A post should appear every Sunday.
Sunday September 25th 2022
Poor Isis is in for a big surprise.
My visitor C. eventually decides that Monday’s the big day. She will drive from Wrexham, pick us up with all our dog and human clobber, and we’ll set off for The Lizard Peninsular to visit old friends N and S. S. has generously offered us free use of his cottage.
But shortly before C is due to arrive, I receive a WhatsApp message from N. (Simon is a worrier and always considers the worst that could happen in any given situation.) He is anxious that Isis might:
fall off the staircase, as it is open on one side
get out of the garden and onto the very busy road the other side of the gates
pee on the carpet because she doesn’t know the layout of the cottage.
I reply that Isis will not:
attempt to go upstairs
be let out into the garden unless she is on her lead
pee on the carpet.
N. has absolute faith in me, and reassures S. that all will be well.
When C. arrives, I cover the back seat with a sheet, and place Hairy One’s bed on it. Understandably, she is not keen to get into the car and has to be lifted. She looks very anxious, and I wonder whether she expects to be taken to the kennels.
She refuses a drink of water either in the car or when we get out for coffee about forty miles the other side of Birmingham.
As always when she travels, she is silent. But she doesn’t doze. She is hyper alert, and although we stop twice in laybys to offer her water, she refuses to drink and continues to pant heavily all the way to The Lizard. I conclude that she must be very stressed; we are, of course, very concerned about her.
To our huge relief, once she is allocated a quiet, dimly lit spot in the cottage kitchen, she has a very long drink.
N., who is a dog trainer and ex-breeder of golden retrievers, has extensive experience with dogs, and holds his hand out to her, saying, “Dogs usually like me.” Almost immediately, she moves close to him, sniffs his hand and allows him to stroke her.
That’s a first.
She’ll not eat, but when we move into the sitting room, she settles close by on the carpet, not in the least perturbed by the presence of these two strange men. They fall for her, and are surprised by what a good dog she is. When they are about to leave, she allows S. to stroke her too. He tells her she can come to visit any time!
What a turn-up for the books, as they say.
I place her bed under the stairs where it’s darkest, and spread a sheet on the sofa in case she decides to use it as a substitute for her day bed, but she sleeps on the carpet close to the bottom of the stairs.
She’ll not eat breakfast, but has a large supper. She’ll regulate her own eating, I decide, and stop worrying.
She is understandably nervous about navigating the strange new garden, and needs much touching and guiding, but otherwise she copes well with her new surroundings.
The next day, she is happy to roam with me on the sand dunes. Her tail is high, she revels in the numerous rabbity smells, and she thoroughly enjoys herself.
To my surprise, the following day, although she is keen to go out and happy to be on the dunes again, she doesn’t want to walk as far as the day before. After about twenty minutes, she turns around, and stands on the path facing the way we’ve come.
I encourage her to walk on with me, but she very definitely wants to return to the cottage. She follows this pattern the next day too. She is eager to go out but stops at the same place again and insists on returning to the cottage. When she gets ‘home’ she sniffs for C., and wags heartily when she finds her.
It dawns on me that she is insecure when C. is left behind. Next day, we test the thesis, both of us accompanying her on her walk. Sure enough, she walks chirpily towards the horizon, without so much as a glance behind her. She looks as if she’d cheerfully walk for miles, but we have arranged to meet N. & S. at the café run to raise funds for Bolenowe Animal Sanctuary. (N. is a trustee and committee member.)
Sadly, we are unable to visit the sanctuary, as it only opens on Sundays, and we have to leave on Saturday.
Naturally, dogs are welcome at the café. It’s pretty full, and I wonder if Isis will cope. We find a table in a corner, and I settle the Hairy One beneath it, between my knees. I am prepared to have my coffee and cake outside, but surprisingly, she seems calm, and doesn’t tug on her lead asking to leave.
When I get up to look at the merchandise donated by supporters, I hand her lead over to N., telling myself that I mustn’t be long or she will become anxious.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
When I return about twenty minutes later, she is centre stage, surrounded by people from the neighbouring tables, who appear to be competing to pet her. She looks calm and relaxed, and although she registers my return, she doesn’t move to greet me.
How wonderful. I can hardly believe it.
When Mavis approaches with a gravy bone, I explain apologetically that Isis never takes treats from anyone except Bev and me.
Yes, you’ve guessed. Isis gently takes the treat, munches it contentedly, and looks for another.
Customers fill the café. They arrive in ones, twos and groups. As soon as seats are vacated, they are filled by new arrivals. They are all local regulars who typically return week after week to support the hosts and the sanctuary.
C., Isis and I, the only outsiders, couldn’t have received a warmer welcome.
Not only do we have a delightful afternoon, but I see an astonishingly different aspect of Isis.
After reading the last post (Sunday September 11th) Tony, an assiduous blog follower, suggests a different approach to Isis’s seemingly intransigent and increasingly disgraceful mealtime behaviour. I take his suggestion on board.
All will be revealed next week.