some dogs smell nicer than others!



Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.


Sunday August 2nd 2020  


Within two days I meet two beautiful puppies.

It’s Tuesday. Although there is bright sunshine, the light is perfectly stable so Isis is prancing around the edge of the second meadow, completely absorbed in her play.

I am sitting on the once comfortable log nearby. It used to be one of the most ergonomic logs in the park until persons unknown turn it over one night. I try to turn it back to its original position, but it’s too heavy. I can’t even rock it.


Often Isis plays in this vicinity for an hour or more, and it’s damned uncomfortable standing for this long, so I settle down on the least buttock numbing bit of trunk I can find, and begin to make blog notes on my phone.

Suddenly, I become aware of a small, bouncy presence approaching me. Before it arrives, though, it is stopped in its wobbly tracks by a firm command of, “No! Come, Luna!”

Its little forehead wrinkles, but it obeys.

Three times more it attempts to leave its human’s side, and three times it returns when called.

The fourth time it lifts a paw in my direction, it’s told, “O.K. You can go say hello!”

Pup rushes up to the log to greet me. This, its two humans tell me, is Luna. She’s four months old, and has only just begun visiting Highbury.

She is beautiful and has that lovely new pup smell.




I’m being so good. It’s very, very hard keeping still when you’re a puppy.




I compliment Luna and her humans on her excellent recall. They tell me that although they very much wanted a boxer, they gave it a lot of thought. They know how boisterous boxers are and they’re determined that she will be a well-mannered dog.

They’re obviously succeeding. She’s delightful. I could easily have succumbed to being a puppy thief!

The following morning, another lady I’ve not seen before is on her way back to the car with another very young puppy. This puppy is Skye, a shy little cocker/lab. She, too, is four months old. She’s come to Highbury for a fifteen minute walk. Her brother is at home, waiting for his turn.





A puppy can never be sure something nasty’s not going to happen.




The pups’ human explains that she brings them out together for some of their walks, but wants them to feel confident on their own too, and not become over dependent on each other. She also wishes to avoid them developing over boisterous ‘pack’ behaviour when meeting other dogs.

It’s good to meet such responsible people who clearly understood the needs of their dogs.

(Every time I read the last sentence, it sounds horribly patronising. It’s not intended to be. It’s just that it’s uplifting to see new puppies and know that their people are intent on giving them good lives.)

And, of course, wriggly, sweet smelling very young puppies do tend to be irresistible.

Talking of sweet smelling creatures … doesn’t  remind me of Isis. It’s a few days after my puppy encounters, and my dog is definitely not irresistible.

To be fair, she usually smells very pleasant. But on this particular day, smelling pleasant is  not on her agenda. She is hell bent on sneaking past me in order to wallow in the den she has made among the rosebay willow herbs.

It’s quite a des. res., I must admit, having a long, tall-grass drive leading up to a shady plant porch which opens into a pleasant lounge area. Unfortunately, I discover when I wade into the plants to retrieve her, she has recently added a bathroom.

A large, deep, boggy puddle takes up most of the space in her extension and, most convenient of all, at the rear of the bath is a door leading off into thick, almost impenetrable, foliage.

Into this almost impenetrable foliage, a dog is able to hasten when pursued by a human who believes it’s time to go home for breakfast.

One has to be pretty nippy to grab her before she hurries through the bathroom’s rear exit. The boggy jungle is certainly impossible for a human to navigate without tripping and falling flat on her face.

I should know.

The only alternative is to wait for the recalcitrant one to return. Which, fortunately, she usually does if I walk away.

Today, when she appears she looks and smells revolting.

There’s nothing for it. We must go to the ‘clean pond’, as L, Y and I have always called it. It looks mud-black and murky because, over the years, layers of fallen leaves have sunk to the bottom. But the water above them, run-off water from the meadow above the pool, is clean and transparent, providing an excellent facility for swilling down dogs before they get into the car.  

Isis is remarkably cool about being shoved into the pool. She even tolerates Human  sploshing cupped handfuls of water under and over her.




Surely I must be clean enough by now.




Today, she looks almost spotless when she emerges. She still has a boggy niff, though.

Until, as luck will have it, the heavens open as we cross the little waterfall on our way back to the car park. Isis, of course, is delighted and begins to race to and fro across the grass, executing joyful little leaps and twirls as she goes.

Although we’ve already been in the park for over two hours, she is so happy that I haven’t the heart to take her home.

As the rain becomes heavier and heavier, she runs faster and faster, her joy turning into wild ecstasy.

Sensible people rapidly leave the park, so I don’t need to worry about Hairy colliding with innocent humans or dogs. For almost an hour I stand under a tree and share her joy.

By the time the sky has run out of rain, my dog is not averse to being led to the car.

She is as soggy as a bath mat and she smells deliciously of fresh grass.


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 or


Posted in a joyful dog, dear little Isis, Highbury Park, park dogs, park people, rain, rain and more rain, running, running running, twirling, walking in the park, walking my deaf/blind dog, we don't like bright sun | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments




Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.


