*By the way, this chorus keeps going through my mind as we walk. It can be sung to the tune of ‘Guns and Roses.’
Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday February 21st 2021
Because of the humans’ desire to find spaces in which they can walk without sinking up to their ankles in mud, Isis has never had such a diverse collection of walks within such a brief period of time.
Between us, Bev and I have tested and eliminated virtually every local space known to us.
I try Highbury. It hasn’t rained much over the past two days, so I decide to take Isis along the woodland path. This is where the excavation for the new road is taking place. Even if this is too soggy to walk on, I discovered on our last visit that there’s a grass verge above the excavations. It will be possible to follow this and then veer off it into the woods.
An addditional advantage is that we’ll miss the crowds in the main park. It’s unlikely that anyone else will be around: none of the Lockdown newcomers will know about the grass verge above the nascent road.
So I’m not disconcerted when we arrive to find the site is clearly non-viable today. It looks to be about eight inches deep in mud which, in turn, is surrounded by deep, tea coloured water. There are no islands of firm soil.
Smugly, I swing into plan B.
I scrabble up the side of the diggings only to discover that there is no longer a grassy verge there. It has been incorporated into the excavated area. At the same time as I realise this, I also become aware that I’ve forgotten to change into my walking boots.
I also notice that, Isis, plodding her way through the mire below, is too far ahead for me to capture.
Obviously, I can’t abandon her in order to fetch my walking boots. Anyway, the old suede boots I’m wearing are already covered in claggy clay.
There’s nothing else for it, I’ll have to follow Isis, who, by now disorientated by the disturbed scents and strange sensations under paw, is moving slowly forward in glutinous zig-zags.
I think of Lady MacBeth, and decide that it will be as difficult to retreat as to go forward. I lurch on towards Isis until she is stopped by the dead end bank of earth where the digging has been halted for the weekend.
After much slipping and sliding, I manage to persuade Isis to clambour up the bank and into the woods.
One thing I was right about though: we don’t meet anyone else.
So much for Highbury.
Before Bev and I meet up again, I’ve ascertained that although there are some navigable woodland paths at the Russell Road end of Cannon Hill Park, the main tracks lead into deep, muddy ponds.
One day when it is dull and damp, I walk Isis to Jasmine Fields. It’s not as swamped with mud as it was the week before – at least one doesn’t have to lurch across a bog to reach the dog bin. I’ll have to make sure that she doesn’t wander off down one of the many tracks which run parallel to, but high above the canal. These will definitely still be water logged.
That shouldn’t be a problem though, as she will sniff and play along her favourite lengths of hedgerow as she walks. She always likes to do that here.
There are two cat runs which she finds absolutely fascinating. One is close to where we begin our walk. This is a useful distraction if the light is upsetting her and she’s wondering if it would be a good idea to bolt for the gate by which we’ve just entered.
If kitty’s used it lately, Hairy One will usually spend several minutes snuffling around the entrance and pouncing into the long grass. We’ll come to another run on our way back. The feline resident there obviously smells even more alluring than the first. I’ve often waited twenty minutes while Isis sniffs and snorts into the long grass and flings herself excitedly against the surrounding shrubs and trees.
And between these two delights is the corner which she enjoy most of all. It’s adjacent to the wildlife areas and, judging by her enthusiastic leaping, twirling and pouncing, it’s saturated with scents. This is where she always spends the majority of her walk. Predictably, the two benches on the field are too far away for me to use, so I have to stand up. Walking is one thing, but I’ve always found standing wearing.
There is a bench not far from the second cat run, though. That’ll be nice.
Today Isis trots past the first cat run without a single sniff, and, for the first time ever, doesn’t want to play in ‘her’ corner.
When we reach the second cat run, she begins to show some interest. I sink gratefully onto the bench – sidesaddle, though as, inevitably, it’s surrounded by a murky looking mud and water moat.
I take my eyes off her for one minute. One minute, honestly. When I look up again, she’s disappeared.
Well, that was a short rest. Thanks Isis.
I rush off to find her. Yes, here’s a little track I didn’t know existed. And there, already dog’s ankle deep in mud is Isis.
Clearly, she was bored.
Fair play, she’s not had a very interesting walk so far. I surrender and follow her for about forty minutes along the tiny, twisty – and very, very, muddy paths parallel to the canal.
It’s Bev who preserves our sanity during these mud dominated days.
She suggests that we park in the car park at the Russell Road end of Cannon Hill. It’s years since I was in this area. I didn’t even know that there was a car park here.
Her idea is an excellent one. When the grass is under water, we can walk along the tarmacked paths, and make detours through the formal gardens. This we do several times. Isis seems less anxious in strange places when Rufus and Nancy are there too.
Rufus seems always to be aware of where she is and frequently checks on her.
On Monday we park here again. The dogs investigate fresh smells and meander happily around. It’s all new to Isis, and she needs more guidance than she does on other walks.
But she is content to sniff and walk. We saunter round from the gardens towards the lakes which are screened off with plastic fencing at present, prior to being emptied.
The doodle party is a few yards ahead of me and Isis is walking behind me on the other side of the path.
All is well. Good, she’s crossing the path now.
But I have forgotten that there is a small gap in the plastic fencing. I remember as I watch her. I rush to intercept her.
But it’s too late. She trots confidently towards the lake. Oh my Dog!
There’s a flurry of white as she hits the surface. But she doesn’t panic. She quickly paddles round to face the path, plonks her front paws on the concrete edge and heaves. It’s too steep for her. She struggles to get out. But she still doesn’t panic. I heave her out by her harness.
She seems fine. She shakes herself briskly and calmly continues with her walk. I guess she is used to surprises.
It’s been a nerve wracking week for Human though!
*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