
Although I can see that Am. worries about Isis crossing the little bridges on her own, nothing untoward happens as we make our way through the woods and down to the meadows. On the way we do some parakeet spotting, and admire the hazel catkins, and Isis explores some of the little tracks.
When we emerge from the meadows, we turn back.
We are enjoying our walk. When we reach the hazels again, we pause to discuss the cutting back which has been done in the park.
We are standing in a clearing, our backs to a plantation of tall, dense shrubs and brambles. Isis stands a couple of feet behind us.
Please excuse the poor quality of the images below, but they do convey the height and density of the area.
After a few minutes, we are ready to set off. I turn round, taking care not to tread on Isis.
I needn’t have bothered.
I rush to peer into the tangle of stems and brambles. No, she couldn’t possibly have forced her way through this.
I run along the edge of the plantation to the right. Am. runs to the left. There is no space we can get through to look for her. We walk up and down hoping to catch a glimpse of her through the undergrowth.
Eventually, there’s a white flash of tail, right at the bottom, beneath a group of trees. She must have struggled all the way through the mass of stems until she reached a line of impenetrable bramble thickets, then made her way as far to the left side as she could get before finding herself surrounded by more brambles.
She catches our scent and lifts her head in our direction. Her tail waves hopefully. She tries again and again to move towards us, but she can’t find a way out.
There is no choice. Impossible though it seems, I will have to make my way in to rescue her. I fight my way a few feet forward. It’s very difficult to move through the knee high brambles without tripping up, let alone push the tall stems apart at the same time. After ten minutes, I’ve only advanced about six feet.
I don’t surrender easily, but I suddenly realise that even if I am able to reach Isis, there is no way I can get her out. She’s too heavy for me to carry more than a few feet on any terrain. Even if I were able to carry her, I’d not have a free hand to push aside the stems and branches to allow us to get back. I couldn’t contemplate dragging her through the brambles on her lead. She would be torn apart.
Because, of course, she cannot see, there is no way that she can find an exit. I realise that she feels trapped, and is becoming anxious Then she does what she always does when she feels stuck. She stands very still and waits for help.
What the hell are we going to do?
Then a man with a dog appears on the path. He can’t see Isis, but guesses there’s a dog in trouble. He is a strong looking middle aged man. He tells me that I’ll not be able to reach her, and motions me to come out of the brambles.
He has just finished work, he explains, and still has his protective work gear on. He will see if he can reach her and bring her out.
Can I assure him that she won’t bite him? No, I can’t, but I explain how to approach her and off he goes anyway!
He tells his dog to stay, and she waits with us, looking puzzled.
As he approaches Isis, she wags her tail; however, when she realises that he is a stranger, her tail droops, and she backs away. He slowly follows, and lets her sniff his hand before scooping her up in his arms.
Holding her firmly against his chest with his right arm, he pushes the stems and brambles aside with his left. Isis looks apprehensive but she doesn’t move an inch.
When he arrives back in the clearing, he gently places the recalcitrant animal at our feet.
I am immensely grateful to him. We can’t thank him enough.
I ask him his name. It’s Richard. His dog is Bella and she, too, is a rescue.
What a kind, caring man.
We chat for a while, then Am. and I walk slowly back to the car.
So much for a stress free walk.
*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