Sunday July 26th 2020


There have been no more disturbed nights. I am now certain that the all night barking was caused by Blitzi’s scent in the house. As friend Ian commented, she could definitely smell him, but being deaf and blind, she had no way of double checking.

So no, when she comes to sit or lie down next to me in Highbury, she isn’t feeling unwell or unusually amorous. She is afraid of the changing light.

Unfortunately, several times this week, like last week, she is distressed by the rapidly shifting weather patterns.

On Monday she’ll not play even for a few minutes, but follows me miserably to the log and  curls as close to my feet as she can. She only wags her tail when I put her harness on to return to the car.

Changeable throughout the day is Tuesday’s forecast. By 8.00 a.m. in the morning, the sun is already glimmering through the light clouds. No point in getting up yet. The Hairy One will not able to tolerate Highbury. Damn!

How on earth is she going to get her exercise today? Over the last few days she has refused to play in the garden, I suppose because Blitzi did a thorough job of marking the territory when he last came. Or it could be that the light is fluctuating so much that even the garden doesn’t feel safe. Whatever the reason, every time I take her snake out and toss it onto the grass, she follows me anxiously, then picks him up and returns him to the back room.

I notice she’s even stashed him at the back of the day bed, presumably to deter me from evicting him again.

Often, the answer to our weather challenges is the little lane at the bottom of the garden. It’s familiar to her and there are places where the backs of garages ensure areas of solid shade.

Unfortunately, at the moment we can’t use our own gate into the lane because the narrow access path between my neighbour’s garage and mine is obliterated by yards of towering brambles I’ve not got round to cutting down. And Isis refuses to walk even the short distance along the pavement to the main gate of the lane because of the flickering sun.


Then, suddenly, a light bulb moment: I’ll take her to Jasmine Fields!

In our built up urban environment, just off Jasmine Road, and only a few minutes’ drive from here, is a small nature reserve. Adjacent to the reserve, is a large playing field. There are trees here, but only round the edge of the field, of course, so there’s a huge space with no shadows. I came across the reserve quite serendipitously only a few weeks ago.

Off we go.

The sun is out as we park close to the entrance. I will it to stay out at least until we get to the gate.

It does. Phew!

We walk onto the field. Isis hesitates. She turns round to walk back to the gate. I turn her round again to face the field. I give her a little push onto the track which runs round the  circumference. She hesitates. I think she’s considering sitting down. She sniffs the track.

Ah! She knows this place.

We set off along the track, Isis sniffing and marking the route as we go. Then, not far along, she digs a stick out of the turf, takes it into the tall grass under a small tree and begins to mouth it.


I was hoping to sit on one of the benches further along, but no, she doesn’t wish to walk on, thank you. I sit down on the field. She’s not going to get much exercise lying in the grass chewing a stick, is she? Never mind, she’s happy.

But I needn’t have worried about exercise. Soon she tosses the stick aside and darts out of her retreat.







As it happens, we don’t get to follow the track all round the playing field. After two hours, she’s usually ready to be harnessed and taken home, and she’ll come to find me when she’s ready to go.

But not today. I stand up, ready to fetch her, but she gleefully shoots from her den and does another circuit or two of her territory.  Quite clearly, she’s not tired, and I don’t have the heart to spoil her fun.

I sit down again. She plays on in her chosen space. 

At last, she seeks me out. I tap the ‘follow me’ signal under her chin and make my way back onto the track. She follows for a few feet but then lifts her head and turns towards the middle of the field.

I look at her. She’s tired. That’s unusual. She doesn’t want to walk the long way back. She wants to go now, please.

We make our way across the field to the gate.

What a lovely walk.



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 or


Posted in a terrified dog, deaf/blind dog plays, Highbury Park, Isis and the snake, Isis at home, Isis says "No"., oh dear, running running, scary shadows, strange behaviour, walking in the park, walking my deaf/blind dog, we don't like bright light, we don't like bright sun | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

what on earth ……..?



Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.


Sunday July 19th 2020


The beginning of the day is unremarkable. We have the happy greeting, the usual kerfuffle in the porch.

On our way to the gate, Isis picks up the scent of a lady who has had the temerity to walk along our patch of pavement. The kerfuffle Hairy One makes is well beyond raucous, so we walk back to the porch step and someone is ordered to sit.

Our second departure is more sensible – until we reach the car. The lady’s destination was only the nearby post box, and at this point she returns to admire Isis. She is undeterred   by the clatter of yaps and whirls and, thankfully, blissfully unaware that this pretty little dog would quite like to eat her. She gazes dreamily at the raver before I manage to stuff it into the car.

She tells me she lives close by, that her dog whom she had had for many years had died and that she hopes to be able to adopt a rescue dog at the end of the summer after visitors have left. I tell her about Dogwatch U.K. while Isis, now in her car where she feels secure, feels able to relinquish her territorial duties and lies angelically on her blanket like a stone dog.

We set off for Highbury and Isis is free to run along the hedgerow, unearth particularly tempting sticks and lie in the long meadow grass to nibble them.

I am surprised when, after about an hour, she comes over to the log to join me. I give her half a gravy bone and she settles next to me. This is a not like Isis. I wonder if something is bothering her.

