Posting days: Sunday and Wednesday and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Wednesday June 5th 2019
Clutching a large bag of fish batter and chips, I meander onto the meadow.
Since they’re destined for the Highbury Park crows, the leftovers have no seasoning. I decided that salt and vinegar probably aren’t good for crows, so now I eat a large pickled onion with my fish and chips instead.
The contents of my bag will certainly not do Nancy and Rufus any good, so I am here early enough to scatter my goodies before they arrive.
As soon as one crow susses what I am about, the flock of thirty plus skids onto the grass to eat. After a minute or two, there’s not a scrap to be seen.
The doodle contingent arrives.
It’s Monday. The weather’s settled. Humans and dogs say hello, and we’re all set for a calm, relaxing walk.
While we’re deciding on today’s route, we notice that Isis is pawing her mouth. Soon sort this out. Done it dozens of times. I walk over to her and insert my fingers between her jaws, rummaging around the roof of her mouth.
I run my fingers around her teeth.
She is not impressed. She doesn’t wish me to fiddle with her teeth, thank you. Chomp! She closes her mouth firmly on my thumb. Thanks, Isis, that hurt.
Perhaps we were wrong. I let her go, and off she prances.
But soon, Bev spots her looking uncomfortable and pawing her mouth again.
She lifts her head and I glimpse a long, very thin stick. It’s not lying across the roof of her mouth, but along the main ridge which runs from front to back.
Now I know where it is, I am more efficient. As though she is aware that I now know what I’m doing, she allows me to slide in one finger and lift off the offending stick.
Then I clip her lead to her collar and off we go towards the beech wood.
It’s not until we’ve walked up the slope to the rear of Highbury Hall and are about to turn onto the highest of the tracks, that I notice I’ve not got Hairy One’s harness.
It’s not on the slope we’ve just left. It could be anywhere. We decide to carry on as far as the community orchard, return to the beech wood via the lowest track -so there’ll be different smells for the dogs to enjoy – and then retrace our original path across the meadow in the hope of finding the harness.
We search diligently but there’s no sign of it.
Eventually, we make our way up to the landscaped area. We are moving in the direction of Kings Heath when Rufus lowers his head until it’s almost touching the ground, and paws miserably at his mouth.
When Bev goes to him, his mouth is wide open, but there’s no sign of any foreign object. I suggest that he may be about to vomit.
He doesn’t. He walks on a few feet, then stops, lowers his head and paws again. He seems to be choking.
I suddenly realise with horror that since there’s nothing in his mouth, whatever is bothering him must be in his throat. I thrust my hand into the back of his mouth and feel around. There’s a substantial bit of stick jammed in the entrance to his throat.
Once it’s hooked out, Rufus relaxes. He looks very pleased. Perfectly happy, in fact. He’d like to pick the stick up again, and seems puzzled when his human won’t let him.
He’s been a very, very co-operative dog. It can’t be easy to stand stock still with someone’s hand in your mouth.
What a good boy.
Naturally, when we responded to Rufus, we dropped everything – literally. Now he’s OK, we notice that Isis is fast disappearing in the direction of the little pond. I bend down to pick up her lead, but it’s nowhere to be found.
By now, Isis has also vanished, so I am obliged to abandon the lead search and dash off after her.
“Text when you’re reunited”, Bev calls after me.
I find Isis snuffling contentedly on the little path by the pond. She is wearing her lead.
I text the good news.
We’ve only moved on a few steps when my phone rings. Bev has found a harness hanging on the notice board by the main entrance to the park.
She WhatsAps an image to me.
The harness is Hairy One’s, I tell her.
She’ll bring it with her tomorrow, but right now, she is off to Loco Lounge. She feels she needs a strong coffee.
And the doodles will have a bowl of fresh water.
*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