Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday April 4th 2021
As Isis and I walk in Holders Lane, it’s as though someone has fired the starting pistol for the spring race. Buds are exploding so vigorously from their sepals that I feel I ought to be able to hear them popping. Trees which were only green a couple of weeks ago are now supporting clouds of blossom, some bright white and floaty, some crisp white with a pink tinge.
(This won’t do, I’ve paused to look up the distinguishing features of blackthorn, hawthorn and crab apple trees. Very interesting, but let’s not get carried away or I’ll still be writing at dawn.)
Holders Lane is an excellent place for Isis as there are so many different options for her. When it’s dull and cloudy, she’ll trot along behind Rufus and Nancy contentedly, stopping, of course, to investigate the scents as she goes.
When the light is uncertain, as it is today, or the sun casts huge shadows across the path, she wants to dive into the woods as soon as she can. Here, screened by trees, bushes and undergrowth, she can relax and concentrate on following wildlife trails, tracing all the twists and turns little mammals have taken during the night. This obviously gives her huge pleasure. Tail waving steadily, she’ll often spend thirty minutes or more snuffling around a particularly stimulating site.
She’s become familiar with the area, and is adept at navigating all the natural obstacles which proliferate in woody environments. I observe her with pride as she picks her way through dense thickets, over fallen logs, and under low branches;
I love to watch her spreading out her toes cautiously as she descends steep banks or walks around deep holes.
She manages this impressively well. Often I try to guide her up a dead end track only to have her point me in the opposite direction. She rarely stumbles or walks into anything.
She does, though need guidance when crossing the little plank bridges which punctuate the main paths. Several times she has fallen off them, always because her person is day-dreaming. Today I notice that she is very hesitant when she reaches a bridge. This is not surprising, in view of Human’s bad behaviour. She is reluctant to cross until I place a hand on each of her flanks: this is our ‘it’s O.K. to do it’ signal. To my surprise, she responds immediately. I will be more vigilant when we have to navigate bridges.
For a short distance, we are walking towards the sun. Isis hates this and squirms along, tail tucked under her. She needs much persuasion to walk on until we can cross the path and escape onto a little track and into more woodland, this time close to the river.
Here, Isis relaxes and begins to sniff with renewed vigour.
Obviously, someone different frequents this side of the path. Someone who smells very enticing, I guess, because although I’m only walking at a dozy meander, each time I turn to check on Isis, she’s way behind. I wait and watch her. Again and again she thrusts her twitchy nose into the same clump of ragged robin, or lets it hover over an ivy covered tree trunk.
Eventually, the path ends and we walk out onto one of the wide fields. Almost immediately I come across the first field primroses I’ve seen this year.
A week or so ago the fields were claggy with mud. Now there are only dry ridges here and there.
We amble along the left side of the field which is edged with oaks, willows, blackthorn and hawthorn.
And here, there’s everything a dog could need. When we reach a bridge Isis quickly sniffs out a stream and finds her way down for a long drink. She always knows when there’s water, even quite a distance away.
What does clear water smell like? I’ve no idea.
It’s a cold day, so the blossom which gives out a strong fragrance when warmed by the sun has very little smell – for humans, any way. No doubt Isis is aware of it. Not as interesting as a nesting mouse or fox pee though, of course.
On the way home I notice how relaxed I feel. I’m also aware that I’m smiling. This has been a brilliant walk, interesting and invigorating for both of us.
We’re very, very lucky to have so many open spaces in Birmingham.
*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