I check her over. No bitten off bits of stick in her mouth. Nothing embedded in a paw. No thorny or sticky twigs or stems stuck on her underside. She seems fine. I stand up, tap her under the chin, and we set off side by side across the meadow. It seems that she just fancied a change of scene.

We walk across the grass to the bottom of the sloping path which leads up to the orchard, and wander up to the highest woodland path. We’ve not been here for a few days, and Isis is delighted with all the new smells. Her nose hardly rises more than a few inches off the ground as she investigates what must be small mammal tracks criss-crossing the paths, snuffles deep into a thick clump of grass, and susses out an overhanging dock leaf to find out if she needs to pee on it. We make our way past the back of Highbury Hall, down the steep decline where I got stuck in the mud last winter, and on towards the beech wood.

I let Isis choose which paths she wants to follow into the wood, and she trots along happily just in front of me. 

But when we reach another of her favourite places, she refuses to play there. This is a first.

Oh well.

Back home, she eats, then snoozes contentedly as I plough my reluctant way through some essential paperwork.

In the evening, Y comes round for a safely distanced garden chat. As usual, she brings Blitzi dog with her.

Isis is not impressed. She’s not keen on visiting canines, even Blitzi who is always kind to her. He pops into the house numerous times during the evening, usually returning to the garden with a volley of Isis barks behind him. Once or twice a cross hairy white face even appears round the corner of the kitchen’s outside door.

We have a very pleasant evening. It’s ten o’clock, and dusk is gathering before we leave the garden. Blitzi will need another walk, so it’s time for them to leave.

As we make our way towards the front door, naughty Isis twirls around, yapping fiercely at poor Blitzi who stands by the front door and rolls his eyes heavenwards. Y comments that she’s never known Isis to be so vocal, and is surprised when I tell her of Isis’s expanding repertoire and steadily increasing volume.

Later on, our bedtime routines completed, we retire for the night.

Hardly have I hit the sack, when there’s a sharp, cross bark from below.

She’ll soon settle down. Tired after the paperwork, I switch on the World Service, stretch out and relax.

“Nyap!” Oh shut up Isis.


Oh no. I can’t let this go on. If she doesn’t stop, I’ll have to go downstairs. ****!


Ten minutes pass. I begin to relax again

“Nyap!” …… “Nyap!” ….. “Nyap!” …… “Nyap!”

Huge sigh.

The noise stops as soon as I plonk a foot on the staircase. She can feel the vibration. I stand at the top of the stairs for a few minutes. Silence. Ah, she’s got the message.

Thankfully, I climb back under the duvet. I begin to drift.


I’m jerked awake. I make my way downstairs. I switch on the light. The little pest is lying on the day bed, head on dog pillow, eyes closed.





Remembering that she barked like this when she had a fractured nail bed last year, I examine her very carefully, every inch of her, literally from mouth to tail. I peer into each ear. Pink and clean. I sniff carefully. Both ears smell fine. I feel around her mouth, neck, all over her skull, back, rump and undercarriage, and all over each pad and paw.

She doesn’t wince, or jump or growl. Then I recall her uncharacteristic behaviour in the park this morning. Perhaps she’s coming down with something. But she’s eating well, she bounced and yapped around Blitzi, she played ‘find the treat’ with her usual enthusiasm. Her anal glands must need emptying. She’s not responded to anal gland problems in this way before, but I can’t think of any other reason for the barking.

Reassured, I climb wearily back upstairs.

Peace and quiet for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes.

Again, I begin to relax, to drift …..

“Nyap!” Please stop Isis.

“Nyap!” Please, please, stop.



I stomp back down again, switch on the light again, and there she is again, head on pillow as though soundly asleep. I give her a firm poke and hiss very rude things in her ear.

But she doesn’t stop.

The pattern is the same each time: I go down to her, she denies any responsibility for the barking – look, she’s asleep


Her final outburst occurs just after five, or, at least, that’s the last I hear. The house is certainly silent when I wake at six.

Needless to say I don’t have a productive day. I make an appointment at the vet’s for her for Monday afternoon.

That evening, my friend A. rings. I apologise for being half asleep and tell her of the goings on in the night.

She wonders if Isis was disturbed by Blitzi’s scent all over the house, and if, perhaps, his scent having faded by five o’clock, she was then able to sleep.

I’m very doubtful. I do not look forward to the night ahead.

But that night, once she’s had her treats, she falls asleep instantly. She doesn’t even complain when I put the light on in the Kitchen. She’s out for the count. I suppose she didn’t get much sleep either last night.

Hmmm. We’ll see what happens tonight.

Next day.

Well, she didn’t fall asleep so quickly, but was perfectly quiet when I went to bed, and remained so all through the night.

I have to admit I think friend A. must be right.

Isis was fine after Y. and Blitzi had left on Thursday night. I read my Kindle; she dozed peacefully beside me.

But I think that when she slept after I’d left her, it wasn’t long before the strong smell of Blitzi pervaded her senses and she woke up alarmed.

And yes, it would be reasonable for her to desist between five and six as the invader’s scent grew fainter.

Does it sound far-fetched?

