A post should appear every Sunday
Sunday January 22nd 2023
Over the last week, Isis and I have enjoyed some good walks and managed to visit most of our favourite haunts.
It’s still Wellington boots and black paws, but we have a good time anyway. When the rain pauses to gather strength for its next onslaught, bitter cold rushes in to take its place, and I wonder whether Evri will ever deliver the winter warmers which I ordered from Sock Snob: Heat Holders socks, neck warmer and head band.
I know how amazingly warm and soft the range is because I was given a pair of their socks for Christmas.
Isis doesn’t appear to feel the cold. Only on one evening does she swing her back end into my side and wriggle as close to me as she possibly can. This particular evening, I believe, is the coldest one of the year.
I wonder whether she should have her coat on when we go out, but I know that it would only be for my benefit. Her undercoat is thicker than it’s ever been, and her top coat seems to grow several centimetres each night. “Oh my god!” is a common exclamation from admirers in Highbury Park as she hoves into sight.
So I compromise and put her coat in the car, just in case she feels chilly on the way home. She seldom does.
She finds the frost on our back lawn very stimulating. When I let her out in the morning, she stands bolt upright, sniffing the air. After about ten seconds, she bends her head to sniff the grass, but jolts back as soon as her nose contacts an icy blade. Her movements are exactly the same as when she came across a hedgehog one evening, or when she mistakes a thin, bendy stick for a snake.
Scents always seem more exciting on frosty mornings, and she likes to follow invisible trails back and forth across the garden instead of taking a quick pee before hurrying in for breakfast. Quite often she’s just about to place a paw on her little ramp, when something irresistable entices her back into the garden. This usually happens when I’ve just opened the kitchen door to let her back in, and I’m left standing in my dressing gown assailed by icy blasts.
“Thanks Isis,” I say, hastily closing the door. I know it’ll not be long before a loud, gruff “WOFF!” commands me to let her in.
As we walk along the little track parallel to the allotments in Holders Lane, making our way to Cannonhill Park, she is taken by surprise when she steps on the first iced-over puddle. As well she might be. I can’t remember when we last had ice, and I’m sure she’d forgotten what it feels like when one’s paws suddenly descend into icy water. She’s not frightened, but doesn’t care for the experience, and soon learns to step away to the side of the path as soon as she feels ice underfoot.
We’ve not been here for several weeks as the paths have been covered with deep, claggy mud, so it’s an exciting walk for Isis, with numerous delectable smells to be investigated and marked.
Two days later we’re back, this time, at Isis’s insistence, clambouring through the eerie little straggle of wood which borders the river Rea, and emerging onto the playing fields.
She loves the frosty playing fields. She enjoys big, empty spaces where she’s not fenced in. The frost is an added bonus, and she’s galvanised into little hither and thither dashes and twirls as she catches scents wafted by the wind.
One day we’re off through Jasmin Fields to the canal. Now the tall, dense foliage which provides a useful barrier between the canal and the path, has shrunk away, there’s nothing to warn Isis how close the water is, and I have to monitor her very closely, keeping myself between her and the canal while navigating the icy path.
I’ve so many layers on, that it’s only with great difficulty that I manage to zip up my winter dog-walking coat. Just as it’s progressing from very difficult to impossible, my Heat Holders arrive.
The headband and neck warmer make me so hot when I put them on indoors that I can’t wait to rush into the freezing outdoors.
Mmmm ………… I’m ensconsed in unimaginable warmth. I don’t care that my hair is sticking up out of the headband like a pineapple’s spikes – I’m warm from head to toe.
Oh joy! Oh bliss!
Now there’s only one problematic set of extremities left: hands.
I have warm, thickly lined skiing gloves purchased from TK Max several years ago. They’re excellent, so what’s the problem?
Think dogs. Think dog bags. There are some tasks which can’t be completed with one’s hands clad in warm mittens.
Pavement walks are particularly challenging, of course, as one hand is fully occupied with attempting to restrain Isis.
Brrrrr! Here goes. Off with mittens. They’re too bulky to fit into pockets. Where does one put them? O.K. clench them between your knees or wedge them under your arms.
Floppp! As I step forward to collect Hairy One’s offering, the mittens slip from between my knees onto the pavement, narrowly missing the poop. Or floppp! As I scrabble in a pocket to locate the roll of dog bags, or, having located them, faff around attempting to detach one, or having successfully detached one, reach out towards the target, the mittens drop into a patch of mud, then I tread on them.
So I dance and stumble, slide and grumble like a poor imitation of a Charlie Chaplin stunt while Isis, relieved of any responsibilty, blithely tugs on her lead. She’s ready to be off again, please.
I often recall the day, years ago, when our usual silly group is playing with the dogs on the old bowling green in Kings Heath Park. Gary bends to clean up after Cookie. But he bends too quickly, and his business phone slips from his top pocket and lands with a dull plonk in the poop. Simultaneously, the phone begins to ring.
Do we sympathise with our mate? Of course not. We all fall about in hysterics. Gary, temporarily nonplussed, manages to press the on button and ask in as businesslike a tone as he can muster, “Sorry, but can I ring you back?”
“Are you going to tell him why you had to ring back?” splutters Di, all but overcome with mirth.
“He’ll think you’re talking crap!”, I squeak, hardly able to contain myself.
Other ribald comments follow thick and fast as Gary tries to control his sniggering enough to return the call.
Those were the days.
And that’s enough of that.
Isis came from Aeza cat and dog rescue in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact email@example.com or go to http://www.dogwatch.co.uk.