A post should appear every Sunday
Sunday March 12th 2023
Yesterday, as we walk in Holders Woods, a couple I know but haven’t seen for a little while, stop to greet me. The lady peers at Isis.
“Is that Isis?”, she asks. When I reply in the affirmative, they both say how much fluffier she is than she used to be. I explain that yes, her hair has grown exponentially this season, as if she has been expecting an arctic winter.
And March has come in with a blast. Although it’s supposed to be our first month of spring, it’s definitely double gloves, heat-holding socks, neck warmer and, even at times, ear-band weather. I’m grateful for my warmly lined wellingtons too.
Since the temperature drops even further at the beginning of the week, I resort once more to my five ill-matched layers.
The only downside to my winter garb is managing the gloves when attending to the needs of Isis. Removing and replacing her harness and fiddling with her dog bags are cases in point.
Fabric gloves beneath ski gloves or mittens purchased years ago from TK Max, are warm, waterproof, and practical. but, unfortunately, it always takes me about two weeks of freezing weather to recall the optimum combinations of these. So this winter, once again, I struggle with dragging the ski gloves off the under gloves, and then off my fingers, before fumbling with now icy digits to release the hard, tight-fitting clasp of Hairy One’s harness, or, even more difficult, feeling amongst the cold, wet hairs of her chest and legs to locate the same clasp when replacing her harness at the end of our walk.
Another problem is the temporary storage of four gloves. I usually jam them under my arms, which, inevitably, results in all four falling out and plopping into the mud as soon as I stand up and relax. There are, of course, several possible unsavoury landings, but let’s leave them to your imagination.
By the time I have retrieved all of the gloves, my hands are so cold that I’d have difficulty in easing them into XX sized boxing gloves, let alone trying to open a stubborn dog bag the sides of which are determined to cling together for life. All the time, of course, it’s necessary to keep in mind the exact spot where Isis pooped, and to keep an eye on her to make sure that she doesn’t head off towards danger.
As for warm hands, we can forget that. When it’s raining, sleeting or snowing, pulling fabric gloves back onto cold, wet hands is virtually impossible: inevitably, one shoves one’s fingers into the wrong places and ends up with a homeless index or little finger, and extra spaces because one’s inadverently pushed two fingers into one slot.
After the first two bitterly cold weeks, I usually recall that in winter I wear fingerless gloves, so that I never have completely unprotected hand; I also remember to choose the ski mittens rather than the gloves to put on top, so that it is much easier to remove and reinsert my hands.
I try to make sure to watch precisely where Isis has deposited her heap: this can be difficult because when she detects me approaching, she walks a bit further away, and turns round a few times; however, we all have our little challenges, and I generally manage to locate the correct patch, and place a boot toe within a few inches of it, so I’ll not lose it.
So now I’ve got it together, our winter walks are much more enjoyable, and much less like obstacle courses.
But one thing doesn’t change: there is still the unpleasant necessity to carry the dog bag until one reaches a receptacle in which it can be deposited.
This becomes particularly problematic when we’re pavement walking, as Isis refuses to cooperate when, becoming aware that the bag handle is no longer dangling inelegantly from my heavily gloved fingers, I have to retrace my footsteps. I either resort to tying her to the closest lampost, or forcing her, step by reluctant step, back along the pavement. Then, sometimes, she assumes we’re on our way back home, and stubbornly refuses to turn round again.
This week, while in Highbury Park, an incident occurs which encaspsulates some of the dog walker’s wintery weather frustrations. Isis and I leave the Highbury car park, and step onto the slushy grass.
Once released from her harness, she goes into the canine pre-poop routine, urgently circling with bent legs. Right, this should be easy as I’m only a few feet behind her. Removing my left hand mitten, I scrabble in the pocket of my jacket for a dog bag, which I think I have successfully detached from the roll. But I haven’t, and as I draw it from my pocket, an icy blast takes hold of it, and a string of green plastic dog bags is whipped into the air like a narrow birthday banner.
As I attempt to grab it, the wind changes, and the banner is blown round my head and shoulders. Trying hard not to move my feet in case I lose or step in my target, I attempt unsuccessfully to rewind the string of bags. But this is a complex operation when one is being buffeted by a mini gale, and, to make matters worse, out of the corner of my eye I see that Isis is pooping again, some distance away, behind a partially disintegrated snowman. At this point, I feel totally discombobulated, and must look even more eccentric than I am.
I remove my remaining mitten, and snatching the banner round its middle, begin to ram it into my pocket, while trying not to forget behind which of the several icy chunks ahead I must search next.
First pick-up completed, I stumble to the requisite chunk of snowman, and begin scanning the slush once more. It takes me about ten minutes to find what I am looking for. At the same time, of course, I must monitor Isis, who, I note, is sniffing her way to the extremely muddy entrance of a short cut into the next field.
Just as I am about to pursue and divert her, I realise that now only one mitten is still wedged beneath my right arm
Turning round I spot what looks like the other one lying twenty metres away in the muddy snow on the spot where Isis was released from her harness.
I tramp back to collect the mitten, then follow my delighted dog into the boggy tunnel.
“You win Isis. I no longer ******* care where we go.”
Isis came from Aeza cat and dog rescue in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to http://www.dogwatch.co.uk.