What do you think?


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 or

Posted in Highbury Park, Isis is no angel, oh dear, park dogs, park people, poor Isis, sleeping, strange behaviour, twirling | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Isis finds her voice 3




Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.


Sunday July 12th 2020


I have identified seven of Hairy One’s vocalisations.

A gentle ‘oof, oof’ says “Haven’t you forgotten something?”

At the moment this is a very necessary vocalisation. She uses it only once a day. That’s when I descend after a few hours of working upstairs.

A few months ago, I reward her with a Markie for being such a good dog as she’s been downstairs on her own for almost four hours and hasn’t  complained once.

A few days later, I am again upstairs working for several hours. Once more I reward her with a Markie.

The following day, when I come down she is unusually keen to be let out into the garden, and she returns suspiciously quickly and utters a single oof.

I look at her vacantly. Another oof.

Again I stare at her and wonder what she’s oofing for.

Then she stands near her food cupboard as dogs do, head pointed treatwards for a few seconds, then head turned back towards me. After a quick shuffle the process is repeated. And again. Eventually, the reason for her performance dawns on me.


Isis: Can’t believe it’s so difficult for Human to understand. She must be a very stupid human. Dog! It takes her a long time to get it.

It’s so easy.

She’s been upstairs for ages.

I’ve been on my own downstairs for ever.

She comes down.

I act like I need a pee.

She lets me out.

When I come in I get a Markie.

End of.

It’s getting better though. Now I only have to bark and she goes to my cupboard. It’s definitely worth the time it takes to train them.


 I still often forget about the Markie reward. Then comes the gentle reminder “Oof! Oof!”

However, There’s most definitely nothing gentle about her “Rah! ….. Rah!”

This is delivered at a louder volume and in a sharper tone. It definitely means “I’m waiting. Get a damn move on.”

It’s always about food. It’s not a polite reminder, and does not, therefore, elicit the desired response.

There’s one exception. This is very late at night. I’ve already ‘hidden’ three treats for her to find when she comes in from the garden, so I nip into the kitchen to put the kettle on for my last coffee of the night.

Her exasperated “Rah Rah! Rah!” is not neighbour friendly at this time of night, so I only pause long enough to let her know I’m not yet totally enslaved.

Her excitement barks are short, echoing, hard-on-the- ear hammerings which sound like  “Yowf! Yowf! Yowf!” (brief pause while she takes a breath, then) “Yowf! Yowf! Yowf!” again.

In between times, there are yawns which end with a shrill “eek!” or are drawn out into a delightful dog yodel.

I’ve been trying to recall other occasions on which she does her excitement barks, but I can’t. I think that they are reserved for our pre-walk ceremonies in the porch. Since it’s not only an audio entertainment but a full dance performance, it is, as I’ve mentioned before, not the easiest of tasks to get her harnessed!

As soon as she’s ready to go, she releases a relentless volley of high volume yowfs until I open the door.

After this, silence reigns – unless someone has just passed by on her pavement. When this happens, there’s no mistaking what she means. Her guard dog barks are very fierce  and threatening. This is my territory, and I’ll tear you apart if you don’t get off it.

Yet if anyone passes us by on any other bit of pavement, even a few feet from our frontage, she ignores them. Out in the park it’s the same. However close she is to a stranger, she doesn’t make a sound.

Her irritated barks, like a baby’s cries of discomfort, are impossible to ignore. They are jagged, penetrating, snappy, and sound something like, “Yag! Yag! Yag! Yag! Yag! Yag! Yag!”

The yags are always a response to the intense discomfort she feels when artificial light is too strong for her, or natural light is coming through a window. As soon as the source of irritation is removed, she stops.

Her rage barks and screams have been described before in detail. Suffice it to say that they are truly blood curdling. Thankfully, she no longer employs them to defend her meals. Still, though, she will growl, shriek and snap if she’s asleep and I touch her without warning, or accidentally poke her with a knee or foot. Nowadays, though, she’ll calm down when I put my hand close to her nose and she realises it’s me.

She’ll begin to rage when she thinks she’s lost a bit of gravy bone down the side of her bed, but she’ll stop if I search on her behalf, even if I find nothing.

The same horrible shrieks which used to be a very frequent occurrence when she slept alone at night are increasingly rare. She obviously thought that something very horrible was happening to her, perhaps that she was being attacked. I put them down to nightmares, and, thankfully, I can’t even remember when the last one happened.

Strangely, she is rarely vocal outside the house. She makes odd rumbling noises when she tosses a toy aside just before she gets into the car to return home. These sound as though she’s snapping with her mouth closed.

And once or twice, when the car park’s been busy, she’s given a truncated territorial bark if a stranger has come close to her car.  Twice she’s stopped and emitted a single, loud, startled bark when she’s been walking ahead of me in a dense wooded area. I assume she’s picked up a strange scent.







Otherwise, our walks are silent, except for the jingling of Hairy One’s bell.


*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 or


Posted in a very good dog, clever girl, dreaming, food rage, Highbury Park, nightmares, strange behaviour, walking in the park, walking my deaf/blind dog, we don't like bright light, we don't like bright sun | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

what can I say?



Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.


Sunday July 5th 2020







 The edges of the loop which holds the D ring of Hairy One’s harness is beginning to fray. I noticed months ago, and told myself I must order a new one.

I check the loop regularly. Each time I decide it’s OK for now but I must order a new one.

It’s a ‘Comfifit’ harness, strong, black nylon with a soft fleece lining. It was Ellie’s, so it’s done very well. Isis inherited it for ‘temporary’ wear last autumn when the Big Muds began, and I lost her Mekuti harness somewhere in the quagmire.

It’s Friday, and Isis shoots eagerly out of the door for her evening walk. The sun is obscured by thick clouds. Just right for my Hairy One.

But we’ve not gone far when a glimmer of sun seeps through the cloud.

Oh dear.

Isis looks troubled and turns left down the first road we come to. OK, not our usual route when we set off, but a road we often use on our way home. If it makes her feel happier, we’ll go with it.

She trots along the road casting only the occasional watchful glance over her shoulder. That’s better.

Then we reach the top of the road. Right turn Isis?

Reverse tug.

OK, we’ll go left.

She sits down.

No, she doesn’t want to go right. Or left. Or back the way we came.

I notice that across the main road, it’s shady. We cross. But once on the pavement, she refuses to move.

Poor Isis. She’s too heavy for me to carry now, so all I can do is urge her on with a tug and a shove.

When we get to Featherstone Road, I decide, we’ll cross over. She is very familiar with this road, we’ll be walking with our backs to the sun, and she’ll realise that we’re on the way home.

At last we are opposite the junction where I plan to turn off. We make our way towards the edge of the verge.

Just as we’re about to cross, I see C. with her little Westie Bonnie.

I turn around to greet them, restraining Isis who can’t wait to cross. Obviously, she’s recognised the smell of Featherstone Road and is determined not to retrace even one pawstep.

I speak briefly to C whom I’ve known for a very long time, but not seen for months. Isis pulls hard in an attempt to dislodge my left arm from its socket.

I am just about to say goodbye when Isis gives the heave of all heaves.

She then tugs repeatedly, flinging back her head for extra momentum.

Unbeknown to me, this causes the D ring to saw through its holding loop.

The frayed loop breaks. I make a grab for her, but I’m too late, and Isis stumbles across the road in front of an oncoming car.

C and I gasp and freeze in horror. Isis is moving too slowly for the car to miss her. I fantasise a blood soaked Isis, forced up, over the wing of the car, across the bonnet, over the roof, then dead on the road.

Isis is still only three quarters of the way across the path of the car when it stops dead. In fact, her tail touches the bumper. She continues to walk slowly across the main road and stops, hunched on the edge of the pavement opposite.

The driver is pale and shocked. I breathe, “Thank you so much.” and, “I’m very sorry.”

He murmurs an acknowledgement and drives away as I collect my Isis.

C and I exchange “Are you all rights?”across the road.

Isis and I walk home.

I’m not enjoying telling this story. I feel sick when I recall last Friday’s evening walk.

I really didn’t want to write it, but I thought that if it prompts any dog owner to check their dog’s lead, collar and harness before every walk, my confession will have been worthwhile.


*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 or










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finding a voice (2)



Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.


Sunday June 28th 2020


We return contented from a pleasant morning walk.

For Isis a pleasant walk comprises well over two hours of walking, playing and running around. For me, it’s walking and meandering interspersed with log sits and fantasising.

After all the exercise, Isis should snooze contentedly for a few hours while I work in my art space.

I follow the usual routine for these days, shuffling out of my light coat before working up a lather for my 2020 style hand wash. Then I drop the house keys into a mug of washing-up liquid, retrieve them, wipe soap over the porch door handles, and door chain, then disinfect driving glasses, glasses’ case and phone.

Automatically, I mutter myself  through the remaining pre-breakfast tasks.

“Check – are the kitchen blinds closed? They are. Check – is the front door closed. It is.

Good. There’s nowhere for light to sneak in, no potential threats to  disturb Isis while she’s eating her breakfast, no reason for tantrums.

Next job? Weigh out her breakfast. Perfect: 75 grams.

Isis sits angelically by her dining space.







I place her bowl in her food stand, straighten up and touch her lightly under the chin. She dives forwards.

As I climb the stairs, I hear the clink of her tag against the metal bowl.

Everything’s going smoothly.


Even my dog walking clothes are not scruffy enough to work in. It seems like I only have to look at paint for it to transfer itself to whatever I’m wearing. Just as I’m about to change into my bespattered art clothes, my ears are assailed by a loud “Woof! Woof! Woof!” 

Now what category does this voice fit? It’s not sharp and angry, not preceded  by growls, not accompanied by snarls. 

It’s not a cross, startled bark to tell me some uninvited feline has sneaked into the garden for a pee.

It’s not a shriek of pain or fear.

Perhaps she’s just come across something which she disapproves of, and the barking will be very short-lived.

No such luck.

“Woof! Woof! Woof!” 


“Woof! Woof! Woof!” 

It’s a firm, persistent bark. It’s a bark which tells me that something needs seeing to. NOW.


Slightly irritated, I clump downstairs.

As always, I assume that there’s nothing which a reasonable human would consider a problem.

She stops barking as soon as she knows I’m on my way, and when I get down, I find her skittering around from the back room to the hall.

I walk into the back room. There’s nothing on her bed, on the floor, anywhere, in fact, to account for her disquiet. The blinds are closed.

I look around the front room. Nothing has fallen onto the rug, the sun isn’t glaring through the window, there’s no-one at the front door. No-one’s standing chatting by her gate. No utilities workman is digging up the pavement. There’s no pile-up on the road.

I walk back down the hall. “What’s the matter with you?, ” I enquire stupidly, as one does. 

She looks ……………. how does she look? Not agitated, exactly. Worried? Not really. Concerned? Yes, concerned, I think. Concerned and very serious.

“What’s the matter?” I repeat, puzzled.

A senseless question to ask any dog, let alone a deaf dog.

I stand in the kitchen, looking at her. She’s definitely trying to communicate something. But what?

She follows me into the kitchen and sits down decisively by her food bowl.

Oh, perhaps there’s something in there which I didn’t notice and which is upsetting her.

I peer into the bowl. But it’s clean and shiny and quite empty.

She wriggles and embeds herself back into the ‘dog awaits her breakfast’ mode.

Then, I have to confess, I do something really, really stupid. Stupid even for me.

“But you’ve had your breakfast, you’ve already eaten it,” I tell her.

A flood of sense suddenly bursts into my mind – where from, heaven knows.

Come on. Does she ever carry on like this after she’s eaten her breakfast? No. Does she ever expect more when she’s finished eating? No. Has she ever behaved like this before? No.

Then she’s trying to communicate something ……………………………

I glance again at her bowl. Definitely empty. Definitely clean. Not a crumb to be seen.Very, very clean, as though it’s just been washed.


Could I possibly not have fed her?

I peer into the pan of the scales. There, in the pan, is her carefully weighed food.

I had served her an empty bowl.


*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 or

Posted in clever girl, clever Isis, dear little Isis, Isis at home, relationship building | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments




Sunday June 21st 2020.


Apology: today’s post will not be published until tomorrow!


Footnote: Foolish Human has been concentrating on close work for many hours today and ignoring me. Now she’s going cross-eyed.

Serves her right.

Signed electronically,


Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

finding a voice (1)



Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.


Sunday June 21st 2020  

It must have been about two years ago when I came across a surprising statement in an article about podengos. ‘Podengos are very fond of the sound of their own voices.’


Isis isn’t a vocal dog. But the article is authoritative, well researched, and well written. So what’s the matter with her?

True, there are the rages. We’ve discussed the hysterical outbursts which used to accompany each meal time, those hair-raising shrieks which, I assume, are designed to see off imagined hordes of wolves and hyenas.

For years, whether it is sparked by frustration, an imagined threat to her person or her food, a dog nightmare or a lost treat, her reaction is always the same: wild screams, snarls , growls and barks of pure rage. Yes, at these times she makes a hell of a noise, but I don’t think that’s what the writer of the article means by ‘very fond of their own voices.’

Then there are the persistent, irritated snarls and yaps which follow the switching on of a light, the opening of blinds, or a slice of sun sneaking round the edge of a curtain.

These are ‘protest’ barks.

And, as time passes, she often emits a long, resonant howl of what I take to be excited anticipation when I’m struggling to clip on her harness in the porch.

If, as I frequently do, I then turn back into the house for something I’ve forgotten, she’ll paw at the low shelf so that it tips up and deposits its contents on the floor. But she doesn’t bark. She doesn’t even protest if I forget to feed her. She just looks resigned and goes to sleep.

Hmm. Isis must simply be an atypical podengo, I decide, and think no more of it.

Gradually, though, she changes. It’s only over the last few months that I begin to realise that she expresses her feelings much more often than she did even six months ago.

It’s not just that she’s more voluble though; her comments on life are also much more specific. For years, apart from the musical porch howl, she voices only anger. Now, day by day, she refines her growl and bark vocabulary.

As far as I can remember, the first addition to her repertoire happens one night a year or so ago when she comes across a large hedgehog in her garden. She responds to this strange phenomenon  with a sound I’ve never heard her make before – series of low, muffled little ‘oof…oof…oof ‘ s

Oh. OK. So this is her ‘surprised bark’.

Next to emerge, I believe, is a very loud ‘RAH-RAH-RAH-RAH-RAH uttered when we step out of our front gate as an innocent pedestrian is passing. Even worse is the barking when the street appears to me to be empty but she picks up the scent of someone who has very recently passed. It’s worse because I am not prepared for her screamy warnings and they tear through me like electric shocks.

When she barks like this, she means it. There’s no question that she would attack if I didn’t restrain her.

In the Highbury car park, only last week, she barks an identical bark at a stranger who walks too close to her car.






Right. These, obviously, are examples of her territorial bark.

For years, these are the extent of her vocabulary.

Then, only very recently, she develops what I can only describe as ‘entitlement’ barks.

These are quite finely graded. Only one is angry: that’s a protest she sometimes makes when I leave her downstairs at night. For a while I can’t work out what sets her off. As far as I am concerned, the scenario is always the same. She pops outside. When she returns, she disappears into the back room, then turns and pokes her little head round the door.

I unclip and remove her collar, then return to the kitchen to lock the back door and collect five treats. Nowadays, if this takes more than a minute, she gives a good-tempered, but firm  ‘woff-woff.’

Quite understandable. This must be an entitlement bark.

When she has ‘found’ three ‘hidden’ treats, she jumps up onto the day bed to receive the final two.

She seems to be particularly fond of the next routine and is anxious to get on with it.  She also knows how easily Human is distracted, knows that a dog shouldn’t have to wait;  therefore, if there’s more than thirty seconds’ delay, she delivers a volley of very high pitched, piercing, barks.

The treats arrive. They are two gravy bones broken into six pieces. As soon as I sit down, she positions herself very close to my left side and tolerates a cuddle. Piece by piece, I hand feed all but one to her, then signal ‘down’ and ‘last one’ before cupping the sixth piece in my hand. She has to wrestle it out from between my fingers. She always ‘wins’, of course, even if she has to hold my hand down with a firm paw. Finally, after a soppy few seconds and a goodnight pat, I leave the room.

Sometimes, there’s a blissful silence, and when I peer round the door, there she is, snuggled at my end of the bed, ready for sleep.

At other times, as soon as I get up, she twirls round irritably and barks.


Or she waits until I’m in the kitchen making myself a coffee before she erupts. Or she waits until I’m upstairs in the bathroom. Or the outburst comes when I go into my bedroom.

Whatever her timing, I must rush back and give her a little poke with a finger as it’s very late and I don’t want her to disturb my neighbours.

To me, these nocturnal performances are completely random. I’m ashamed to admit that it takes me a very, very, long time to learn that whatever a dog says or does, there’s always a reason for her behaviour.

It’s never random, Human. So why is she doing it? Stop and think. Ask yourself what isn’t OK.

Right. When Isis wants to sleep at night, she is very, very irritated by any light whatsoever. It dawns on me that she doesn’t appreciate the light being on in the kitchen while Human wanders around making coffee or deciding whether to clear something away or whether to take a biscuit to bed.

Isis is tired. She needs darkness. She’s disturbed and miserable when lights flash on and off in the hall, and suddenly pop on in the rooms upstairs. I have no idea how she perceives the trickle of light sneaking around my bedroom door, but she does.

So I devise a routine and make an effort to follow it.

I make the coffee and the biscuit decisions and switch off the kitchen light before dog’s bedtime. The front room door and blinds are closed to block off the seepage of light from passing cars.

Click. Click. Off goes the hall light and on goes the landing light. I hurry upstairs so that the landing light won’t disturb her. I close the bathroom door before switching on the bathroom light, and close the bedroom door before switching on the bedside lamp.


A comforting fleece of silence descends on the house.

All is peaceful.

Hairy One sleeps.


  *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 or

Posted in dear little Isis, dreaming, food rage, Isis at home, nightmares, oh dear, poor Isis, sleeping, strange behaviour, we don't like bright light | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

an independent dog



Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.


Sunday June 14th 2020


Naturally, the more familiar Isis becomes with the geography of the park, the more confident she grows.

She extends her off lead range. We explore new areas and walk different routes. Some activities she has enjoyed in the past no longer interest her.

Familiar hedgerows, though, are an enduring pleasure. And her favourite is still the edge of the wooded strip which divides the two big meadows near the car park.

On arrival here, her first duty is the early morning patrol. This involves following the edge of the woodland. Beginning with the feral raspberry patch, she quickly checks the bases of the young oaks, sycamores and hazels which slope down towards her special stretch.

Once there, she begins a more detailed investigation. She needs to know who has crept, run or fluttered here since she last visited. This is a demanding exercise. She must  snuffle and snort under the low growing elders and hawthorns, whiffle carefully around the grass entangled roots of the blackberry brambles and stinging nettles, and poke her nose gently into clumps of tall buttercups and grasses.

Now,  duties done, it’s play time. Wham! Time to play fight with nature, to box and wrestle with the hedges, bushes and plants.

She launches herself at the nearest bush, nipping off an offending leaf. She exchanges swift smacks with springy twigs, and snatches at the stems of young brambles. She scrabbles at sticks, prises them out of the grass, and bears them off triumphantly, head held high, neck outstretched and white tail bobbing.

More often than not, it’s her eccentric play mode which catches the attention of passers by, prompting them to ask, “What’s she doing? What is she trying to catch?”

But today there are no passers by, not even a curious dog. The morning is dull. No alarming sun bursts through the cloud. Everything is stable. The breeze is gentle. Isis knows where I am. She has no need of me.

Once she’s secured a good stick, she likes to trot further down the slope with it before turning round abruptly for a return run.

Then she’ll take it into the meadow grass where she’ll mouth and chew it.

The meadow grass is tall now, and when she lies down in this mini savanna, she disappears from sight. Fortunately, she’s a restless creature, rarely still for more than a minute. Soon, she’ll move into a front legs down, back legs up pose. Then, a bit of tail bobs into view just above the grass line. When she’s done with her stick, her erect, hairy ears flash into view, and she bounds back to the undergrowth.

Usually, after an hour or so, she’ll toss away her current stick and catapult herself into a crazy run. I love to watch her run, and am waiting for this display of exuberance. But today, she doesn’t oblige.

So I sit on my log, enjoying the park and writing this. 

Suddenly, a loud drilling erupts just above my head. I keep as still as I can and survey the trunk and branches. No sign of the woodpecker, of course.

Then  a loud squawking heralds the flight of the parakeets from one tree to another.

Providing that we arrive early, I can let her play for as long as she likes. This morning, we began our walk at 8.15. It’s going on for 11.00 now, and she’s not come up once to check me out.

As I make this statement, the independent one arrives, calm and alert.






I reward her with a gravy bone which she munches eagerly. A little dachshund whom I’ve met before approaches and wriggles on her stomach at my feet. Yes, she’d like a treat too. I get the OK from her person, and she gets her treat.

Isis stays around the log, waiting for me to make a move. I guess she’s decided it’s time for a dog to go home for breakfast.

We move off and walk side by side towards the car park.

“You’re such a lovely dog,” I tell her.


*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 or  


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Posted in a joyful dog, deaf/blind dog plays, dear little Isis, Highbury Park, walking in the park | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Isis and the garden in 2020



Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.


Sunday June 7th 2020


Isis and the garden in 2020? Perhaps a more apt heading would be ‘Human gives up’.

Some very loyal and long suffering readers may recall that years ago, when my energetic podengo had pounded the last, stubbornly remaining blades of my lawn into the earth’s crust, I decide that something must be done

After months of researching products designed to protect grass from juggernauts, footballers and packs of rampant dogs, the decision is made. At great expense the special rubber mats and the ‘Dogs and Sprogs’ grass seed are purchased and the date for the transformation set.

But the grass doesn’t grow well.

Near the house, is a very small area of long grass which hasn’t been tended for years. I allocate this to Isis.






and the rest, the fantasy lawn, I fence off.

Perhaps it will grow over the next year … or the next.

Four years later, when spring arrives, the ‘new lawn’ is still sparse and  fragile. But some green has emerged, and I decide to give Isis access to a quarter of the plot for a few days, then fence that bit off and allow her to prance on the next quarter and so on. Thus, she can run free, and I might be able to preserve a patch of green here and there.

I expect her to be delighted when I move the fence aside, but she isn’t. In fact, she is very reluctant to venture beyond her little patch.

It’s several days before she sets foot in the long lost realm where once she frolicked unrestrained. When, eventually she edges in, she creeps forward inch by inch sniffing the ground before her. She sidles up to the border as though there’s something very nasty there waiting to bite her. If she brushes against a twig or a plant, she leaps backwards as if she’s been stung.

To make her feel more at home, I pick up her snake and offer it to her. She grabs it immediately, and rushes into the house with it.


In the evening, full of energy, she she flings toys around the back room and thrashes the rug to within an inch of its life.

Over the following days she goes back into the strange territory, but her garden demeanour now is very uncharacteristic. In a lady-like fashion, she minces along, sniffs around her very cautiously, fusses about where to settle, and eventually nestles at the edge of the border, mouthing a soft toy until she decides it’s time to come in. Everywhere else, she is her usual bouncy self.

It’s all very strange. I can hardly believe what I’m seeing. Perhaps, after all, it might be possible to reseed the grass, grow a beautiful, thriving, green lawn and share the garden with Isis.

My fantasies are brought to an abrupt end, however, when, two weeks later, she recovers from garden alienation and resumes her normal persona.


Soon, even the sparse clumps have surrendered.





Then, three weeks ago, I’m listening to GQT (Gardeners’ Question Time) on Radio 4 when a listener asks how she can control a weed which has sneaked into her lawn.

The lawn expert who responds tells her that once desirable, neatly striped lawns are now considered passé in garden circles, that they no longer feature in prestigious garden shows, and  are fast disappearing from parks and estates.

Gosh, so they are, I reflect. It’s several years now since the wild flower meadow was established in Highbury. And this year, I notice, instead of whole areas of grass being mowed short, most grassy areas are being left to grow, and a few interconnecting paths  mowed through them.

The GQT man says that this ‘wilding’ approach works well in gardens, too. The secret of success, he advises, is to maintain a closely clipped edge around the wild area. This will catch the eye and immediately establish that the wildness is planned.

I’m definitely liking this.

I quickly convert my front grass patch into a shared area: some for the bees and insects, some for  established plants.

This can work in the back garden, too. I can allow tough, native meadow grass to grow all over it. This grass will resist Hairy One’s batterings. She can enjoy throwing herself around,  I can enjoy the wildlife, and there’ll be very little maintenance.

Shame I’ve only used my new lawn mower once. Otherwise, though, it’ll be a win-win situation    …………………………………….

Won’t it?  


*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 or  

Posted in Isis and the snake, Isis at home, strange behaviour | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments